INGREDIENTS IN FRUITCAKES
There are dark fruitcakes and light fruitcakes, and some people prefer one over the other. Stan is not partial, he'll eat any fruitcake. A light or white fruitcake uses light colored fruits such as pineapple, currants, dried apricots, and light corn syrup. A dark fruitcake uses darker fruits like dates, cranberries, raisins, and prunes, and dark corn syrup or molasses. For a good fruitcake, at least half the weight of the cake should be fruit. A good fruitcake is the result of the best quality ingredients and most recipes are fairly tolerant of substitutions- so use the fruits you like best.
A dense, fruit-rich cake, will require two or three pounds of good quality dried fruits. Select from dried apples, cherries, figs, apricots, pears, pineapple,peaches, prunes, cranberries, blueberries, pears, dates, black and golden raisins and currants. You can also use dried mango, banana, coconut, papaya, or some freshly grated lemon or orange peel. To make recipe substitutions and use the fruits that you like, add up the total amount of fruits and nuts called for in the recipe, and then make changes according to your personal preferences. The important thing is that the total amount of the fruit and nuts should still be approximately the same as in the original recipe. When you have assembled all the dried fruits cut them into small pieces. If the fruits are too sticky dust lightly with powdered sugar
MARINATING THE FRUIT
72 hours prior to the time you want to cook the fruitcake allow the fruits time to marinate. Before cooking, the chopped fruits need to be soaked in fine wine to soften and preserve the fruit. Soaking removes the sugar that has crystalized from the surface of the fruit and allows the pieces to absorb more of the liqueur keeping them moist. Don't scrimp on the liquor; use a good-quality brand that is eminently drinkable. Good choices are port, Madeira, Malmsey, sherry, Marsala, or Muscat. Choose lighter colored wines for light colored fruitcakes, and the deeper colored wines for dark fruitcakes. The heat will destroy most of the alcohol and the flavors will remain in the fruits.
Put the dried fruts in a glass or ceramic bowl (no metal), and pour in enough wine to cover the pieces completely. Make up a spice bag with 2 sticks of cinnamon, 10 whole cloves, 10 whole black pepper corns and a 3 inch strip of orange peel and push that beneath the surface. Cover the bowl tightly and set aside, allowing at least two or three days, up to a week for the fruit to absorb the wine. Replenish the wine if needed.
Oils found in nuts can turn rancid, so use only the freshest. Chop the nutmeats, but don't cut them too small or you won't find them amid all the pieces of fruit when your cake is finished. The nuts mainly add crunch, the subtle-flavor is lost with so many other ingredients and spices. Pecans, walnuts, English walnuts, filberts and hazelnuts are good choices.
THE FAT OR SUET
Suet adds richness to fruitcake recipes and holiday puddings. Unlike other fats, suet is hard and granular and comes from the solid white fat found around the kidneys and loins of beef and sheep. In the U.S. the best approach to get suet is to ask a butcher to save a pound or two for you and then grind it into small pieces yourself with a grater, food grinder or food processor. To substitute butter, freezing the required amount, then quickly chop or grate it into small bits and freeze it again. Keep frozen until it's time to add it to the batter.
Easy on the spices, not that many are necessary. Use fresh, whole spices whenever possible, grind them in ar spice grinder just before adding them to the recipe. This releases the oils and flavors that are not in commercial ground spices. If you use ground spices, buy them fresh, never use that can of cinnamon that's been in the back of your cupboard for a decade.
THE FRUITCAKE BATTER
A fruitcake is mostly fruit with just enough batter to hold the mixture of fruits, nuts and spices together. The batter will be heavy, so use a large bowl and a sturdy spoon (again, no metal). Drain the marinated fruit, remove the spices and reserve the liquid for the recipe. Toss the fruit with a bit of flour just before adding them to the batter to keep them from sticking together. You will need a very large bowl to stir together the batter, fruit and nuts.
Once cooked, the fruitcake can be glazed and decorated with colorful fruits and nuts. You can use leftover fruits and nuts to create a design on top. The fruitcake must be cooled completely before applying the glaze and decoration.
Using a small saucepan, heat 1 cup of corn syrup (use dark or light corn syrup according to the fruitcake recipe you have used) to boiling, and then brush the top of a cooled fruitcake with hot corn syrup. Layout your pattern on the top of the fruitcake - the fruits/nuts will stick to the hot corn syrup. Then brush with a second glaze of the hot corn syrup. Allow the glaze to dry before wrapping.
FRUITCAKE GLAZE RECIPE
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Peel of 1 lemon
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/3 cup corn syrup
- 1 cup granulated sugar
Make a syrup by combining the sugar and water in a medium-size saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the lemon zest and juice and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Continue boiling until it reaches soft ball stage. Brush the glaze over top of tje fruitcake, arrange fruit and nuts on top and then brush on a final coat of glaze.
In a pressure cooker, use enough water to reach halfway up the sides of the fruitcake pan. Lock the lid in place. Bring to 15psi over high heat, immediately reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting to stabilize and maintain that pressure. Cook 90 minutes. Remove from heat and use the natural release method before opening the lid. Fruitcakes made in a pressure cooker are dark, firm and very moist and may feel sticky to the touch, but the appearance is no indication of doneness.
Do not overcook and test for doneness by sticking a thin wooden skewer in the thickest part of the cake. If it comes out clean, the cake is done. Set the pan on a cake rack and allow the fruitcake cool for 10 to 15 minutes and then turn it out onto a lightly oiled rack to finish cooling.
Copyright 2008 by Fruitcake Rescue Disclosure