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Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2007 09:12 pm

Fruitcake: the sequel

Tickle your nose and your tongue by taking the time

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Untitled Document Last week, I shared details for macerating dried fruit in a boozy bath as step one of my inaugural fruitcake-making adventure. As I had hoped, the fruit transformed into a proper “mash” that tickled both the nose and the tongue. At last, it was time to make cake. Other than the aforementioned fruit and a slew of warming spices, the key ingredient to making a fruitcake is time. Unlike most cake batters, which typically bake in less than an hour, a fruitcake needs about three hours of oven time, plus a few extra pre-batter steps. Block out an afternoon for this project, kids. Fruitcake is also a great way to practice your mise en place skills — having all your ingredients and equipment accounted for before beating your batter. In addition to stocking your spice pantry, you’ll need a deeper-than-average cake pan (or tube or springform pan), an ample supply of parchment or waxed paper, and a tin for the cooled cake’s dormant storage period of a few weeks. I haven’t cut into mine yet, but a quick sniff in the tin reveals a festive perfume of sugar, spice and everything nice — with an extra splash of cognac, of course.
Kim O’Donnel serves up a cozy collection of recipes expressly for the upcoming feasting season, from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, in her new book, A Mighty Appetite for the Holidays: Kitchen Tricks for the Feasting Season. Kim shares 30 of her holiday favorites, with practical tips, tricks, and a Thanksgiving-countdown planner, plus a buffet of entertaining ideas for the festive catchall that is December. For online book orders, go to www.kimodonnel.com.

Culinary questions? Contact Kim O’Donnel at kim.odonnel@creativeloafing.com.
Fruitcake Batter Adapted from Caribbean Recipes Old & New, by LaurelAnn Morley

Butter or oil spray for greasing pan 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature    (I substituted an equal amount of Earth Balance    vegan shortening) 1/2 cup dark brown sugar Four eggs 2 cups all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon baking powder 1 teaspoon ground ginger 1 teaspoon grated nutmeg 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice At least 2 cups of dried or candied fruit that has been    macerating for a few weeks (see the Nov. 8 issue   of Illinois Times for details) 2 teaspoons each lemon extract and almond extract 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1/4 to 1/2 cup “browning” (recipe below), or equal amounts of light maple syrup 1/2 cup rum or brandy
Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Prepare a 9-inch square or 10-inch round cake pan (at least 3 inches deep), lining it with a double layer of waxed or parchment paper, greasing both layers. Using a mixer or food processor, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. In a medium bowl, sift the flour and baking powder and combine them with the spices. By hand, fold the fruit into the creamed egg mixture, alternating with the flour/spice mixture. Add the extracts and browning; the batter should be a fairly dark brown. Place the batter in the prepared pan and bake until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean, two-and-a-half to three hours. Pierce the top of the cake with the skewer and pour booze over the holes while still warm.
Allow the cake to cool completely before unmolding it, using the edges of the paper to pry it from the pan. Wrap the cake well in foil and store it in a tin or airtight plastic container. You may store the cake for as long as three weeks before eating it. The cake may be eaten plain or covered with marzipan, royal icing, or fondant.
Browning
1 cup granulated sugar 1 1/2 teaspoons vegetable oil 1/4 cup water
In a shallow heavy saucepan (a cast-iron skillet is ideal), heat the oil and sugar over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Cook, without stirring, for another minute, until the sugar becomes a very dark brown — but do not allow it to burn. The entire process should take about eight minutes. Remove the pan from heat and slowly add water in a thin stream. This extremely hot mixture will bubble and splatter. When the splattering stops, stir and cool. The mixture may be stored in an airtight plastic container. The end result will be a thick, dark (but not black)
liquid, like syrup.
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