Monday, December 9, 2013

Changing My Mind

Growing up, my family would always receive fruitcake from friends, relatives or my Dad's business colleagues.  Stuffed with green and red candied fruits, that tasted like sugar balls, there was nothing redeeming about that fruitcake that could be used as a doorstop it was so heavy.  For years I had a pin that said, "friends don't give friends fruitcake", and I truly believed it.  The fruitcake has been the butt of jokes, just like the ugly Christmas sweater.
Just trying to figure out what is in it is intriguing

Pretty gross
My pals at Specialty Produce thought it would be a great idea to offer a mix of fruits and nuts, along with a recipe for fruitcake to their customers for the holidays.  Always game for a challenge, and since I don't like fruitcake it was going to have to pass the acid test here at Chez Phillips. I read tons of recipes, culling the ones that had candied "green fruit" and citron, because they would take away from the flavor of the cake and the recognizable fruits.  I love dark rum, but many people soak these cakes in so much rum, so you never really taste the cake, all you can discern is rum, so I decided that Amaretto was going to be my liqueur of choice, and then found a great sour cream pound cake that you add fruits and nuts to.  
I was still not convinced, but the proof was in the eating, and this cake is good---even this fruitcake hater was nibbling it while it was still warm.  Then I took it to Specialty Produce, and there wasn't a crumb left (love when that happens) 
So I'm changing my mind, this is a fruitcake you will want to make and to eat.  Make sure to buy the dried fruits and nuts at a market that has them in bins (they are fresher), or if you are in San Diego, stop by Specialty, they have this mix all ready for you with a cute recipe card (you don't even have to make it--give it as a gift!) and you'll be on your way to great fruitcake.

Specialty Produce Amaretto Fruitcake
Makes three 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 loaves
Feel free to substitute your favorite liqueur (Grand Marnier, Limoncello) dark rum or brandy for the Amaretto.
5 cups dried fruits (use an assortment:  pineapple, apricots, dried peaches, dried pears, dried apples, dried sweet cherries, and golden raisins are all good choices)
1/2 to 3/4 cup Amaretto di Saronno
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups sugar
Pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
4 large eggs
1/4 cup Amaretto di Saronno
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 cups sour cream           
2 cups chopped walnuts or pecans
1.       In a mixing bowl, stir together the dried fruits and 1/2 cup of the Amaretto, and stir to coat the fruit.  If the fruit is very dry (read that as old) you may need another 1/4 cup of Amaretto for the fruit to absorb the liqueur.  Let stand at room temperature for at least 2 hours for the fruit to absorb the liqueur. 
2.       Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and coat the inside of three 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 inch loaf pans with non-stick cooking spray. 
3.       In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, salt and nutmeg.  Add the eggs one at a time, and beat until fluffy.  Beat in the Amaretto. 
4.       Add half of the flour to the mixture alternately with the sour cream, beating well after each addition.  Continue to add the flour and sour cream, and then add the fruits, and the nuts.  

5.       Divide the batter evenly between the three pans and bake for 55 to 65 minutes, until golden brown, and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. 
6.       Remove the cakes from the oven and let them cool in their pans for 10 minutes. 
7.       Remove from the pans and cool completely on wire racks.  Brush with additional liqueur if desired, wrap tightly and store at room temperature for 1 week.  Serve thinly sliced. 
Adapted from King Arthur Flour

I think this fruitcake would be delicious toasted on Christmas morning and slathered with mascarpone or cinnamon butter. 

The poor maligned fruitcake; if the commercial makers of fruitcakes would just use quality ingredients, we'd all love fruitcake.  I hope you'll try this one, it's changed my mind!

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