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Suvir Saran

The Fruitcake Topic

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Cleaned out a cupboard today and found a glass jar with dried fruit soaking in alcohol. I dated it 8/08. The jar is only half full, I guess the alcohol evaporated, and I'm wondering if I can still use it? Any ideas?

Of course you can use it. I've got cherry "cordial" that has been steeping the dried cherries I put in it since 2005. It is in one of the bail-lock jars with a thick silicone seal, instead of the regular rubber ring. Still, the level has gone down a bit, other than the amount I used in some recipes.

(I mark it with a piece of label tape.)

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Seeing this thread pop up has made me curious about fruitcake. I don't think I've had any since I was a small boy. Looking at David Ross' post makes me suppose some style of fruitcakes are better aged. Am I in good time to try making one of those for this holiday season?

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Hmmmmm, has anyone tried "massaging" dried fruit? Tossing the fruit in a mixing bowl with booze, slip on the dough hook, and walk away for 10 or so minutes.

I've done this with 1 part fruit and 1 part of brandy and orange juice. The fruit sucks up all the moisture, and after baking, still remains moist.

I also candied my own orange and lemon peel, not very hard to do.

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Fig pâte de fruit en croûte. The lid broke up a bit and the pectin didn't set properly, but it was a worthwhile prototype.

How I roll

5026203675_41da476e8f.jpg

Sweet Sarcophagus

5026816032_a45ef726b2.jpg

Port holes

5026816042_8eb0092afd.jpg

A wedding dinner’s caboose

5026816054_45216ac159.jpg

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Fig pâte de fruit en croûte.

A wedding dinner’s caboose

5026816054_45216ac159.jpg

Absolutely beautiful.

Thanks.

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That magnificent mummification of fig reminds me of Black Bun (Scotch Bun). My mother and grandmother used to make it in a flaky pastry coffin.

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P.S. Dried Cherries...I'm not familiar with tart cherries - the New Zealand fruit cake cherry is a glace cherry, but I can't get those in Japan anyway, and often sub sweetened dried cranberries. Any recommendations for types of dried cherry suitable for fruitcake?

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How are glace cherries different from these? They're available all over Japan in grocery stores (higher-end ones) and at places like Tokyu Hands.

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They are indeed glace cherries, but they are all about looks and not flavor. I do try to use the best fruit I can find for Christmas fruit cake, as I like to give them to friends.

Talking of flavor, in recent years I've wondered whether lengthy soaking in alcohol doesn't make all the fruit taste too much the same. I'm planning to go back to a shorter pre-soak time. Thoughts?

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They are indeed glace cherries, but they are all about looks and not flavor. I do try to use the best fruit I can find for Christmas fruit cake, as I like to give them to friends.

Talking of flavor, in recent years I've wondered whether lengthy soaking in alcohol doesn't make all the fruit taste too much the same. I'm planning to go back to a shorter pre-soak time. Thoughts?

Sorry, because you said you didn't use them because they were not available in Japan, and not because they didn't add flavour, I thought you were looking for them.


Edited by prasantrin (log)

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Try steaming the dried cherries (or any dried fruits) not only does this process "plump" them it seems to deepen the flavor.

I now routinely steam all dried fruits before adding them to breads, cakes or pastry. It makes a tremendous difference, in my opinion.

It takes some experimentation to determine how long to steam them. If they have been stored for a long time it will take longer. You can resurrect dried fruits that seem too far gone and thus save having to buy more.

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Thanks for the steaming tip, I will most definitely try that.

Rona, I AM looking for them! Haven't seen cherries or angelica in my local area for ten years or so...sometimes not even in department stores within an hour's travel, so I'd rather order online than waste a day on an expedition that likely won't net everything I want!

I also make enough fruit cakes that a pack of 4 cherries (if I find them, that's what I find - not the little tubs) is impractical. For color, cranberries or dried strawberries (from Ame-yoko) are OK, but the ones I've found so far are like the cheap glace pineapple, so steeped in acidulants and sugars that any fruit flavor is lost. I've tried them, and they haven't earned their keep! On the other hand, Japan is a great place for candied ginger, if you wash off the loose sugar.

I don't know if it's a worldwide trend, but it has become impossible to find unsweetened dried fruit other than raisins (and maybe figs/prunes). Not even apricots or blueberries escape the acidulant/sweetener thing any more.

Cuoca, an old Japanese online standby, no longer sells ANY dried or glace fruit, though T Foods still do. Thanks for the Chef's Pride link - the prices are not cheap, but it's certainly good reading.

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Do you think a fruitcake could withstand using only dried fruit and no glace fruits? My supermarket has a wide range of dried fruits available, including dried kiwi, dried dates, dried figs, raisins, and papaya. I also have relatively easy access to dried cranberries.

I have always used Jeffrey Steingarten's recipe for white fruitcake, which I prefer to darker-style fruitcakes.

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No glace fruits? Oh, definitely OK, I think...that's why I'm thinking of making a Black Bun this year. But for expat friends' cakes, I know those rarely-seen fruits are a treat, and they look so pretty...

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As I suggested above, steam the fruits first. They become more like glace fruits. Even more so if you soak them in syrup after steaming. Bring heavy simple syrup to a boil, drop in the steamed fruit, turn it off and leave them to stand for a couple of days.

They won't be fully glaceed but close enough for baking. And they will retain their flavor.

And save the water from the steaming. It catches drips from the steamed fruit and has a lot of flavor and can be made into syrup with the addition of sugar.


Edited by andiesenji (log)

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An excellent tip, I'll remember that.

Cranberries, kiwis, and ...something else for yellow. Hopefully there's dried pineapple available.

If I get into Shanghai in early November, they may have glace fruits available at Isetan or Marks and Spencer. They'll be expensive, but I could work with a mix.

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It's not particularly difficult to glace your own fruit, but it is time consuming.

I want to know more about that pastry coffin above and why the fruit is so firm and not gelatinous . . .

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One of my favorite non-glace fruits to use in fruitcakes is apricots. If you can get them, I recommend them.

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I use a fruitcake recipe adapted from a recipe used by the baker's of the Great Northern Railroad and served onboard their passenger trains. The most famous Great Northern train was the "Empire Builder," which still runs from Seattle-Chicago today--albeit in Amtrak colors and without any fruitcake on the Holiday menu.

I cut the ingredients by half from the original recipe, eliminate the vanilla and the port wine. The original recipe calls for all granulated sugar but I use equal parts of granulated and brown sugar. Once the fruitcake is baked, I wrap it in cheesecloth and then slug some brandy on top. The cheesecake acts like a sort of wet sponge, cloaking the cake in booze while it sits covered in a dark corner of the pantry. Please note that the fruitcake I make this year won't be ready to eat until 2011 at the earliest. I have a fruitcake stewing in brandy right now that is 3 years old.

1 pound raisins

1 pound currants

1 pound mixed glazed fruits

1 pound glazed whole cherries

1 pound candied pineapple

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar

1 cup brown sugar

2 cups butter

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. mace

1 tsp. ground nutmeg

1 tsp. ground cardamom

12 eggs

1 tbsp. lemon extract

1 tbsp. vanilla extract (I cut this out)

1 tbsp. sherry or port (I cut this out)

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup chopped walnuts

1/2 cup pecan halves

1/2 cup whole almonds, blanched

Mix raisins, currants, mixed fruits, cherries and pineapple the day before cooking and keep in a cool placed to blend flavors. (I add about 1/2 cup brandy and let the fruits macerate overnight).

Grease two 9 1/2 by 5 1/4 inch bread pans; line bottoms and sides with strips of heavy brown paper, grease paper. (This was an old-fashioned technique in the days prior to non-stick baking pans and cooking spray. I use a non-stick pan).

Lightly cream sugar, butter and salt. Add spices. Slowly stir in eggs gradually to blend; add extracts and wine. (I cut out the wine because I prefer the cake with just the flavor of brandy). Then add flour, mixing lightly. Add fruits and nuts; combine well.

Pour into prepared pans, filling them 3/4 full. Bake at 300° approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes. Cool thoroughly; remove from pans. Makes about 5 pounds.

NOTE: Since oven temperatures vary, watch closely -- do not overbake.

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Sounds gorgeous!

Please note that the fruitcake I make this year won't be ready to eat until 2011 at the earliest.

What, specifically, do you find the aging adds to the cake? Doesn't it just make it taste like booze? Or do you find other flavours develop?

A co-worker noted that the season's first dried persimmons are out now, so I'm going to pick up a pack to go into my cake this year.

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Sounds gorgeous!

Please note that the fruitcake I make this year won't be ready to eat until 2011 at the earliest.

What, specifically, do you find the aging adds to the cake? Doesn't it just make it taste like booze? Or do you find other flavours develop?

A co-worker noted that the season's first dried persimmons are out now, so I'm going to pick up a pack to go into my cake this year.

I age my fruitcakes for a couple of reasons. I do think the brandy "soak" over the course of a year or more does bring out more of the flavors of the fruits in the cake while giving it a deeper texture. I've tasted "fresh" fruitcakes and they just don't have the full flavors of the aged cakes. The second reason is purely sentimental. I learned about aging fruitcakes from my Great Aunt Bertie Pink. A teetotaler, (at least publicly), Aunt Bertie only visited the liquor store once a year and that was to purchase the booze for her fruitcake. She'd make her cakes, wrap them in cheesecloth and then douse them with brandy and put them up in the root cellar to age. That memory is imprinted in my mind so I've carried on the tradition.

(And I've come close, but have never been able to put forth a dark fruitcake as delicious as Bertie's).

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How many years do you think she aged her cakes?

I went to the sweetmeats shop today on my way home from work and picked out about 2 kilo worth of dried fruits and nuts.

I got dried kiwifruit, dried persimmon, dried pineapple, green raisins, and walnuts. I'm going to use craisins as well for tartness and colour, and lemon zest for a taste highlight. They also had dried figs and dried cherries amongst the dried fruits I could actually identify, but the figs would be too crunchy, I think, and the cherries were dried black - not so attractive.

I like the idea of soaking the fruits in booze, and I've got some Cointreau that just might do the trick. I'd like to add in some light spice to the cake recipe as well. I'm thinking cardamon, but I'm not sure.

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Try steaming just some of the fruit before dousing it in the booze. I think you will find it takes up the booze easier and it certainly improves the look as many fruits will look like stained glass after a little steaming.

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How long do you recommend steaming the fruits for? And any reason to steam just some of the fruit rather than all? The kiwifruit already tastes and looks glace, but the dried pineapple and cranberries I'd like to plump up a bit.

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You mean those hard litle white figs? They are OK in fruitcakes when soaked or otherwise softened. You're on the right track with the dried persimmons - I think they're a great sub for big, soft, brown figs!

Citrus...I'm thinking of using candied kumquats this year, especially if I can get rid of some of the sugar.

Tartness...kiwifruit are nice but like pineapple they tend to be drenched in citric acid; candied cherry tomatoes are surprisingly successful (and go well with ginger).

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