Thursday, December 13, 2012

The House Smells Like Fruitcake (and Kimchi)

I suddenly had to make fruitcake.  I've flirted with the idea for several years, but the tipping point was when I bought brandy to make my husband a ginger-brandy cheesecake for his December birthday.  The cheesecake, from Moosewood, did not live up to its delicious name and gingersnap crust.  But I had brandy!  So I speedily acquired the dried fruits, almond paste, and orange extract I needed.

I used Anna's adaptation of Nigella Lawson's recipe.  I'm afraid I may have forgotten to put sugar in the batter while I was yakking on the phone with my mom.  Oh well.  I can dissolve the sugar in the brandy that I spoon over the thing.  I've never had homemade fruitcake.  Will I like it? I'm not fond of distilled things, although my husband keeps coaxing me with different liquors, and apparently brandy is distilled wine, so I'm wondering if I will actually like a cake marinated in the stuff.

And for some kitchen whiplash, I am making kimchi.  We adore it, but it's pricey at the Asian store.  I used a recipe from Sharon Astyk that really needs an editor (I volunteer). 

After the kimchi was assembled to ferment, I slapped my head:  it's just sauerkraut with extras!  Hopefully this means there is lots of homemade kimchi in our future, because I feel pretty comfortable making homemade sauerkraut.

Both these projects need about a week to be finished; I'll report back.  I'll have an edited recipe for the kimchi then, too.


Sew Blessed Maw [Judy] said...

I love, love, love fruitcake..but no one else in my house does.. so, NOT worth the effort or expense for me.ha..
Hope you enjoy..

Lisa said...

Fruitcake is a strange animal - I generally dislike it, but I have always wanted to make one, and be pouring alcohol over it every week. It sounds so interesting.

jenny_o said...

There's good and bad fruitcake, in my experience - the moister the better. Here's hoping yours is one of the great ones! Looking forward to the update.

"Kitchen whiplash" - oh, what a great description!

Hazel said...

Is this type of fruitcake unusual in America? I read a post yesterday about 'fruitcake even an American will eat'. I had no idea that it wasn't as common as it is here.

Don't panic about the brandy. You won't be able to taste it to that extent. None of my family are great spirit drinkers but we all enjoy a brandy/whisky soaked fruitcake at Christmas.
Also, the usual teatime English fruitcake isn't drenched in alcohol. It will still keep well, though not the weeks a Christmas cake will keep for.
I hope you like the cake. I've made the original Nigella recipe and it was delicious. I usually make a more straightforward boiled fruitcake , and sometimes fruitcake is just what it has to be!

Anonymous said...

That's wonderful! I love fruitcake, the more whole green and red cherries the better. I have made one particular one a couple of times, and got the recipe from my mennonite neighbour. It is a light (in colour) fruitcake. I don't know if this is universal, but the old fashioned wedding cakes were fruitcakes. We had one 9+ years ago, and it was unheard of even then. I made it a couple months in advance with my, at the time, grandmother-to-be. She had the old pans that had been used many times, long before us. By the way, neither of these two fruitcakes used alcohol, they just keep forever and age wonderfully just as they are! Shauna

Anonymous said...

Sorry about that, I of course meant grandmother-in-law-to-be! Shauna

Margo said...

Hazel, yes, fruitcake in America is the butt of many jokes as being hard and unpalatable.

I would love to know a recipe for a "usual teatime English fruitcake."

Also, what is unusual (not "straightforward") about Nigella's cake that I made? I'm curious. No one I know makes or eats fruitcake!

Shauna, I'm fascinated by the idea of fruitcake as wedding cake! I would love to know the recipe. My Mennonite grandmother used to make fruit bread for Christmas morning breakfast that had red and green cherries in it. It was a yeast bread, though, not cake.

jenny_o said...

Further to Shauna's comment, Margo, it is customary in my part of Canada (at least) to have both a white cake and a fruitcake to pass to wedding guests. As I heard it, the fruitcake symbolizes the hope for a fruitful union. Generally the bride and groom circulate among the guests, each with a plate of one or the other, white or fruitcake.

Hazel said...

Margo, Traditional fruitcakes don't have ground almonds and marzipan and dried pears in.
There isn't anything difficult about her cake, but if I need a cake for packed lunches (or just because we need a cake!) I go for a recipe that doesn't require thinking about in advance. Boiled fruitcakes heat the dried fruit (UK supermarkets sell packets of mixed fruit especially for the purpose- raisins, sultanas, currants and chopped candied peel) with the sugar, butter, water and bicarb which means you don't need alcohol or to soak anything overnight, you just wait for it to cool enough to add the eggs and flour. I'll find a link to the recipe I've been using most recently.
The fruitcake 'even Americans will eat' is here.
The pineapple is unusual, but I bet it works.

jodi said...

I have never eaten fruitcake that I liked, but I am really curious about how yours turns out! I hated ginger bread before I made some home made and I loved my home made version. Maybe all I've ever eaten was the store bought fruit cakes...? Either way, you're inspiring me to whip out more baking projects As if my hips and thighs need that. ;)

Margo said...

Hazel, there is a recipe called "everyday fruitcake" in one of my cookbooks somewhere. Reading your description jogged my memory. In the meantime, I am definitely interested in your recipe.

Jodi, I think I've only eaten store-bought fruitcakes before, too. I view this fruitcake as tourist baking: I'm curious about something and I'm visiting. Cheaper than airfare!

Polly said...

This is NOT a traditional fruitcake, but it is the one I make for myself every year and I LOVE it. Delicious--the dried fruit and marzipan are awesome, and the more brandy you pour while you let it ripen, the better (well, I mean 'the more' as in 1 tb a day or so). It blows traditional fruitcake out of the water in my opinion!

I make very ultra-traditional fruitcakes every year for my dad for Christmas--my grandmother's recipe. Candied cherries, citron, 2 lbs of nuts, 2 lbs butter, candied lemon peel, 1 lb dates, 1 lb raisins, a dozen eggs...the whole 9 yards. I loathe the thing, but my father and aunts LOVE it. So it is worth the work for me to give them that slice of memory/nostalgia. But ick, I could not eat the thing.

I love the dried fruitcake-marzipan cake. I haven't made it this year b/c I am trying to eat lighter. I like it with a nice, strong tea!

Polly said...

Also in my experience the keys to a moist fruitcake (whether the dried fruit version or the candied/nuts version) are: do not dare overbake it; wrap in cheesecloth that was soaked in brandy, then in foil; do NOT keep it in the fridge (gah! dries them out!!); store in a tin, and then drizzle brandy carefully over it daily.

I am making fruitcake within the next 24 hours, so it is especially on my mind!!

Margo said...

Polly, thanks so much for the tips AND the clarification of traditional fruitcake. How sweet of you to make something so big and involved that you don't even like, just to make your family happy!
(Off to drizzle some brandy. When you start eating it, do you still drizzle it daily? How much is a serving? I imagine this is rich and boozy. Do you let your kids eat it? My cake is wrapped in waxed paper, then foil, then the tin. No fridge! It's my understand that the fridge makes all baked goods stale.)

Polly said...

Once I start eating it I think I do still drizzle. I just divide it into 8ths, but then usually split those pieces in half if I'm kind of full-ish (sometimes it seems like a lot). I've only ever made it with gluten so my children have not had it (wee Annie was too wee last year to really eat a dried fruit fruitcake). This year I'm not making it. It's pretty brandied up so I'm not sure I'd let them have it or not. Maybe. Although if it is too brandied up they probably wouldn't like it anyhow!

Good to no fridge!!! I know someone who made the traditional fruitcake and always stores it in the fridge. I was aghast. That's the kind of business that gives fruitcake a bad name!! Mine is usually really moist....fridge-free!