Friday, November 10, 2006

Fruitcake, Again

OK, here it is, doorstop fans. But I must apologize for a small error yesterday. You only need 1 pound of butter, not 2 pounds. I was thinking cups. You need 2 cups of real butter. You will need a lot of big bowls.

For dark fruitcake:

Mix your 4-6 pounds of candied and dried fruit together. Candied ginger is a good addition. Pour over the fruit about 1.5 cups brandy, irish whiskey, rum (if you must), sherry, madeira or porter. Mix well. Let stand a few hours or overnight. (Are you beginning to see why it's not too early to start making these monstrosities?)

You can mix these dry ingredients and set them aside: 4 C. flour, 1 T. each cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, cloves, and 2tsp. salt. Adjust for your taste. I prefer allspice to cloves.

You can also separate and refrigerate your eggs if you wish - 16 of them.

You can also grease and flour enough loaf and tube pans to hold about 1.5 gallons of batter. Line the bottoms with parchment or waxed paper, even the tube pans. Bundt pans don't line well with paper, which is why I don't use them, but I do cut out rings for my angel-food pans. Re-grease over the paper. Cover them in plastic, and refrigerate them, too, or put them in a relatively cool place.

When you are ready to complete the task, drain the fruit, saving any liquid.

Cream 1 pound of butter with 1 pound of dark brown sugar very, very well. (Feel free to use light brown, if that is what you have. Or white if you want lighter colored cake.) Good, light creaming is important because there is no leavening in this cake - what little rise there is comes from air beaten into both the butter and sugar and the eggs.

Beat the egg yolks you set aside yesterday. Beat them until they "ribbon" and are lighter in color. Add them to the butter mixture, first by folding, then by more beating. We are beating air in here. Beat in any liquid from the fruit now.

At this point, you gently fold in the flour mixture, using a light hand to keep as much air in the batter as you can. If your batter is too thick, add some booze. Combine with the butter mixture.

Beat the 16 egg whites until stiff. Gently fold them into the butter-yolk mixture, trying not to deflate them too much. Air, air, they need air!

Add two pounds of nut meats to the fruit, and sprinkle another 1 cup of flour over the fruit-nut mixture. Using your hands, be sure it is all covered by a few grains of flour.

This is when a lightbulb will go off in your head. You will be thinking, "Oh, now I see why I should have sterilized my sink before I started this. I have no bowls big enough for this job."

So, in your sink, or in an enormous bowl, using your hands, incorporate the fruit and nuts into to batter. You will see that there is very little batter for a lot of fruit and nuts. In the olden days, they liked it this way. You can always use less fruit and nuts next time. But, for now, onward. You are over halfway through!

Pour into prepared pans. I can't tell you how many, because I don't know what your pans hold, so that is why I warned you to prepare all your loaf and tube pans. I usually fill 4 small loaf pans and three 4X8 loaf pans with this batter. They do not rise a whole lot, so you can fill them 3/4 full, or more. I bake the small ones for about 1.5 hours at 300 degrees, and the larger ones about 3-4 hours at the same temperature.

Remove them from the pans when they are warm, not hot. Cool completely.

You aren't done yet.

Soak enough cheesecloth to wrap the cakes up in your liquor of choice. Wring out the cheescloth. Wrap each loaf individually in about four layers of cheesecloth. Wrap each one tightly in heavy-duty foil, and store in a cool, dry place, like your beer fridge. OR, do what my gran did - store them in a big crock completely covered with powdered sugar. Bury them in powdered sugar. They need to rest at least one month.

To serve, take out, unwrap, and let sit at room temperature for about 2 hours, then slice into very, very thin slices. Serve with Earl Grey tea. To store again, re-wrap in cheesecloth and sprinkle with brandy, then re-wrap in foil.

Or, you can buy some fantastic fruitcake at Costco and go to a spa for the day with the time and money you save at Costco.

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