Monday, December 3, 2007

Fruit Cake vs. Fruitcake

Back in the day there was a joke recipe for fruitcake (not this one) that went something like:
1 cup sawdust
1 cup Elmer's glue
1 cup red thingies
1 cup green thingies
Mix all ingredients & bake at 300F for two days, varnish & pack in a pretty tin, don't worry no one will ever eat it.

I can't totally remember the funny part of the joke, but from then on whenever my mom and I went shopping around the holidays we'd laugh when we'd see the tubs of "red thingies" and "green thingies" in the baking aisle. But the thing is... these are not actual fruit cake ingredients. If you see one of those cheap-ass sawdust & glue with red & green thingies called 'fruitcake' in the store, do not, under any circumstances eat it. That's not real fruit cake.

As an adult I learned that fruit cake, good fruit cake, contains real actual, identifiable fruit. And while that might still sound repulsive to some people (not naming names but... cough cough Jenn cough cough), but at least it's edible.

Here's one of my favorite fruit cake type recipes - Stollen. Again, I'm using the recipe from The Bread Baker's Apprentice. Yeah, technically it's a fruit bread...and maybe that's the difference. In any case it's a sweet holiday fruit & nut dessert.

Start with the fruit... not the candied chopped up bits of fluorescent colored plastic you see in little tubs... real actual dried fruit. I'm using dried cherries, dried cranberries and golden raisins, about 2 cups total (with just a little orange or lemon zest). To the fruit I added about 1/2 cup brandy. Last year I used Peach Schnapps and it worked well. Basically you want to re-plump the dried fruit, and you want to use booze to do it. ;)
I let this sit on the counter overnight.

Then yesterday I started the dough. Here's the sponge:
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup warm water
4 tsp yeast
let it activate for 1/2 an hour.
Look at all the bubbles. =) To this we add:

1 egg
2 1/4 cups flour
1/4 cup water
1 Tbls sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon (and/or any christmasy type spices you like, cloves, nutmeg, mace, etc.)
5 Tbls softened butter (they say room temp - but when you keep the heat under 60F, room temp is COLD so soften the butter in the microwave for a few seconds).

I let Betty mix it all together for a few minutes, then added the fruit and let her mix it for quite a bit longer... it takes a while to incorporate all the fruit. Then I kinda shaped it in a ball, and put it in a greased bowl to rise overnight in the fridge.

Tonight I took it out of the fridge, it wasn't much bigger, but I know that the yeast was doing it's thing. I split the dough into two balls and let them sit on the counter for half an hour, then began to shape them.

I rolled each ball out into a rough rectangle, coated with some melted butter, and topped with almonds, sprinkled with a little sugar and a pinch more cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg or whatever. Then I drizzled a bit more butter on top, and folded the top over.

Other variations of stollen call for marzipan instead of almonds, and I've had it that way - it's really good. But I like the little extra crunch of almonds... oh, and I think I was supposed to reserve some of the fruit so I could put it in the middle with the almonds, but I forgot to do that, and I don't think it's going to make a big difference in taste.

Here is the shaped, stuffed stollen. Brushed again with - come on class - more BUTTER!

I'll let it sit like this for another hour or two before baking. It's cool in my apartment and I want to make sure it rises at least a little. Then I baked it for about an hour at 350F. The book says to bake it until it's a rich mahogany brown color. I have no idea what color mahogany is, but it's pretty dark. Soooo we finish it up with yet another brushing of melted butter (yum yum yummy) and a dusting of powdered sugar.

The Stollen is supposed to remind you of the baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes. To me it looks a little more like a big crepe. ;)


Magatha said...

OMGG, you don't know how much I want to be at your house right now! Tea and a slice? Why, yes please, thank you!

(pretty plate too)

Rebel said...


CresceNet said...
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uberstrickenfrau said...

Have you read 'I'll see you in a hundred years'? The author talks about the fruitcakes his wife made and it totally changed his ideas about fruit cake. Oh, and that reminds me of Truman Capotes account about his aunt and him getting the stuff togeather to make fruitcake. Gee, I guess I've got friutcake on the brain! The Stollen looks very yummie, I see prepackaged ones in the world market but they look sort of scary...

Batty said...

Yum! Thanks for posting the 'instructions' - I'll have to try this recipe. The little candied bits of fruit also give me the creeps, I never liked them.

Rebel said...

uber - I have not read that, but I might. Yeah, the pre-packaged stollen scares me a little too. I finally tried some of mine, it's a bit dry but *very* tasty, the cranberries and almonds all cinamony and buttery... yummy!

Batty - it's another one I got from the Bread Baker's Apprentice... but again he gives instructions like "bake for 20 minutes, rotate the pan, bake for another 20-50 minutes" there's a big difference between 20 & 50 minutes!!!

Bezzie said... kind of reminds me of a clam.

Sounds more delish than a clam tho!

Eryn said...

Hooray for butter! All the best recipes have way too much butter.