mutteringhousewife

What does the last of the housewives do?

Tag: fruitcake

Fruitcake

You know that bit in KungFu Panda where Po’s dad is waiting for Po to have the noodle dream so he can become a real noodle chef? Well I had the fruitcake dream. It was a sign. It was time to go forth and buy glacĂ© cherries.

This isn’t one of this cakes you accept graciously from your auntie, wait six months, then throw it in the compost. Actually, I don’t get that whole giving people fruitcake. Despite the fact that this one is delicious, I do understand that it isn’t for everyone. I do give out fruitcakes, but only to people who ask. Not only ask, because I’ll just assume they’re being polite and really don’t want to hurt my feelings, but actually beg. I was going to send half of this one to my grandma, as she’s a big fan of it, but there isn’t enough left after yesterday’s barbeque. She’ll have to wait for the next one to come along.

I know I go on about the best ingredients a bit, but that’s because it is important and I really want you to understand it and go to your own local markets and buy the best you can find. I also want the major supermarkets to go broke, so I only buy cat food, toilet paper and jumbo boxes of breakfast cereal from them, but that’s a rant for another day. This recipe is just fruit, and cake, so you want terrific fruit.

Place in your largest mixing bowl 250 grams of butter (or two sticks if you’re a non SI American, see Donna Hay, two can play at that game), and cream it with the zest of a lemon and a cup of sugar. If you want a golden crumb, use caster sugar. If you like it a bit darker and richer, go half caster and half brown. I might try using dark brown next time, if I’m feeling crazy. Beat in four eggs, one at a time.

Now for the fruit. Tip in 250 grams sultanas, 125 grams currants, 125 grams of mixed peel (have a hunt through the archives for a method to make your own) and 125 grams glacĂ© cherries. I have used very fancy semi dried cherries for this in the past, but I do have a soft spot for green Big Sister cherries like Nanna used to use. The next 250 grams of dried fruit are at your discretion, but my favourite mix is 125 grams chopped crystallized ginger and 125 grams of the very zingy dried cranberries that are purveyed by Honest to Goodness. If you don’t use ginger, add a tablespoon of ground ginger when adding the flour. I’ve also used dried apricots, crystallized pineapple (who just thought of Professor Slughorn?), glazed figs and dates (I find the last two not acidic enough, but each to their own). Mix the fruit in with the butter and egg, this will take some elbow work. Then add a cup and a half of flour and a tablespoon of baking powder and mix that in. Scrape this lot into a cake tin lined with baking paper, mine is 20 by 20 cm. It doesn’t rise very much, so don’t worry that it almost fills the tin. Bake at 150 degrees Celsius for really quite some time. The original Woman’s Weekly recipe that I based this on says three hours, but mine usually take a bit less than that. Keep an eye on it, it will be a rich gold on top and a bit crunchy looking. Stick a skewer in it, if it comes out clean then take it out. I like it to cool out of the tin because the outsides get nice and firm.

I will not have fruitcake for lunch, I will not have fruitcake for lunch, I will not have fruitcake for lunch…

20121015-142920.jpg

Advertisement

Mixed Peel

When the weather gets warmer I start thinking about making fruitcake. Cut that out, mine’s really nice, not sticky or cloyingly sweet, and it doesn’t have nuts or brandy in it. I’ve made converts out of non fruitcake eaters. Alas, not my children, when they see me making a fruitcake they say “great, why can’t you make a cake that we actually like?”. I’ll keep making them eat it and in five or six years they’ll start to see it my way. Parenting is about patience.

I was going to wait until after the school holidays for the first step in my fruitcake, but serendipity stepped in. The first step is to make your own mixed peel, because the stuff you buy is dull dull dull. I make mine with grapefruit and orange peel, although today there’s a lemon in there too because I’m running the pantry down before we go away. My daughter and her friend walked the dogs around the block (a fairly rare occurrence, and the dogs are still lying on the floor recovering) and found bags of grapefruit on a front fence around the corner with a sign on them saying “free to a good home”, or something of that nature. Clearly a sign for me to make mixed peel. It’s really easy.

Peel one grapefruit and two oranges (or one orange and a lemon, if that’s what you happen to have) with a sharp knife, you should include the pith in this exercise, unlike when zesting citrus. Chop the peel up until it looks like this:

20120921-165100.jpg
Bung it in a saucepan and cover it with water. Bring the lot to the boil and boil for about five minutes, or for about the time it takes to check Facebook and empty the dishwasher. Strain, discarding the water, and do it again. Strain again, and return just the peel to the saucepan with two cups of water and one cup of caster sugar. Simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the peel is translucent. I can’t remember how long this is, because I haven’t done it since last year, but a good twenty minutes or so. I then drain it and put the sticky mess of peel in Tupperware and into the fridge. It makes enough for about two fruitcakes. I reserve the syrup in a separate container, intending to use it something else, but I generally end up throwing it out after a couple of months. I clearly need to make more cocktails.

You’ll get the actual fruitcake recipe some other time, but I’m off on holidays. It may be that I find our travels to be sufficiently amusing to document, it may not. I may not be able to wrestle the iPad from my husband during our moments of leisure. So don’t hold your breath, and I’ll be back muttering again in a couple of weeks.