25 May 2015

On Hiatus

Hi all -- last time I posted was back in January and you see it's already May. I created this blog back in 2005 to address all of the fruitcake hate out there. Since then I've taken an incredibly fun, alcohol- and calorie-enhanced journey through the fruitcakes out there for purchase--good, bad, excellent and horrible.

Ten years is a long time and I think I've fallen prey to the short attention span that Facebook and Twitter have inspired. For whatever reason I just can't bring myself to post long posts about fruitcake anymore--or maybe I've simply just eaten most of them, and there are fewer fruitcakes to write about!

For whatever reason, I'm not going to mince words anymore--this blog is on hiatus. You can continue to find me on the Mondo Fruitcake Facebook page, and I've been storing recipes, etc., on a Mondo Fruitcake Pinterest page, as well.

Thanks to everyone who's taken the journey with me. I have met that silent minority of people who truly love and appreciate the fruitcake, and they are fantastic people to know. I'm honored to stand among them.

I feel, in a way, as if I'm shutting down this blog right at the time when fruitcake will begin to become appreciated again. There are so many craft and artisanally made foods nowadays--I would not be at all surprised if fruitcake made a resurgence. I have personally tasted many home-made fruitcakes, from many of you, that could proudly stand as evidence of the deliciousness of the product.

So I won't say I'm "shutting down" the blog. But it's definitely on hiatus. Certainly people come here to look for reviews of fruitcakes, and I continue to stand by my reviews. You may continue to see posts about home-made fruitcakes I've tasted or made, since I've learned through this journey that that's truly the best.

Thanks all!!

24 January 2015

Happy New Year all!!

Well it finally hit me--one of the reasons I don't think I've been posting as much on my blog has not been my lack of interest in fruitcake--far from it. It's been a technology-related problem.

I don't have a computer at home. Well, I should be more specific--I don't have a computer with a full keyboard at home. For the past 4 years or so, I've been using tablets--first an iPad, now a Nexus. That was actually the problem. Have you ever tried writing a lengthy, thought-provoking post on fruitcake while tapping on an extremely tiny keyboard? Let me tell you, it's not easy.

This just hit me the other day. I just haven't wanted to compose posts on my 7 inch tablet!

This post is the product of my most recent purchase -- a Bluetooth keyboard. I am typing with the ease and comfort that only a full-sized keyboard can bring.

So I hope you can look forward to more posts from me on the subject of fruitcake. And in this new year 2015, I am going to state an unlikely prediction--that fruitcake will see a resurrection. The tide is turning, and I think fruitcake will finally win some followers. Stay tuned for more musings on that.

In the mean time, happy new year to all! If you have a special fruitcake memory from this past season to share, please do so in the comments!!

09 December 2014

Laura's Stollen recipe

My friend Laura, who is an excellent baker, made the stollen we enjoyed at our fruitcake tasting. She cobbled and jiggered (I suppose you could say "stole," ha-ha) stollen recipes from the New York Times and Slate to create her own recipe, aptly named Frankenstein Stollen. Here it is!!

Frankenstein Stollen

1 cup golden raisins
1 cup dried cherries
1 cup candied orange peel
1 cup chopped crystallized ginger
1 cup sliced or slivered almonds
3/4 cup orange liqueur (like Grand Marnier or Cointreau)
1 package active dry yeast (1/4 ounce)
1/2 cup milk, at room temperature
4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
2 3/4 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped and reserved
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg yolk
1/2 cup chopped candied ginger
1/2 cup mixed candied citrus peel (optional, see note)
2 cups confectionerssugar.

1. The night before baking, mix golden raisins, dried cherries, candied orange peel, crystallized ginger, slivered almonds and orange liqueur in a small container. Cover and let sit overnight at room temperature.
2. The next day, in an electric mixer with paddle, set on low speed, mix yeast with milk until dissolved. Add 1 cup flour and mix until a soft, sticky dough forms, about 2 minutes. This is the starter.Transfer starter to a lightly greased bowl, cover with greased plastic, and let rest for 40 minutes at room temperature.
3. In an electric mixer with paddle and set on low speed, mix remaining 3 cups of flour, 3 tablespoons of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon ginger, salt, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, lemon zest and vanilla seeds. With motor running, pour in 1 cup melted butter. Mix on slow for 1 minute, then add egg yolk. Mix until liquid is absorbed, about 1 minute more.
4. Divide starter dough into 3 pieces. Add starter to mixture in bowl, 1 piece at a time, mixing on slow until each addition is thoroughly combined, 2 to 3 minutes after each addition. After starter is absorbed, mix dough on a medium speed until glossy, 4 to 5 minutes.
5. Add fruits and almonds, and mix on slow until combined, 4 to 6 minutes.
6. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until fruit and nuts are inside dough rather than stuck on surface, and dough is smooth and glossy, about 5 minutes. Place dough in a medium bowl and cover with plastic. Rest for 1 hour to let rise slightly. Then knead it once or twice, cover with plastic and let rest for another hour.
7. Divide into 2 equal pieces and shape each into an oval loaf about 8 inches long. Stack 2 rimmed baking sheets on top of each other, lining top pan with parchment. Place loaves on doubled pans and cover with plastic. Allow loaves to rest 1 more hour at room temperature.
8. About 20 minutes before this rise is completed, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove plastic covering loaves and bake for about 1 hour. Loaves should look uniformly dark golden brown and internal temperature taken from middle of each loaf should be 190 degrees.
9. Meanwhile, whisk together the remaining 3/4 cup sugar and 2 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger. When stollen is done, transfer top pan holding loaves to a wire rack (leave stollen on pan). While still hot, brush stollen with remaining 1 cup of melted butter, letting butter soak into loaves. Sprinkle ginger sugar on tops and sides of loaves. When loaves are completely cool, cover loosely with waxed or parchment paper or foil and let sit at room temperature for 8 hours or overnight.
10. The next day, sift 1 1/2 cups confectionerssugar over loaves, rolling to coat bottom and sides evenly with sugar. Wrap each loaf in plastic and let sit at room temperature for at least 2 days before sifting remaining 1/2 cup confectionerssugar over loaves and serving.

Yield: 2 loaves, each about 1 1/2 pounds.

07 December 2014

Fruitcake Tasting 2014

The latest homemade fruitcake tasting took placeon the 28th, and many delicious cakes were enjoyed!! This evening was a homemade only event--no commercial bakeries were included.

So here are the cakes we sampled :

(far left platter) Alton Brown's Free Range Fruitcake
(top platter) Joy of Cooking's Dark Fruitcake *
(On lower right platter, clockwise from 9 o'clock)
Alton Brown's Free Range Fruitcake (we had two)
Gourmet's The Best Fruitcake Ever
Stollen (just a tiny corner)
Fiona Cairns' Rich Tamarind Fruitcake (William & Kate's wedding cake)

Notice that quite a few of these are duplicates from last year's tasting. I guess they were good ones! They were all winners in this bunch.

Two of the guests made Alton Brown's Free Range Fruitcake, so we did a head-to-head tasting of it--and found them both to be yummy. There were slight variations between the two: one baker had soaked the cake in brandy, while the other had lightly spritzed same, and we found that the latter had a bit lighter taste because of it. So for anyone making their own, take note--adding alcohol gives the cake a heavier character. If you don't like candied fruit, this is a good recipe for you--all dried fruits. It almost looks like a quick bread, and we agreed that a generous dollop of cream cheese and this would be a delicious breakfast bread. Perhaps for Christmas morning?

Both the Best Fruitcake Ever and Fiona Cairns' fruitcakes are stellar--full of a variety of fresh and interesting flavors, rich and delicious, and the almond extract-flavored glaze adds an extra little pop.

Now, for that asterisk above on the Dark Fruitcake: I learned while searching for the Joy of Cooking Dark Fruitcake recipe on the internet, that the recipe in my edition of the Joy of Cooking was misprinted. It was actually missing about 6 eggs! There was also too much brandy in the recipe (but can there ever be too much brandy in a recipe, I ask you). We all did remark on my cake being sunken in the middle. I attributed that to (and still attribute it to) the fact that I mistakenly baked it in 2 stacked loaf pans instead of 1, so it was more insulated than it should have been.

Regardless, it was a good fruitcake. Everyone liked it for it's markedly dark flavor, attributable to the molasses and brown sugar in the recipe. I actually found it to be a bit too dark for my taste, edging into burnt tasting (to me). Could also be the large amount of raisins in the recipe.

Some Lessons Learned from previous fruitcake tastings:

  1. Eat lightly. Our hostess ordered 2 big pizzas (from Roots--delicious!) for six people, which on an ordinary night could have easily been decimated, but people limited themselves to only a few slices, knowing that the tasting lay ahead. 
  2. Pace yourself. We enjoyed conversation for a while after dinner, ate the first round of fruitcakes, talked a bit more, than went back in for round two. This approach allowed us to clear our palates and heads so we could fully enjoy all the cakes. 
  3. Small slices! Notice the sizes of the slices we had cut above. The Free Range Fruitcake slices at top left were further cut into thirds for tasting. This is heavy stuff, and can only be fully appreciated and enjoyed when doled out in small pieces. Anything bigger and you're groaning in pain by the end of them all and might dream of fruitcake slices chasing you--which is what happened at previous tastings. 
I'll post the stollen recipe soon!