Monday, October 22, 2012

A Cocktail You Can Chew: Fruit & Rum Redux

This isn't really fruitcake, it's a cocktail you can chew...

On Friday I was furiously marching up and down the aisles of my local Whole Foods looking for dried unsweetened apple slices, because it is just about time to start soaking dried fruit in rum for my fruitcakes. This is an annual event, and thanks to my being quite so short sighted, I hadn't even noticed that I wrote about it last year, and did actually, cover all the bases.

Okay, okay, I know, it’s nearly two months away from Christmas, but there’s this fruit and rum thing that everyone begs for at the holidays and it has to be started now. Now. They beg for it. Really. You take really good quality dried fruit (NOT CANDIED!!) and soak it in Myers Rum for a month. Then you bind it together with eggs, molasses and a wee bit of whole wheat flour and bake it…into …a …cake. Except it’s not actually a cake. It’s hand-portable-rum-loaded fruit. There really isn’t enough batter to have any actual cake, it’s just enough to hold the fruit together so you can get its boozy goodness into your mouth. It’s like a wayward version of one of those dried fruit-nutrition bars you feel so virtuous eating. It's a cocktail you can chew.

Today my dried fruit went in to soak, a combination of dates, apricots, cranberries and raisins. If you need to cut up your fruit into bits, I suggest using a scissors rather than a knife. Dried fruit is too sticky to make it easy to cut into bits. It'll be ready to bake about a week after Thanksgiving, and that'll give it time to age for eating about Christmas as the flavor improves with time. 

Not the kind of cake to send to your elderly aunt. Unless she’s cool. Definitely NOT for the kids.

Yo, Ho, Ho, Fruitcake: Fruit and Rum redux

4 cups mixed chopped dried fruit, in 1/3” to 1/2” pieces
(apples. cranberries, apricots, raisins, cherries, figs, dates, pears  whatever is available and not dyed or sweetened)
Myers rum (no substitutes) See Note.
3 eggs
¼ cup honey
½ cup blackstrap molasses
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Grated zest of 1 navel orange
¾ cup whole wheat flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon, Saigon preferred
1 teaspoon powdered ginger
½ teaspoon of fresh ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves

Place chopped fruit in a deep bowl, or glass jar and cover by about ½” with Myers rum. Let set for at least 3 days;   three weeks to a month is even better.

On baking day, drain fruit, and gently press out any excess rum. Save the remaining rum. Some will be used to anoint the finished cake(s); the rest can be used as you wish (I save it for the next year, topping it up with more Myers), or to soak more fruit. Leave fruit resting in a strainer while you prep the rest.

Preheat the oven to 300° F.  Oil well or cooking spray either a 6-cup tube pan, loaf pan or two 3” x 5” loaf pans.. Muffin pans work well too, just reduce the baking time to about 30 minutes.

Mix the flour, baking powder, salt and spices in a medium bowl.  Beat the eggs until well mixed, and then beat in the blackstrap molasses, the honey, vanilla and the orange zest.

Stir the drained fruit into the dry ingredients, and mix well, and then add the wet ingredients to the fruit mixture. Place in pans, filling about 7/8 of the way as this doesn’t rise too much.

Bake larger pans for about an hour, the small loaves about 50 minutes and the muffins about 30 minutes. Test doneness with a toothpick; the cake is very moist when done, but no batter streaks will stick to the toothpick. The top should be a bit cracked open.

Cool in pans for about 20 -30 minutes on a rack, remove from pan, then cool completely on the rack.

Store wrapped in plastic wrap and foil to ripen about a week.  When cool, you can drizzle up to a tablespoon of the reserved rum-soaking liquid onto each full sized cake or about a half teaspoon onto muffins before wrapping. Age about a week before serving. NOT for kids.

Note:  This recipe has evolved over the last 18 years, and I’ve tried just about every dark rum available in this recipe.. The Myers works best; it seems to bake up smoother and mellower than any of the others. Not that this recipe is for those who don’t like rum.

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