The very mention of Christmas fruitcake is often met with shudders of distaste and a rejection of the labor and love that went into its creation. A cake loaded with chunks of crystalized fruit and chopped nuts might sound like a nice holiday treat, but one bite of an ooey-gooey loaf with suspicious textures or a dry brick will surely leave a bad taste in your mouth. These tried, tested and, most importantly, enjoyed recipes will change your position on this Christmas dessert forever.
Stollen, also known as Christollen, is a German sweet bread containing dried fruits, marzipan, almond paste and sugar or honey. According to the Food Network website, historians have traced the treat back to around the year 1400 in Dresden. Each December, the city pays homage to its history with Stollenfest, a festival during which a giant stollen weighing multiple tons is baked and presented to the town. Despite the dessert's long tradition, each baker has his or her own recipe. The following recipe was posted on the Food Network website, courtesy of bread baker and author Betsy Oppenneer.
1 cup mixed candied fruit
1 cup raisins
3 tablespoons dark rum or orange juice
1 scant tablespoon active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
2/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon honey
1/3 cup honey
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground mace
1/2 cup chopped toasted almonds
4 to 5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Oil (for coating bowl)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
Prepare the fruit: Combine the mixed fruit, raisins and rum (or orange juice). Cover and set aside. Shake the mixture periodically to coat fruit with rum.
Prepare the sponge cake: In a large bowl, sprinkle yeast. Heat milk to 110 degrees F. Add to the yeast, along with 1 cup flour and 1 teaspoon honey. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until light and bubbly, about 30 minutes.
In a mixer bowl, add the fruit mixture, 1/3 cup honey, egg, 1/2 cup butter, zest, salt, almonds, mace and 2 cups flour to the sponge. With the paddle attachment, beat on medium-low speed with paddle attachment for two minutes. Add remaining flour 1/4 cup at a time until the dough pulls away from the side of the bowl. Switch to dough hook. Add flour 1 tablespoon at a time until dough begins to clean the bowl. Then knead dough on medium-low for 4 to 5 minutes.
Place dough in an oiled bowl. Cover with a towel and let rise for 1 hour.
For one large loaf, roll dough into 9-by-13-inch oval. Brush melted butter over the top. Combine cinnamon and granulated sugar, and sprinkle over half the oval. Fold dough in half lengthwise. Carefully lift bread onto parchment-lined baking sheet.
Cover dough with towel and let rise for 45 minutes.
Heat oven to 375 degrees F, bake for 25 minutes.
Sprinkle stollen with confectioners' sugar.
Everyone knows most Christmas gifts are worth the wait. Same goes for the brandied fruit cake featured on the Country Cleaver blog. It takes two weeks to perfectly age and, interestingly, includes a hefty amount of brandy and fresh zucchini.
BRANDIED FRUIT CAKE
1 cup golden raisins
1 cup zante dried currants
2 1/2 cups various dried fruit (prunes, apples and apricots recommended)
3/4 cup brandy (and more for aging process)
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 cups flour
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons ground allspice
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cloves
2 cups shredded zucchini
3/4 cup chopped pecans
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
The day before baking, combine all dried fruits together in airtight container, and cover completely with 3/4 cup brandy. Shake jar to mix. Leave out to marinate overnight, turning the jar frequently to ensure even marinade.
On the day of baking, preheat oven to 325 degrees F. In a large bowl, whisk eggs, oil, vanilla and brown sugar. In a separate bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, allspice, salt, nutmeg, salt and cloves.
Combine flour mixture into egg mixture, and stir. Add in zucchini, walnuts, pecans and drained brandy-soaked fruits. NOTE: Save the brandy for zesty hot brandy cider!
Spray two loaf pans with nonstick spray and line with parchment paper. Divide dough between them, and bake for 60 to 70 minutes. As loaves cool, sprinkle with 1 tablespoon brandy.
To age fruitcake (two weeks is ideal), cut two pieces of cheesecloth, one for each loaf. Pour brandy into a cup, and soak cheesecloth. Wring out excess brandy, and wrap each loaf with soaked cheesecloth. Place wrapped loaves in two layers of aluminum foil. Store in cool, dry place. Check loaves periodically to make sure they haven't dried. Sprinkle 1 to 2 teaspoons brandy throughout to keep moist.
Unwrap and enjoy. Makes 2 loaves.
These recipes are perfect to serve in your home. When packaged in a pretty paper or tin, they make a great hostess gift as well. You will be happy you dared to beat others' preconceived notions this holiday season.