December 7, 2016

Dear friends,

Last week I ate an entire fruitcake and disposed of the evidence before Tony returned from a hunting trip. It was just a mini 5-inch loaf, but it will come as a surprise to many people that I ate any fruitcake at all.

I am a known fruitcake hater. My sister once gave me a red holiday t-shirt with “I Hate Fruitcake” on it. I have a box of Christmas cards, also a gift, that pictures people in Victorian garb tossing fruitcakes down a manhole. I joked annually about fruitcake in print and once challenged newspaper readers to bake and bring me fruitcakes if they thought they could change my mind about the holiday sweet. I was flooded with 158 fruitcakes that I then had to taste in an awful day-long session.

OK, I still don’t like those little green bits that taste like kitchen cleaner and have the half-life of nuclear waste. But I kind of like fruitcake now. I like them with dried apricots, raisins, candied cherries and pecans. I like the little personal fruitcakes I make in a mug in the microwave. I especially liked the little loaf I bought last week at Pallotta’s Pastries in Cuyahoga Falls when I was there looking for the lemon cookies I wrote about last week.

Pallotta’s homemade version is crammed with just two things: Juicy candied maraschino cherries and pecans. Absolutely crammed. The cherries are gently candied, not turned to solid sugar as most are. When I got my little fruitcake home, I sprinkled it with bourbon and let the booze soak in before I cut a slice. No wonder I ate the whole thing in a week.

I’m ready now to branch out to fruitcakes studded with candied orange peel and maybe even citron. I regret all the fruitcakes I have spurned in my life, from the cellophane-wrapped slices that fruitcake companies used to send me to the rum-soaked gift fruitcake I pawned off on a homeless shelter that caters to alcoholics. Oops.

Real fruitcake lovers, I hear, bake their cakes in October and wrap them in booze-soaked cheesecloth to age for a few weeks before the holiday. Maybe I’ll do that next year. This year I will make a simple fruitcake sprinkled with just enough Bourbon to get me through the holiday. Aw, who am I kidding? The cake won’t last that long.

Here’s the winning recipe fromthat long-ago fruitcake contest. I plan to make it and soak it with Bourbon.

APPLESAUCE FRUITCAKE
1/2 lb. candied red cherries
1/2 lb. candied green cherries (I use all red)
1/2 lb. candied pineapple
1/2 lb. dates (optional)
2 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup shortening
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tbsp. vanilla
1 cup applesauce
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 lb. flaked coconut
1/2 lb. pecans
1/2 lb. walnuts

Chop fruits into half-inch pieces. With hands, toss fruit with one-half cup flour, coating each piece well.

Cream together shortening and sugar. Beat in eggs one at a time. Stir in salt, vanilla, applesauce and soda. Gradually add remaining flour. Stir in chopped fruits, coconut, pecans and walnuts.

Line bottoms and sides of two loaf pans with two layers of waxed paper. Fill pans three-fourths full and bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 275 degrees and bake 1 1/2 to two hours longer. Let cakes stand in pans for five minutes at room temperature.

Remove from pans and peel off waxed paper. When cakes are cool, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate.

TIDBIT

“Where is the picture of the finished cookies?” a reader asked after I ran a still life of lemons with my Italian lemon anginetti recipe last week. Yes, a photo might help you make sense of my directions to shape the cookies. Think of the raw cookie as a pretzel, but with one end left pointing up. To help you visualize, here’s a photo of some of the finished cookies:

IMG_0944.JPG

THE MAILBAG

From Carla N.:
Can I substitute baking soda for baking powder in a recipe? Is it a straight swap? What’s the difference, anyway?

Dear Carla: This is the kind of info I vaguely recall reading once or twice but I can’t remember the exact answer. So I looked it up. Baking soda is a substance (sodium bicarbonate) found in nature. Adding an acid to it (citrus juice, vinegar, buttermilk, etc.) causes it to release carbon dioxide bubbles, which cause dough to rise.

Baking powder is baking soda with its own acid added – usually cream of tartar.

Recipes leavened with baking powder do not need an external acid (lemon juice, etc.) to produce a rise. A liquid is all that’s needed. Baking powder usually has a second acid added that reacts when the dough is both wet and hot. That’s why it’s called “double acting.”

Baking soda is about three times as powerful as baking powder. To substitute baking soda for baking powder, cut the amount at least in half and add 1 teaspoon vinegar or lemon juice for each one-half teaspoon baking powder.

To substitute baking powder for baking soda, use at least twice as much. Most of this information is from http://www.phys.org.

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