Sorry I haven’t written lately. Been working hard on creating a plan for our future!
When you read the title you cringed – admit it. Perhaps the joke about using it as a door stop was recalled. Maybe you even remember seeing it on the Christmas table at your grandmother’s house, dreading the moment she would ask if you had tried some.
I love fruit cake! Let me rephrase that, I love the fruit cake my mother makes, and since then, my sister and I have learned to make (although my hubby still says ick because he’s a ninny). There is a disconnect between the reality of great fruit cake and its legend.
I have had some of the fruit cakes that have the candied fruit peels or other candied fruits. I have had some of the fruit cakes that are buried beneath brandy or rum. I have had the strange tasting fruit cake that comes in a box from the rack at the grocery stores that has barely enough fruit to call it fruit cake. Given this rundown of the average fruit cake, I understand your trepidation about fruit cake.
My favorite cookbook “Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook” has a recipe for fruit cake that when you separate the name from it, doesn’t look that bad if you like candied fruit. It even has a option of “or snipped mixed dried fruit”. That is the main key – dried fruit instead of candied fruit. Another problem is the spices – not everyone enjoys the Christmas combo of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves.
How many of you like Lara Bars? How many of you love a chewy granola fruit and nut bar? How many of you adore trail mix? Let me introduce you to the real fruit cake. Its calorie content just about matches the Lara Bar. I’m baking some now to add into my healthy eating as a daily snack because it is a great mix of fruit and nuts.
This recipe I got from my sister, who modified it slightly from my mother, has dates, almonds, walnuts, raisin, cherries, whole wheat flour, honey, eggs, orange juice, orange zest, baking powder, and salt. Sounds good doesn’t it? Today I enhanced it even more. I added in oats, sunflower seeds, apricots, and prunes – I left out the cherries because I didn’t have any. Look at it! It looks like trail mix or granola before you bake it. I bake it in loaves, but I wonder if I could do it like bars, then cut them into portion sizes – just like a granola bar. Portion sized ready to eat!
I asked my mom about the recipe at an inconvenient moment. They were out RVing across the country. No recipe because who makes fruit cake in an RV. She is not sure where she got the original recipe – maybe a magazine, but she altered it and played with the recipe. She switched it to whole wheat flour and dried fruit instead of candied. She also prefers orange juice to brandy or rum. I come by my desire to alter recipes naturally. She also pointed out that it should really sit in the fridge wrapped in orange juice soaked cheesecloth at least 1 month to help it truly come together.
So here is the recipe for those of you who are now dying to enter the realm of Fruit Cake aka a wholesome fruit and nut bar.
1.5 cups almonds (mom prefers whole – I used sliced)
1.5 cups walnuts
(substitute 3 cups nuts of your choice – I added sunflower seeds to the other nuts)
2 cups dates
1 cup raisins
1 jar cherries (mom like adding maraschino for color and moisture)
(substitute 3.5 cups dried fruit of your choice – I added prunes and apricots to the other fruit)
1 teaspoon orange zest (I used 5 drops orange essential oil)
3/4 cup flour (we prefer whole wheat – I’ve never had this recipe any other way)
(not in the recipe but I added 1/2 cup old fashioned oats)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Mix together the above ingredients then add
3/4 cup sugar or honey (I prefer honey)
3 beaten eggs
2 teaspoons brandy, rum, or orange juice (mom prefers orange juice)
Mix together well.
Line 9×5 loaf pan with parchment paper. Press into pan. Bake at 300 degrees for 1.75 hours. Once cool, remove from pan. Soak cheesecloth in orange juice, brandy, or rum. Wrap around bread, then wrap in tin foil. Age in fridge 2-4 weeks. My sister and I can never wait for it to age.
Welcome to the world that is what I call fruit cake – or fruit and nut bars.