Friday, December 14, 2007

By Their Fruits Ye Shall Know Them

I wish to make an announcement. (Insert clink, clink, clink of spoon on rim of coffee mug.) Is everyone listening? Good! I just wish to go on record about a seasonal controversy that comes up around this time every year.


Seriously. I can't think, offhand, of any food item more maligned than the fruitcake. Well, maybe Twinkies. Really, the only thing Twinkies and fruitcake share in common is their longevity and I'd like to point out the former owes its shelf life to chemicals while the latter becomes gracefully aged through the judicious use of good booze. There is a difference.

It is true that there are some genuinely horrid fruit cakes out there. Abominations that deserve the contempt or horror they provoke in innocent victims. I shudder to think of all the folks who have been traumatized by their awfulness. These people, quite understandably, have been ruined for the Real Thing and wouldn't eat a slice of the best fruitcake in the world if you held a gun to their heads and threatened them with forced viewing of every episode of the Gong Show that was ever filmed.

This is probably an inflammatory statement for some but, personally, I blame it on the overuse and misuse of candied fruit and citron. I know. Some folks actually like that stuff and, hey, that's cool. Really. But I submit to you that a fruitcake blessed with bits of unsullied dried fruit -- and even canned or fresh fruit -- all saturated with either good juice or good liquor -- will lift the plainest fruitcake onto orgasmic plateaus of culinary excellence.

Let me entice you with a baby step into the realms of fruitcake splendor. Today I made nearly seven dozen of the most sublime, decadent, wickedly delicious chocolate fruitcake cookies it has ever been my pleasure to inhale. Yes, chocolate and fruit DO go together wonderfully, thank you very much. Think of them as sorta-kinda fruity brownies. They're soft and rich and luscious and ... and ... sinful. Yes! That was the word I was looking for. Sin without guilt but with a redeeming afterglow. Heavenly. If I may put "sin" and "heaven" in the same context.


Ahead of time -- at least 1 hour ahead, preferably overnight, to give the fruit time to absorb the liquid and puff up all tender and nummy:

Coarsely chop up a mixture of dried fruits -- your choice. Remember, I forbid the use of candied fruit and citron. You'll want between one and two cups of fruit. I had a mixture of dried, sweetened cranberries, dried apricots and a small can of chunk pineapple. Put it all in a small sauce pan and add in the pineapple juice (roughly 2 ounces) and about 2 ounces of Triple Sec. The original recipe calls for a 1/2 cup of rum, and that's fine. So is the same amount of Applejack or any other booze you chooze -- uh -- choose. I just didn't want to waste the pineapple juice and Triple Sec has a complimentary orange flavor. If you don't want anything alcoholic, orange juice works wonderfully well. Bring fruit mixture to a boil and turn down immediately to a simmer. Let it bubble away long enough for most of the liquid to be absorbed and cook down (about half an hour), turn off the heat, put a lid on it, and walk away.

When you're ready to do the cookies:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees fairyheight.

In a small bowl, mix 3 cups flour, 3/4 cup cocoa, 1 teaspoon baking soda and 1 teaspoon salt.

In your mixer bowl, put 1 stick softened butter (1/2 cup), 1 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup granulated sugar and 1/2 cup sour cream. Or yogurt. Or, as I did, 1/2 cup milk that's been clabbered with a tablespoon of lemon juice. Vinegar will work if you don't have lemon juice. Beat until blended and smooth.

Add 2 eggs and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat until well blended.

Add the fruit mixture, including any liquid that is not yet absorbed. (Most of it will be if you waited long enough.) You will have to slap your hands to keep from nibbling so much of those plump, juicy jeweled bits that you don't have enough for the cookies. Self-discipline is a Good Thang.

Add the flour mixture, 1 cup at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Once all the flour is incorporated, scrape off the beater and lick whatever remains on it before you wash it off. With a spatula, stir in 2 cups (1 package) of chocolate chips or an equivalent amount of chopped dark, semi-sweet chocolate. (If you're lucky enough to find some raspberry chocolate chips, go for it!) Add a cup of chopped nuts --any type you like-- and get out the cookie sheets. You can grease the cookie sheets or, better, line them with parchment paper.

These are easy-peasy drop cookies so all you need now are a couple of teaspoons. The cookies won't spread too much so you can place them fairly closely on the sheet. I got 15 to a batch and they ran roughly 2 to 2 1/2 inches across, working their way up to 3-inchers as I got bored with baking.

Put them in the oven for 12 minutes. Cookies will be fat and tender-soft. Let them sit on the pan for 5 minutes after you take them out, then transfer to racks to cool. You may sample some while still hot but try to restrain yourself. I just hate it when I eat faster than I bake. It's like skating uphill. Backward.

There you have it. My contribution to the holiday festive feasting frenzy. And your gentle gateway to wicked good fruitcake. Trust me on this.


Wendy said...

Dee, my friend, that was a good two pounds of entry right there. And that's just from reading it. Heaven help me when I actually make those things.

Jo said...

Man, I'm missing your camera as I know you are. I wanna see a picture of those things! On another note, speaking of fruitcake. I attempted my very first fruitcake this evening and it turned out very well. At least I enjoyed it. I know it's kinda late to be making fruitcake what with Christmas a bare week and a half away (yes, 1 1/2 weeks) but I had it in my head that I was going to do a fruitcake. Said idea popped in my head only earlier this week hence getting such a late start on making it. It is full of citron and candied fruit. My daughter said she liked all that stuff so I fired it all into the mix and it really doesn't taste bad at all. I'm a bit shy on the rum but I'm thinking of dousing the cake with it when I wrap it up for the night. Your cookies really do sound good, though, Dee.

Dee said...

Wendy, darlin', haven't I ever mentioned -- there are NO calories in my recipes. Just hold that thought.

Jo, you can keep sprinkling rum on the cake daily if you want to. I had good luck in the past just popping the cakes in Ziploc bags (these are the small cakes) so they were easy to whip out and "indoctrinate" whenever the timing was right. And, as I said, some folks like the candied fruit and citron. I was just flouting my personal bias. (smile) Really, though, sometime when you have both time and inclination, try the same recipe, only use a selection of dried fruit. The difference might surprise you.

Anonymous said...

Fruit cake is on the list of things that makes life just that little bit more civilised, Dee.

And I love the idea of skating uphill backwards!

John B. aka OGP

Anonymous said...

Only Dee could make the recipes that sound so good to a mouth just up and haven't even clanked a spoon in a cup of coffee. :-)

I have had good fruitcake but alas now I have to just dream of it. BB

Gordo The Geek said...

Wow, those sound amazing. In the interests of pushing boundaries and challenging preconceived notions, I'll have to give these a try. Thanks, Dee.