La Bonne Vie: Fruitcake can remind us of good memories during Christmastime

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By: Rachel Shenk

It has been a tumultuous fall. And now, in full holiday mode, I am still able to finally catch my breath. I have truly followed the seasons with the ending of fall and the coming of winter as I participated in the final days of life of my mother-in-law. The seasonal fading of life reminds us of our own endings. But I know that life continues, and even as I enter winter I remember that spring will come. So these days I focus on this season of baking and making and giving.

One item always pops up on my baking list at this time of year. Though often joked about and laughed at, the fruitcake is part of my current Christmas tradition. This fruitcake is different from most of those I have tasted. It is mainly made up of nuts and dried fruit and uses honey instead of sugar.

Numerous years ago, when I was working as a stock person and cashier at a health food store, a customer brought me a taste of a fruitcake he had made. It was the first fruitcake that I actually liked. When I asked him for the recipe, I received a full single spaced typed sheet with the ingredients and instructions as well as some possible variations. I have carefully saved it over the years until now when it has almost torn into numerous pieces from use. These are the recipes I love, the ones that are tattered and worn from repeatedly being pulled out of the recipe box.

I start this fruitcake by soaking the fruit in brandy for two days. Then I proceed with the recipe. And even though I mix up a large batch, I still like to make it all by hand. I usually scoop it into small bread tins, perfect to take as a hostess gift. But I also make some large ones in more fancy molds for fun. This year, I want to try a version with dried apricots and crystallized ginger. But I will continue to make it the old fashioned way. Hope you enjoy also!

Not your mother’s fruitcake

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds dates, dried and pitted
  • 1 pound dried tart cherries
  • 2 cups pecan halves
  • 2 1/2 cups hazelnuts
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

 

Directions

  1. Soak the dates and cherries in brandy for two days prior to baking.
  2. In another large bowl, beat the eggs until they are thick and lemon colored.
  3. Next, beat in the honey.
  4. Add and mix in the flour, baking powder and salt.
  5. Stir in the drained dried fruit and the nuts. Use your hands to make sure everything is well mixed.
  6. Scoop into greased pans.
  7. Bake at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for 50 minutes for small pans, turning once half way through baking, or until a toothpick inserted into the cakes come out clean.
  8. Let cool for a few minutes and pop out of the pan.
  9. Slice thin to serve.
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