Two hours to prepare the pans (lining with parchement), mix the dry and wet ingredients, add dry to the fruit and mix well, add wet to the whole thing and mix again using a very strong long handled spoon/spatula/whatever you have including hands! I put my lobster pot in one of my kitchen sinks so I can reach inside it easily. I kept licking, then washing, my right hand as I mixed the fruit and batter.
I have 9 two pound loaf pans and 5 small pans now in a 325° oven and it already smells divine!
The small loaves will cook in about an hour/hour and a half; the larger loaves will likely take between 2 and 2 1/2 hours. I’ve set the time on my watch and will keep checking the oven to make sure all is well there.
Because the cakes are all packed in tightly, it takes longer for them to bake – the great thing is this concoction is very forgiving and because I want it baked but moist, slightly underbaking them isn’t a bad thing. I’ll take the cakes from the oven when a wood skewer comes out clean.
I’ll add a photo when I’ve taken the cakes from the oven and put them on racks to cool. It’s a wonderful site. One Christmas thing checked off my list.
Canadian Thanksgiving was yesterday. Today it’s time to start making Christmas fruit cakes!
Last week I tried buying candied fruit – my usual Bulk Barn had none! Today, I checked out the store online, found another outlet – they still had “regular” candied fruit and red cherries (no “Delux” fruit mix, or green cherries, or candied pineapple). That’s OK, I bought extra red cherries, candied lemon/lime peel, Thompson raisins, dried cranberries, and date bits.
Preparing the fruit:
at least 2 lbs of mixed candied fruit (regular or deluxe)
1 lb of red/green candied cherries
1 lb Thompson raisins
whatever other dried fruit you like: dried cranberries, chopped dates, chopped apricots, etc.
a 500ml jar of orange marmalade (you could use grape jelly or strawberry jam) – DON’T leave this out
Next stop the liquor store to pick up a quart of dark rum. After some consultation with one of the guys who works there I chose a locally made dark rum he assured me would be “flavourful”.
~400ml of dark rum (I used Fortress Dark Rum – smelled good!)
I came home, dug out my 27 litre tupperware covered bowl, added all the fruit plus a 500ml jar of good orange marmalade, then poured in half of that bottle of rum (about 400ml).
I mixed the whole thing using a strong wooden spoon (the mixture is VERY heavy), sealed the lid on, and now I wait. Tonight I will flip the bowl over onto the top, tomorrow morning I’ll flip it back to sit on it’s bottom, I’ll keep turning the whole thing twice a day for the better part of a week. By the end of the week there is no longer any liquid rum – it’s all be absorbed into the fruit!
That gives me more or less a week to pick up the other ingredients – butter, eggs, bittersweet baking chocolate, molasses (none left in the house); I have good vanilla, almond and orange extract, white and brown sugar and flour (although I’ll probably stop at Bulk Barn and pick a bit more of each of those just to be sure I have enough).
We could do a “bake-along”. You can find the full instructions here if you’re ready to tackle some early Christmas preparation.
The “recipe” produces a very flavourful moist fruitcake, if I say so myself. I say “recipe” in quotes because the amounts of fruit and ingredients for the batter are just guidelines – this is a VERY forgiving recipe – you want enough batter to coat all the fruit but not a whole lot more. The amount of fruit I’ve got soaking is going to give me 10 2lb cakes + 6-10 small loaf cakes. Plenty to give away.
BTW just halve the amounts of fruit above (and use the amounts in the actual recipe for dry and wet ingredients) and you’ll get a reasonable amount of cake. I use the amounts of fruit above, and double the wet and dry ingredients! For me a fruit cake (plus something I’ve sewn or knit) constitutes my Christmas giving, so I make a large number of cakes.
A couple of weeks ago, Saturday afternoon, I was watching America’s Test Kitchen on PBS. Among the dishes they made was a Torta Caprese – “an Italian flourless chocolate cake with finely ground almonds (which breaks up the heavy fudge crumb of most flourless chocolate cakes)”. They’re right – it does.
I went to the website to find the recipe: America’s Test Kitchen – Torta Caprese. I saved it, and printed it out. (If you can’t get to the recipe let me know because I created a PDF from the “print” pages and can pass that on.)
I was anticipating a very chocolate-y, light cake and it is.
Here is my torta caprese – I must explain why it doesn’t look like the one above (from America’s Test Kitchen).
First, there’s an ambiguity in the recipe – it calls for 2 cups (7 ounces) of almond flour – well, which is it? 2 cups or 7 ounces (and BTW my cup = 8 ounces, not 7, but I ignored that discrepancy.) I added 1 cup of almond flour at the appropriate place in the recipe, mixed it into the batter, and I thought the batter looked reasonably thick at that point but to be on the safe side, I added another 1/4 cup scoop of almond flour, just in case the batter really needed more. I’d say, having sampled the cake, that it’s just a tad on the dry side and next time I’d only add a single cup of almond flour.
Second, my springform pan is 9 1/2″ – I could have used a smaller diameter which would make the cake taller, or I could have baked it in a 8 1/2″ parchment-lined cake pan which would also have produced a taller cake.
Third, the recipe recommends turning the cake around half way through the baking. I did that, but had an accident! I was baking the cake in my convection toaster oven which is large enough for my spring form pan. I pulled out the rack to be able to reach the cake pan when the rack tipped toward the back of the oven, the cake pan tipped spilling some batter into the oven. I managed to right the pan and the rack and get both back in position. I left the mess in the bottom of the oven hoping I’d be able to clean it reasonably easily if it didn’t bake on too badly. So the top of my Torta is kind of wonky having been disturbed half way through baking.
But I have to say the cake tastes “right some good” as folks say in this part of the country. Served warmed (I’d zap a slice in the microwave for, say, 12-15 seconds), with a spoonful of a good vanilla ice cream – a lovely dessert for guests.
I’m planning on cutting the cake into small portions, freezing each separately, and eating the whole thing myself – preferably over a period of weeks.
Several months ago a friend gave me a jar of rhubarb ginger jam – oh wow! It has the sharpness of the rhubarb and the liveliness of the ginger. Delicious on toast, but amazing on ice cream! Good with roast pork… There are a ton of ways you can pair this jam to make something remarkable – it’s just a matter of imagination.
I started with a bag of frozen rhubarb (early January is definitely not rhubarb season although fresh rhubarb was what the recipe called for), put it in a pot (still frozen), added three tablespoons of grated fresh ginger root (I keep my ginger root in the freezer and grate it as I need it, works fine), three cups of sugar (next time I’ll try 2 1/2 cups – it shouldn’t affect the sweetness all that much and will reduce the quantity of sugar used; I might even be able to get away with 2 cups), and three tablespoons of fresh squeezed lemon juice (no substitute for this).
Started the mixture on a low heat to defrost the rhubarb – once it was softened, I turned the heat up to medium high, brought the mixture to a boil, turned it down to medium and boiled for 15 minutes until the rhubarb was falling apart. (Here’s where I cheated a bit – I used my immersion blender to break up the remaining intact pieces of rhubarb after boiling for 15 minutes, but didn’t whiz it enough to purée the jam).
The recipe made 5 small bottles of jam which will go into my refrigerator as soon as it’s cooled to room temperature.
I couldn’t resist tasting as I went along – I admit to licking the spoon and the pot before cleaning them. The taste is heavenly. Do try it.
I described in December of 2015 how I make my Christmas Shortbread Bars. I related their history and offered recipe information.
They are a once-a-year-thing, for the Christmas season. I made them again yesterday – the photo above is 1/8 of the large cookie sheet I made. It’s enough for a gift – it can, in turn, be cut into 12 – 16 bite size pieces – more than enough for anyone to taste because these bars are VERY rich.
So if you are interested in how I make them check out that earlier writing – Christmas Shortbread Bars. They’re easy to make, pretty fool-proof. And if you make them once, I guarantee you’ll make them again next year.
The story from yesterday is I thought I had assembled all the ingredients. I made the shortbread and baked it for 15 minutes to set it up. I had the topping ingredients in a bowl ready to be mixed when I discovered I had no condensed milk to glue everything together. So off to the supermarket to get some. While I was there I picked up some of the ingredients I need for the Christmas Sweet Kugel – more about that next week after I make a batch of them. Came home, mixed the topping, spread it over the now-cooled, partially baked shortbread, put the full, heavy cookie sheet back in the 350° oven to bake for another 20ish minutes – until the coconut began turning golden.
You can see, this pastry is forgiving – it turned out fine and the gals in my knitting group today enjoyed it. Now to refrain from eating any more myself!
Fall has arrived here in Nova Scotia – it’s drizzly today and windy with a chill in the air. A perfect day to make a large pot of chili.
This time I decided to make it vegetarian. I guess that was because I had been listening to a CBC radio program “White Coat, Black Art” – today’s episode was a repeat of an earlier one on a plant based diet. I’m eating less meat than I used to, so I thought a vegetarian chili would be a good thing to have in my freezer.
A Pot Of Vegetarian Chili
Here is the recipe (see below) I sort of used – it calls for onions, bell peppers, carrots, celery, cans of tomatoes and corn, white and red kidney beans… In addition, I substituted a jar of flame roasted red peppers (Unico) for the bell peppers, added mushrooms, cauliflower, broccoli, leftover coleslaw cabbage, 1/3 can tomato paste, a good glug of tomato ketchup (French’s), a splash of HP sauce, and squeezed cilantro paste from a tube to liven the flavour.
Vegetarian Chili Recipe
In other words, since I was making a vegetarian chili I simply emptied my fridge, tossing in whatever vegetables were there.
My final secret ingredient was a full teaspoon of Sambal Oelek which gives the chili a lovely “zip” – you have to be careful with the amount because a very little goes a l-o-n-g way. It gives you heat with a hint of garlic, but doesn’t overpower the chili flavour.
The pot’s still simmering.I will leave it on low heat for another 10 minutes or so to give the carrots, cauliflower, cabbage time to soften more. Then I’ll set the pot aside to cool before putting single servings in containers and stashing them in my freezer.
It’s time to make my mother’s sweet kugel again – it’s a once a year thing which I bake around Christmas time. I’m a week early this year mostly because I’ve committed to making four and I wanted to get them done and in the freezer so I can cross them off my “to-do” list.
Sweet Kugel In The Oven
This year I had help – I was mentioning today would be kugel making day and Deb thought it would be interesting – I Invited her to help me make them. With two of us preparing the dough, slicing the apples, rolling dough… we were done the whole production in just over an hour including the clean up!
I took the kugels out of the baking dishes before they were fully cooled because the juices get very thick when cold and I wanted the pastry to fall out onto waxed paper when I inverted the dishes. They’re all wrapped and in the freezer and the dishes washed and put away.
A brief recap: this dish is made with a sticky stretchy dough – flour, a beaten egg, 1/4 c vegetable oil, 3/4 c water (pinch of salt). Once rolled out it’s covered with cinnamon/sugar, strawberry jam, cranberry sauce (with berries), finely sliced apples, raisins. Then you fold the dough edges over the filling, gingerly pick it up and plop it in to a greased baking dish bottom side up, sprinkle more cinnamon/sugar on top, bake at 425 for 15-20 minutes (until top starts to brown) then reduce heat to 325 and bake another hour, hour and a quarter, covered. The kitchen smells wonderful by the time the kugels are baked.
I had one in my freezer from last year and when my friend Elayne was visiting late summer I was looking for a dessert and decided to defrost it and we had it with ice cream so while the dish is intended to be served as a savoury – it’s also a lovely dessert!
I’m all set to make and bake the Christmas cakes on the weekend. The fruit will have soaked in rum for a week (large white bowl with blue lid). I have the flour and sugar, baking soda and baking powder, molasses and semi-sweet chocolate, real vanilla and almond extract, ginger, nutmeg, clove, allspice and cinnamon (the seville orange marmalade has already been incorporated into the soaking fruit).
The foil baking pans and parchment paper are on hand, butter and eggs still in the refrigerator but I’ll bring them out Friday night so they can come to room temperature before I start to mix ingredients.
The Ingredients Ready To Go
I’ll start by prepping the foil load pans by adding a wee bit of vegetable oil to the bottom and sides of each (to stick the parchment in place), fitting in parchment paper (so I can lift out the cake more easily after they’ve cooled). Then I need to retrieve my lobster pot (an old 21 litre blue/white enamel canning pot I mostly use for mixing the Christmas cakes), wipe it out, find a sturdy mixing spoon because the fruit is heavy to mix.
21 litre Canning Pot
It’ll take me close to an hour to mix the batter, add and blend it with the fruit. Finally, I’ll partially fill the lined loaf pans (too full and they’ll overflow into the oven), then bake them in a slow oven until a skewer comes out clean.
If you’re interested here’s the recipe. Trust me, it’s a delicious dark fruit cake if you like dark fruit cake.
I haven’t mentioned the Christmas shortbread bars yet. It’s the only other Christmas baking I do. I make one cookie sheet, cut it into eighths and give 7 away! They’re too rich to keep around. They’ll get made closer to Christmas and this year I will try to remember to take a picture to share.
That time of year again.Two days before Christmas – making the sweet kugel for Christmas dinner at Marlene’s. Can’t make just one, my sister Donna loves this kugel so one for her (for her freezer); and one for a friend also in time for Christmas dinner.
I described in detail last year how I make it – Sweet Kugel – so I won’t go into the details again. If you want to learn how it’s done click on the link.
They’ve been in the oven about 20 minutes and already the apartment is smelling wonderful!