Very Fruity Mini Whiskey Fruitcakes

Cakes and Cupcakes

Yield: 12 mini fruitcakes
Recipe: 118/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 249

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    My dad is a lover of Scotch and maybe even more so of fruitcake, especially during Christmas. Since I got him a bottle of Scotch for Christmas, I thought that these little whisky fruitcakes would be a very appropriate afternoon or evening snack to go with it. I made only half of the recipe because, frankly, I didn’t have that much whisky on hand, and the result came out even better than I expected. My dad loved them, and so did I.

    I thought while putting the mixture in the pan that it seemed very dense and fruit-packed and did not ressemble the floury texture of store-bought fruitcake. Fortunately, that was true and probably by design. I had to taste one of the mini loaves for good measure (I cannot, after all, give a fruitcake to my dad without knowing if it is acceptable!), and was very pleasantly surprised by the result. I am a new-found appreciator of dried fruits, and these mini fruitcakes are truly delicious. Packed with flavour, various textures that make it very enjoyable to eat and with different colours that make it festive, it is the perfect holiday dessert or snack. You can definitely taste the whisky, but not so much so that it overshadows the flavour of the fruits. This was a lovely recipe to make, and I will definitely do it again. I strongly recommend this recipe for anyone who loves dried fruits or fruitcake in general. As a bonus, the mini loaves look adorable and make a nice gift that can be wrapped individually.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups raisins
  • 1 cup chopped pitted dates
  • 1 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 1 cup chopped dried figs
  • 1 cup chopped dried cranberries
  • 1 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 cup pecan halves
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup whisky, plus extra for brushing
  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 whole orange
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, stir together the raisins, dates, apricots, figs, cranberries, almonds, pecans, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg. Add in the whisky and mix well. Cover and let sit for at least 4 hours, up to a day. Mix once in a while to make sure that all the fruits are soaking in the whisky.
  2. Preheat the oven to 300°F and grease twelve mini loaf pans (2 ¼ x 4 x 1 ¼-inch).
  3. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt over the fruit mixture and stir until incorporated.
  4. Cut the orange into quarters, remove the seeds and purée in a food processor with the brown sugar.
  5. Add the eggs and vanilla extract to the food processor and blend until homogenous. Pour over the fruits and stil well until blended.
  6. Spoon and pack the batter into the prepared pans. Bake for 40 minutes, until a tester inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Brush the fruitcakes with a little whisky while in the tins, then cool completely.
  7. Remove the cakes from the tins and brush two more times with whisky before wrapping to store. The cake should sit for 5 days before eating, and can store for up to 4 weeks.

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Valerie

Maple Raisin Scones

Breads, Muffins and Scones

Yield: 8 large scones
Recipe: 117/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 260

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    The main reason why I decided to do these scones was because I had almond milk in my fridge, a rare event, and thought it was the perfect opportunity use it for a recipe. I must admit that I had serious doubts about how good this recipe would be. Not because I don’t like scones, I love scones, but I thought the texture of the raisins would be very strange in a fluffy crunchy scone. I am a texture person, after all. I was wrong! This dessert took no time at all to make and was delicious! The raisins actually provided a nice texture to the scones and added some sweetness without being overwhelming. Delicious! Who would’ve thought to put raisins in scones?! Anna Olson, that’s who. Great idea. I cannot recommend these scones enough. Easy, tasty, not too sweet and dairy- and egg-free!

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup + 1 tablespoon almond or soy milk
  • ½ cup + 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • ½ cup raisins

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger and salt.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the ¾ cup of almond or soy milk, ½ cup of maple syrup and vegetable oil.
  4. Make a well in the centre of the flour and pour in the mixed liquids. Stir the mixture with a spatula until it becomes too hard to do, then turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface, add the raisins on top of the dough and knead it until it just comes together.
  5. Shape the dough into a disc of about 8 inches in diameter and cut into 8 wedges. Place the scones onto the prepared baking tray, leaving two inches between them.
  6. Stir together the remaining tablespoon of almond or soy milk and maple syrup, and use to brush the tops of the scones.
  7. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the tops of the scones are golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Valerie

Blueberry Coconut Custard Mini Tarts

Pies and Tarts

Yield: about 18 mini tarts
Recipe: 108/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 278

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     My boyfriend and I made these tarts for a friend’s birthday at work. He really likes coconut so we thought that this would be the perfect time to try a new recipe. Unfortunately, everything went wrong with this recipe. The crust was not working at all for us. When we mixed together all the ingredients, the crust was not crumbly at all and was just a dry mess. It would not stick together at all, so we had to improvise and add some (a lot!) honey and vegetable oil until the mixture would at least stick together a little bit. Pressing the graham crust into the mini muffin tins took much longer than expected, but that was not the least of our worries. The coconut filling also did not work out as expected. Although we followed everything exactly, the mixture was very liquid, similar to heavy cream. We simmered it for a longer period of time to try to get it to thicken and we let it cool down in the fridge for many more hours, but it barely thickened at the end. Sadly, these mini tarts looked very cute but did not taste good at all. The crust tasted strange and the filling did not taste like coconut much. We were very disappointed that this recipe didn’t work for us and I cannot think of anything that we may have done wrong! To be repeated.

Ingredients:

  • 1 recipe Key Lime Pie crust
  • 1 can (398 mL) coconut milk
  • 1 vanilla bean or 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 24-cup mini muffin tin.
  2. Prepare the graham crust and press it into the bottom and sides of the muffin cups. Bake for 10 minutes, then cool to room temperature.
  3. Pour the coconut milk into a saucepot and scrape in the seeds of the vanilla bean (or stir in the vanilla bean paste).
  4. In a bowel, whisk together the sugar and cornstarch. Whisk into the coconut milk, then turn the heat to medium and whisk until the mixture comes to a simmer and thickens, about 6 minutes.
  5. Scrape the custard into a bowl, cover the surface of the custard with plastic wrap and allo to cool completely to room temperature.
  6. One cooled, spoon the coconut filling into the mini tart shells and top each with 3 blueberries. Chill for at least 2 hours in the muffin tin before taking them out to serve.

Valerie

Banana Walnut Bread

Breads, Muffins and Scones

Yield: one 9×5 inch loaf (about 12-16 slices)
Recipe: 105/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 276

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     With a lot of time suddenly freed up after being done teaching a lab course, I took the opportunity during the weekend to bake a couple of things. It had been a while! Since I had some very ripe bananas in my fridge that needed to be used, I started with this vegan banana and walnut bread. It was simple to make, but the first time that I tasted it I wasn’t too impressed. I found it a bit too salty and not sweet enough. I thought that it was perhaps because my bananas were beyond saving (I’m telling you, they were very old and I think they may have started to ferment) and for this reason were not as sweet as normal ripe bananas. However, the second and third time I tried the bread I grew to like it. The banana flavour is not as strong as what I am used to, but you can definitely still taste the bananas. What surprised me most is the texture of this bread. Since there are no eggs, butter or dairy milk, I was not expecting such a fluffy texture. You could never tell that this recipe is egg-free and dairy-free! If you are looking for a yummy banana bread that does not require eggs or dairy, definitely give this a try! Word to the wise, I strongly advise you to use ripe bananas that have black spots on the skin, that is when they will be the sweetest.

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cups mashed ripe bananas (about 3 medium bananas)
  • ⅓ cup packed light brown sugar
  • ⅓ cup vegetable oil
  • ⅓ cup almond or soy milk
  • 1 ⅔ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup walnut pieces

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the mashed bananas, brown sugar, vegetable oil and almond or soy milk.
  3. In a separate bowl, sift and whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  4. Add the dry mixture to the banana mixture and stir until evenly blended.
  5. Stir in the walnut pieces and mix well.
  6. Scrape the batter into the loaf pan and cook for 45-50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the bread comes out clean. Cool the loaf in the pan for 20 minutes, then turn it out to cool completely.

Valerie

Seven-Minute Frosting

Frosting, sauces and garnishes

Yield: about 2  1/2 cups
Recipe: 97/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 150

    The next cake I planned to make was the delicious-looking coconut cake, so of course I had to make this seven-minute frosting to accompany it. I whisked the frosting by hand (but barely made it!) and was surprised by how well it all came together. I am usually not quite successful with egg whites, but this frosting recipe turned out marvellous. It is indeed very marshmallowy, both in texture and taste, and is as white and glossy as the first snow the fell upon us in Montreal. It looks beautiful (the frosting) and tastes even better. Give it a try!

Ingredients:

  • 1  1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/4 cup ice water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Fill a saucepot with 2 inches of water and bring to a simmer.
  2. In a metal bowl, whisk together the sugar, egg whites, cream of tartar and water. Place the bowl over the pot of simmering water and whisk either by hand or using a hand mixer at medium-high speed for 7 minutes. The frosting will tun white and double in volume, but will still be a bit fluid by the end of the 7 minutes.
  3. Remove the bowl from the heat and add the vanilla extract. Whip the frosting on high speed using a hand or stand mixer until it becomes thicker and a spreadable consistency, about 5 minutes. Use the frosting immediately, while still warm, as it will solidify considerably as it cools down.

Notes from Anna:

  • This frosting is best for cakes that do not need refrigeration.
  • Using ice water helps the mixture to heat up gradually while whisking. This, in turn, allows the sugar to melt evenly before the frosting starts gaining volume.
  • If, after you have cooked your meringue for 7 minutes while whipping, you notice that it is grainy looking, do not panic! Simply add hot water, ½ teaspoon at a time, and whip it in until the icing looks smooth. This could take up to 2 tablespoons of water. This extra step should melt any sugar granules and return your frosting to its fluffy, marshmallowy state.

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Valerie