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

Festive Fruitcake

Cakes and Cupcakes

Yield: one 9×5 inch fruitcake
Recipe: 109/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 270

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      For Christmas I made this recipe for my dad who is a huge fan of fruitcake. I was long overdue to post this recipe, but unfortunately time has gotten away from me these past few months. Better late than never! We only ever get him the commercial one with the bright green and red cherries, so I thought that I would adapt this recipe so that he would get those bright pops of colour and taste that he is used to. So I made half the loaf with the exact recipe cited below from the cookbook, and for the other half I replaced the dried cherries with the same amount of green and red cherries, and then baked the whole thing as one loaf.

    The loaf did not quite turn out as planned. Due to the fact that the green and red cherries are not dried but rather hydrated, the mixture was too wet and the cake took a long time to bake. He tasted both halves of the fruitcake and told me that he actually loved the original recipe (left in the picture), but didn’t like my modified version (right in the picture) because it ended up being very tough and dry. The lesson here is to follow the original recipe if you have never made it before, and then try and make modifications if necessary.

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cup water
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 2 cups Thompson raisins
  • 1 ½ cups Candied Citrus Peel
  • ½ cup dried cherries
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan.
  2. Bring the water and orange juice up to a boil. Pour over the raisins, citrus peel, and dried cherries, and stir. Cool the mixture to room temperature, stirring occasionally.
  3. Stir the sugar and oil into the fruit, then sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt overtop and stir in.
  4. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread to level. Bake the fruitcake for 45 to 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Cool the cake for 20 minutes in the pan, then turn it out onto a rack to cool completely.

Valerie

Mincemeat Pie

Pies and Tarts

Yield: one 9-inch pie
Recipe: 78/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 99

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    Like most people, I strongly dislike wasting food. As such, whenever I have some fruits or vegetables, or any other ingredient for that matter, laying around that I know will probably turn bad before I get to consume it, I search for a recipe that I could make to use it up and prevent wastage. Last week I had a combination of apples that were getting soft, raisins, dates and prunes, the last of which I wouldn’t even think of eating just like that. To my surprise, I was able to find a perfect recipe in “Back to Baking” that would allow me to use all of these ingredients! I call upon… the mincemeat pie. Do not be fooled. This is not a meat pie or a “tourtière” in Quebecois, but rather a British dessert consisting of dried fruits, juices and some syrup.

   I had never had mincemeat pie and was very curious to both make it and try it. Fortunately, this recipe was not complicated to make. Essentially put everything in a pot except the maple syrup and honey, then add those until the mixture is bubbling and thickened. The pie looked good, smelled delicious because of the cloves, but… I was left surprisingly disappointed. Now the problem is that since I never had mincemeat pie, I don’t know if I don’t like this pie I made, or if I just don’t like mincemeat pie in general. I think that it is rather the latter. I could tell that the taste was there – sweet but not sickeningly so, but something about the texture made me stop after two bites. I was never really a fan of the texture of dried fruits, but dried prunes specifically is what got me. Nonetheless, I brought this pie at work to hand off to colleagues (Note: worry not, to be fair I did warn them that I personally did not like it), and some brave souls tried it. The novice mincemeat pie eaters thought it was good; no more, no less. However, an older colleague of mine that really enjoys mincemeat pie told me that it was really good and that she was stunned to know that I made the filling myself. What I am trying to convey here is that if you like mincemeat pie, you will probably like this recipe. It is what it is meant to be, it seems!

Ingredients:

  • 1 recipe Double-Crust Pie Dough, chilled
  • 2 cups peeled and diced apples (such as Granny Smith), cut in 1 cm pieces
  • 1 cup Thomson raisins
  • ½ cup chopped pitted dates
  • ½ cup chopped pitted prunes
  • 1 cup walnut pieces
  • ⅓ cup apple juice (or cider)
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons quick-cook tapioca
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ cup honey
  • ½ cup maple syrup

Ingredients for brushing:

  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons water

Directions:

  1. Pulled the chilled pie dough from the fridge at least 30 minutes prior to rolling. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. On a lightly floured surface, knead one disc of the pie dough slightly to soften, then roll it out to a circle of about ¼ inch thick. Dust a 9-inch pie plate with flour and place the rolled pastry into the shell. Roll the second disc in the same fashion, place it onto a tray and chill both while preparing the filling.
  3. In a medium saucepot over medium heat, stir the apples, raisins, dates, prunes, walnuts, apple juice (or cider), lemon juice, orange zest, cocoa powder, tapioca and spices until the mixture just begins to bubble.
  4. Add the honey and maple syrup, and stir until the fruits simmer. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature.
  5. Spoon the filling into the chilled pie shell and spread to level. Cut a hole in the centre of the second pastry sheet and place it over the mincemeat. Trim and pinch the edges.
  6. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and water. Brush the top of the pie pastry with this egg wash, and place the pie on a baking tray lined with parchment paper.
  7. Bake the pie for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and bake the pie for another 45 minutes, or until the crust is an even golden brown. Cool the pie for at least 3 hours before slicing to serve.

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Valerie

Raisin Butter Tarts

Pies and Tarts

Yield: 12 butter tarts
Recipe: 22/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 100

Raisin butter tarts

   Miniature tarts. Butter. Gooey filling. This is the exact concoction that you will obtain with this recipe! Have you ever been in the process of making a recipe and you just knew by looking at it that it would be delicious once cooked or baked? This is one such recipe. I had never made butter tarts and thus had no idea what they tasted or looked like, but as I was preparing the filling and looked down into the mixing bowl, I had the feeling that it would be exquisite and finger-licking good. I could even imagine myself telling my roommate that this is one of the best desserts I’ve made. And boy was I right! If I could and if I didn’t control myself I would probably eat the dozen by myself. This recipe for raisin butter tarts is simple, not time-consuming and oh-so-scrumptious!

Ingredients:

  • 1 recipe Double-Crust Pie Dough,chilled
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 3/4 cup corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins

Directions:

  1. Take the pie dough out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before rolling.
  2. Preheat oven to 400°F. Lightly grease a 12-cup muffin tin.
  3. Lightly dust a flat work surface with flour and unwrap the pastry logs. Cut each log into six pieces. Roll each piece to 1/4 inch thickness and line each muffin cup with a piece of rolled dough. Chill the lined muffin tin in the refrigerator while preparing the filling.
  4. By hand, whisk the sugar, corn syrup and butter in a bowl until well combined.
  5. Whisk in the eggs, vinegar and vanilla extract.
  6. Sprinkle a few raisins in the bottom of each muffin cup and pour the filling over the raisins, almost to the top.
  7. Bake the tarts for 5 minutes, then reduce oven to 375°F and continue baking for about 20 more minutes, until the filling starts to form a dome.
  8. Cool the tarts in the muffin tin and chill before removing. These tarts are best served and stored at room temperature.

Valerie