Monthly Archives: September 2009

HOMEMADE CHRISTMAS CANDIES

As promised, the following are from my personal recipe boxes and are favorites I have been making for many years. The first two are recipes for making Buckeye Balls. Any good Ohioan knows what Buckeyes are, and most probably have a recipe or two for making Buckeye Balls candy (You can also buy them in almost any good candy store in Ohio) but they aren’t hard to make and it’s an easy enough recipe to make with children.

The first Buckeye Ball recipe is from my sister Becky’s collection and is in her handwriting. I have a lot of her recipes and my ultimate goal is to get them put together in a cookbook of just her recipes. She was an excellent cook, as all Schmidt & Heileman family members knew.

To make Becky’s Buckeye Balls you will need:

½ pound butter
1 pound jar peanut butter
1 ¼ cups powdered sugar (5 cups)
12 ounces chocolate
¼ bar paraffin

Have ingredients at room temperature. Mix together the butter, peanut butter and powdered sugar; mix well and shape into balls (bite size); then chill*

When the balls are thoroughly chilled, melt 12 ounces of chocolate and ¼ bar of paraffin in top of a double boiler. Coat each ball and place on wax paper. (to make it look like a real buckeye, you need to dip the candy balls into the chocolate but not quite covering it all. There should be an uncovered spot on top of each ball.
*Becky wrote chill but didn’t say – she assumed everybody knew–it may be a lot easier to chill the buckeye balls if you place them on cookie sheets to chill. If you line the cookie sheets with wax paper, you can use the same cookie sheets again after the candies have been dipped.

This next recipe is similar.

BUCKEYE BALLS #2

To make Buckeye Balls #2, you will need:

1 jar (16 ounce) creamy peanut butter
1 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 ½ (16 ounce) packages powdered sugar
1 (12 oz) package Nestle Toll House semi sweet chocolate morsels
2 TBSP shortening

Beat peanut butter and butter at medium speed with electric mixer until blended. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating until blended. Shape into 1” balls and chill 10 minutes or until firm. Microwave chocolate morsels and shortening in a 2 quart glass bowl at HIGH 1 ½ minutes or until melted, stirring twice. DIP each peanut butter ball in melted chocolate until partially coated and place on wax paper to harden. Store candy in airtight container. Makes 7 dozen.

CREAMY NUT TOFFEE

This recipe has been in my files so long – it was typewritten on an index card; I don’t know how many years it’s been since I have even owned a typewriter.

To make Creamy Nut Toffee you will need:

1 cup sugar
½ tsp salt
¼ cup water
½ cup butter
1 cup chopped walnuts (divided in half)
1 12-oz package semi sweet chocolate chips

Combine sugar, salt, water and butter in a medium size saucepan. Cook to light crack stage (285 degrees on your candy thermometer). Add ½ cup chopped walnuts and then pour onto a well greased cookie sheet. Cool. Melt the semi sweet chocolate pieces (over low heat, top of a double boiler). Spread half of the chocolate on top of the candy; sprinkle with half of the remaining chopped walnuts. Cool. Turn the candy over and repeat with remaining chocolate and nuts. When cool, break toffee into small pieces.
**
VERY GOOD ENGLISH TOFFEE

To make Very Good English Toffee, you will need:

½ cup finely chopped peanuts
½ cup butter or margarine (if using margarine don’t use a soft spread)
1 cup granulated sugar

Line a 12×10” with aluminum foil; shape piece of foil to about 10×8”. Sprinkle chopped nuts in pan and set aside. In 1 ½ quart pan, melt butter over medium heat. Immediately begin to stir in sugar with a long handled wooden spoon. Continue to cook over medium high heat about 6 or 7 minutes or until mixture turns golden, stirring only enough to prevent burning. Pour over nuts in prepared pan. Cool, break into pieces. Makes ¾ pound.

AUNT ANNIE’S VERSATILE WHITE CHOCOLATE CANDY

Aunt Annie wrote on the recipe card, “I have used all kinds of nuts and different kinds of pretzels and it all turns out good!”

To make Aunt Annie’s Versatile White Chocolate Candy, you will need:

1 pound white chocolate
4 TBSP grated paraffin
1 ½ cups stick pretzels, broken
1 ½ cups cocktail nuts
– or peanuts
– or mixed nuts
or cashews

Melt white chocolate and paraffin in the top of a double boiler. Stir in broken stick pretzels and your choice of 1 ½ cups of nuts. Drop by teaspoon onto cookie sheet sprayed with Pam.

(Sandy’s Cooknote: I have a recipe similar to this in my files; it was called Sticks & Stones.

HOLIDAY SUGARED WALNUTS

I have been making all of the variations of this recipe for so many years, I no longer remember where I originally got it. This is my favorite confection recipe to make up (I could make up three or four batches in one evening, after work). My penpal, Bev, has been keeping us supplied with walnuts from their walnut tree in Oregon–I keep them in the freezer so they won’t go bad.

To make Holiday Sugared Walnuts you will need:

1 ½ cups sugar
½ cup liquid*
1 tsp light corn syrup
¼ tsp salt
2-3 cups walnuts, halves or whole pieces

Cook first 4 ingredients to soft ball stage, (236 to 240 degrees F); remove from heat; add walnuts; stir until creamy; turn onto foil, separate pieces and let cool.

*To make Orange Flavored: ½ cup orange juice; 1 ½ tsp orange rind
To make Sherried Walnuts: ½ cup sherry wine, ½ tsp cinnamon
To make Spiced Wanuts: ½ cup water, ½ tsp EACH nutmeg & cloves and 2 tsp cinnamon
To make Minted Walnuts: ½ cup milk, green food coloring, and ¾ tsp mint flavoring, stirred in after cooking milk, sugar, corn syrup & salt, but before you add the walnuts.

CHRISTMAS YULE LOG:

To make Christmas Yule Log you will need:

1 6-oz package butterscotch chips
1 8-oz package cream cheese
1 tsp vanilla
1 lb powdered sugar
Chopped nuts

Melt chips in pan; add cream cheese (room temperature will blend better) and mix. Next add vanilla extract and stir in 1 pound package of powdered sugar. Cream in mixer; put in refrigerator to chill. When chilled, form into logs. Roll in chopped nuts. Return to refrigerator until solid enough to slice. (This is a very rich candy. You will want to make the slices thin).

DIVINITY (Basic recipe)

To make Divinity you will need:

2 ½ cups granulated sugar
½ cup light corn syrup
½ cup hot water
¼ tsp salt
2 egg whites
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup nuts, chopped (optional)

Combine sugar, corn syrup, water and salt in a large saucepan. Cook, stirring just until sugar is dissolved but not after mixture begins to boil. Cover pan for 3 minutes to let steam dissolve sugar crystals on side of pan to prevent graininess in Divinity. Clip candy thermometer to side of pan.

Cook mixture, uncovered, to 238 degrees on candy thermometer (soft ball stage). While syrup is cooking to temperature, beat egg whites until stiff in a medium size bowl. When syrup reaches required temperature, slowly pour half of the hot syrup into the beaten egg whites in a slow but steady stream while beating continuously. Place remaining syrup back on the stove to cook to 258 degrees (hard ball stage). Continue beating the egg white/syrup mixture while adding the remaining syrup and the vanilla, until the mixture forms stiff peaks. Stir in nuts, if desired. Drop mixture by teaspoonsful onto wax paper and let cool. Store in tightly covered container.

Variations:

Cherry Divinity: Substitute ¼ cup maraschino cherry juice for ¼ cup water in basic recipe. Stir in ¼ cup chopped maraschino cherries just before spooning out.
Chocolate Divinity: Stir ¼ cup semi sweet chocolate pieces into basic recipe until melted, just before spooning onto wax paper.

SEE’S FUDGE

See’s Candy is a famous candy store in Southern California. I didn’t come across this recipe, though, until after I had already posted the fudge recipes.

To make See’s Fudge, you will need:

½ cup butter
1 6-oz package of semisweet chocolate pieces
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups granulated sugar
1 (5 ¾ oz) can evaporated milk
10 large marshmallows
1 cup chopped nuts

Combine butter, chocolate pieces, and vanilla in medium size bowl. Set aside. Place sugar, evaporated milk and marshmallows in a medium size saucepan. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to low and cook 6 minutes, stirring constantly. Pour hot mixture over ingredients in bowl. Beat with electric mixture until fudge is thick and dull (this doesn’t take long). Stir in nuts. Pour into a lightly buttered 8” square baking pan. Refrigerate several hours. Makes about 36 squares.

I found another fudge recipe in my files that I thought you might enjoy. It’s called Ribbon Fantasy Fudge. To make Ribbon Fantasy Fudge, you will need:

3 cups sugar
¾ cup solid stick margarine (not a soft spread)
2/3 cup evaporated milk
1 6-oz package of semi sweet chocolate pieces
1 7-oz jar of marshmallow crème
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup peanut butter (crunchy or cream style)

Combine 1 ½ cups sugar, 6 tablespoons of the margarine, and 1/3 cup evaporated milk in a heavy 1 ½ quart saucepan; bring to full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Continue boiling 4 minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly to prevent scorching. Remove from heat; stir in chocolate pieces until melted. Add 1 cup (1/2 jar) marshmallow crème and ½ tsp vanilla; beat until well blended. Pour into a greased 13×9” pan. Repeat with remaining ingredients, substituting peanut butter for the chocolate pieces. Spread over chocolate layer. Cool at room temperature; cut into squares. Makes 3 pounds.

MAPLE PRALINES

To make Maple Pralines you will need:

2 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup milk
1 cup maple syrup
2 cups pecans

Boil sugar, milk and syrup until mixture reaches 238 degrees on a candy thermometer. Remove and cool. When it is lukewarm, beat until it is smooth and creamy. Add nuts and drop on wax paper making little mounds.

OH, FUDGE! – MAKING CHRISTMAS CANDY

OH FUDGE! – MAKING CHRISTMAS CANDY (MY BLOG)

What smells and tastes more like the approach of Christmas than making batches of homemade candies? And these make wonderful gifts from your kitchen to give to friends, neighbors, coworkers, your doctor’s office or anyone else you want to give a little gift of appreciation during the holidays. If you go to Michael’s or Joann’s you can find a nice assortment of festive cellophane bags or other small containers to put your treats into. (Also remember to visit these stores after the holidays when they are marking 50 or even 75 percent off. This is when I stock up on many of my supplies for gift giving home made treats. Sometimes you can find small tins that are great for giving a small amount of candy. Think ahead!

Everybody thinks of fudge when the holidays are on the horizon. There are a few things you should know about candy making, to assure yourself of success. One is a candy thermometer. There are some recipes, especially some of the fudge recipes, that don’t require a candy thermometer. But if you don’t have one, go buy one; they only cost a few dollars. If you have to cook a concoction to a very definite temperature, you are going to need a candy thermometer. Another tip is – some candies don’t like humidity; you need a good dry day to make some candies, such as divinity.

My next tip has to do with equipment – if you are going to make candy, fudge or whatever else, you need
• Measuring cups, dry and liquid
• Measuring spoons
• A good wooden spoon.
• A good solid saucepan (2 quart will do but 3 or 4 quart will be better)
• Suitable pans such as a jellyroll pan to pour the candy into (my favorite pan for the five pound fudge recipe is a Wilton half-sheet cake pan). Go to Michael’s or Joanns and look at the different size cake pans that are available. Or buy some of those 8” square disposable aluminum foil cake pans to pour your fudge into and leave it in there to give away–just wrap cellophane or plastic wrap around it when it’s cold.
• Heavyduty aluminum foil. If you line your pans with it, when the candy is cold you can lift the whole thing out with the edges of the foil, lay it out on a cutting board or the kitchen counter, and then cut it into pieces. It’s much easier than trying to cut it while it’s still in the pans (and you won’t make knife marks in your pan).

Ok, if you don’t have a Michael’s or a Joann’s anywhere near you, then may I suggest going online to kitchen supply companies, such as Kitchen Kraft (one of my favorites) or King Arthur Flour – but if you just Google “kitchen baking equipment” you will find dozens of sources. (I have the feeling we talked about this before in Sandychatter). But places like Target and Kmart also have pretty decent kitchen supply departments.

Presumably you have collected all the necessary equipment, have stocked up on sugar, butter, unsweetened chocolate bars or a decent unsweetened cocoa, chopped walnuts or pecans (if you like nuts in your fudge) and whatever else your recipe calls for and you are ready to make candy. Ok, let’s do it! The recipes I am about to share with you are from my own personal collection and are recipes I have been making for years, so I know they are good.

FIVE POUNDS OF FUDGE

To make Five Pounds of Fudge, you will need:

2 packages (12 ounce each) chocolate chips (I prefer Nestle’s Toll House semi sweet morsels but any kind will do
1 jar (7 ½ ounce) marshmallow crème
1 can (12 ounce) evaporated milk
4 ½ cups of granulated sugar
1 TBSP vanilla extract
2 cups chopped pecans or walnuts

Put first three ingredients in a large bowl (not a plastic bowl – use glass or ceramic). Lightly butter a 15x10x1” pan or several small aluminum pans (or line the 15x10x1” pan with foil, then butter it). In a large deep pan, mix the evaporated milk and sugar. Bring to a boil and cook rapidly, stirring constantly, for exactly 9 minutes. Pour over other ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Beat with mixer just until well mixed or if you have strong arm, mix it with your wooden spoon. Then stir in vanilla and nuts. Spread evenly in prepared pans. Chill 12 to 24 hours. Cut into squares. Store airtight or with foil if giving in small aluminum pans.

MAGIC FUDGE

I have been making this for decades. I also use it to make my chocolate truffles. It’s a versatile recipe.

To make Magic Fudge you will need

3 large bags (12 ounce each) semi sweet chocolate morsels
2 cans Borden’s Sweetened Condensed milk (NOT evaporated!)
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
Chopped nuts if you want to add them

Melt the chocolate chips over hot water in top of a double boiler (always be careful melting chocolate; don’t let any of the water come in contact with your chocolate – it will spoil it faster than you can say “oh fudge!” – Also be careful not to let the water boil or get too hot – that can ruin your chocolate too. Get the water hot, turn the heat down to the lowest setting – or take it off the heat source & then place the top container with the chocolate in it over the hot water. If you don’t have a double boiler, don’t despair – You can use a glass bowl for the top part. Improvise! Don’t try to rush melting chocolate. When the chocolate is melted, remove it from the heat, stir in the Borden’s sweetened condensed milk and then the vanilla. You can add nuts at this point, if you like. To make Rocky Road, you can mix in miniature marshmallows, walnuts or pecans.

When I make distinctions between evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk and you don’t know what I am talking about – go to the supermarket and in the baking section, find the canned milk products and take a close look. Borden’s makes Sweetened Condensed milk. Carnation and Pet make evaporated milk. There is a big difference.

Make sure you have the right kind. You might want to stock up on cans of both items if you are going to do some serious candy making for the holidays.

This next recipe is kind of fun to make and give away as gifts, asking the recipients if they can guess what the mystery ingredient is. Most can’t guess! A penpal from Northern California was visiting me way back when and brought some for me try. I couldn’t guess the mystery ingredient.

To make MYSTERY INGREDIENT FUDGE you will need:

1 pound Velveeta cheese (the mystery ingredient)
1 pound butter
1 cup unsweetened cocoa
4 pounds sifted powdered sugar
1 TBSP vanilla extract
Chopped nuts (optional)

Melt together 1 pound Velveeta cheese and 1 pound butter – scorches easily so watch carefully and stir as needed. Remove from heat and add 1 cup cocoa, the four pounds of powdered sugar and then 1 TBSP vanilla. Can add nuts if you like. This makes 2 9×13” pans or 100 pieces of fudge. (This is very rich candy!)

PEANUT BUTTER FUDGE

To make Peanut Butter Fudge, you will need:

1 pound powdered sugar
½ cup peanut butter
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp vanilla extract
6 TBSP milk

Combine ingredients and mix well. Spread in a 9” baking pan and refrigerate until candy hardens. Cut into squares. (This is one of those recipes that will work better if you line the 9” baking pan with foil; when the candy has hardened and you are ready to cut it into neat little squares, just lift the foil out of the pan and–voila! – it will be easy to cut into nice squares.

AUNT ANNIE’S CREAM CANDY

To make Aunt Annie’s Cream Candy, you will need:

2 pounds of powdered sugar (sifted)
3 sticks butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
Dark chocolate, melted

Let the butter come to room temperature, then mix all ingredients together. Shape into bite size balls and set on cookie sheet and let stand overnight. (This should form a crust). Dip the balls into melted chocolate. Aunt Annie wrote that she covered just half the candy balls when dipping into dark chocolate. These are very rich, similar to Opera Creams. Does anyone know what Opera Creams are, anymore?

You may have noticed that none of the above recipes required the use of a candy thermometer–don’t worry; you’ll get plenty of use out of it. Here is a recipe for old fashioned fudge–you’ll need your candy thermometer for this one.

To make Old Fashioned Fudge, you will need:

2 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup buttermilk
2 squares (1 oz each) unsweetened chocolate OR 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 TBSP light corn syrup
¼ tsp salt
2 TBSP butter
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup chopped nuts

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir together, sugar, buttermilk, chocolate, corn syrup and salt until chocolate melts and sugar dissolves.

Cook mixture, stirring occasionally, until it reaches 234 degrees F on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat and stir in butter. Cool mixture to lukewarm without stirring. Add vanilla, then beat until thick and no longer glossy. Quickly stir in ½ cup nuts. Turn mixture into a buttered 8 or 9” square pan. When set, cut into squares. Makes about 36 (1 ½” squares).

MAMIE EISENHOWER’S MILLION DOLLAR FUDGE

This recipe has been making the rounds since the 1950s; it originally appeared, I am told, in “Who Says We Can’t Cook?” a spiral bound collection of recipes published in 1955 by the Women’s National Press Club of Washington, D.C. (Actually, I think I might have this cookbook but many of my books are still packed in boxes and stored in the garage and a storage shed). At any rate, to make

MAMIE EISENHOWER’S MILLION DOLLAR FUDGE, you will need:

4 ½ cups granulated sugar
pinch salt
2 TBSP butter
1 tall can evaporated milk
12 oz semisweet chocolate pieces
12 ounces German sweet chocolate
1 pint marshmallow cream
2 cups chopped nuts

In a large saucepan, combine sugar, salt, butter and evaporated milk. Boil 6 minutes. Place chocolates, marshmallow cream and nuts in a large bowl (not plastic). Pour boiling syrup over ingredients in bowl; beat until chocolate is melted and pour into a pan. Let stand a few hours before cutting. Store in a food tin box or a tight fitting plastic container (I really like Rubbermaid Takealongs for storing cookies and candy).

CREAM PRALINES

Of all my praline recipes, this is my favorite. It was sent to me by my penpal Gene, who lives in Louisiana and kept me supplied with pecans for many years before she had to move into an assisted living facility. I love pralines. Years ago when I worked in Hollywood, we would make a mad dash for Farmer’s Market at lunch time to buy their giant pecan pralines and sherried walnuts. Yum!

To make Gene’s Cream Pralines, you will need:

1 cup light brown sugar (packed)
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup evaporated milk
½ tsp vanilla
1 ½ cups pecan halves
(Butter a large cookie sheet. Gene butters two)

Cook sugars and evaporated milk over medium heat stirring constantly until candy thermometer reaches 234 degrees F. Remove from heat, add pecans and vanilla and stir with a wooden spoon until creamy. Drop by tablespoons on cookie sheets; if candy becomes too stiff, add a small amount of cold water. Once you get the hang of handling the cream praline mixture you can spoon it directly into muffin pans lined with cupcake liners. You can leave the pralines in the cupcake liners or remove them later; they will all have a uniform shape.

I wanted to share a lot more favorite Christmas candy recipes with you but will have to send them in batches; I’ll post some of my favorite easy-to-make confection recipes next time, such as Holiday Sugared Walnuts – one of my favorites!

Thanks to Seth, my niece Julie’s fiancé, for requesting fudge recipes.

Happy Cooking!
Sandy

CHRISTMAS IS RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER…

Christmas is practically right around the corner–(you may not want to think so, since Thanksgiving isn’t even here yet) but our household starts gearing up for Christmas by September, and we are half-way through the month as I write this. (I have updated my giftlist and some gifts are already stashed in a closet–no small feat considering how crowded our closets already are.)

I have begun to stock up on dried fruit–and there are so many more to choose from these days; pineapple and mango and cherries and ginger–many ingredients which will make a fantastic fruitcake, even if you think you don’t really like fruitcake. (Actually, we have the last slices of a fruitcake aging in the car port refrigerator that is about 6 years old. Some of it gets eaten every year and then I douse it with a little more brandy, rewrap it and put it back into the frig). The fruitcake is sacred and my household knows it. One year long ago, I had made a fantastic fruitcake laden with dozens of pecans and walnuts and Brazil nuts. I had it aging in the frig in a Tupperware container. After taking my sons to Ohio for a vacation that summer, upon returning home I discovered we had a new laundry room frig. “Where,” I asked my husband, “Is my fruitcake?”

“Oh,” he said, dismissively, “I didn’t know what it was and threw it out”. Needless to say, no one ever threw out anything without my knowledge after that.

Cookbook author Edna Lewis recalled Christmas in Freetown, writing, “When I was a girl growing up in a small farming community of Freetown, Virginia, preparations for Christmas started in early September, when we children went out to gather black walnuts, hickory nuts, and hazelnuts….Whenever she saw a break of a day or two from the September harvest, Mother would set about making the fruitcake. It was a family affair that my older sister and I cheerfully participated in….” I know I get my pecans and walnuts from a supermarket, but in my heart I am gathering black walnuts and hickory nuts somewhere. (Actually, for the past couple of years, our walnuts have come from my penpal Bev, in Oregon, who has gifted us with a big box of unshelled walnuts for several Christmasses now).

One of the best stories you will ever read about fruitcake making can be found in a little book by Marie Rudisill, about her nephew Truman Capote and a Southern cousin, Sook Faulk. When Truman was a young child, he and his elderly cousin Sook would go pecan collecting in preparation for making fruitcakes, which Sook sent to many different people, including a few U.S. presidents (FDR was one).

And another author, Moira Hodgson, compiled a small cookbook titled “Favorite Fruitcakes”, subtitled ‘Recipes, Legends, and lore from the World’s Best Cooks and Eaters”. Hodson’s collection is gleaned from many famous cookbook authors, including James Beard (his mother’s black fruitcake) and Julia Child’s Famous Sticky Fruitcake. There is also Marion Cunningham’s Chocolate Fruitcake and Edna Lewis’ Christmas Fruitcake.

Here’s the thing about fruitcake – it has gotten a lot of bad press, some directly traceable to author Calvin Trillin, who claimed there is just one fruitcake in the world that has never been eaten, just passed around from family to family. Don’t you believe it. Anyone who dislikes fruitcake has just never eaten really good fruitcake (it reminds me of growing up hating rice. Rice to me was a sticky white ball that tasted faintly of library paste. That was how my mother cooked it. After I became an adult and moved to California – I discovered rice – wild rice and rice pilaf and yes, even Rice-A-Roni…and what I learned was – I didn’t hate rice. I just hated the way my mother cooked it). So, trust me on this. There are dozens, maybe hundreds of really excellent recipes for making good fruitcake. (I know because I became obsessed with fruitcake recipes one year and began putting all I could find in a blank recipe book. Quite a lot of them are from newspapers and magazines.

Well, I have been going through cookbooks and recipe files, trying to decide what kind of fruit cake to make this year. There were a lot to choose from. A fruitcake with chocolate in it? With pecans and walnuts? With or without citron? (preferably without) And whose recipe should I choose? James Beard’s mother’s black fruitcake? Rose Levy Beranbaum’s less fruity fruitcake? Jeff Smith’s Lighter Applesauce fruitcake? How about Bourbon Fruitcake? Martha Washington’s Fruitcake? White Fruitcake from the White House cookbook?

As you can imagine, this fruitcake making can be serious business. Deciding which recipe to follow is just the first step. Finally, I chose a recipe called Holiday Fruitcake which originally appeared in the October 25, 1990 Los Angeles Times food section.

I also had all of the right ingredients on hand to make Holiday Fruitcake. (This is always a step in the right direction—I grew up in a household where I had free reign in the kitchen, allowed to cook or bake anything I wanted—the only criteria being, all of the ingredients had to be available in the pantry. I never, as a child, asked my mother to buy a special ingredient for my cookie baking binges, nor did we ever make special forays to the corner grocery store for special items).

One sunny afternoon, I put Bob to work shelling pecans and chopping almonds. He also chopped dried apricots and dates. Meanwhile, I was greasing loaf pans, creaming butter and sugars and making sure no one had tapped into the bottle of Grand Marnier. (Other than myself, of course). It took the largest bowl in the house to get it all mixed and we took turns trying to stir the big wooden spoon in this…muck of fruit and nuts. As we stirred, I explained that taking a turn at stirring the fruitcake is good luck, a tradition that dates back hundreds of years.

Eventually the lumpy batter all ended up in four loaf pans – and I hovered cautiously over the kitchen stove, throughout the baking process.

When the cakes were finally baked, removed from the pans and cooling on racks, we congratulated ourselves and celebrated with … maybe just a teeny little bit of Grand Marnier.

When the cakes were completely cold, they were wrapped in cheese cloth and then Reynold’s Wrap, placed in Tupperware containers and stored in the refrigerator.

In December, we will re-wrap them in cellophane and give them only to very special people. (Translation: people who actually do like fruitcake).

I’d like to share with you the recipe for Holiday Fruitcake as it appeared in the Los Angeles Times in 1990. (If you have a favorite fruitcake recipe, I hope you will share it with me!)

HOLIDAY FRUITCAKE

1 pound dried apricots, chopped
1 pound dates, chopped
1 pound golden raisins
1 pound red and green candied cherries
1 pound red and green candied pineapple
1 pound almonds, blanched, toasted and chopped
1 pound pecans, broken into pieces
4 cups flour
1 pound unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ cups brown sugar, packed
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
12 eggs
1 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground mace
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup rum
¼ cup brandy
Grand Marnier
Juice and zest of 2 oranges
Juice and zest of 2 lemons

Thoroughly grease 4 (8×5”) loaf pans. Combine apricots, dates, raisins, candied cherries and pineapple, almonds and pecans in large bowl. Mix in 1 cup flour to dredge mixture. Set aside.

Cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition.

Sift remaining flour with cloves, cinnamon, mace, baking soda and salt. Add to creamed mixture alternately with rum, brandy, ¼ cup Grand Marnier, and fruit juices and zests. Fold into fruit-nut mixture. Pour into loaf pans. Bake at 300 degrees 2 ½ to 3 hours or until wood pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Cool in pans 15 minutes. Remove from pans onto wire rack and let cool to room temperature. Moisten 4 pieces cheesecloth, large enough to cover each loaf, with Grand Marnier, and wrap around each loaf. Wrap Grand Marnier-soaked loaves in foil and refrigerate or store in cool place note: aging improves fruitcake.

In December, we will re-wrap them in cellophane and give them only to very special people. (Translation: people who actually do like fruitcake). It may surprise you to know, there is such a thing as really good fruitcake. And with all the different kinds of dried fruits available nowadays, you can make a fruitcake to suit the taste of your own family. If there is an ingredient in a fruitcake recipe that doesn’t turn you on, substitute an equal amount of another dried fruit you do like.

I was talking about making fruitcake and a girlfriend who works full time (I am now retired) complained “I don’t have time to do all of that work!”
so I am going to share with you one more fruitcake recipe; I made this for years while I was a full time administrative assistant raising four sons. And this fruitcake was a huge hit with everyone who tasted it:

Eve’s Fruitcake

4 ½ cups chopped pecans
3 ½ cups chopped walnuts
2 pounds dates, c hopped
1 pound candied cherries, cut up
1 pound candied pineapple, cut up
2 (14 ounce) cans of sweetened condensed milk (NOT evaporated)
8 ounces of shredded coconut

Combine pecans, walnuts, dates, cherries (reserve a few whole cherries for decoration),pineapple, condensed milk and coconut. Mix with your hands . Turn into greased and floured miniature loaf pans. Bake at 225 degrees about an hour. Cake is done when no milk oozes out when pressed with fingers). Decorate with reserved cherries, if desired. Let cool or chill in pan for easier pan removal. Turn out on foil and wrap snugly. Store in refrigerator about 1 month before serving (or giving away as Christmas presents. Those decorative cellophane bags are really nice to wrap these in. Voila! You will have 6 or 8 small loaf pans of fruitcake. (or bake the whole thing in a tube pan that has been greased and floured and bake 1 ½ hours). This is a nice fruitcake but doesn’t have the aging power that fruitcakes doused with brandy or rum do).

I did a Google search before finishing this post; I was hoping to find a Texas fruitcake that I thought was especially good – it’s not the one offered by Collins, probably the most famous Texas fruitcake you can order online today. I think the one I had in mind must have gone out of business–they sold small fruitcake bites dipped in chocolate I think they called “puds” – oh, yum!

Happy Cooking!
Sandy