Mar 25, 2012

Not a Fruitcake

I saw The Galloping Gourmet on PBS many years ago. It was truly bizarre. It was not long after my arrival to the US, and I was already culture-shell-shocked. (It took me a while to wrap my brain around MASH and The Beauty and the Beast being TV shows.) I have no idea why he popped into my head recently. Must have been the booze.

Back in the Old Country we used to bake a certain fruit and nut-studded loaf that had absolutely no relation or resemblance to fruitcake. I went on a hunt for a recipe, found several, in Hungarian and metric. From them I cobbled together my own version. It took several tries till I got everything right.

Fruit Loaf

8 oz butter

4 eggs

1 1/2 cup of flour

1 cup of brown sugar, packed

1 tablespoon molasses

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup dried fruit, chopped

1/2 cup chopped nuts

2 tablespoon orange liquor

1 teaspoon vanilla

ca 1/4 cup crystallized brown sugar

Macerate the dried fruit with the liquor for at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 350º F

Butter a loaf pan and dust it with crystallized brown sugar. Shake out the excess.

Cream the butter with the brown sugar.

Mix in molasses.

Add eggs one by one.

Mix the flour and baking powder together, add to the egg mixture. Combine well.

Fold in the fruits and nuts, add vanilla.

Pour the batter into the loaf pan.

Bake for 50 minutes, or till toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.


· Most recipes will tell you to butter your baking dish or coat it with those suspicious baking sprays. I also dust it with sugar when baking something sweet. It will stick even less. You pour some sugar into the buttered pan, shake it around to coat all sides and shake out the excess. I prefer using brown sugar because it's not as sweet as white, but it has to be the crystallized kind, as the regular one is too moist. Additional benefit is that your baked good will have a crunchy sweet outside.

· Molasses are optional, but they add a deep, rich tone.

· I use dried apricots, cherries, cranberries, mangoes, but anything goes. If you want to get fancy, you might try candied orange peel and candied ginger.

· Hungarian recipes all had rum in them, but I prefer orange liquor. I think Hungarian cuisine developed a reliance on the cheaper and more common rum as an economic necessity.

· I discovered a novel way to macerate the dried fruit: in a ziplock bag! It's perfect, alcohol and fruit are all sealed in together with nothing better to do then soak into each other. No messy tossing required—you just flip the bag over.

Tips and tricks:

Has your brown sugar ever turned into a dry brick? Do not despair, there's a way to fix it. Put the brick in a bowl and cover it with a clean, wet kitchen towel. Leave it like that overnight. By morning your brown sugar will be back to it's moist self.