Monday, December 13, 2010

Making Fruitcake

Yesterday was the perfect Christmas Sunday. After attending early morning church we joined our daughter and watched the snow flurry outside the restaurant windows. Feeling festive, we returned home to build a fire, watch football, and ... make fruitcake. I know - go ahead and laugh. Everyone loves to share their fruitcake jokes. People make fun of us brave souls who proclaim that fruitcake holds a fond place in our heart each Christmas. We don't mind.
My mother made a dark fruitcake and steamed it in a pressure cooker. She then wrapped and stored them in a cool place until time for giving or serving. Delicious. I never quite figured out the use of a pressure cooker, so I have moved on from that recipe. But my Aunt Bea has been making a lighter version of fruitcake that has become popular with my family. It's full of cherries and fresh pecans and has a light lemon texture. I gave it to our minister one year and he liked it so much he recommended that the congregation be more open-minded about fruitcake....among many other things that we close our minds and hearts to in this life.
Making Fruitcake is labor intensive, especially the final part where you combine all of the ingredients. Sometimes I talk myself out of the effort. But this year I was pleased and a little taken aback when my husband said, "I want to help you make the fruitcake." I knew there was no getting out of it. And so as I creamed the butter and sugar, Mike chopped. When it came time to fold the egg whites into the fruit mixture - it was nice to have my man in the kitchen! I held the bowl and he folded the whites and fruit to a beautiful mixture. We had just enough for two loaf pans and two mini-loaves.
When the cakes were done, I popped those mini-fruitcakes right out of the pans to cool. Perfection. I popped one of the large ones out to cool. Perfection again - and proud. But the third fruitcake did not want to release. We put it back in the oven for a few minutes, and trying again, the fruitcake split down the middle and fell out of the pan in three pieces. Now, I have had that happen before and if you are quick enough, you can stick a fruitcake back together and no one ever knows - hehe! But yesterday I was not so lucky. I just happened to be standing beside of the sink, and as the cake erupted from the pan, one-third of it fell to its death and drowned in a sink of soapy water. No fixing! All those beautiful cherries and fresh pecans down the drain!
I have heard of people throwing out their fruitcake disasters and starting over - working until they have perfected the process. I was just about to do the same when my assistant watching the disaster, stepped up, burst out laughing, grabbed the remains and said, "Not to worry, we will still enjoy what we have left."
At the moment of crises in a kitchen, laughter is good medicine. You've worked hard, bought expensive ingredients and followed the recipe. You did everything right and you are disappointed when things fall apart. Sometimes, there is no fixing it. Sometimes, you simply have to be content and enjoy what you have salvaged from the disaster.
This Christmas, are you enjoying what you have? Is there laughter and a spirit of love in your home? Is there an aroma of fresh generosity and a spirit of hope? Making a fruitcake is one way to find out.
Aunt Bea's Fruitcake
Divide: 6 eggs, beating the whites until stiff and set aside
Cream: 1 lb. butter
2 cups sugar
6 egg yolks from above, added one at a time
Combine: 1 lb. raisins
1 cup candied pineaple
1 1/2 cups red cherries
1 1/2 cups green cherries
1 cup coconut
1 lb. pecans
4 cups four (1/2 cup of this mixed with fruit)
Add: fruit and flour to creamed mixture
Add: 1 2-oz. bottle lemon extract
1 tsp. grated fresh lemon rind
Fold: egg whites into fruit mixture
Bake: 1 large tube pan - 3 hours at 275 degrees.
2 loaf pans - 2 hours 30 minutes at 275.
(if using loaf pans, you will have enough for two mini-loaves which will bake in
just under hour - when top is light brown and tester comes out clean)

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