Monday, December 26, 2005

Mondays with Maida - Christmas Fruitcake Bars

Page 97 in the old book / page 139 in the new book

I realize I am in the minority, but I like fruitcake. No, not those horrid plastic-like things sold in the grocery store (though, Whole Foods has a fruitcake that has sorely tempted me all season with apricots, prunes, and a couple of pounds of other dried fruits), but the one my Mom used to make every year and ration out in slim little slices. I admit that those tubs of neon-colored candied fruits sold for the purpose of making fruitcake hold less appeal for me now than they did in those days of blissful-ignorance many moons ago, but I still have a soft spot in my heart for fruitcake.

For most of the rest of the world, it seems that any variety of fruitcake is automatically regarded with deep suspicion. Consequently, this cookie came out of the gates with one big strike against it. In spite of that, all the cookie panelists and many others in my office gave them a chance and tasted them without too much arm-twisting. No one came away from the experience a fruitcake convert, but just about everyone commented to me that they liked the cookies much more than they expected to.

A small amount of thin, orange-scented batter holds together copious amounts of candied fruits, dates, raisins, and walnuts. Maida notes that candied cherries may be used, or a mixture of candied pineapple and candied cherries, or the prepared mixed fruits can be used. I used the mixed fruits (orange rind, lemon rind, citron, cherries, and pineapple). If you like fruitcake, you're bound to like these.

Here's the panel...

Suzanne: "I'm not a fan of fruitcake, but this was probably the best fruitcake I've had. The dates and loads of nuts saved this cake; and it was actually moist. Rating - 2.5"

Denny: "Very high potential. Should have liked it more, but tasted like fruitcake! Rating - 3.0"

Terri: "I don't usually care for fruitcake, but these are delicious. Not too fruity, but crunchy and sweet. Very moist and chewy with fruit pieces being just the right size. Rating - 4.0"

Phil: "While this lighter and powdery version is better than the traditional cake, it still triggers those longstanding questions about its remarkable shelf life - is there really only one cake that keeps getting passed around in different forms? Can a covering of cheesecloth doused with a good shot of brandy help revive it? Was it fruitcake that sustained a musher fighting a blizzard during a prior Iditarod competition? Rating - 3.0"

Overall rating by the panel - 3.1

Next week - Hermit Bars

Nutrition Facts


Reid said...

Hi Cathy,

I love fruitcake and I almost made these for the holidays. These sound great and I'm disappointed that I didn't have the chance to make them. I usually don't like to use the tub of day-glo fruits to make fruit cake with, preferring a nice portion of organic dried fruits instead.

Maybe it doesn't have to be Christmas for me to make these huh?

Cathy said...

Hi Reid - using dried fruits rather than candied fruits sounds like a great idea, and if you go that way seems like you could make these any time of year!

Nic said...

I agree that these sound good. There is a lot of bias against fruitcake (often from people who have never even had fruitcake), so I think they did well for that. Hopefully, I'll have a chance to try them myself, soon.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, now I would go for that! Fruitcake bars, why not? But I have to admit that I am still stuck on Nic's salty oats cookies for the time being. I just can't get over that sweet & salt flavor!

Regarding the question about Volterra, it is a beautiful area although winter is probably not the best time to visit as it was cold and rainy. We even missed out on visiting the museum since most everything shut down for xmas. It was incredible, Poggibonsi (I remember you mentioned that you had been there) and also San Gimignano were pretty much vacant for the weekend and it was actually nice to experience the solitude within the medieval towns. Looking forward to a repeat visit soon, the agriturimo that we stayed at was great!

Seasons greetings to you and yours as well!

Anonymous said...

I also like fruitcake. My mother-in-law makes the best fruitcake every year...always with delicious rum sauce, too. Yum! I tried a different sort of fruitcake cookie this was a fruitcake pinwheel cookie. I'll have to try these bars next year! :)

Cathy said...

Hi Nic - I'll bet you would like these. You're right - I think there are so many fruitcake jokes that many people are scared off before they even try it. Also, I think homemade fruitcake is hard to come by, so most people that have tried it haven't had good fruitcake.

Hi Rowena - oh yes, Nic's salty oat cookies were amazing! She sent me some, but I haven't made them yet.

I can't even imagine San Gimignano without a crush of people! It must have been wonderful. Volterra was deserted and cold even when we were there in late fall. I envy you your proximity to all those wonderful places!

Hi Alice - your pinwheels are beautiful! I would think they would be an easier sell to people who don't like fruitcake - they have so much eye-appeal and don't really resemble fruitcake at all.

Niki said...

Phil's comment is a pure classic. :-)
In Australia (and hence in the UK) Christmas fruitcake is only made with dried fruits, and is even less popular than the American version. I'm growing into the UK-style fruitcake a bit more every year (it's also our traditional wedding cake) but I admit I do prefer the US ones, packed with pecans and glace pineapple.....mmmm!

Cathy said...

Hi Niki - That's interesting, I had no idea that fruitcakes made with dried fruits had any basis in tradition. I assumed that was a new twist. As for the wedding cake, I think I'd heard that the top layer of wedding cakes here are at least sometimes made of fruitcake. That would make sense since traditionally the top layer is saved to be enjoyed by the bride and groom at their first anniversary (or at least, that's what I've heard!).

African Kelli said...

I don't know if I've ever had fruit cake, but I'd love a slice of this one. This looks so darned good!

Cathy said...

Hi Kelli! I wouldn't mind a bit of fruitcake myself! These were made last year and unfortunately, no fruitcake or fruitcake bars are in the plans for this year.