Posts Tagged ‘Christmas cake recipe

05
Dec
12

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Am having a bit of a stressful ride lately, and the next 10 days see the culmination of it all. I try to focus on living in the moment, but I’m finding it particularly difficult not to just wish it were December 15.

In a nutshell, two big concerts to perform in, and one to sponsor/produce. Meanwhile, lots of people either not doing their jobs, or trying to do mine — both situations which cause a lot of extra work and/or stress for me right when I have a gazillion other things I really need to be focusing on; or should maybe just be sitting on a cushion with my palms on my thighs chanting Om, Shanti, Shanti, Shanti. . .

om

I did manage to clear my day today up until around 5 p.m. to stay home and regroup, so I am heading to practice soon (I will not knit. I will not knit. I will not knit.). I did start the day making my famous (infamous?) drunken Christmas cake. Actually, I started it last night, as I macerated the dried fruit in a good dose of brandy overnight. I did a fair bit of sampling of the batter as I prepared it, which means I was actually possibly maybe a tiny wee bit hammered before breakfast. I’m sure the coffee will counteract it and there should be no adverse effects.

It is a great recipe, adapted* from my very battered “Joy of Cooking” cookbook, so here it is:

Sheri’s Drunken Christmas Cake

The night before (the fruit can macerate up to 24 hours):

In a large (8-cup) mixing bowl or measuring cup mix 2 c. golden raisins, 2 c. dried currants, and 2 c. chopped dried figs. Pour 3/4 c. of brandy over and stir well. Cover. (Stir occasionally if you can — once before bed, once when you get up in the morning)

When you’re ready to make the cake:

Bring 1 c. of butter out to put on the counter while you make your coffee, assemble ingredients, etc.

Butter 8 small ! bread pans, bottom and sides.

Preheat oven to 300˚ (275˚ if it’s convection)

Put the butter into the mixing bowl of a stand mixer, and beat until smooth and creamy.
Add 2 c. packed dark brown sugar, and beat on a fairly high speed until lightened in color and texture, 3-5 minutes.

While this is beating, I mix the dry ingredients:
3 c. unbleached white flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon (I heap this one)
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground mace
1/2 tsp ground cloves
Whisk together well with an egg whisk to thoroughly blend and “sift” the flour.

To the butter/brown sugar mixture, add:
1/2 c. dark molasses
grated zest and juice of one orange
grated zest and juice of one lemon
Scrape the sides of the bowl as needed.

When this has been fully incorporated, add the flour mixture in 3 parts, alternating with 3/4 c. of brandy in 2 parts, mixing well (on low speed) after each addition. Be sure to scrape the sides of the bowl a couple of times so all of the flour stuff gets fully incorporated.
So: 1 c. flour mixture, mixmixmixmixmixmix, 1/2 of the brandy, mixmixmixmixmix, 1 c. of flour mixture, etc.

Now mix in the macerated fruits, and 2 c. of coarsely chopped almonds and/or hazelnuts. (I suppose, if you really felt it was necessary, you could use walnuts.*)

Divide the batter between the 8 pans (you can make this into one giant cake in a tube pan, but I like to give them as gifts, and they really serve better if you can cut up one loaf and leave the rest wrapped up until you want/need it).

Bake for 2 1/2 hours. At 1 1/4 hours rotate the pans so the ones on an upper rack get traded for the ones on a lower rack. (The JoC recipe says to bake for 3.5 hours, and to disregard the fact that the cakes look quite thoroughly done an hour earlier, but I have found these to come out a bit dry and crumbly, so I have shortened the baking time.)

Leave cakes in the pans to cool on a rack for at least an hour. At this point, if you like your Christmas cake REALLY hammered (who doesn’t?) you can drizzle (slowly) another tablespoon or two of brandy over each one.

To store: Soak a piece of cheesecloth in brandy, squeeze out the excess. Wrap the cake in cheesecloth, and then put into a sturdy freezer plastic bag. If you wrap the cake in brandy-soaked cheesecloth, you can actually age the cake up to a month. If I do this, about once a week I remove the cheesecloth and soak in a little more brandy just to keep the cake moist and discourage any molding. I’ve done this year after year, and the cake has NEVER gone bad.

Here’s how it all looked before I put them in the oven:

You know you're a good cook if your counter is really messy. And my apologies for the beat-up looking cantaloup in the background. And not sure why I got the eggs out. There are no eggs in the recipe.

You know you’re a good cook if your counter is really messy. And my apologies for the beat-up looking cantaloup in the background. And not sure why I got the eggs out. There are no eggs in the recipe.

I wish you could smell how good my house smells right now. Yum.

Yesterday I made candied citrus peel:

candiedcitruspeel

(If you click on the picture it should link to where I got the recipe.)

Okay. Enough procrastinating. Must go practice now. (I will not knit. I will not knit. I will not knit.)

p.s. Is anybody else having trouble with the updated WordPress platform? I have never had so much trouble inserting pictures and having them go into the post where I want them and not having my links disappear. Grrr. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, y’know?

*Adapted meaning brandy has been added beyond that which has been called for, and that I have omitted things I cannot abide: dates (taste like boogers), walnuts (taste like dirt), candied fruits of any sort (taste like candle wax). Don’t ask me how I know these things, I just do.

25
Nov
10

more thanksgiving

So, my kids are at their dad’s until tomorrow; my husband’s kids are with their mom until tomorrow; tomorrow the hordes descend and we will have 7 people in a 1600 square foot house for 3 days heavenhelpus.

Today, though, we slept in (10), and have been puttering around all morning. The pumpkin is roasted for the pie, the Christmas cake is in the oven (recipe below), hubby is doing extensive research on the life of Saul Bellow after I read a review of his new book of letters in the NYTimes Review of Books.

We still need to wash sheets and towels, clean the bathroom, get the porch furniture off the, well, porch (and the tiki torches; tiki torches still out on November 25!), and I need to practice for hours to prepare for Sunday’s concert (Franck Sonata for PIANO and violin).

But a good day.

I’ve been thinking, as I putter, about the holidays past, especially those of my adulthood, and the wonderful friends I’ve shared them with.

JF and countless Thanksgivings (to her mother’s great chagrin) — we had a tradition of making butter cookies cut out in the shape of turkeys and elaborately decorating them with orange, yellow, red, and brown frosting; then we would make Christmas cookies together and she would take some home with her. Her mother, a terrific food snob, would refuse even to touch the cutouts, and if she wanted a pfeffernuse or springerle or schnecken which happened to be nestled under a cutout, would ask J to move the cutout out of the way for her. Last night J texted me for wine advice for the best stuffing recipe ever (New Basics Cookbook), and when we see each other we go to the bookstore and buy each other’s children books for Christmas, even if it’s August.

Tammyguck (Tammy + Chuck through the mouth of a 2-year old, now 20) — every holiday from around 1986 to 1996 was shared in one way or the other. We were there one Halloween evening while Guck had Phantom of the Opera on really loud on the stereo and some trick-or-treaters were afraid to come to the door. They live in California now (Tammyguck, not the trick-or-treaters); saw Tammy for the first time in 8 years last summer. She looks exactly the same as she did in 1986. Despite this, I was very happy to see her.

These thoughts lead me to thoughts of other wonderful friends, many of whom have gotten me through some pretty difficult times in my life — JK, MS, especially. I don’t know what I would have done without you.

One has only to click here to see some of the articles talking about how psychologically and physically beneficial it is to have close friendships. Even Oprah thinks so, so it must be true. They provide emotional support, honesty and advice and sympathy and recipes, they let you know that you are not alone in the world. I’m very lucky, and very grateful for my friends, and hope that I have been as good a friend to them as they have been to me.

And now for the recipes:

The Best Turkey Stuffing Ever, from The New Basics Cookbook

Cut a large loaf of bread into 1″ squares; spread in a pan for 10-12 hours to dry out. Put in large mixing bowl.

Sauté

3 c. chopped celery, with leaves

2 c. chopped onions (good if 1/2 is a sweet onion)

in 2 T. vegetable oil over low heat until softened but not browned, ~ 10 minutes. Put veggies in the large mixing bowl with the bread.

Brown 1 lb. bulk sweet Italian sausage in pan from the vegetables, breaking into chunks. Add to mixing bowl.

Add to the bowl:

2 tart apples, cut into 1/2″ cubes

1 c. toasted and chopped hazelnuts

1 c. dried pitted cherries

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. dried thyme leaves

1 tsp. dried sage leaves

freshly ground black pepper.

Toss together.

Mix 1 c. tawny port (or Gamay Beaujolais, or Marsala) and 1 c. chicken stock.

Add liquid to dressing and toss, smush together with hands until “stuffing” consistency.

Stuff the turkey (but not until right before ready to put it in the oven), and put the remaining stuffing in a bowl and cover with foil.

Roast the turkey at 325˚ on a bed of celery ribs, carrots and onion, basting occasionally with melted butter + 3/4 c. tawny port or the wine you used above, every 15 minutes for the last hour. Roast the remaining stuffing for the last hour, basting with turkey juices once in a while.

Sheriji’s Christmas Cake (adapted from The Joy of Cooking)

This recipe has the unique and wonderful direction near the end; it’s how I recognize that I’ve found the recipe every year when I’m trying to remember which cookbook it’s in (I have several, dozen).

And all candied fruits must be removed from the premises before beginning. It would truly be tragic if any accidentally made their way into this cake, for all involved, directly or indirectly.

Put 2 sticks of butter into your mixer and turn it on at medium speed. Allow to beat for a long time so the butter is really smooth and creamy.

While you’re waiting for this, sift together:

3 c. flour (I use a scant 3 c. of whole wheat)

1 tsp. each: baking powder, cinnamon, grated nutmeg

1/2 tsp. each: baking soda, mace, ground cloves

1/4 tsp. salt

When butter is smooth and creamy, add 2 c. dark brown sugar, and beat 3-5 minutes until lighter in color and texture. Scrape the sides of the bowl at least once so that you are sure all of the butter and sugar are fully incorporated.

Add: 1/2 c. dark molasses, and the grated zest and juice of an orange and a lemon.

When well blended, add the flour mixture in 3 parts alternating with 3/4 c. brandy in 2 parts, beating on low speed and scraping occasionally to make sure everything is worked in.

Then add, gently:

2 c. currants

2 c. raisins (regular or golden)

2 c. dried figs cut into small pieces

You can also add 2 c. walnuts and 2 c. dates, but I don’t like either of these, so I just leave them out.

Put into 3 8-1/2″ bread pans that have been well buttered. Bake at 300˚ for 3 hours. “The cake may appear done at 2-1/2 hours; simply ignore this.” It does say that if the cakes are starting to brown significantly at 2-1/2 hours you can make a foil tent over the top of them. I have done this.

Cool in the pan on the rack for an hour, then remove from the pan. Be very careful about this — they tend to fall apart.

These are good right away, but even better if you make in November, wrap them in cheesecloth, and brush the cheesecloth with brandy every week or so for a month to get them good and drunk just in time for Christmas.

Thanks for reading! I have almost 200 regular visits each day now, and am really enjoying the comments and conversation.

Hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

May your turkey brown perfectly, may your champagne fizz delightfully, and may your J, Z, or Q be useful on a triple-letter or triple-word score.

Ah, scrabble. (Click on and watch — it’s one of the funniest things ever.)




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