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. . .
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:
I wish you could smell how good my house smells right now. Yum.
Yesterday I made candied citrus peel:
(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.