What do you mean you don’t like fruit cake? A story and a recipe

I’m not sure where fruitcake got such a bad reputation. But I am determined to restore it to its rightful place as a Christmas delicacy and renew its role among the traditional Christmas celebrations.

 

If you want to join me and need inspiration I suggest you read Truman Capote’s, autobiographical short story, A Christmas Memory.  In fact even if you have no interest at all in fruit cake you need to read this and buy a copy for a friend, it is just that good.  This is a story of Capote’s life as a child and his special friendship with his elderly cousin.  The story  begins with their yearly ritual of baking fruitcakes and the way he tells it will undoubtedly warm your heart and will probably make you cry.

This version has beautiful pictures and it makes a great Christmas read-aloud (it is just a bit too difficult  for my daughter, but probably would work for elementary kids on through adulthood).  If it can’t inspire you to re-consider fruit cakes then I don’t know what could.

 

Now for the recipe. . .

 

So this recipe is different from the one in Capote’s story (no whiskey in this one), though it as a fruitcake nonetheless. It is actually an Italian fruit cake called a pan forte, which is a blend between a a dense cake and a candy.

 

Truman Capote's A Christmas Memory and a fruitcake/ Pan Forte Recipe Liturgy of Life

 

Almost everyone raises their eyebrows when I offer them this, in fact my own mother didn’t even taste it when I mailed it last Christmas until I showed up to visit and threatened to eat all of it myself.  She tried it and I never got a bite.

 

This recipe is an original, developed by one of my gifted friends Rhoda, who has no facebook or blog for me to link to in order to give her proper credit.

It is best made a week or more ahead, the flavor gets better over time (I don’t know how long it keeps, it always gets eaten too fast but I imagine it would keep for several weeks). It goes well with wine, tea or coffee. It is spicy and sweet making it a perfect desert for a winter meal.

Pan Forte or Italian Fruit Cake

Ingredients:

2 ¾ cups whole almonds, skin on and toasted
1 tsp. cinnamon
¾ tsp. ground ginger
¼ tsp. ground cloves
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp. finely ground black pepper
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. flour
1 Tbsp. cocoa powder
1 lb. assorted dried fruit: raisins, apricots, figs, cherries, cranberries, etc., cut up into ½” pieces (one pound usually measures out to about two cups for me)
2/3 cup honey
1 cup sugar

Butter and parchment to prepare pan

 

Directions:

Cut a sheet of parchment paper to fit in a tart pan (you can use a round cake pain or a spring-form pan).

Brush parchment well with melted butter.

Heat oven to 300 degrees.

In a large bowl combine the almonds, spices, flour and cocoa powder. Add the cut up fruit.

In a saucepan combine the honey and sugar and bring to a boil without stirring. Brush down walls to keep sugar crystals from forming (I’m not sure why we do this but I do it, it’s fun).

Cook to softball stage (240 degrees). This “soft ball terminology” can be a little intimidating for the novice candy maker. The easiest solution is to just use a candy thermometer. You will be at 240 just about the time you have reached a good steady boil, drop a few drops in cold water it should form soft flexible ball.

Quickly stir syrup over the fruit mixture and combine,  it will be thick and sticky so it takes a bit of work.

Dump mixture into a pan.

Dip hands in water and press flat .

Bake on the middle rack 50 – 60 minutes. Remove and cool.

Store at room temperature.

There are all sorts of variations on this, substitute almonds with pistachios or hazelnuts, or serve sprinkled with cocoa powder or powdered sugar.

And then surprise your friends at how delicious a fruit cake can be.

 

Enjoy and Merry Christmas.

 

Things will be a bit quite over here for the next week or two while we celebrate the holidays and get organized to start the 2016 reading list.

 

7 Quick Takes Fall Fun at Liturgy of Life

A quick review of our Thanksgiving week. Hope you had a great one.

 

1.  Though we missed our family terribly (we usually spend Thanksgiving with the Jarrett side) this year we decided we have been doing too much traveling and so we stayed in Texas.  We were thankful to be invited to eat with our dear friends and the staff of the Isaiah 55 Mission.   As a result my daughter got to hang out with a bunch of big kids who took her exploring in a pond and climbing on a broken dock. It would have terrified me so I didn’t watch, as a result she had the most fun day of her life.

 

2.  We wanted to squeeze in a few more fall activities over the last week before moving into advent.  I had some leaves tucked away that we collected last fall.  So we dipped them in bees wax and strung them on a thread.  I love it though I’ve been cleaning up bits of wax all week.

 

 

 

 

2.  We did a little thanksgiving craft at the refugee shelter. We are also reading Little house on the Prairie (for the second time) so my daughter’s telling of the Thanksgiving story goes something like. “Well the settlers arrived and the Indians brought them food and they all ate together, then the settlers took the Indian’s land and killed the Indians.” Mostly accurate but a rough introduction to the history of our country.

 

Liturgy of Life. fall leaf placemat

 

3. Oh yeah and the place mats are the leftover leaves ironed into a wax paper place mat. My husband said he made some like this in preschool. Also those odd looking cookies are one of my new favorites, sugarless, flourless breakfast cookies, recipe will come once I perfect it.

 

4.  I’ve had a few fall cooking flops this week including this pie I made for Thanksgiving. I guess overall it wasn’t so bad, just not very attractive.

Liturgy of life. apple cherry pie

I also tried fermented apple sauce. Apparently a good source of pro-biotics, mine tasted a bit like bourbon.

Liturgy of life. fermented apple sauce

 

On the positive side we started making cold brewed coffee which has gone well.

liturgy of life cold brewed coffee

 

6. We took the holiday Friday to visit a nearby art and science museum. Here we all are painting a still-life cornucopia, later we made light up LED holiday cards.

 

liturgy of life art and science.

 

7.  One more fall activity to do before we head into advent. We are all headed to the Corn Maze this weekend and then Sunday we are moving on into advent.

 

corn maze liturgy of life

 

Happy Holiday Weekend!

 

For more quick takes  check out thisaintlyceum.com

Thanks for reading friends,

 

 

Erica

 

To learn more about Liturgy of Life click here, or join us in our reading group, where we are currently reading, The Art of The Commonplace by Wendell Berry. Feel free to comment here or join in the discussion on facebook.

 

Beer Bread Aka what to do with all that left over pumpkin ale

It feels a bit odd to be posting about bread baking. Honestly I’m still jittery from the attacks this week as I am facing the the painful reality of raising a child in a broken world where violence and instability are inescapable.  At the same time we all need to eat and what is more unifying than sitting down to enjoy a nice slice of warm bread.

 

This is probably the easiest and most versatile quick bread recipe ever. It is hearty, cakey and buttery, just a little sweet and is always a crowd pleaser. Make it for supper and if you have left overs it makes great toast in the morning.

 

Beer Bread, Liturgy of Life, liturgyoflife.com

 

Ingredients:

3 cups sifted All purpose flour (don’t skip the sifting and don’t let it deter you, it just takes a minute, if you don’t have a sifter you can also use a fine strainer and fork)

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

(If you buy self rising flour it contains the baking powder and salt in the right proportion, so just use 3 cups of it, sifted, and  combine with the below ingredients)

1/4 cup sugar

12 oz beer

1/2-1 stick of butter, depending on taste (don’t mix this into the batter, you use it on top at the end)

 

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Butter a bread pan.
  3. Sift flour.
  4. Whisk flour with other dry ingredients.
  5. Mix dry ingredients with beer.
  6. Bake for about 45 minutes.
  7. Open oven and place 1/2-1 stick of butter on top of the loaf (you can break it into smaller pieces if you want to, or melt it and pour it over).
  8. Bake another 15 minutes or so until crust is nice and golden brown.
  9. Remove from oven.
  10. Cool for a few few minutes then enjoy.

 

So simple and tasty, sorry no picture we ate it too fast!

Thanks for being here,

Erica

 

 

To learn more about Liturgy of Life click here, or join us in our reading group, where we are currently reading, The Art of The Commonplace by Wendell Berry. Feel free to comment here or join in the discussion on facebook.

 

 

Applesauce Season Or How I Learned to Cook from a Children's Book

 

We stumbled upon this book at the library last fall and it quickly became a family favorite.  Like most of my daughter’s top picks this one doesn’t have any super heroes or exciting adventures.  Instead it is a simple story about a regular family living life and doing something they love together, in this case, making applesauce.

 

It is a testament to the joys of family life and  a reminder of how simple traditions build stability and create memory and meaning in the life of a child.  It also resonates with my desire to live connected with the natural world as it emphasizes eating in season. The first line is a gem,

“My grandmother says there’s no reason to start eating apples when peaches are perfect. So we don’t eat the ones that are ready in August. We eat peaches. Also nectarines and plums.”

and stands in contrast to much in our modern culture that has become disconnected with growing seasons and rural life.  Still this story is about an urban family, they don’t pick their apples, but buy them at the farmer’s market, something that is becoming more and more accessible to the urban public.  They buy their apples, take them home and make sauce  The process is incredibly simple but is something that many kids never get the chance to do.

 

And it doesn’t just talk about making sauce, it ends with the recipe. The best thing about this recipe is that using it shaved about an hour off of my applesauce making.  The key is a special piece of equipment.

 

This is a foodmill:

 

It is actually the one that I have and I would recommend it (I had a different brand for a while and returned it, this one works much better).

 

A bit fancy?

Yes.

Can you make sauce without it?

Totally.

Will you ever want to again after using one?

No way.

 

A foodmill  is a simple dull blade that mashes food against a grate (mine has four different plates for finer or courser mashing). You can use one to make mashed potatoes, baby food, or mashed anything including applesauce.  Foodies prefer them to blenders because they create a better texture because they don’t blend air into the food.  I prefer it because it means I can just cut quarter my apples (without peeling or coring them! This is what used to make this process take an extra hour) boil them and then mash them in the food mill.  The seeds and peels stay in the mill and the mashed apple goes through which means sauce is faster to make with almost no wasted apple.

 

So a few pointers for apple sauce:

  1. Always use 3 or more types of apples to get good flavor. You can also mix in other fruits, I’ve done apple and peach, apple and strawberry and apple and pear.  This book suggests adding a quince, for a nice pink color and sweetness.
  2. Use sweet apples. Green apples are best for baking but will leave sauce too tart for most.
  3. You can can applesauce in a regular water bath canner like you do when you make jelly. I add some lemon and citric acid to mine just in case but none of the recipes even call for it.
  4. You can sweeten sauce with sugar, but if you want a paleo version try maple syrup.
  5. Sauce sweetens as it cools and especially when it sits overnight, if it isn’t quite sweet enough try it the next day and see if it isn’t just right.

Applesauce Season. Liturgy of Life. Liturgyoflife.com

 

Ingredients:

6 lbs of apples (you really don’t have to weigh them, just fill up your pot and make sure you have enough liquid to keep them fro scorching)

1-2 cups liquid, apple cider is best but apple juice or water work

1/3 cup cinnamon sugar (mix 1 teaspoon cinnamon in about 1/3 cup sugar), more or less to your preference

1/2 tsp butter (optional, I’ve never added it)

dash of salt (optional)

 

Recipe:

Wash and cut up apples and put in a heavy saucepan. Add liquid, cover, warm over medium heat, stir occasionally until soft and foamy, about 20 minutes.

 

Remove from heat, cool briefly, but while warm process through food mill, you may need to remove skin and seeds several times when doing a large pot.  Sauce will thicken as it cools.

 

Applesauce Season. Liturgy of Life. Liturgyoflife.com

 

 

Enjoy!
And Thanks for being here.

Erica

 

To learn more about Liturgy of Life click here, or join us in our reading group, where we are currently reading, The Art of The Commonplace by Wendell Berry. Feel free to comment here or join in the discussion on facebook.

 

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