Sunday, November 29, 2009

SMS- Golden Almond Fruitcake

After what seems like a very long wait, it is finally my turn to host Sweet Melissa Sundays! For months now, I have flipped through the book trying to decide which recipe I wanted to choose, and like many others, I always seemed to come back to one recipe- the Golden Almond Fruitcake. Despite the fruitcake's reputation, it holds a very dear place in my heart. My grandmother used to make many fruitcakes every year at Christmas and would give them to all my aunts and uncles. My dad in particular loved it and savored every last slice. He used to slice it up, wrap each slice in plastic wrap, and freeze the slices. I think he could make two bundt cakes last until March! My grams died two years ago this spring and our world has been fruitcakeless ever since. We looked everywhere for her fruitcake recipe after she died, but could not find it. So you see, my purpose for picking this recipe is two fold. First, it is to honor my grandmother who is very near and dear to my heart. The second is so my dad can finally have his fruitcake again.

Despite a long ingredient list, the recipe is relatively simple and straightforward. To start I chose my fruits- apricots, cherries, and golden raisins which the recipe suggests and I had on hand. To soak them, I ended up going with the brandy. After searching high and low for almond flour with no success, I did have to make my own. I'm not sure my almonds were ground quite fine enough because I forgot about having to add a portion of the sugar to the almonds when processing in the food processor. I let my mini prep run for a minute or two and figured it wasn't going to get much better than what I was left with. Though I tried to adhere to the original recipe as much as possible, I did have to make one small change. In true Melissa Murphy fashion, the stars of the recipe are almonds and citrus zest. I only had one lemon left in my refrigerator and it was definitely not zest worthy, so I ended up omitting the zest.

Now I have never been very good at reading directions. I tend to read what I think are the important parts of each step and skip the rest of the wording. Case and point- making the almond flour (without the sugar). So when I came to the last step before baking, I saw fold in prepared fruit and nuts. Done. I mixed in my brandy scented fruit and chopped almonds and poured the batter into the prepared loaf pan. I had about ten more degrees before my oven was preheated so I set the loaf pan on the counter and started to clean up. As I was putting the pan in the oven, the phrase "omitting the marzipan would be a sin" popped into my head. I totally missed the marzipan! I quick pulled it out of the freezer and folded it in as best I could.

I must admit, this recipe is nothing like my grandmother's, but it smelled wonderful baking in the oven. It has a very strong almond flavor (with almond flour, almond extract, and marzipan) whose aroma warmed the entire house. The loaf baked pretty close to the entire time specified in the recipe, though I did reduce the temperature a little early because the edges started to brown around twenty minutes into the first baking cycle. I glazed the cake with orange juice because I ran out of brandy when I soaked the fruit. Though now I won't feel like I have to say no when my three year old asks me if she can try it!

The verdict? Well, its definitely not my grandmother's fruitcake so I will have to do a little more searching before I settle on a recipe to make for my dad (ugh! fruitcake isn't something you want to experiment with considering how hard it is to give away). However, this recipe is definitely a keeper. In the preface to the recipe, Melissa Murphy states they have to give a lot of samples away at the holidays to get people to buy the fruitcakes. I can see why she says once they try it they walk away with more than one. My suggestion is if you are going to make it for someone else, don't tell them its a fruitcake! Without the red and green candied cherries, they will never know the difference!

Be sure to see what all the other SMS bakers thought of my choice for this week's recipe. Hopefully, people were not too scared by the choice and exahusted from their Thanksgiving baking!

Golden Almond Fruitcake (p. 18)

For the Cake

1 cup chopped dried fruit (1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces)
1/4 cup brandy, apple juice, or orange juice
8 T (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 t freshly grated lemon zest
3 large eggs
1/2 t almond extract
1 t pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup almond flour or 1/2 cup sliced blanched almonds
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t cardamom
1/4 t freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 t kosher salt
1/2 cup whole natural almonds coarsely chopped
1/4 cup (2.5 ounces) marzipan, cut into 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces and frozen

For the Glaze

1/4 cup brandy, apple juice, or orange juice
3 T sugar

Pro Tip: To make your own almond flour for this recipe, in a food processor, pulse 1/2 cup sliced blanched almonds with 1/4 cup of the granulated sugar called for in the recipe until it becomes a coarse texture. The remaining 1/4 cup sugar should be added to the butter for creaming.

Before you Start:

Position a rack in the center of your oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter and flour a 1 1/2 quart loaf pan.

1. In a medium saucepan over very low heat, heat the dried fruit and brandy, stirring occasionally. When the mixture comes to a simmer, remove from the heat and cover (allowing the fruit to absorb the brandy), stirring occasionally.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitten with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugars, and zest until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the almond extract and vanilla. Mix until combined (At this stage, the mixture will appear slightly broken).

3. If using the sliced blanched almonds, in a food processor fittes with the metal blade, pulse grind the almonds until a very fine flour (as fine as you can get). In a medium bowl, whisk together the almond flour, all purpose flour, baking soda, cardamom, nutmeg, and salt.

4. On low speed, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in two batches, mixing until just combined after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the dried fruits along with their soaking liquid. Fold in two thirds of the chopped almonds and the frozen marzipan (it's easy to forget this because its in the freezer).

5. Pour the batter into the prepared load pan and sprinkle the remaining chopped almonds on top. Bake for 25 minutes, then rotate the pan and reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F. Bake for an additional 25-35 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean (Be careful when testing with the wooden skewer. You could poke into a piece of marzipan which will look like raw cake batter on the skewer, so test the loaf in a few different spots). Remove to a wire rack to cool for 20 minutes before unmolding the cake onto the rack for glazing.

6. For the glaze, warm the brandy with the sugar until the sugar dissolves (its easiest to do this in the microwave, 30 seconds at a time).

7. Using a patry brush, brush the glaze over the fruitcake while it is still warm. You will not need all of the glaze, but use as much as you like. Glaze the cake at least once, but if you want more, simply wait for each layer to soak in before you glaze again. The more you glaze, the boozier your fruitcake will be. Let cool to room temperature.

This cake keeps very well tightly wrapped in plastic wrap at room temperature for 2 days. For longer storage, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 5 days. Or freeze well wrapped in plastic wrap and then aluminum fool for up to 3 weeks. Defrost still wrapped at room temperature.


Jessica said...

I don't like fruitcake, but when I read through this recipe it looked so yummy to me. I think it's a great pick. I didn't get a chance to make it this week, but I'm going to rewind it at some point in December. It's so nice of you to go on the search for a fruitcake to match your Grammy's. Good luck!

Flourchild said...

What a sweet memory of your grandmother. I hope you find the perfect recipe that reminds you of her cake!
So sorry I could not bake with you this week. It has been busy around here with family. It seems like a lot of us were unable to bake this week.

Tracey said...

How wonderful that you chose a recipe to honor your grandmother and in hopes of finding a fruitcake to please the family :) I feel badly that I had to miss this week but I didn't have marzipan on hand & with the holiday rush, didn't get a chance to pick it up and bake. Your cake looks wonderful, though, so hopefully I can give this one a try when things slow down a bit!

Susan said...

How sweet to honor your Grandmother by choosing this recipe. I passed on this one. I didn't have any of the ingredients and I am not a fruitcake person. But, yours looks good enough to make me wish I was. :)

Candy Girl said...

Sorry I didn't bake with you this week. Your cake looks great! I love your story and why you chose this recipe. So many of our memories are entwined with food...

margot said...

Thanks for hosting this week; I love your reasons for choosing this (gotta go with your heart) and your fruitcake looks marvelous!

I enjoyed this recipe, my boyfriend and I managed to eat the whole loaf this weekend. I really did feel like there were so many ingredients that it was easy to forget things(I didn't notice there was lemon zest until I got to that step), so I definitely can see why you would forget the marzipan.

HanaĆ¢ said...

How nice of you to honor your grandmother this way. Too bad it didn't taste like her, but maybe you can tweak the recipe a bit until you find the right combination of ingredients.

Sorry I couldn't bake with you this week. Just too many things going on :o)

k.a.r.e.n said...

Your fruitcake looks great!

I meant to make this this weekend but things got the best of me. After reading your post, I will definitely make this next weekend, especially since I have all the ingredients ready to go!

Shandy said...

Karin . . . huge hugs for picking this recipe! I baked this earlier and just now had time to blog about the wonderful flavor, texture and aroma. I love why you picked the recipe; Grandma's are especially wonderful people!

Thank you again and hope you had a perfect Thanksgiving =)

Rosy said...

Thank you so much for hosting! I FINALLY got around to posting this morning but totally forgot to take pics - oops! Holiday brain in obviously. Yours looks sooooo good though - yum! x

Anonymous said...

Thanks for hosting. I made this last week but just got around to posting. Patty

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