One Christmas tradition that people have strong views on is fruitcake. People either love it or hate it. It makes the ambitious baker wonder if it is even worth it to take on this challenge. Holiday fruitcake is a baked item that becomes rather an event - as it requires two days to make, and then some weeks to mature.
I was exposed early in life to wonderful fruitcake, courtesy of my dear Grandma Wynn, who would every year order a cake for my family from the famous Collin Street Bakery in Texas. Heavy on the pecans, with only a moderate amount of dried fruit, they had just enough sweet batter to hold it all together.
She also loved these cakes and would order one for herself and Grandpa. She would laugh and tell me how, at night after he had gone to bed, she would sneak over in her robe and walker, lean on the counter, and cut off little slices to eat standing up. For a lady in her 90's who had had two hip replacements, this says something about the fruitcake's great taste as a motivator!
The making of fruitcake is quite an undertaking, from shopping for ingredients to chopping the dried fruits, stirring the heavy batter, baking a long time in a slow oven, then cooling, decorating, and wrapping in brandy-soaked cheesecloth for storage. THEN you must wait at least a couple of weeks to let the cakes mature before even taking a little taste . . . or kindly presenting them to family & friends in time for Christmas giving.
However, I have a recipe that makes it all worth it. I can't even remember where I found it, but I could tell from reading that it would be very similar to the Collin Street fruitcakes. I made a test version, and was convinced that I would never want another fruitcake recipe. With four cups of pecans, and more butter & sugar than flour, more raisins than cherries, and a candy-like texture after the maturing process (not to mention a heady zing from the soaked-in brandy!), this is a fruitcake that might make you famous in your circle.
I usually make my fruitcake the weekend right after Thanksgiving, so that the cakes have a good three weeks to mature before distributing around Christmastime. Traditionally, fruitcakes or Christmas puddings are started on the last Sunday before the beginning of Advent, when the Anglican Book of Common Prayer has a prayer worded: 'Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works may of Thee be plenteously rewarded...' The timing of this prayer is a fortuitous reminder to "stir up" the fruitcake early enough that it is well-matured by Christmas.
It is worthwhile to shop early for the ingredients, as if you wait until close to Thanksgiving to buy them, the best brands will be gone and maybe not restocked for some time. Usually in October, the stores start stocking the dried fruits, so I get a couple of ingredients at a time, to not unbalance my weekly food budget. If you can find good pecans from Texas, Oklahoma, or Arkansas, those are the best ones, and can be frozen to preserve the flavor; by shopping early, you may even find them on sale.
1 Bundt pan plus 2 standard loaves plus 3 mini-loaves or 1.5-2 doz. mini-muffins
OR six loaves made in 8"x3.75" disposable aluminum pans
1 1/2 c. candied pineapple chunks
1 c. black raisins or chopped dates
2 c. golden raisins
1 1/2 c. candied cherries
1 c. dried cranberries
2 oz. candied orange peel**
2 oz. candied lemon peel**
1 c. plus extra brandy for soaking (I like Paul Masson Grande Amber U.S.)
2 c. butter
4 c. confectioners sugar
8 eggs, separated
4 c. pecans, chopped
3 c. sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 TBS. vanilla extract
(Extra candied fruit and pecan halves for decorating)
**if you can't find these, it is fairly easy to make your own:
1. The day before baking: Chop pineapple, raisins/dates, cherries, cranberries, orange and lemon peel; soak in brandy overnight in refrigerator.
2. Preheat oven to 275 deg F. Place a small pan of water on the lower rack of oven. Line loaf pans with buttered parchment. Bundt pan - butter it well. Mini-muffins - use foil liner cups sprayed with release spray.
3. NOTE: The final amount of batter is quite large, and requires something like a large roasting pan in which to mix it (see pictures below).
In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and confectioner's sugar. Stir in beaten egg yolks. Transfer to a large mixing vessel, such as a roasting pan. Stir in fruit, soaking brandy, pecans, and vanilla.
4. In a separate bowl, lightly stir salt into sifted flour; add to batter in large pan.
5. In a separate large mixing bowl, beat the egg whites to soft peaks. Fold into the rest of the batter. Fill pans up to about 2/3 full.
6. Bake according to times below, until golden brown and toothpick inserted comes out clean. Smaller items will cook faster and therefore be removed from the oven earlier than larger items.
Bundt pan - 2-2.5 hrs.
Standard loaves - 2 hrs.
Mini-loaves - 1.5 hrs.
Mini-muffins - 1 hr.
7. Glaze (optional): Glaze to attach decorative fruit, such as red/green halved candied cherries, candied pineapple, or pecan halves. Boil together 1/2 c. water and 1/2 c. white sugar for about 15 min, until it is like thick syrup when a bit is cooled on a plate. Brush over the top of the cakes while they are hot, place fruit as decoration, then brush with glaze again. Let the glaze set for 1 hr. before wrapping in next step.
8. Store for at least 2 weeks (2-4 weeks is best), wrapped in a cheesecloth soaked in brandy, then a layer of plastic wrap, and a final layer of foil (see picture below). Add a little more brandy every few days (open the foil and plastic wrap, then just spoon over the cheesecloth in small trickles). I have always kept mine in the refrigerator for the maturing process, because we live in the South and it can be warm, even in November.
I find the best way to serve this fruitcake is to cut the cold fruitcake into 1/4"-1/2" thick slices. It can have a quite heady alcohol content, if you have a generous hand with the brandy, so teetotalers are forewarned! It will still be delicious even if you use a smaller amount of brandy. It is not recommended to eliminate the brandy entirely, as the alcohol not only adds flavor and improves texture, but it also extends the shelf life of the cake and keeps it from going bad during the long maturing process.
Happy Christmas and may you always be blessed with fruitcake!
(Content previously published on my old Filigreen blog in Jan. 2013)
I saved a scone recipe some time ago and decided to make them recently as a sweet way to wrap up the blessed extra time with my children during their break from school. Naturally, I didn't have the two key flavor ingredients so I had to substitute . . . and they turned out SO GOOD! Maybe next time I will try with the original ingredients, but these were so delicious as they were, that I may just keep them that way.
Cherry and White Chocolate Scones
1 1/2 c. + 2 TBS. all-purpose flour
5 TBS. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. salt
3/4 c. dried cherries, chopped
1/3 c. white almond bark bar, roughly chopped
1 c. heavy cream
1-2 TBS. butter, melted
Additional sugar for sprinkling (I used decorative white sugar crystals)
Directions: Preheat oven to 375 deg. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl; stir well. Stir in the dried cherries and almond bark. Add the heavy cream to the flour mixture, stirring until just incorporated. Using well-floured hands and counter, turn the mixture out of the bowl and pat out to 1/2" depth. Use a floured 1 1/2" circle cutter to cut out rounds; transfer to cookie sheet, placing 1 1/2" apart. Gently bring scraps together and reroll to cut the rest. Brush the tops with melted butter and sprinkle with the decorative sugar. Bake for 16-18 minutes, turning pan halfway through the baking time. Makes 25 - 1 1/2" scones. Cool for a few minutes before enjoying with lemon curd and creme fraiche!
(Original recipe called for freeze-dried strawberries & white chocolate chips. Here's a link to original: http://dinahs-dishes.com/2012/01/20/strawberry-and-cream-scones/)
Faux Creme Fraiche
1 c. Cool Whip, regular
2 TBS. sour cream
Mix thoroughly and lavish on warm scones.
As the mother of two dear daughters, having a tea party is for us the height of ladylike elegance. Whether we go out to a favorite tea shop, meet with their vivacious aunts in someone's home, or just have a little party for us in our own kitchen, we think this is the best way to celebrate a special occasion or to make an ordinary day into one!
(content previously published on old Filigreen blog)
Below are the French lyrics and translation for "Serenade" by Sumi Jo. I first heard this beautiful melody when I was browsing Youtube for ideas for my daughter's District Choral Contest song. Of course, I am not the expert that her Choir Director or vocal coach are, but I know a pretty song when I hear it! I don't think my dear daughter liked it as much as I did, but she's young . . .
I've been searching for a set of lyrics to post along with it, and here they are; it turns out to be a Victor Hugo poem set to music by the French composer Gounod. Listening to this song makes me think of a couple of my favorite movies about romantic love that are set in Italy - Enchanted April and A Room With A View.
Quand tu chantes, bercée Le soir entre mes bras,
Entends-tu ma pensée Qui te répond tout bas?
Ton doux chant me rappelle Les plus beaux de mes jours. Ah! Chantez, Chantez,ma belle,
Chantez, chatez toujours!
Quand tu ris, sur ta bouche L'amour s'épanouit,
Et soudain le farouche Soupçon s'évanouit.
Ah! le rire fidèle prouve un coeur sans détours!
Ah! Riez, ma belle, Riez, toujours!
Quand tu dors, calme et pure, al' ombre, sous mes yeux, ton haleine murmure des mots harmonieux.
Ton beau corps se révèle sans voile et sans atours...
Ah! Dormez, dormez ma belle... dormez dormez toujours!
Author: Victor Hugo
("Quand tu chantes.")
When the voice of thy lute at the eve
Charmeth the ear,
In the hour of enchantment believe
What I murmur near.
That the tune can the Age of Gold
With its magic restore.
Play on, play on, my fair one,
Play on for evermore.
When thy laugh like the song of the dawn
Riseth so gay
That the shadows of Night are withdrawn
And melt away,
I remember my years of care
And misgiving no more.
Laugh on, laugh on, my fair one,
Laugh on for evermore.
When thy sleep like the moonlight above
Lulling the sea,
Doth enwind thee in visions of love,
Perchance, of me!
I can watch so in dream that enthralled me,
Sleep on, sleep on, my fair one!
Sleep on for evermore.
Translated by HENRY F. CHORLEY.
(content previously published on old Filigreen blog)
Scenario: It's 6:03 p.m. on a weekday. Younger kiddo has been home from school for a couple of hours, had her snack earlier, been playing and doing homework, but she won't be hungry for a while still. Husband and older kiddo come in the door, tired, hungry, irritated by traffic or worn out from musical practice, ravenous and looking in the fridge for something quick to eat. We are watching fat and avoiding refined carbs, so what can I give them to eat that's fast, healthy, and not too filling, because supper will be ready soon? More and more lately, the answer is Mast-o-Khiar, a Persian Yogurt-Cucumber Dip.
Introduced to me by my dear Persian sisters-in-law, this dip is a refreshing alternative to salsa for whole-grain chips and toasted pita bread. We always have the raw ingredients and it goes together in less than ten minutes. Sometimes I get it made earlier in the day and the flavors have time to mingle, and sometimes I put it together while they go change clothes and just go a little heavier on the ingredients to push up the flavor immediately. We eat it with whole-grain chips or boxed baked pitas, or I toast a couple of whole-wheat pitas to tear into handy pieces for dipping. It's greatly adaptable to personal taste - this is the way we like it, but people also add chopped walnuts, raisins, mint instead of dill, etc. It is also widely used as a condiment in Persian cuisine, served alongside chicken or beef kabobs and rice.
2 c. fat-free Greek-style yogurt (we like Fage)
1 cucumber, peeled, 1/4" dice
2 green onions, trimmed, halved, minced
1 1/2 TBS. dried dill weed or 3 TBS. fresh dill weed, minced
6-8 pickled jalapeno slices, minced
salt & pepper to taste
Mix, refrigerate, enjoy!
(content previously published on old Filigreen blog site in Feb 2013)
Ever since I worked at a Mexican food restaurant during college (where I met my dear husband-to-be!) I have been a devotee of green chiles. This was no ordinary Mexican food restaurant - the owners were from New Mexico and regional specialties like Chile Colorado, Chile Verde, Posole, and Stacked Enchiladas were on the menu. These were new and exotic to me 25+ years ago, and although I have now experimented with southwestern cuisine on my own, those tastes from years ago are what I crave the most.
The recipe book was off-limits, but after working there for several years, eating a lot of this delicious stuff, and searching the Internet for recipes, I have been able to recreate some of those wonderful recipes.
This is a recipe for Green Chile Stew, a hearty and filling dish that was served several different ways. The stew was served in a bowl with flour tortillas on the side, in a soft baked burrito with more gravy and sour cream on top, and in a fried chimichanga with extra gravy on the side and sour cream on top. We usually just serve it in a bowl, as it doesn't really last long enough at my house to go through too many creative reincarnations. Sour cream is a deliciously suitable topping to the bowl of stew, with tortillas, crackers, or a hearty bread for sopping up the thick broth gravy.
Green Chile Stew
2-3 TBS. cooking oil
1 lb. beef stew meat
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
2 lg. onions, long-sliced
1/2 bottle DXX beer (someone can drink the rest!)
2 c. water
*16 oz. canned whole green chiles, roughly chopped by hand, with juice
8-oz. can chopped green chiles
2 slices cooked bacon, chopped
1/3 c. salsa
1 tsp. garlic powder
3/4 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
2 pinches dried red pepper flakes
2 4-oz. cans sliced mushrooms
6 lg. potatoes, peeled, chopped into 1" cubes
1 TBS. concentrated beef base (I use Better Than Boullion or Knorr Concentrated Stock)
2 c. water
(Sour Cream for topping)
In a large Dutch oven with lid, brown the meat in the oil for 5-6 minutes over med-high heat, stirring occasionally. Add the salt, pepper, and onions; turn heat down to med-low. Cover and continue to brown for another 5 minutes, stirring with a spatula every couple of minutes, being careful not to scorch it. Add the beer and first 2 c. of water, all the green chiles, bacon, salsa, herbs/spices, and mushrooms. Cover and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add potatoes, cover, and cook for another 20-25 minutes until potatoes are done. Add the beef base and next 2 c. water; check seasoning and add more salt and black pepper, if needed. Cook 5 more minutes, then serve with sour cream and your favorite hearty bread, tortillas, or crackers. Makes 8 big servings.
*If you can't find this in your grocery store, you can add a number of small cans to be equivalent in ounces. I just think the whole ones have a better flavor; they are going to break down all the way in the cooking, so the canned chopped ones will be okay on texture. If you want to roast your own whole chiles, such as Anaheim chiles you may find in the produce section, here is a link to instructions:
I have always been a writer. I have not ever been much of a talker.
The quiet child, quiet young person, quiet adult, wife, and mom who has always found it easier to listen than to articulate my thoughts. Now that I am older and the world in general (and I in particular) have become more aware of introversion, I value my quiet nature in a way I never could when I was younger.
But writing . . . writing was always a magnet to me, and I started composing short poems when I was in grade school. In my middle school years, I wrote long, loopy letters to my pen pal and my grandmothers. In high school and college, I was committed to making regular journal entries. I did my best to keep up with my journals through motherhood, but sometimes years would go by between entries. However, when I felt the urge to write, I could always pick up my journal and pen again, and the words would flow as if there had been no interruption.
It was with much delight and enthusiasm that I took up blogging a few years ago, with the best intentions of posting at least twice a month. Well, let's just say reality was quite different from my intentions! In the interest of getting back into a habit of regular blog posts, I have revamped my Filigreen site and am hoping to be a more productive blogger! I hope you enjoy my blog and reading about my different perspectives and projects. Welcome!
I am Kelly - a wife, mother, cook, gardener, sewist, and much more. Creativity is the gift that I have been blessed with, and it has been a river of blessings to me. I try to share what I create when I can, as gifts to others and on this blog.