Which of the following would top an adult’s least-wanted holiday gift list.
A) Another necktie.
B) A cheap-bottle-of-wine and matching glasses gift set.
C) A purple shawl knitted with grandmotherly love.
D) none of the above.
If you guessed D, you’re right.
Conspicuously absent from the above list is, of course, that standard around holiday time--the venerable fruitcake.
A popular gift item, yes, but not always a welcome one. Fruitcake receivers can often be heard muttering “Ahh, you shouldn’t have. . . .”
But isn’t it the “thought that counts”? We’ll leave the answer to people who get one each Yule, via a loving relative or unimaginative boss, and end up piling the new one on top of last year’s--and the year’s before.
But even people who like them often let them stack up. A true fruitcake, it is said, should stand the test of time. Commonly mummified in liquor-soaked linen, some holiday fruitcakes are then placed in tightly sealed tins and stored for what seems an eternity.
The holiday fruitcake--made with just enough batter to bind the fruit--features a sugary assortment of candied fruits and nuts. If candied fruit doesn’t appeal, look for a fruitcake made with dried ingredients, such as apricots, raisins, figs and currants.
In keeping with tradition, we’d like to suggest some fresh variations on a fruitcake theme, offered at some local bakeries:
* Sweet Cinns, 313 E. High St., Moorpark, is offering a Sour Cream, Cream Cheese Coffee Fruitcake made with your choice of fresh strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, boysenberries or apples. “We make it year-round,” owner Peggy McLaughlin said, “but it’s a holiday favorite with our customers.” Sweet Cinns also has a dried fruit “combo cake” with prunes and apricots.
McLaughlin said traditional fruitcake gets a bad rap.
“People don’t even bother to taste it,” she said, “they’ve heard too much bad about the stuff.”
Apparently she doesn’t pay attention to fruitcake bashers. “Personally I like it. I’m the only one in my family that does though--there’s 13 of us.”
* At Bill Baker’s Bakery, 457 E. Ojai Ave., Ojai, owners Colleen and Thomas Kohnen prepare a traditional German fruitcake known as stollen (pronounced SHTAH-len).
“German Christmas stollen is more of cake than the traditional fruitcake,” Colleen Kohnen said, “it’s not so much of a fruit solid.”
Stollen’s list of ingredients include raisins, soaked three days in rum, and three kinds of nuts: walnuts, pecans and almonds.
“We also use some candied fruit like pineapple and cherries,” she said, “but very little.”
It’s best to let your stollen--dusted on top with powdered sugar--sit for a while before eating, according to the Kohnens.
“It’s best if you let it sit for at least two weeks,” Colleen Kohnen said. “As the rum ferments it gives it a nice strong flavor.”
“In Germany this is the most popular holiday food item,” Thomas Kohnen said. Stollen, yes, but not the American version of fruitcake.
“It’s much too sweet and heavy,” he said. “Germans would not like it at all.”
If you think a relative or friend out of town may like stollen, the Kohnens will ship it anywhere for you, Colleen Kohnen said.
Stollen is available in four sizes: 1, 1 1/2, 2 and 3-pound cakes.
* Norbert Viaud features a “light and fluffy” fruitcake at his Raffine Gourmet Boutique, 3741 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd., Westlake Village.
“French fruitcake is shaped like a loaf and contains candied fruits,” he said, “but not near as much as a traditional American fruitcake.”
The French version also calls for pecans and walnuts “and contains a lot of eggs and butter--it’s a very fluffy and rich cake,” Viaud said.
Along with Thomas Kohnen, Viaud considers American fruitcake too sweet and over-laden with fruit. “Way, way too heavy,” he said, “it’s like a piece of rock.”
If Viaud’s fruitcake version sounds appealing, just ask for the cake wrapped with decorative golden foil.
SERVING SUGGESTIONMINI FRUITCAKES
If traditional fruitcake is something you must have, here is a recipe for Miniature Ruby Fruitcakes.
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped dried apricots
1 cup mixed candied fruit
1/2 cup chopped candied pineapple
1/4 candied cherries
1 cup pecan halves
1/3 cup butter or margarine
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tsp. grated lemon peel
3/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
Marinate raisins, apricots, mixed fruit, pineapple and nuts in 1/2 cup of brandy for at least two hours. Cream butter and brown sugar. Mix in egg and lemon peel.
Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Stir into batter. Fold in marinated fruit and nuts. Spoon into greased miniature muffin tins. Place cherry on top of each.
Bake 35 minutes at 300 degrees. Drizzle with brandy while warm, if desired. Makes 24 fruitcakes.
The fruitcake can be stored for up to two months. Wrap airtight and store in cool place, adding more brandy each week.