Beware the Arils – The Remaking of a Christmas Classic…

…the fruitcake! This holiday cake is made with an assortment of candied fruit, mixed peel, nuts, spices and hard liquor of some kind, usually rum or brandy. Personally I have never liked fruitcake. Maybe it’s the glace cherries or the chewy bitter peel but I can think of better uses for fruit than dried, drunk and baked in a dense cake heavy enough to make a holiday traveler’s luggage exceed the weight limit. However as a budding baker it is good to have a varied arsenal of which the fruitcake should be a part.  So I set out to use my recipe alchemy and remake the fruitcake into something that I would even eat. I came up with 4 versions: the Hot Toddy; fruitcake granola; a Persian Version; and a savoury and slightly sweet Moroccan couscous.

Hot Toddy
A hot toddy is simply a drink of rum, honey and lemon. I used this concept and marinated candied lemon peel and homemade caramel in rum. After sitting in the drunk tank for 24 hours I mixed this into a cake batter and baked for 2 hours. The result: like a rum sticky toffee pudding. Hint: leave out the lemon peel.







Fruitcake Granola
Again, marinate dried fruits in alcohol. Melt some fat (coconut oil or butter) in big pot and add a couple of cups of grains (oats, flakes, puffed grains etc.). Add in applesauce, some liquid sugar and spice and the marinated dried fruit. Either add in nuts now or after the granola is baked. Granola should be baked low and slow i.e. 250Farenheit for an hour until mixture sticks together. Let cool and air dry. The result: tasty especially with yogurt or Noel Nog. Hint: Make sure to soak the fruits a long time before baking i.e. minimum 24 hours.IMG_0743






Persian Version
The most ambitious of all. Marinate dried fruits with rosewater, a few strands of saffron, a few cardamom pods, pomegranate liqueur, pomegranate juice and molasses. I used a mixture of date, apricots, barberries and pomegranate arils. Even after being soaked for 2 days straight, then baked, the arils retained their crunchiness. If you’re not expecting to encounter a solid seed inside a moist cake, then beware. Your incisors and molars will have their work cut out for them, literally.
The fruits were mixed with pistachios, cake batter, more rosewater, cardamom powder and saffron (just a strand) then baked for an hour and a half. The result: delicious! I made a fruitcake and I liked it. Hint: you can afford to be generous with the rosewater and cardamom quantities. Their potency is muted by the long preparation time.IMG_0746






Moroccan Couscous
More alcohol, more fruit and more nuts. This time I used raisins, dates and apricots marinated in rum. I cooked up some onion, garlic and added in some Ras al Hanout. I added the fruit mix along with some cumin, cinnamon, honey, lemon juice, salt and pepper and a brown rice couscous. Once the kabocha squash, potatoes and carrots were finished roasting, I added those in as well. The result: tasty. Hint: Sweet enough with the dates. Omit honey next time and add more spice!IMG_0771

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