Monday, December 13, 2004

Chocolate Orange Fruitcake
The fruitcake hater's fruitcake
2 1/2 cups large pecan pieces, toasted
1 cup (packed) chopped dried black Mission figs
1 cup (packed) chopped pitted prunes1 cup (packed) chopped pitted dates
1/2 cup frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
1/4 cup Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur
2 tablespoons grated orange peel

3 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup (packed) unsweetened cocoa powder
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1-pound box dark brown sugar
6 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
4 large eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup purchased prune butter

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
1 pound bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
6 tablespoons orange juice concentrate, thawed
Chopped candied fruit peel (optional)

For cake:Position rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 325°F. Generously butter and flour 12-cup angel food cake pan. Combine toasted pecans, chopped dried figs, prunes, dates, orange juice concentrate, Grand Marnier and grated orange peel in large bowl. Let stand 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Sift flour, cocoa, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt into medium bowl. Combine brown sugar and 6 ounces chocolate in processor and chop into small pieces.
Using electric mixer, beat butter and cream cheese in large bowl to blend. Add chocolate mixture and beat until fluffy. Beat in eggs 1 at a time. Beat in prune butter. Stir in 1/4 of dry ingredients. Mix in fruit mixture and remaining dry ingredients in 3 additions each.
Transfer batter to prepared pan. Bake cake until tester inserted near center with a few moist crumbs attached, about 1 hour 55 minutes. Cool 5 minutes. Turn pan over onto rack; let stand 5 minutes. Lift off pan; cool cake completely. Wrap cake in plastic and store at room temperature 2 days.
For Glaze:Melt butter in heavy medium saucepan over low heat. Add chocolate; stir until melted and smooth. Whisk in orange juice concentrate.
Place cake on rack. Spread some of chocolate glaze thickly over top and sides of cake. Refrigerate 15 minutes. Spread remaining chocolate glaze over cake, covering completely. Sprinkle with chopped candied fruit peel, if desired. Refrigerate cake 30 minutes to set glaze. (Fruitcake can be prepared 3 weeks ahead. Wrap cake in plastic and refrigerate.)

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Decadent Christmas Gingerbread
Greg and I usually make something to give to friends and family for the holidays. I try to do something different every year, but there was so much pressure on us to make our decadent holiday gingerbread that I caved and made a whole bunch this year. This is a really moist, dense, and strongly rich treat. It is important to do several things with this recipe. One is to whisk all the ingredients together to maintain the air inside the batter, another is to make sure to generously butter and flour the bundt pan, the last is to make sure and use a bundt or a springform pan with the hole in the middle or else the cake will not cook. LOAF PANS DO NOT WORK HERE! One can find oatmeal stout at speciality stores like Trader Joe's. Otherwise, the Guinness Stout works just fine..though I've always wondered what honey brown ale would do. This is the gingerbread recipe from the Gramercy Tavern in New York City

1 cup oatmeal stout or Guinness Stout
1 cup dark molasses (not blackstrap)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of ground cardamom
3 large eggs
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
Confectioners sugar for dusting

10" bundt pan

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Generously butter bundt pan and dust with flour, knocking out excess. (very important)
Bring stout and molasses to a boil in a large saucepan and remove from heat. Whisk in baking soda, then cool to room temperature.
Sift together flour, baking powder, and spices in a large bowl. Whisk together eggs and sugars. Whisk in oil, then molasses mixture. Add to flour mixture and whisk until just combined.
Pour batter into bundt pan and rap pan sharply on counter to eliminate air bubbles. Bake in middle of oven until a tester comes out with just a few moist crumbs adhering, about 50 minutes. Cool cake in pan on a rack 5 minutes. Turn out onto rack and cool completely.
Serve cake, dusted with confectioners sugar, with whipped cream.