People can be divided into those who love Fruitcake and those who hate Fruitcake. It is very polarizing and there is little middle ground! I was in the latter group until one Christmas season I was reading my December issue of BonAppetit and saw a recipe for, “A Fruitcake to Love.” A light fruitcake that had olives in it!! I decided to make it for a work pot-luck. I figured there would be a least one fruitcake lover there and enough other food for those who wouldn’t touch it with a ten-foot poll. As suggested in the article, I served it with cheese. To my surprise most of it went! I present this recipe mainly for the haters in the hopes that you will stick your toe over the line and give it a try.
Several years later I returned to the recipe and saw it was created by Elizabeth Falkner. Since the first time I tried the recipe, I became a student of pastry and Elizabeth was one of my idols for the ways she blurred the lines between sweet and savoury. I should have guessed it was one of her recipes!! I now make it every Christmas as I have been threatened with physical harm by my sister-in-law when I suggested I skip it one year!
The recipe is for two full size loaves. I usually make a single batch but bake it in 6 mini-loaf pans baking them for about 35 minutes. Then I bring them out of the freezer a couple hours before serving and present it with cheese as an appetizer with cocktails or as an after-dinner cheese course. I always serve it with Tallegio, because that was the original recommendation from Chef Falkner. Tallegio, is a soft Italian cheese with a strong smell yet a relatively mild taste with a bit of tang on the finish. I also offer a semi-firm goat cheese; one with honey is especially good. If I want to add a third cheese, I ask my cheese monger what he recommends. So, give it a try and see if you can cross the line from hater to lover…after all, it is the season for love!
A Fruitcake to Love
(makes 2 loaves or 6 mini loaves)
185 g (1¼ cups) chopped, pitted, Medjool dates
130 g (¾ cup) chopped candied orange peel
50 g (⅓ cup) chopped, dried, Mission figs
30 g (8) sun-dried black olives, pitted & chopped
60 g (8) medium green olives (such as Cerignola or Picholine), pitted & chopped
60 ml (¼ cup) Frangelico (hazelnut liqueur)
215 g (1¾ cup) all-purpose flour
10 ml (2 tsp) baking powder
5 ml (1 tsp) kosher salt
2.5 ml (½ tsp) ground nutmeg
2.5 ml (½ tsp) ground cloves
1.25 ml (¼ tsp) ground cinnamon
140 g (½ cup) plain, whole-milk yogurt
30 ml (2 tbsp) extra-virgin olive oil
170 g (¾ cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
150 g (¾ cup) granulated sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
250 g (2 cups) coarsely chopped walnuts
90 g (¾ cup) shelled, unsalted, natural pistachios
Position rack in middle of oven and preheat to 350°F. Butter and flour two 22cm (8½”) or six 12 cm (4 ½”) pans and set aside. Mix dates, orange peel, figs, olives and Frangelico together and let stand for at least 15 minutes, or up to 24 hours.
In a medium bowl, whisk together, flour, baking powder, kosher salt, nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon. In a small bowl, whisk together yogurt and olive oil. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar until blended (or use a hand-mixer and large bowl). Add egg one at a time, beating well after each one. Beat in flour mixture in 3 additions alternately with yogurt mixture in 2 additions, starting and ending with flour mixture. Stir in walnuts, pistachios and dried fruit mixture (including any remaining liquid). Divide batter evenly among prepared pans and smooth tops.
Bake unit cakes begins to pull away from pan and a cake-tester inserted into the centre comes out clean. About 50 minutes for full-sized loaves or about XX min for mini-loaves. As soon as cakes come out of pan, poke cake with cake tester or wooden skewer. Pour some Frangelico in to a small bowl (about 30 ml or 2 tbsp) and brush top of cake using a pastry brush. Cool in pan on rack for 30 minutes, then turn out cakes and repeat brushing with Frangelico. Cool and cool completely. If desired, you can brush the cake one last time with Frangelico. Cakes can be stored at room temperature for 3 days or frozen for up to one-month. Thaw frozen cakes over-night in refrigerator and bring to room temperature before serving.
adapted from Bon Appetit, December 2017 (Elizabeth Falkner)