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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Chocolate Cherrybomb Fruitcakes, or Senor Cuervo says,"Feliz Navidad!"

Having survived a Dickensian Christmas (which I mean, unfortunately, more in a Tale of Two Cities French Revolution, cataclysm and consumption sort of sense than a Christmas Carol / Cricket on the Hearth roast goose & figgy pudding one - although there were elements of Gabriel Grubb and the Goblins, and medicinal toddies were administered - but I digress), and fortified with a meal of Kinky Friedman-style brisket (spiced Texas-style but prepared in the oven like Bubbie's because it's just too frickin' cold to go out and build a fire for smoking), I'm finally sitting down to bring you that Edible Fruitcake recipe that I promised everybody, oh, Thanksgivingish.

Edible Fruitcake?  Is there such a thing?  Watch and learn, young Padiwan.

Oh, I've also been waiting for somebody to post a photo of one for me to steal, to wit:

Chocolate Cherrybomb Fruitcake in festive setting,
Courtesy Amy Nadel Romanczuk
This begins as The Joy of Cooking's Fruitcake Cockaigne recipe (which my mother and I would prepare many years to my father's derisive comment of,"What happened? Did you lose the old one?").  It takes a left turn with the arrival of the chocolate, cherries and tequila, or as I like to think of them, The Three Amigos.

So, a little advance preparation.  24 hours-ish before you plan to make the fruitcakes, place 20 oz of dried cherries (by an odd coincidence, the exact size of the bag at Costco) in a bowl and cover with Tequila.  Give it an extra half inch or so.  It doesn't have to be especially good tequila, but it shouldn't be paint thinner, either, and you're going to need about three cups of it.

The next day, drain the freshly minted cordial off of the cherries. You may feel a temptation to have a shot, to which I suggest you succumb without trepidation or remorse.  You may also wish to try the cherries, as long as you're not planning to drive.

There are those hearty souls who can maintain strict dietary discipline during the holidays (or, as The Black Adder would have it, "The Gorging Season").  I am proud to say that I am not among them, approaching the span from Thanksgiving to New Year's with the attitude of Eat What You Want and Die Like a Man.  Since I have managed to lose 100 pounds with this approach, I see no reason to entertain opinions to the contrary.

Let's bake!

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Take your drained cherries, and add about two cups of Macadamia or other nuts, coarsely chopped and 12 oz. chocolate chips or chunks. Because "too much chocolate" is as nonsensical as "ceci n'est pas une pipe".  Toss them together with 1/2 cup flour.  This will keep all the goodies from sticking together in one big clump.

Sift together another 3-1/2 cups all purpose flour, 3/4 cup cocoa,  1 tsp. baking powder and 1/2 tsp. of salt, along with 1 tsp cinnamon and 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper.  Trust me.

Shave or chop 2 oz. of good quality unsweetened chocolate.  Last year this time I scored about half a dozen bricks of Scharffen Berger at 75% off from Williams Sonoma, where someone was laboring under the misapprehension that this is a seasonal product.  May you experience similar blessings.  Add it to 1 cup half and half (be strong - it's waaay too late to shave off any calories now).  Microwave and stir for 30 seconds at a time, until it is nicely melted.  Throw it in the fridge to cool off a little.

Beat 3/4 cups unsalted butter until light and creamy.  Gradually add 2 cups of sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 5 to 7 minutes.

Beat in (one at a time) six eggs.  Add 1 tsp vanilla.

On low speed, alternately beat in the flour mixture and the chocolate cream until well combined.  Finally, fold in all the chunky bits - put some muscle into it!

Now, you have some options.  You're going to end up with about 15 cups of batter.  

For presents, I like to bake these off in 1 cup mini bundt pans, which take about 35-40 minutes.  

Since these come six to a batch, that also allows me to bake off half a muffin pan (15-20 minutes) which we eat immediately.  Delayed gratification, humbug!

You can also bake it off in a couple of loaf pans (clocking at about an hour), until you get a clean toothpick test.

Let the cakes cool thoroughly.  Wrap each cake in cheesecloth, brush or soak down with the cherry tequila (if it's still around).  You can substitute other liqueur (GrandMa works well) or straight tequila, depending on the hardiness of your intended recipients.

Store in an airtight container (where it will keep for months - if you're generous with the liquor, you could just make them now for next Christmas).  Do not expose to open flame.

P.S. from our good friend Erin, whose resourceful Irish instincts led him to discover that if you wring out the cheesecloth, it gives you a nice shot of cherry-chocolate liqueur to go with your cake.