The beckoning of the Nordic Advent

Fruitcake, to be soaked at will with any liquor of choice.
Text and Photo © JE Nilsson and CM Cordeiro 2012

Even before this Advent weekend in Sweden, the long winter nights in the Nordic sphere had already beckoned people to put up their Christmas lights by the window, soon to be complemented by shiny tinsel Christmas decorations indoors. Out in the streets, Christmas lights adorn walkways and street lamps in anticipation for the Swedish Christmas markets to open their doors or rather, unfold their outdoor stalls.

As traditional Christmas food comes in numerous dishes, I thought I’d begin this festive season early with items I liked most. In perfect keeping with my preference for desserts, desserts before mains, desserts instead of mains, I thought I’d begin the culinary festivities with a fruitcake.

Though I seem to like all sorts of fruitcake, from light to dark, crumbly to sticky puddings, in the past several years I’ve come to settle on the preference for a lighter textured fruitcake, sans liquor soaked. But preferences differ and the majority of friends and family who stop by over Christmas seem to love either brandy or cognac soaked versions of the traditional Anglo-Saxon rich, dark fruitcake. What I’ve made here is a variation of the Swedish korinter tårta that is less dense compared to the English fruitcake or Christmas fruit pudding and where the liquor is added prior to baking so that the alcohol burns off and what is left is the taste of the liquor per se.

Dusting with icing sugar.

In the Cordeiro family, fruitcakes are made during jultide season in large batches, so ratio is more important than actual grams that would be about about 2 parts fruit to 1 part each of flour, butter and sugar. The spices used vary even within the Cordeiro family, from a standard five-spice to a combination of cinnamon, cardamom, ground ginger and a pinch of nutmeg. In this recipe, I used dried ground peel of orange for a slightly different taste to the fruitcake – one more reminiscent of the German Chritmas stollen or vörtbröd, a dark Christmas bread that goes well with the Swedish glögg, a warm red wine mixture of cinnamon spice, orange peel and almonds, sweetened in its entirety by raisins.

Fruitcake ingredients
400g dried fruit mix (glazed cherries included)
230g flour
200g butter
200g sugar (in this recipe I substituted half of the sugar with dark treacle and honey)
4 small eggs
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cardamom
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground dried orange peel
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
100ml cognac / brandy
175C oven for ca. 45 mins or till the cake is done in the middle

The method to making the fruitcake differs, where some would call for a cutting in of the butter to the flour for an ultra crumbly texture, others call for the batter to be more liquid that includes the use of carnation milk, if a pudding texture is desired. In this case, the batter was kept very dry, with the only liquids coming from the eggs and about 100 ml of cognac.

To begin, the butter and sugar were creamed till combined and the eggs added one at a time. Once combined, all other dry ingredients were folded into the wet ingredients. This was then baked in 2 loaf tins for about 45 minutes at 175C. Once the cakes were cooled, they were dusted over with icing sugar.

I think I could sit happy now for several days with this batch of fruitcake sans soaking, having a slice of this whilst contemplating what next on the jultide culinary list to make, enjoying too, the count down with lit candles one a week, to year’s end.

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