Healthy and tasty fruitcake

The crusaders took fruitcake on their travels and the Victorians raised it to celebratory status by including the cake in their wedding and holiday feasts.

by Dorothy Krupnick — 

Holiday food should not be the object of snickering and ridicule. Yet the fruitcake always makes its way onto the scene as the joke of the season. How sad. This holiday treat has nutritional value and is delicious when the appropriate ingredients are used. When we rename it “spice cake,” with luscious dried fruits and nuts, it sounds better. And it can be eaten any time of the year with herbal tea or a latte.

The oldest fruitcakes contained pomegranate seeds, pine nuts and raisins, and date back to the Romans and Egyptians, who considered fruitcake a food for the afterlife. The crusaders took fruitcake on their travels and the Victorians raised it to celebratory status by including the cake in their wedding and holiday feasts. In the 1700s, the American-European nut harvests were showcased in fruitcakes and saved for the following year as a blessing for successful crops.

Nutritionally, according to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, nuts are low in saturated fat, high in monounsaturated fat and possess plant sterols, which lower cholesterol. The dried fruits used in fruitcake — cranberries, apricots, apples, figs and dates — are high in magnesium, potassium and vitamin A. Remember that the sugar in dried fruit is concentrated and is higher in calories. Small quantities, as in a one- to two-ounce serving or two to five pieces of apricots, dates or figs, yield approximately 50 to 100 calories. However, mixed as a snack with nuts, the nutritional quality wins out over other sweet snacks.

The following recipes include a holiday spice bread made with rye flour. Fiber, zinc, folic acid and protein are important components of dark organic rye flour and can be found in most supermarkets. Rye is twice as nutritious as whole-wheat flour and is a welcome substitute in breads. Combine whole-wheat flour and rye flour in the spice bread recipe to insure a double amount of nutrients. The biscotti are a takeoff on a fruitcake in the form of a cookie and are ready for dipping into your favorite coffee or tea. All are great as gifts.

 

Spice bread (pain d’epice)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 cup rum or brandy (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons anise seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 cups rye flour
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour or 1 cup whole-wheat flour and 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon orange rind, grated
  • 2/3 cup chopped almonds
  • 1/2 cup currants

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together hot water, honey, sugar, salt, baking soda and baking powder. Dissolve and add rum or brandy (optional). Stir in spices and flours until a smooth batter forms. Add nuts, orange rind and currants. Prepare three pans (6-1/2” by 3-1/2”) and line sides with wax paper. Fill pans two-thirds full with batter and place in the center of the oven shelf. Bake for one hour. Loaves should rise one inch above the pan and will be a deep brown, with a large crack in the center. Remove from oven and cool in pans.

Fruitcake Biscotti

Ingredients:

  • 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs, well beaten
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon rum, brandy or extract (optional)
  • 1/2 cup chopped apricots
  • 1/2 cup chopped dates
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Mix together beaten eggs, orange juice, rum and vanilla extract. Set aside. Combine baking soda, baking powder, flour, brown sugar, grated orange peel, 2 cups of dried fruit. Mix dry and wet ingredients together. Dough will be a sticky batter. Flour a board and place dough on surface. Knead gently for 30 seconds and roll into two cylinders. Place both on a greased cookie sheet, five inches apart, and bake for 20 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Remove from oven and cut diagonally with serrated knife into 1/2 inch slices. Return slices to cookie sheet with one side down and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven, turn and bake the other side for another 15 to 20 minutes, until crisp like toast. Cool. Store in airtight container for up to a month.

 

Dorothy Krupnick, a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in nutrition, is employed at Casa Grande Regional Medical Center where she counsels patients on medical nutrition therapy. She owned Gourmet Catering Inc. in New York City and now provides private cooking classes and diet counseling. 480-219-1731.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 25, Number 6, December 2006/January 2007.

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