This is courtesy of my studio mate Sarah Wells Rolland, who made these lovely little fruitcakes for holiday gifts. I just got mine and had a sliver with my mid-morning coffee, and I know I'm going to savor every single bite! And since I'm not willing to share the actual treat, I thought it'd be nice to share the recipe.
Sarah said she learned about this recipe from our other studio mate Karen Dubois, and I'm sure she heard about it from somewhere too. Good recipes have a way of getting around, and like all recipes I love, this one is completely open to interpretation, so you can use the fruits and nuts you like best - a bunch or just a few. Enjoy!
Dried Fruit and Nut Loaf
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3 cups coarsely chopped walnuts (can also use pecans, hazelnuts, or almonds)
1/2 cup dried cherries and/or cranberries
½ cup dried blueberries
2 cups dates and figs, pits removed and cut into quarters
1/2 cup dried apricots cut into quarters
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F and place the rack in the center of the oven.
Butter, or spray with a vegetable oil spray, a 9 x 5 inch (23 x 12 cm) (8 cup) loaf pan, and line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Stir in the brown sugar, walnuts, and dried fruits. Use your fingers to make sure that all the fruits and nuts have been coated with the flour mixture.
In a separate bowl, beat (with a wire whisk or an electric hand mixer) the eggs and vanilla until light colored and thick (this will take several minutes). Add the egg mixture to the fruit and nut mixture and mix until all the fruit and nut pieces are coated with the batter. Spread into the prepared pan, pressing to even it out.
Bake for about 60 to 75 minutes, or until the batter is golden brown and has pulled away from the sides of the pan. (If you find the loaf over browning, cover with aluminum foil.) Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.
When cool, lift the loaf from the pan. Wrap in a single layer of cheesecloth and place in a plastic bag (if making small loaves, wrap individually and bag separately or two per bag). Using a turkey baster, suck up some of the brandy and moisten both top and bottom of wrapped loaves while in the plastic. Seal well and re-moisten again over the next 2-3 days (1/4 cup should cover all mini loaves or one larger loaf, 2nd and 3rd moistening will take less).
This loaf is best after being stored for a couple of days. Will keep for about 2 weeks at room temperature or for a couple of months in the refrigerator. Cut into small slices with a sharp knife.
Makes one - 9 x 5 inch (20 x 13 cm) loaf.
For small loaves cook for 55 minutes