Holiday Fruitcake

Posted by: Ian Beyer  :  Category: dessert, holiday

Fruitcake has gotten a bad rap in our culture, mostly because of inconsiderate jerks gifting some strange industrial bakery concoction that is labeled as “fruitcake” and contains neither fruit, nor is anything a rational persion would consider “cake”.

This stuff is different. The key to a good fruitcake is, unsurprisingly, good fruit. If it’s that candied stuff with food dye in it, forget it. That’s about as fruity as Kool-Aid. For this recipe to shine, use good dried fruits. Good sources for this are places like Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Natural Grocers, and their ilk. If you get candied tropical fruits like papaya and mango, make sure they’re devoid of junk like food dyes, corn syrup, and other gross stuff.

This is an imprecise process, strict adherence to the recipe is discouraged. Fruitcake is meant to adapt to whatever you have on hand. This particular recipe has been heavily adapted and improved from a recipe found in a 1980 Better Homes and Gardens cookbook  that called for weird-colored fruit.


  • 1 lb all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
Approximately 3 pounds of some combination of these:
  • dark raisins
  • golden raisins
  • dried blueberries
  • Craisins
  • papaya (dried or candied)
  • dried mango
  • pineapple (dried or candied)
  • currants
  • dried cherries
  • dates
and 1 pound of nuts, such as:
  • slivered almonds
  • pecan halves
  • walnuts (we omit walnuts due to allergies)

In a bowl, stir together all of the dry ingredients, then fruit and nuts, and mix until everything is well coated.


  • 4 eggs
  • 1 3/4 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 3/4 cup melted butter
  • 1/4 cup molasses

Beat eggs until foamy and gradually add brown sugar. Add orange juice, butter, and molasses and beat until blended. Stir the wet mixture into the fruit mixture. When making a large batch, this is best done by getting your hands good and messy. Scoop into greased loaf pans (you can also line with greased parchment paper) until they’re about 3/4 full.

Bake at 300F for 1 1/2 to 2 hours (longer for larger loaf pans, less for mini loaf pans) until cakes test done. After cooling, wrap in cheesecloth soaked in liquor or fruit juice (orange juice works well) and then wrap in foil.

When we make it, we usually do a triple batch, which makes 4 bread pans and 2 large bread pans, or 18 2″x6″ mini-loaf pans and 4 4″x8″ medium loaf pans (when using mini loaf pans, bake for 30-45 min under foil to prevent burning)

A triple batch requires about 2 square yards of cheesecloth and a fifth (750ml) of soaking liquor.

Golden Ratio, Golden Bread

Posted by: Ian Beyer  :  Category: Uncategorized

In his book Ratio, Michael Ruhlman explains the ratios behind many basic elements of cuisine. When detailing bread, he explains that bread consists of a flour:liquid ratio of 5:3 (1.66). (Ruhlman also explains that cooking ratios are always done by weight.) This is a good rule of thumb that is pretty easy to remember. After some experimenting, I’ve found that I actually get better results if my flour:liquid ratio is closer to the golden ratio (1.618). This is not surprising, as this ratio is found throughout nature.

Here’s how it breaks down, to make a single loaf around 1.5 lb:

1 lb flour (any combination of bread flour, whole wheat, rye, you name it. At least half should be a good high-gluten flour)

7 oz liquid (can be milk, water, whey, beer, or any combination thereof. Get creative and experiment here. )

1 beaten egg (just under 2 oz.)

1 oz. fat (oil, butter, etc – solid fats should be very soft or melted)

For each 1.5 lb loaf, add the following, dissolved in the liquid which has been heated to around 40 degrees C (100 degrees F). Do this before adding the egg and the fat.

1/2 tablespoon yeast

1/2 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon sweetener (honey, sugar, molasses – do not use zero-calorie sweeteners, this is to feed the yeast, not you)

Knead the whole thing for about 10-15 minutes, rise until doubled, punch down, shape, rise again,  bake for half an hour at 350F.


Easy Caesar Dressing

Posted by: Ian Beyer  :  Category: salad

Photo: flickr/pointnshoot

Whipped up this easy and tasty caesar dressing the other day. It’s best if you let it sit and mellow for a day or two, but it’s perfectly good right away.

Whisk together:

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup yogurt
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon Nam Pla (thai fish sauce)
  • 1/2 tablespoon garlic powder (or 1 clove crushed fresh garlic)

If you want a milder garlic taste, use roasted garlic instead.

Pour over coarsely chopped Romaine lettuce, add black pepper, parmesan cheese and croutons. Repeat as necessary.

Easy Challah

Posted by: Ian Beyer  :  Category: breads

An adaptation and amalgamation of a number of recipes I found.

This recipe makes 3 loaves or rounds, and is sized for a 5.5-quart stand mixer – if your mixer motor is under 350W, you may want to scale this down a bit. The key is to have a liquid:flour ratio of about 3:5 (by weight)

  1. Mix the following wet ingredients together in a bowl or other large measuring vessel:
    • 1 lb warm water (2 cups)
    • 4 oz. honey (1/2 cup)
    • 1.5 Tablespoons dry yeast
    • 1 Tablespoon salt
    • 3 eggs (beat into mixture)
    • 4 oz. oil (canola or olive)
  2. In the stand mixer bowl, put in:
    • 2.6 pounds bread flour (approx. 8 cups)
    • Liquid mixture
  3. Mix on low speed with a dough hook until ingredients are combined, and then let knead for about 10 minutes.
  4. Let the dough rise in the mixer bowl, covered with a cloth, for about 2 hours.
  5. punch down the dough and knead by hand for about 3-4 minutes, adding flour as needed.
  6. Divide the dough and knead each piece for another minute or so and form into rounds or loaves.
  7. Let rise for another 45 minutes.
  8. If you wish, brush on an egg wash (beat 1 egg with a tablespoon of water) for a golden brown crust.
  9. Bake at 325F for 30 minutes.
This bread makes absolutely epic grilled cheese sandwiches and french toast. You can also use this recipe for dinner rolls or hamburger buns.