Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Day 23: Culinary customs

My Christmas baking repertoire has narrowed down to mostly two things:
Fruit cake, courtesy of a recipe from an old, dear friend, Norma Green. It is dense, moist, and full of buttery vanilla flavour. And, of course, lots of jeweled glace fruit and pecans.

I love the red cherries best of all.

Here's another one, just in case the first two weren't enough.

I also make a big batch of shortbread every Christmas. I like to press the dough into these molds that I got for 25c each after Christmas a few years ago.

The problem is, I can never remember, from one year to the next, which recipe I used last time. So some years the shortbread has been crispy and buttery, with the sugar almost caramelized as it slowly bakes.

Other years it is merely acceptable.

Like today's batch.

I think it is because the recipe I used tonight used powdered sugar instead of granulated, so tomorrow night I will try another recipe. I think I know which one.

Meanwhile, there is a humongous Tupperware full of small fruitcakes that will be distributed to lucky people.
But only the ones that love it.

And Jeff enjoyed a mug of homemade eggnog with a star-shaped piece of shortbread. 
He breathed in a crumb of the cookie and almost choked to death.

Would you like the recipes?
I thought so.

Norma's Fruit Cake
3 1/2 cubes of butter
2 c sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda dissolved in 1/2 c boiling water
2 oz vanilla
6 eggs
4 c flour
3 lbs dried and glace fruit and nuts of choice

Cream butter and sugar, add soda and water. Beat in vanilla and eggs. Stir in flour and lastly, the fruit mixture. Spray small baking pans with Pam and divide mixture between them. I usually make 6 small loaves with this amount. Bake at 250 degrees for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours. Cakes are done when the top is firm, but you can poke with a toothpick to make sure.
I usually make double this recipe.

The tubs of glace fruit are prohibitively expensive, so I keep an eye on them in the produce section of Safeway after Christmas. Every two or three years, I find them marked down 75% and stock up.

Classic Shortbread
8 oz unsalted butter
1/2 c sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 1/4 c flour

Cream butter and sugar. Work in flour and salt, knead lightly if necessary. Press into greased molds or 8" round pans. Prick dough with a fork. Bake at 300 degrees for about 30 minutes for small molds up to an hour for larger pans. Shortbread should be golden brown. Leave in pans until firm before tipping onto cooling rack. For larger rounds, cut into wedges while still hot in the pan.


1 c milk
1 egg yolk
A few drops of vanilla and rum essences
Sugar to taste
A sprinkle of freshly grated nutmeg

Put half of the milk in a mug or small pan and whisk in egg yolk with immersion blender. Add essences and the rest of the milk. Heat slowly in microwave (or on stove top if using a pan), stirring often. Nog should thicken slightly when done. Add sugar to taste.

Today I am thankful that my fridge and freezer are stocked up with lots of butter.
Happy Christmas baking to you!


  1. No fruitcake for us - but homemade eggnog? We would like that!

  2. I've never tried fruitcake, but yours looks good. I wonder if I could get over the nasty stigma attached to it though. Hmmmm

  3. I love fruitcake! And I also love something you did not mention: mincemeat pie. Yesterday my daughter Erica made me a mincemeat pie. We have eaten half already. Your shortbread looks very good. Merry Christmas to you and yours.