There is nothing like a good fruit cake also known as Christmas bread . However, while making one there is always some debate as to whether you should pre-soak your dried fruit and for how long. Well, worry no more, for I have the answer you were looking for.
You should pre soak your fruit before using it in your cake batter weather it is for your Christmas bread or your fruit cake. If you do not pre-soak your fruit it will absorb much of the liquid the recipe calls for and you’ll end up with a dry Christmas bread ( or fruit cake) and nobody wants that.
Christmas bread may sound sound easy to make but it actually entails some planning and preparations. Here are some key points you should take into account before rushing ahead.
Make sure to use the right kind of alcohol to soak up the dried fruit
Soaking your dry fruit in alcohol is highly recommended as it gives the final product a much richer flavor and as I mention before it will prevent the dried fruit absorb much of the liquid the recipe calls for, but if you wish to go alcohol free you can go with a fresh squeezed orange juice instead. It does effect the amount of time the dry fruits need to be soaked (see below).
If you do decide to go with alcohol I highly recommend you use one of these liquor’s as it gives the ultimate taste to your Christmas bread.
Cherry liqueur is made out of fruits (cherry’s obviously ) is therefore a direct continuation of the fruity taste we are looking for in our Christmas bread. While it is not as sweet as other liqueurs it contains a higher alcohol content than its counterparts ( usually between 40%-45% and some can be stronger around 60%).
Brandy is another great option. This alcoholic beverage is actually been distilled from wine or a fermented fruit mash and once more complements our desired fruity taste for our fruit cake. You can find various types of Brandy, each are made from different kind of fruit such as apples, plums, grapes or cherries. Brandy average alcohol content goes between 35-60% so you might want to check it before choosing which one to go with.
Rum is actually my personal favorite , probably because its the cheapest option out of the three:) Joking aside Cherry and Brandy can be quiet expensive to use for some so if money is as issue Rum is a great choice for this purpose. This distilled alcoholic beverage is produced out of sugar cane by products such as honey and sugar cane juice there for fits in quiet nicely with our desirable taste in Christmas bread. Alcohol content wise , standard Rum usually goes by 40%.
Wrap up the dried fruit in flour before incorporating it into the batter
One of the problems people encounter when baking Christmas bread is the phenomenon where all the fruit sinks to the bottom of the cake and is not evenly distributed in the batter. This problem can be quickly solved by using this simple trick: Just wrap the dried fruit in flour before you incorporate them into the batter mix . Yes. that’s it. You don’t have to use excess flour for that, just use the flour that is already being used in the recipe.
Using this simple trick flour will make sure that the pre chopped dried fruit will not stick to each other like magnets that attract each other, and with proper mixing, you will get a uniform mixture of dried fruits throughout the cake.
How long should you soak dried fruit for Christmas bread?
This is the million dollars question and it seems everyone has quiet a different answer. The truth is the amount of time you should pre soak your dried fruit can vary.
The bare minimum of time one should soak the dried fruit before baking the Christmas bread is six weeks. Some go all the way and soak up the fruit for a full year. I think the norm is probably about 2-3 month which gives the fruit time to get juicer and the flavors gets infused in to the fruits making them moist. That being said, if you are not using alcohol and choose to go with orange juice, apple, grape , cranberry or lemon juice, one week of pre soaking should be enough.
How to go about feeding your dried fruit mass?
First and foremost its better to chop the dried fruit beforehand.
Soak in the fruits with your choice of alcohol beverage (one and a half cups – 2 cups should do) . Stir every few days in order to maintain consistency.
Place it in an airtight glass or plastic container and store in a dry and dark place.
Which fruits are best to use for Christmas bread
The possibilities are unlimited but usually it is common to combine some of the following fruits and nuts:
- Candied cherries
- Mixed Peels (orange, lemon, ex)
- Nuts (not a fruit but throw it into the mix just the same)
- Spices like cinnamon, and nutmeg
People tend to think that soaking dried fruits in alcohol reduces their sugar values. Well I’m sorry to break it to you but that is absolutely not the case. The natural sugar is simply more compact and in some cases even higher than fresh fruits so be advised.
Making Christmas bread or a fruit cake does not require any special effort and can be a nice tradition to uphold for years to come. However, it is important to remember that it requires some advance preparation and not something you pull out of your hat at the last minute just before your entire family arrives for a holiday dinner.
As with everything try to enjoy the process..