I don’t want to get all Grinchy about fruitcake, but seriously, the gorgeous weather in September shoved all thoughts of starting Christmas food preparations way back then completely out of my mind. I do love the flavour of traditional fruitcake (I’m a light cake lover, definitely NOT dark fruitcake), but just cannot get my act together to spend months on an expensive dish that might be underappreciated by some to whom it gets served.
Enter the delightful fruitcake cookie. Think of it as the humble fruitcake’s sassy new cousin from the big city – bright, fresh, full of life and ever so fast.
A quick soak in brandy for some chopped dried fruit (none of that cloying, candied stuff for this contemporary cookie, if you please) and you can pull together this dough in minutes. As with all the best cookie recipes, it’s important to let the dough rest before baking so the flour becomes hydrated.
Another bonus? This dough freezes beautifully, as do the baked cookies.
1/4 cup diced dried cranberries
1/4 cup diced dried apricots
1/4 cup diced dried dates or figs (if using figs, be sure to remove stems)
1/4 cup diced dried blueberries or cherries
1/2 cup brandy (or 1/2 cup water + 1 teaspoon imitation brandy)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 cup salted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 tbsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup assorted chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts or macadamias)
Put diced, dried fruit in a broad, shallow dish. Pour brandy over top and stir to combine. Cover and let rest at room temperature 6 – 24 hours, stirring occasionally.
Begin preparing cookie dough by scooping marinated fruit onto a paper-towel lined plate to remove some of the excess moisture but do not blot on top.
In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, cornstarch, cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Set aside
In a large bowl, combine butter, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla. Stir until well blended and no brown sugar lumps remain.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir just until incorporated.
Add the fruit and nuts and stir gently until blended. The dough should be sticky but hold together.
Cover bowl and refrigerate for one hour.
Proceed to baking stage or divide the dough into two equal portions. Roll each into a cylinder about 1- 1/4 inches in diameter and wrap tightly in plastic. Put cylinders in a freezer bag and store in fridge up to a week or in freezer up to three months.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350F and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
If baking from unfrozen dough, use two spoons to create 36 round dough balls and place on baking sheets. Flatten with your fingertips so they are about 1/4 or 1/3 inch thick.
If baking from cylinders of refrigerated or frozen dough, let dough stand at room temperature for a few minutes while oven preheats.
Slice cylinders into 1/4 to 1/3 inch thick rounds and lay them out on parchment-lined baking sheets.
Bake cookies for 8 – 10 minutes until just beginning to brown. Remove from oven, let cool slightly then transfer to a wire rack.
Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week, or wrap well and freeze for up to three months.
Makes three dozen cookies.