Christmas. It's a tough time for me. My family doesn't celebrate a winter holiday, which in and of itself isn't a problem. But there is something really poignant about waking up on Christmas morning feeling like the entire rest of the country (or world!) is celebrating together. Definitely amplifies a sense of loneliness that's already stronger in the winter. (Plus, I have always wanted a Christmas stocking.)
But, there are so many things I do love about the season, too. Mostly, coziness. And baking for other people. I try really hard not to make anything just to have around the house, because I have little (if any) self control and can eat an entire batch of cookies without even noticing. But I love baking for others.
This fruit and nut loaf has been one of my favorites for years. It's insanely simple to make, lasts for a long time, freezes well, and makes for a really elegant gift. This year I even made a batch with Cup4Cup for a gluten-free friend and it turned out GREAT.
You probably have everything you need to make this in your pantry, so if you're hankering for a last minute gift, get it in the oven tonight.
Happy holidays, friends.
Alice Medrich's Dried Fruit and Nut Cake
adapted from the incredible book, Pure Dessert
3/4 cup all-purpose flour (or Cup4Cup flour for a gluten-free loaf)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt (or 2 teaspoons kosher salt)
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3 cups mixed dried fruit (I like to use any combination of figs, dates, apricots, prunes, peaches, nectarines, and cherries) halve large fruits such as figs or peaches)
3 cups nuts (I like to use walnuts and pecans)
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Position a rack on the lowest rung in the oven and preheat to 300°F.
Prepare either one large (9 x 5 inch) or two small (8 x 4 inch) loaf pan by greasing it and lining with parchment.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, soda, powder, and salt to combine. Add sugar, fruit and nuts and mix thoroughly with your fingers.
In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and vanilla. Pour egg mixture into fruit and nut mixture and combine with your hands until everything is coated with batter. Scrape into prepared pan(s).
Bake on lower rack of oven until an inserted toothpick comes out crumb-free. This can take anywhere from 90-120 minutes in my experience, depending on the size of the loaf. If the cake gets too dark, loosely cover with a piece of foil.
Cool completely on a wire rack. Keep the cake wrapped airtight. I leave mine out on the counter for about a week and eat a slice here and there, but you can extend the shelf life by keeping it in the fridge. The loaf also freezes beautifully.
To serve, slice with a sharp, heavy knife.
I love serving it with cheese, or just eating it on its own.