Last Saturday at Fiddleheads, the day before Christmas, was a festive day - genuinely festive, not the fake-festive we've become depressingly accustomed to this time of year. After the expected opening rush, business was steady but not overwhelming. Lacy and Monica both brought homemade cookies for staff to enjoy, and I put out jars of homemade jelly; the raspberry-ginger-lime variation was snapped up quickly. (I have no idea why it took me so long to realize that sharing the jelly with friends at the co-op is the perfect answer to the dilemma: "What am I supposed to do with all of this stuff? I hardly even eat bread anymore!") At closing time there was eggnog and more treats, plus several volunteers on hand to make the usual tasks more enjoyable - and get everyone the heck home in a reasonable amount of time. (FYI: I had to leave about then and didn't imbibe, so I have no idea if the eggnog was "spiked" or not.)
Ellen Anthony, the co-op's Bulk Dept manager (a.k.a. "Dr Bulk", a.k.a. "Goddess of Bulk") presented me with a substantial bundle that filled my hand, wrapped in wax paper. "It looks like a muffin but it's fruitcake," she said, as if that was all the explanation needed. Then she smiled her cheshire-cat smile and turned away without another word, like the Cheshire Cat himself. I looked down at the gift in my hand and thought "But, it does look like a muffin. How can it be fruitcake? Maybe she's teasing me."
In her usual way, and not for the first time, the Goddess had turned the most mundane thing into a source of fabulous mystery.
I waited until the next day to fully investigate that mystery: The muffin-fruitcake was very dense, a bit dry, pale yellow in color, not soaked in rum or sugar syrup. There were no pecans, no glace cherries, no citron; nothing in a frightening or unnatural shade of red or green. There were sunflower seeds, sunflower seeds, and chopped, dried fruits such as papaya and pineapple and cranberries - perhaps blueberries, as well? Treasures all found in the Bulk department, of course. And just enough batter to hold all those goodies together.
Ellen wrote: "I got the recipe from Laurie's friend Roland in 1999, and adapted to suit."
Ellen Anthony's Fruitcake with Dried Fruit, Almonds and Pumpkin Seeds
Preheat oven to 275 degrees.
Cream these in this order as usual:
1 lb room-temp. butter
2 c. sugar
6 egg yolks
1 T. warm water
1/4 c. Grand Marnier or cream or milk
3 c. all-purpose flour
2 c. sugar
1 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
Mix dry stuff into wet, then fold in:
6 egg whites, beaten stiff
Mix into the batter with strong, clean hands:
1 lb. mixed cut up dried fruits (papaya, pineapple, blueberries, cranberries, currants, etc.)
1/2 lb. pumpkin seeds (See Note)
1/2 lb. slivered almonds
Spoon into a buttered baking pan: tube pan, jumbo muffin tins, whatever.
Smooth the top with wet hands or a spoon.The bigger the pan, the longer it will take to bake. Muffin size might be 1/2 hour or so; big tube pan an hour and a half.
Cool completely and then store in an airtight container. It's pretty dry, so within a few days recipe. Or soak with liquor and store in a tin.
Note (1/2/2012): Ellen wrote me back after the original post that the recipe should read "pumpkin seeds" not sunflower; the correction has been made. She also added, however that if she were to put in "sunnies" she would probably toast them first.
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