Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Applesauce Fruitcake

I made this fruitcake for my husband's birthday cake in January. This was not only money-saving (the glace fruit always goes on sale after Christmas) but it helped keep the festivities going well into the New Year.

You Will Need:

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 cup port wine or whiskey
1 1/2 cups applesauce
1 lb. raisins
1 cup diced citron
1 cup candied orange peel
1 cup halved glace cherries (I used the green ones because they are less expensive)
1 cup chopped dates
1 cup chopped pecans (optional)
brandy for brushing

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Cream together butter and sugar. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Sift dry items together and reserve three tablespoons.

Stir in dry items alternating with alcohol. Stir in the applesauce. Toss the fruit and nuts with reserved flour and add to the mixture.

Spoon carefully into a greased and floured three quart cake-tin. A springform pan works well. I used a tube pan this year and was lucky it did not fall apart-but I do consider that luck, and unless your are very deft with your tube pans, go for the springform.

Bake one and a half hours or until it tests done.

Cool. Before wrapping tightly in waxed paper and cellophane (yes, use both) brush the top and sides with brandy. Do this daily for about a week. The cake is best if permitted to "ripen" for a week to ten days. This process will also help if the cake didn't quite come away from the pan as neatly as you'd have liked. The brushing and tight wrapping practically molds it back together and no one will be any wiser.

Vietnamese Spring Rolls (not fried)

(Sorry, no photo-software acting flaky)

The appeal of these spring rolls is the ease with which they can be prepared with a bit of planning. I fry the tofu ahead and prep all the greens and veggies throughout the day. When I'm ready to assemble, all I need to do is cook the noodles, and wet the wrappers. The two sauces that follow at the end of the recipe may also be prepared ahead.

You Will Need:

-2 ounces thin rice noodles (the block it is sold in contains way more than needed, but is difficult to divide. Go ahead and waste the rest, I mean, come on, we're only talking .65 cents).

-8 rice wrappers (sold in flat plastic containers in Asian import stores. I buy a brand called "Lady Farmer" because it seems oddly appropriate).

-1 block of extra firm tofu, cut into generous slices and fried. Then, cut into matchsticks.

-4 (or more) tablespoons chopped mint, and cilantro (to taste)

-2 grated carrots

-1 1/4 cup finely grated cabbage

Putting it all together:

In a pot of boiling water, cook rice noodles about three minutes or until soft-try not to overcook. Drain. In a large, flat bottomed pot, place warm water (and keep some on hand at a simmer for replacing as you go) and dip each wrapper in for a second. Remove quickly. Assemble on roll at a time before dipping the next wrapper. Don't worry if they still seem hard-they soften-up as they sit. In a row across the centre, place ingredients but do-not overfill. Fold the sides in as you go and roll-up.

That is pretty-much it, but be warned that your first couple will fail miserably. Like anything, there's a learning curve, but by the fourth or fifth wrapper, you should have it under control.

Serve immediately with the dipping sauces.

For the Sauces:

-4 teaspoons fish sauce
-1/4 cup water
-2 tablespoons lime juice
-1 garlic clove, finely chopped (Sometimes I use dried, minced garlic if I'm making it ahead of time)
-2 tablespoons sugar
-1/2 teaspoon chili sauce (I use the brand with the rooster on the bottle)

Mix well and chill.


1 part peanut butter to 2 parts hoisin sauce. Add enough water to thin to sauce like consistency and cook over low heat until melted. Top with a teaspoon of chopped peanuts.