Dessert for the New Year: Macaroons and Fruit Cake

Coconut Macaroons

1 c Sweetened Coconut Cream -- coconut milk first extraction plus 1/3 c sugar, simmer until slightly thickened, measure 1 c, cool before using
4 large egg whites
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
6 c sweetened shredded coconut + 1 c powdered sugar, toss and bake on a cookie sheet 350 F until slightly toasted. Cool before using

Preheat oven 375 F.
Line cookie sheet with parchment paper and lightly grease.
Whisk first four ingredients until completely blended.
Add coconut, mixing until coconut is evenly moistened.
Chill for 15 minutes.
Drop heaping tablespoons of batter onto lined cookie sheets, setting them at least 1 inch apart.
Form cookies into loose haystacks with fingertips. Moisten fingers with water as necessary to prevent sticking.
Bake until light golden brown, 15 minutes.
Cool on cookie sheet for five minutes to set. Finish cooling in wire rack.

Macaroons can be given a more festive finish by dipping them in melted semi-sweet chocolate.

Chocolate Coconut Bars
1/2 c butter
1 and 1/2 c graham cracker crumbs
1 and 1/2 c semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 c walnuts, chopped
1 and 1/2 c shredded sweetened coconut
1 can 14-oz sweetened condensed milk

Melt butter and spread evenly on a 9 x 13 inches baking pan.
Evenly spread graham cracker meal over butter.
Mix chocolate chips and nuts and sprinkle evenly over crumbs.
Sprinkle coconut evenly over chocolate chip/nut mixture.
Evenly pour condensed milk over coconut.
Bake at 325 F until golden brown.
Cool and cut into 1 and 1/2-inch squares.

Note: You can add or substitute any number of ingredients to make this recipe your own. For example, you can use both white and dark chocolate chips, add raisins or other dried fruits, etc.

Fruitcake

This fruitcake recipe has evolved significantly over the past 50 years. The original recipe was my mother’s creation and reflected my father’s love of cherries, blueberries and pecans. Those were the only ingredients she added to the basic cake batter.

This recipe has become one of my favorites for several reasons. First of all, my family loves it. Also, the recipe is loaded with my favorite fruits and does not contain citron, which is a major component of most commercial fruitcakes. And lastly, the recipe can be easily modified to suit your own particular taste preferences.

Although you may serve this cake immediately after it has cooled, it is one of the few cakes that improve with aging.
The procedure for aging is described following the recipe. Even though the whole process takes one month, it is well worth the wait.

3/4 c raisins
3/4 c dried cranberries
3/4 c dried blueberries
3/4 c dried cherries
1/2 c dried apricots
1/4 c candied ginger
Zest from 1 lemon
Zest from 1 orange
1 c rum
1 and 1/4 c apple juice
1/2 c butter
1 c sugar
2 large eggs
1 c all-purpose flour
1 c whole-wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 and 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c coarsely chopped pecans
Brandy to taste

Mix raisins, dried fruits, candied ginger, lemon and orange zests, and rum. Soak overnight.
The next day, stir apple juice, butter and sugar into the fruit and rum mixture. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool.
Add eggs and set aside.
In a bowl, mix together the all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, salt and pecans.
Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix until just combined. There will be some lumps but that is ok. Do not overmix.
Pour batter into a 5 x 9 x 2 and 1/2 inches loaf pan. Bake for one hour and test for doneness. If wet crumbs adhere to the skewer, return cake to oven and bake an additional five minutes. Retest for doneness in five-minute intervals until skewer comes out clean.
Set pan on a cooling rack and sprinkle with brandy.
After cake is completely cooled, sprinkle with brandy again and wrap first with plastic wrap then with aluminum foil. The cake may now be served. The cake improves, however, with aging and the addition of more brandy.

To age the fruitcake

Unwrap the cake and sprinkle with brandy every other day for two weeks, then once a week for the next two weeks.
When giving this fruitcake as a gift, I garnish the top of the finished cake with rows of the dried fruits used in the cake. The fruits are then brushed with strained marmalade to form an attractive glaze.

To make this recipe your own, substitute any or all of the fruits with those of your own choice. For example, you might like to try dried mango, dried papaya and dried pineapple for a tropical flair. Coconut could also be added and pili nuts would be a good substitution for the pecans. The main thing to consider when substituting is to maintain the total volume of fruit at 3½ cups.

Source: Reggie Aspiras, Inquirer News Service , photo courtesy of www.cariadcakes.com

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