Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Nature's Basket Signature Dried Fruit and Nut Loaf

The tradition of making a dense rich cake filled with spices, candied fruits and nuts first
began in England. Fruit cakes were first made in the 15th century, when exotic spices, nuts
and fruits were first introduced to the English by the traders. These cakes were so rich
that they were banned during the 18th century across most of Europe. A law was passed
which stated that fruit cakes could only be baked on certain festivals and special occasions;
Christmas being one of them. They were thought to be too decadent for daily consumption.
Since then the tradition remains, and people world over indulge in fruit cakes on Christmas

Try out a Christmas cake with a difference; one that’s bursting with dried fruits in rainbow
colours! Our shelves boast a range of dried fruits that go far beyond just raisins and fruit peel.
Dried Turkish Apricots, Gourmet Dates, Cranberries, Red Raisins, Blueberries, Pineapple,
Papaya and Prunes are all naturally sweet and incredibly colourful and offer a world of
new flavours to add to Christmas Cakes and Bakes. Rushina has the ideal recipe for all this
exotica with the Natures Basket Signature Fruit and Nut loaf.
We guarantee, you will LOVE it!

Nature's Basket Signature Dried Fruit and Nut Loaf

3/4 cup all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

3 cups coarsely chopped mixed nuts (pecans, hazelnuts, or pine nuts , walnuts,

3 cups dried fruit (dried cherries, cranberries, dates, blueberries figs, dried pineapple,
Apricots) chopped

3 large eggs

1 vanilla bean, chopped fine

Time & Portion Size: Time 2 hours
Serves 6-8

Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C) and place the rack in the centre of the oven.
Butter or spray with oil spray, a 9 x 5 inch (23 x 12 cm) (8 cup) loaf pan and line the bottom
of the pan with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Stir in the
brown sugar, walnuts and dried fruits. Use your fingers to make sure that all the fruits and
nuts have been coated with the flour mixture.

In a separate bowl, beat (with a wire whisk or an electric hand mixer) the eggs and vanilla
until light coloured and thick (this will take several minutes). Add the egg mixture to the fruit
and nut mixture and mix until all the fruit and nut pieces are coated with the batter. Spread
into the prepared pan, pressing to even it out.

Bake for about 60 to 75 minutes or until the batter is golden brown and has pulled away from

the sides of the pan. (If you find the loaf over browning, cover with aluminium foil.) Remove
from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. When cool, lift the loaf from the pan. Cut into
small slices with a sharp knife.
To store, cover with plastic wrap or aluminium foil. This loaf is best after being stored for
a couple of days. It can be kept for about 2 weeks at room temperature or for a couple of
months in the refrigerator.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Christmas Bakes

What better time to stand beside a hot oven than during the cold winter? When it's chilly outside and you are wrapped in woolens, a freshly baked piece of cake gives you all the warmth you need. So it isn't surprising that bakes goodies are an integral part of Christmas traditions all over the world. Women in the family consult each other, browse through old recipe books and bring out the packed up baking trays in time for the season, to treat loved ones to traditional sweets. Though the basic preparations remain the same, each family has their own secret ingredient or unique method of doing things, which results in innumerable variations of the same recipe.

The centrepiece of most Christmas feasts is the Christmas Fruit cake. What defines a fruit cake is the use of dried raisins, currants, sultanas, orange peel, pine nuts and almonds. Usually these are candied or soaked in liquor for several weeks. The fruit cake can be as moist or dry as one desires. Traditionally the fruit cake was served without any frosting or decorations. Of course, there is no rule about this. Marsipan or fondant are often used to decorate the Christmas cake.

Mince Pies are another popular Christmas treat; little cups of pastry stuffed with rich, sweet, sticky fruit. Fruits like green apples, cherries, sultanas, raisins and currants are cut up and candied along with lemon rind, orange peal and spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. Brandy or rum are usually used in the mixture as well. However a alcohol-free version can be made using orange juice. Modern versions use fruits like strawberries, raspberries, peaches, plums, prunes and other fruits. They make a great bit sized treat, that are almost universal in appeal.

The Yule Log cake or Buche de Noel is an integral part of European Christmas traditions. The Yule log cake is a chocolate cake fashioned to look like a yule log, which is burned in the fireplace during Christmas time. A flat sheet of four-less chocolate cake is layered with chocolate frosting and rolled into a cylinder. It is then decorated with chocolate icing, and typically served with meringue that are crafted to look like mushrooms. Though created by the French, this whimsical Christmas cake has become a favourite world over.

Christmas cookies are a must during the season. They don't always make their way onto the Christmas lunch table, but at this time of the year pantry shelves must be stocked with jars of cookies to accompany warm cups of cocoa, milk or coffee. Cookies have been a part of Christmas celebrations since medieval times. They can be simple shortbread cookies or elaborately decorated ones filled with chocolate, nuts and fruit. In several parts of the world children keep a glass of milk and cookies near the Christmas tree for Santa to snack on when he sneaks in!

It's time to bring out those oven mitts and mixing bowls! Make sure you've stocked up on all the ingredients you need. If you plan on baking a traditional fruit cake, it's time to start soaking your fruits and nuts in brandy, rum or cointreau. Very soon we will bring you our own special Christmas cake recipe!