The Alternative to Fruitcake: Little Drunken Fruit Cookies, Gluten Free
And you thought we were finished with the holiday baking? Not yet. Save room for the alternative to fruitcake - the drunken little fruity bites full of great dried fruits, nuts and not one speck of frosting or sprinkles to be found!
One nightmare holiday so long ago it makes my brain hurt thinking about it – when rotary dial phones were still alive and pay phones were the equal of calling someone on the fly, we thought making homemade fruit cakes would be a great idea for holiday gifts. Right after Thanksgiving we bought all the ingredients. That we had to have an adult buy the booze for us since we were not yet 21 years old didn’t even make us flinch. And yes, these were the ancient days when 18 was still a child according to the law. I think this might be the only time the in-laws went out and bought liquor for us on purpose.
We chopped and soaked and baked loaf after loaf of fruitcake and drowned them in cheap brandy and rum, wrapping them in towels and sealing them in plastic bags. Every few days from Thanksgiving to right before Christmas we would pour more Brandy and Rum over them wrapping them back up in their liquor soaked towels to cure some more. I bet our place stank like a pub by then, but we were immune and no doubt a bit snockered on the fumes.
Finally, the holiday arrived and we gifted everyone we knew with a loaf of homemade fruitcake loaf. Oddly, some of those people no longer send us holiday cards – we’ve lost touch. I never braved constructing a fruitcake again. That is, until now. Thumbing through some Ina Garten TiVo episodes of Barefoot Contessa, I almost deleted this episode, but thankfully stayed tuned. I’m glad I did because everyone at her fabulous party seemed to be devouring these little goodies. Perhaps soused little fruit cookies were the ticket so I studied the recipe and modified it to be gluten free and slightly more drunken.
Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith in the kitchen and just go with it. Truthfully, anything that soaks in liquor for a day or so seems to be particularly attractive to me the closer we get to Christmas. If I couldn’t personally soak in the liquor bath, then drowning the dried fruit in it would be a good compromise. Figs, apricots, raisins, pecans and candied cherries seemed reasonable and less artificial than the colored fruit-cake like fruit.
The best part of crafting this cookie was chopping the dried fruits and soaking them in less than cheap booze and leaving the mixture to cure far longer than Ina suggests. I dutifully checked in a couple of times a day, inhaling the fumes and feeling pretty happy about how it was coming along.
It is a very easy recipe, forgiving, and easily modified. Be sure to take time to cure the fruit and if you can, leave the logs of dough in the refrigerator at least overnight to develop a full flavor. Bake only what you need and cut more rounds when you want fresh cookies.
Surprisingly, they taste nothing like fruitcake and more like a little drunken dried fruit & nut one-bite treat. Just don’t eat and drive.
Gluten Free Drunken Fruity Cookie Bites
(adapted from Ina Garten’s recipe)
- One package (9 ounce round) of dried figs, chopped into a fine dice, stems removed
- 6 ounces golden raisins
- 3 ounces Blenheim dried apricots, chopped into a fine dice
- 3 ounces of candied cherries, cut into small pieces
- 1 heaping tablespoon honey
- 2 tablespoons Sherry
- 2 tablespoons Rum
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 8 ounces toasted pecans, chopped
- Pinch of salt
- 2 sticks of unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 scant teaspoon ground clove
- 1/3 cup ultra fine sugar
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1 extra large egg
- 2 ½ cups all purposed gluten free flour (my mix: cornstarch, white rice flour, brown rice flour & oat flour)
- 1 teaspoon xanthan gum
Combine the figs, apricots, raisins, nuts, cherries, honey, lemon juice, liquors and salt, Mix well and cover. Leave at room temperature overnight and even longer if you can. Every once in a while stir the mixture and enjoy a sniff.
Preheat oven to 350.
In a large bowl, mix the flours, pinch of salt (again) xanthan gum. Cream butter, sugars, clove until fluffy. And egg and mix well. Slowly, add the flour mixture just until incorporated. Don’t over mix. Add the fruit mixture and mix with a spatula or wooden spoon until thoroughly incorporated. The dough will be sticky, but will firm up when chilled.
Divide dough in thirds and place a gob on parchment paper. Form into a log about 1 ½ inches wide. Roll up in parchment and repeat for the other two dough pieces. Chill until cold. Cut into ½ inch slices and place on a baking sheet about ½ inch apart. Bake for 8 minutes and rotate. Bake about 6-8 minutes more or until the rounds are lightly brown.
Cool completely – they taste best when cooled and even better the next day. They may get soft when stored. Place in a 350 degree oven for about 4 minutes to crisp.
Stored in a tin, they keep for 30 years.