Christmas baking season upon us

For a baker, one of the best things about November is the dreary, cold weather – ideal for cocooning in the kitchen with a number of special recipes. What better time to begin your Christmas baking?

If you are steering away from recipes using flour or dislike traditional fruitcakes, then these are for you: a fruitcake for those who hate fruitcake and a luscious gluten-free chocolate confection. YUM!

Put on your apron and snuggle in – get ready to spend several satisfying hours getting a head start on Christmas with these new versions of old favourites.

 Apple Fruitcake

This apple cake makes a fabulous substitute for a Christmas cake. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream or yogurt sweetened with brown sugar and flavoured with rum or brandy.

1 cup (250 mL)   vegetable oil

½ cup (125 mL)  orange juice

3 eggs

1 cup (250 mL)   each, granulated sugar and brown sugar

3 cups (750 mL) all purpose flour

2 tsp (10 mL) cinnamon

1 tsp (5 mL) baking soda

½ tsp (2 mL) salt

½ tsp (2 mL) each, nutmeg and ground ginger

3 apples, peeled, quartered and thinly sliced

1 cup (250 mL)   walnuts or pecans

1 cup (250 mL) raisins or craisins

Lemon Glaze:

1 ½ cups (375 mL) sifted icing sugar

¼ cup (50 mL) fresh lemon juice (juice of 1 lemon)

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Spray a nine-inch (3 L) bundt pan with baking spray. Using an electric mixer beat vegetable oil, orange juice and eggs together until thickened and creamy. Gradually beat in granulated and brown sugar. In separate bowl, sift together flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, salt and ginger.  Stir in apples, walnuts and raisins.

Beat liquid ingredients into dry ingredients until well combined and spoon batter into prepared cake pan.

Bake 50 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Cool on rack. Meanwhile, in mixing bowl, whisk together sifted icing sugar and lemon juice. Unmold cake and place on serving plate. Drizzle with glaze, cover until ready to serve. To allow flavours to mellow, cake is best made a day ahead of serving. It keeps well for up to three days but if well wrapped ( plastic wrap and over wrapped in foil) freezes well for up to three months. Makes 12 to 16 servings.

Chocolate Cherry Truffle Torte

Chocolate and cherries are an irresistible combination in this gluten-free  torte. Served in thin slivers with whipped cream, it is the ultimate treat!

To make slicing easier, dip a sharp knife into a deep jug of hot water before making each cut.

1 lb (500 g) imported bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate

1/2 cup (125 mL) butter

1/3 cup (75 mL) Amaretto

1 cup (250 mL) whipping cream

2 cups (500 mL) dried cherries, halved

1 cup (250 mL) natural almonds, toasted

Garnish: whipped cream

Line a 9 by 5 inch (2.5 L) loaf pan with parchment paper, allowing paper to hang over the sides of the loaf pan as handles.

Chop the chocolate into small pieces. Meanwhile, sprinkle almonds on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and toast in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until fragrant and golden brown. Set aside to cool.

In a bowl set over a saucepan of simmering (not boiling) water, melt chocolate and butter. Remove from saucepan. Stir in Amaretto. Cool to room temperature.

In a deep bowl using an electric mixer, beat whipping cream until stiff peaks form. Gently fold cream into cooled chocolate mixture with the dried cherries.

Finely chop toasted almonds and sprinkle over the bottom of the prepared baking pan. Spoon chocolate mixture over nuts and spread evenly. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled and firm, about four hours.

To serve, run a knife around the sides of the loaf pan and using the parchment paper handles, lift the cake from the pan.

Cut into 12 slices and  serve each with a spoonful of lightly whipped cream flavoured with a splash of Amaretto. Makes 12 slices.


Jan Main is an author, cooking instructor and caterer

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Hi Jan…just a quick note to let you know that I made the Apple Fruitcake in your Christmas Baking article. It is great. I really enjoyed it.

I would like to make the Truffle Torte for Christmas as well, but we have a wee one that has an allergy to tree nuts. I was wondering if there was something else crunchy that could be used instead of the almonds.

Thanks. Janet

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