Friday, December 30, 2011

A perfect way to close out the year: So many firsts!

I didn't intend to spend so much time away from my blog. The holidays are a time of confusion, worry and fear for newly diagnosed gluten intolerant folks, and so I had intended to share my favorite holiday recipes with you. And, then I had a family emergency.

My grandpa was not well, and we rushed to be at his bedside. Unfortunately, we got stuck in the first (and practically only) snow to track through the central United States. We did not make it in time to be with him, but we made it in time to support my family and to lean on them as we all grieved. After that, I've been in a funk. I haven't been able to get myself into the mood for much of anything. Christmas was something we tried to muddle through even though we never really felt like buying gifts or doing anything festive.

But we did it.

We got our annual Christmas letter out on-time, albeit very pared down from previous years. I think pretty much everyone got a gift from us. I'm behind on my thank-you notes, but I've done what I could to this point. The last item on my holiday checklist is my Three Kings Cake. I make one every January 6, hide a baby Jesus in it, and we make a game out of seeing who can find the hidden baby in a slice of cake. I have made a different style of King Cake every year, and I was searching through some of my favorite blogs to see what I could make this year.

One of my favorite bloggers is Gluten Free Girl, but she has started making all of her recipes by weight, which left me only able to enjoy her recipes visually. I felt unable to bake by weight, but her writing and culinary creations still inspired me.  As curious happenstance would have it, my dear best friend bought me a kitchen scale for Christmas. Only a week later I happened upon this gem of a recipe for Cardamom Fruit Bread on Gluten Free Girl's blog. I decided this bread would be a perfect challenge for me. My Grandpa had an uneaten fruitcake in his refrigerator before he went into the hospital. For whatever reason, I could not stop thinking about that fruitcake. I had never had fruitcake before, and had never really thought of trying it. I believed Johnny Carson that only one fruitcake was in existence and was re-gifted throughout history. But, there had been one in Grandpa's refrigerator, and this fruit bread on GFG's website looked like something I wanted to try. Besides, I had a kitchen scale now and had no excuse not to make it.

The only things I didn't have on hand were candied fruit and cardamom. Cardamom was easy to get, but I could not find any candied fruit without high fructose corn syrup. So, I bought golden raisins, dark raisins, chopped dates, green and red maraschino cherries (Yeah, I know, not healthy at all), and an orange. I chopped the cherries and the orange zest and then followed this recipe for candying fruits. Super simple! You should give it a try! I blanched the orange peel twice and then followed the syrup recipe. Once I made the simple syrup, I poured in some rum and then brought all of the dried fruit and orange peel to a simmer for 30 minutes.

I didn't have a bundt cake pan, but I did have an angel food cake pan. The end result was beautiful!

Lots of color throughout. My favorite part was the candied orange zest. Yum!

We worked on the bread for a couple of days, and then I decided to make french toast with the rest of it. I sliced up the leftover bread and used my recipe for Almond French Toast. I topped mine with a sprinkle of powdered sugar.

And so, my hope for you is that your new year will be filled with newness. Try a new recipe. Bake by weight, if the fancy strikes you. Go out and accomplish that goal you've always dreamed of but were too afraid to try. Candy some fruit. It really isn't that hard. Whatever it is that you do, do it to the best of your ability. But, above all else - love. Have a very happy, love-filled (and fruit-bread-filled) new year!

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