What a fruitcake?

December 17 of 31 December-ish posts

First, before you read any further and must feel that crushing disappointment of yet another recipe blog that doesn’t seem to put the recipes at the top of the page, while you scroll to the bottom and try to find something resembling an ingredient list, let me be honest and up front: if you’re here looking for a fruitcake recipe, there isn’t one.

I often post recipes. This is not a recipe, this is:

… something I should have cooked in 2022, but didn’t.


You know fruitcake.

Cake. Fruit. But somehow both and neither at the same time.

The cake that is more of a dense loaf full of what should be healthy ingredients but is masked in sugar and spices and alcohol to the point that no is even sure if they should hate it or love it or mock it for the curious monstrosity that it is. Booze-soaked gluten gluing together colourful lumps of sweet, sticky globules that may be candied nuts or sugary, dried fruits, or mystery orbs summoned from the Christmas dimension to haunt our dreams.

I love weird things, though, and I especially love weird foods. A well-made fruitcake is weird and wonderful and a baking curiosity that often defies logic, reason, and sensible palates.

I have never made a fruitcake.

And it seems like it is one of those deserts where there is really only a short window, sometime around Halloween or early November, when bakers should be thinking about fruitcakes that might be needed for the holiday season, when fruitcakes will be tolerated in small doses for the holiday season, and outside of that short window fruitcakes are just not done.

I thought about making a fruitcake in mid-November. We had just come back from New York and I was pondering my next bit of time off around the holidays and thinking I would like to break out the cookie recipe book and get some serious baking done. Fruitcake popped into my head, because while I do admit fruitcake is not everyone’s jam, if you’ve tried good fruitcake you understand how this concoction has survived the eons of time since that first batch of fruitcake was made… some of which may still survive in your grandparent’s holiday stash.

I thought about making a fruitcake in mid-November, and then I went to the grocery store with a list. Yes, I made it as far as the market with an actual recipe that I’d researched online, suffering through hours of endless recipe scrolling, reading heartfelt, keyword-stuffed stories of precious family Christmas memories vaguely connected to the recipe hidden at the bottom of the page. I found a recipe that had ingredients I thought looked like something I could both find at my local grocery market and which collected together resembled a fruitcake I would enjoy.

I thought about making a fruitcake in mid-November, but then pricing out the ingredients in the store gave me some serious pause. Pause. As in pause, put down the bag of dried apricots and step back slowly and carefully from the merchandise. I mean, we keep a well-stocked kitchen, but the collection of fruits, spices, nuts and booze that I needed for this recipe was creeping up well into the triple digits at the cash register.

For my international readers, some comparisons: locally a 10kg bag of flour is worth about $15 right now, a liter of rum is worth about $30, and a week’s worth of groceries for a modest family of three averages at about $200. My fruitcake was going to set me back over $150 in ingredients. Y’know, like almost a week’s worth of groceries for cake ingredients … and all this for a cake that most everyone was likely going to turn up their noses because of it’s reputation. (You know what I’m talking about.)

I thought about making a fruitcake in mid-November, but I didn’t.

To that end, if you have read through this sad-sack story of fruitcake or merely speed-scrolled to the bottom looking for a recipe here’s the rub: I neither made a cake, nor saved the recipe, nor do I have a happy ending to this tale. I just didn’t do fruitcake in 2022.

Maybe that’s a good thing.

Maybe that one time I had great fruitcake will forever be a magical, weirdo memory untarnished in my mind.

Maybe I would have crushed fruitcake, or maybe fruitcake would have crushed me.

This will not be the year I figure that out.

All that said, next year in 2023 when mid-November rolls around again there is one post I would like to scroll to the bottom of and find a great fruitcake recipe. This one? Maybe? Maybe you have a recipe you can post or link to in the comments. Maybe this could be an amazing fruitcake recipe page afterall? And like all those terrible recipe blogs, we can keep it hidden at the bottom of the page, tucked into the comments for someone to find after scrolling right to the end of the heartfelt story. Maybe.

Local Flours Sours: Duchess Bread (Part One)

You know your family thinks you are slightly obsessed about something when supporting your hobby winds up under the Christmas tree in holiday gift form.

After baking some hundreds of loaves of sourdough the last couple years, I guess my family has noticed my obsession. This year I received a 5kg bag of bread flour under the Christmas tree.

But let me back up…

There is a well-known local French-style bakery in Edmonton called Duchess Bake Shop.

There are now two locations, but for years but one address served a frequently long line up of customers selling pastries and sweets from a building in a gentrified neighbourhood just west of the downtown core.

I’m not really a sweets and confections guy, but I respect a good local bakery, and I’ve stood in my share of queues for a box of goodies from Duchess.

My wife, on the other hand, will line up for a week for the right cookie. And in her quest to locate and single-handedly support all our local bakeries through tough pandemic financial times, she has become well acquainted with the online menus of many of these local establishments.

As it turns out, Duchess not only sells baked goods but also sells baking ingredients, including — that’s right — 5kg bags of their own custom bread flour blend.

Holiday mode now falling behind us as we resume our normal back to the grind lives, I cracked open my Christmas present and prepped my standard sandwich loaf dough with 500g of bakery bread flour blend.

Now details on both the bag and the website are scarce, so I don’t know exactly what makes this flour special or unique in any way. Maybe it’s locally milled. Maybe it’s a unique blend prepared for the French bakery’s secret receipes. Or maybe it’s just flour and it has been bagged for the sole purpose of supporting their charity of choice.

Either way, I’ve got a pair of loaves proofing on the counter and my obsession-meets-gift flour will soon be transformed into some delicious sourdough. It gives a new meaning to “Christmas bread.”

Check back for part two to find out how it turned out!

Merry Christmas

What did you want this year
… and get?

Too much.

As I was wrapping up my work email for the holiday break yesterday, thumbing through my last few messages, a long thank you note rolled in from the president of a company with which my team does a significant amount of business.

It concluded with a bit of an explanation:

“We had thought about sending out our usual gift baskets this year,” he wrote, “ but with the logistics of everyone working from home we decided not to do that.”

”Instead,” he continued, “we have made a large donation to the food bank in the names of all our clients.”

I remember in past years when over the last week before the Christmas break a few big boxes of chocolates or candies would appear and everyone would pick away at them as the last few days wound down to vacation. As much as I know the work I do is appreciated by some, the mundane and behind-the-scenes nature of being a technology professional means a lot of it also goes unnoticed. It’s nice to be appreciated, and a bix box of treats definitely helps.

It’s a weird thing to miss, but then again there a lot of things missing these days, huh?

I hit the reply button and typed something back, thanking him and wishing him a Merry Christmas.

We miss the sweets, but most of us are doing the kind of work we do to make the world a more interesting place, not for the Christmas baskets.

I got too much of the things I thought I wanted this past year, but seeing a simple little gesture like that, as basic and seemling obvious as it is reminded me that what I really wanted this year was for the world to be a little gentler, more caring, and generous to each other.

So, I guess I got a little of that, at least.

Thirty one topics. Thirty one posts. Not exactly a list… but close. In December I like to look back on the year that was. My daily posts in December-ish are themed-ish and may contain spoilers set against the backdrop of some year-end-ish personal exposition.

Salted Toffee Crisps

For the span of a whole weekend in early December it seemed like I couldn’t look on my social media feeds and subscriptions without seeing a recipe for some kind of homemade chocolate toffee bar.

In fact, I saw this (or a variation of this) recipe online on Youtube, Instagram, and Twitter no less than four times before I got curious enough to copy the ingredients into my shopping list and try my hand at baking my own version.

What is your best winter treat recipe this year?

It turns out it was a fast and simple treat with lots of room for variation (particularly in the topping) making it a year round sweet with opportunity for a holiday twist only limited by your imagination in substituting the nuts for candy, sprinkles, or whatever.

Salted Toffee Crisps

150g Crackers (Saltines or Graham)
250ml Butter
250ml Dark Brown
500ml Chocolate, Chips (Semi Sweet)
250ml Chopped Nuts (Cashews or Peanuts)
5ml Sea Salt

While you are preheating the oven to 400F you can line a baking sheet with some parchment and tile out the crackers to completely cover the base of the sheet. The butter and brown sugar go into a saucepan and combine to a boil for a minimum of three minutes. An experienced candy maker is going to jump in here and substitute some exacting time and temperatures for the right crack stage of cooking sugar, but I did this blind without a thermometer (because that’s what the internets promised me would work) and it worked just fine. After the boil, the mixture coats the crackers and the baking sheet goes into the oven for five to six minutes. A dash of salt is followed by spreading the chocolate chips on the hot toffee and smoothing it even as it melts into a decadent coating atop the still-hot candy layer. I topped with chopped peanuts, but online I saw crumbled candy canes, M&Ms and other kinds of nuts, too. Cooled, this cracks or cuts into cookie-sized pieces and (if it lasts longer than a few days) holds up in the freezer for the holidays.


Thirty one topics. Thirty one posts. Not exactly a list… but close. In December I like to look back on the year that was. My daily posts in December-ish are themed-ish and may contain spoilers set against the backdrop of some year-end-ish personal exposition.