Thursday, December 7, 2017

Christmas Fruitcake

'Tis the season to partake of fruitcake.  Fruitcakes have been around for millennia, and they have developed throughout the centuries based on what was available and what was allowed by religion.  Countries around the world are known for their own distinct versions of this holiday sweet.  Panforte in Italy, Birnebrot in Switzerland, Stollen in Germany, Le Cake in France, Bollo de Higo in Spain, Christmas Cake in Canada, Black Cakes from the Caribbean, and our very own American Fruitcake which is rich in nuts, candied fruits, brandy or other liqueurs.


My very first memories of fruitcake were from the time I was around five years old.  My father's cousin, Rachel, and her son would bring us homemade fruitcake several weeks before Christmas, and although us kids never ate any, mom and dad loved having it.  I can still see my cousin Peter walking up our driveway holding that small loaf of baked-from-scratch fruitcake.  The thing that seemed odd to me, though, was how our cousin would only give us half of a large loaf.  I suppose cousin Rachel thought it was more economical and best to hand out cake halves to the family.  Who knows?


During winter I crave a slice of fruitcake, but as much as I vow to make my own every Christmas, I never seem to make the time for it.  It's my fault, really.  

To get the craving out of my system this year, I decided to try a fruitcake that several of my friends recommended.  The fruitcake from Wendy Kromer Confections is really good!  Made with butter,  sugar, eggs and flour, each cake is packed with scrumptious raisins, walnuts, pecans, cranberries, glace├ęd cherries, figs, molasses, allspice and bourbon.  I have to say that the addition of dried figs seem to make these extra tasty.

In my opinion, rich fruitcakes don't require any embellishments.  They are best served as is and in small slices.  A cup of tea is always nice though with a helping of fruitcake, but so is coffee.  

Wendy Kromer's Fruitcakes

If you're ambitious enough to bake your own fruitcakes every winter and perhaps would like to try a new recipe handed down through the generations, I highly recommend that you bake my friend Andrew's.  His recipe for Christmas Cake has been in the family for almost one hundred years.  It gets baked every single winter by the Ritchies, who have made it a tradition to involve the entire family when mixing the batter.  Each family member adds an ingredient to the bowl, giving it a good stir, and then makes a special Christmas wish before the cakes are baked in the oven.  It's a time honored practice for the family.


Here is the original, handwritten copy of that delicious recipe.  As you can see, it has been used quite a bit by members of Andrew's family.


This dark, rich cake is studded with fruits and nuts.  Click here to get the recipe.




I hope that many of you have a bit of fruitcake this Christmas season.  As much as one can joke about these desserts, they really are delicious if made with great care and quality ingredients.  You may end up making your own fruitcakes this year or being the recipient of one, so remember to give them a special place on your holiday dessert table.  Enjoy!

Thursday, November 23, 2017

My Thanksgiving Table in 2017

I want to show you our Thanksgiving table before we sit down to dinner in a few hours.  This year is all about setting a table with earth tones that connote the season's best colors.  I love gold, black, caramel, deep yellows and and creamy taupes.  With that in mind, I took out a good Wedgwood pattern that gets used a lot here at home, and then I complemented it with a golden-colored linen tablecloth, some black linen napkins and mismatched bakelite.  The glassware was etched Depression glass.

I love the simplicity of our table.


This is an overview of the table looking toward the kitchen.  The sheaves of wheat centerpiece was surrounded by a flock of caramel glass, L.E. Smith turkeys.  These are going to be used to hold cranberry sauce for guests.


The flatware is vintage and not-so-vintage bakelite.  I didn't want to set the table with silver this year, so I completed a mismatched place setting for each guest.


The wine glasses are quite old, and I absolutely love them because they are beautifully etched with some gilding.  The pink Depression glass tumblers are also etched.  My dinnerware is Wedgwood drabware made for the former Martha by Mail catalog.  I love the gilded plates.  Water will be placed in the drabware pitchers at each end of the table.


Do you see what I mean about the beauty of the glassware?


Each guest gets a salad and dinner fork, along with a spoon and dinner knife. The black napkins, as well as the wheat-colored tablecloth, are double hemstitched European linen.  As I said earlier, the dinner plate, the salad plate and the saucer (used for rolls) are all from the same pattern of Wedgwood.


Rather than having individual salt cellars, I used silver salt and pepper mills and shakers at each end of the table.  On this end, I have a set of Chiarugi silver salt and pepper mills made exclusively for Martha by Mail.


On the other end, I have silver salt and pepper shakers made for Williams-Sonoma.


A quick overview of our Thanksgiving table.
I hope all of you have a delicious dinner
and are surrounded by good company.


From my home to yours, Happy Thanksgiving! 

Happy Thanksgiving!


Happy Thanksgiving to every one of you celebrating the holiday!  I wish you good health, plenty to eat and a warm home filled with friends and family. 

I am giving thanks for the love that our Lion gave us for the eighteen years that we had him in our lives, for having rescued baby Henry Aloysius and given him a good home, for being surrounded with good friends, and for having a loving family.  

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Sheaves of Wheat Centerpiece

Every Thanksgiving table should have a centerpiece, whether it be fresh flowers, a cornucopia of fruits and nuts, or a crafted arrangement of seasonal items.  I have been wanting to make a simple centerpiece using sheaves of wheat, and this year was the perfect time to do so.  Nothing could be easier than tying up a bundle of wheat for an earthy table arrangement.


Preserved wheat bundles can be purchased from many different sources.  The stalks lend themselves to so many uses for table settings, and if you want to get really crafty, you can even make a giant wreath.

If you buy a small sheaf, the bundle can quickly be assembled into a festive centerpiece for Thanksgiving.  You can, however, break up the bunch and make many smaller sheaves for individual place settings, or to place down the length of your dining table.


These beautifully preserved wheat stalks sitting next to my collection of Martha by Mail caramel glass are ready for assembling.  Depending on the length of the stalks that you buy, you may need to trim them down to have them sit on the table.

Use a sharp set of pruning shears for this project, and make sure that you have plenty of table space.  Once you begin cutting, you will have a shower of wheat grains and stalks all over your table, so have a small dust pan and brush handy.


Stack and arrange the sheaves into a nice bundle, and with some waxed linen thread, floral wire or even a rubber band, bunch and twist the stalks into a very tight bundle.  Tie well and secure the arrangement.  

Using the sharp pruning shears, trim the bottom of the bundle until you have a length suitable for your table.  The bunch shouldn't be taller than the tallest guest seated at your table.  At eye level, while seated, is perfect.


It's up to you how you want to finish the centerpiece, but if you happen to have some thick satin ribbon in an earth tone, use it.  I love glossy, chocolate-brown ribbon for Fall decor.



Tie a simple knot around the bundle and you are done!  There is no need to do a bow.



How easy was this?  The nice thing about this kind of arrangement is that you can reuse it again next year for your table or you can place the arrangement on a coffee table, a mantle or even a console in the hallway throughout the year. You can even surprise a host or hostess with one of these if you are attending a Thanksgiving dinner elsewhere.

Cheers!