Happy 2015! After a warm birthday with my work family, an adventurous Christmas on the beach with my actual family, and a couple quality visits from old friends, I'm feeling invigorated and inspired for this new year. It's hard to believe I've lived in New York City for an entire year now. There has been much to learn -- the struggle that comes with sharing a space with 8 million others, and then also the beautiful opportunities and constant inspiration that comes along too.
Without exaggeration, my favorite part of 2014 was the opportunity to become a regular contributor for Taproot Magazine. A publication I believe in, I've become part of a community of homesteaders, farmers, artists, and whole host of others living fully and digging deeper, and I'm so constantly grateful.
For their latest issue -- Bread-- I was able to create and photograph scenes of December fruitcake and holiday giving to accompany Kirsten Shockey's recipe narrative -- Neighborhood Fruitcakes. I traveled up to my family's cabin in Vermont and had a lot of fun forcing my family into their new career as hand models. They were troopers as I warmed up the woodstove and dug out all the Christmas decorations in the middle of August, and even maintained patience as I made them hold hand poses during the final eating of the fruitcake. These photos are all the more special to me because of their presence within them.
And I have to say, this is actually the best fruitcake I've ever had. I was happy attempt a shift at the perception of fruitcake as a -dreaded gift- to something delicious to share with your friends and neighbors.
recipe by Kirsten Shockey
Makes 6 (5” X 3”) or 2 (9 1⁄2” X 4 3⁄4”) loaves
This recipe does not specify what type of dried fruit to be used for a lot of reasons. One is we all have our favorites, and perhaps more practically dried fruit is expensive and dried cherries cost way more than raisins. The thing is even the humblest of assortment of fruit is delicious. One year we made a combination of just raisins—Golden, Muscat, and Thompson—and it was delicious. Noble dried fruit selections include: apricots, dates, figs, apples, pitted prunes, currants, pears, peaches, cherries, goji berries, golden berries, and raisins. Nuts are also open ended. We don’t recommend peanuts but do recommend walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, or almonds.
3 pounds of dried (not candied) fruit, a combination of your favorites
1⁄2 pound nuts
1⁄2 cup dark rum, or peach brandy
1⁄2 pound butter, room temperature
1⁄2 pound unrefined sugar
2 cups unbleached flour
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground mace
1⁄2 teaspoon ground allspice
1⁄2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
oil for greasing pans, parchment paper
1⁄2 cup milk
1⁄2–1 cup dark rum, or peach brandy to brush on finished loaves
Chop the larger fruit to the size of raisins. Put the fruit, nuts and 1⁄2 cup rum in a large bowl. Stir, cover and allow to rest overnight. The next day preheat oven to 250° F. Cream together the butter and sugar. Stir in the egg yolks (be sure to save the whites). To this add the flour and all of the spices and mix these ingredients to create the dough. Stir in the soaked fruit and nuts. Whip the egg whites until stiff and fold into the firm dough.Oil pans and line with parchment paper. Divide the dough evening into the pans. Brush the tops with milk. The large loaf pans will take about 3 1⁄2 hours to bake. The smaller loaves will take about 2 1⁄2 to 3 hours. Use a toothpick or fork to test the center, when it comes out clean they are ready. Cool on a wire rack for at least 15 minutes before you peel of the parchment paper. Once the loaves are thoroughly cooled, brush each side with rum, or peach brandy. For long storage, soak a clean piece of cheesecloth in rum or brandy and wrap this around your fruitcake. Store in a cool dark place.