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Christmas and fruitcake seem inseparable. Some people love fruitcake, and others loathe the hefty loaves of candied fruit and nut-laden cake. The best fruitcakes feature just enough batter to hold the mixture together, and a lengthy soak in rum never hurts either.

Some years ago, Claudia Schorzman of Spokane Valley shared her recipe for Mincemeat Fruit Cake, a somewhat lighter version, baked in wide mouth pint jars. The presentation makes delightful Christmas gifts.

Mincemeat Fruit Cake

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

2 eggs, slightly beaten

1 jar (28 ounces) mincemeat

1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk

1 cup chopped walnuts

1 package (16 ounces) glazed mixed fruit

2 packages (8 ounces each) chopped dates

7 wide mouth, straight sided pint jars with rings and fresh lids

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Grease the pint jars and set aside.

In a medium size bowl combine flour and baking soda and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl combine eggs, mincemeat and sweetened condensed milk. Stir until well blended. Add flour mixture and gently stir until just combined. Fold in walnuts, fruit and dates just until fruit is coated with batter.

Spoon mixture into prepared jars, filling to about one half full. Wipe rims clean of batter with a clean damp cloth. Place jars on baking sheet and put in preheated oven. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. About 10 minutes before cakes are done, heat lids and rings in warm water over medium low heat. When cakes are done, cap immediately with lids and rings and screw rings on tightly. The jars will seal as they cool.

When fruitcakes are completely cool, add a bow or decorative lid cover for festive gifts.

Note: pecans or other nuts maybe substituted as well as other kinds of glazed fruits. My personal favorite is a mixture of candied cherries and pineapple.

Another little trick with fruitcake, is to bake the batter in cupcake liner filled muffin tins. Use holiday colored papers for a festive presentation of bite size fruitcakes.

Place about 2 tablespoons fruit filled batter in each cup and bake about 20 minutes at 300-325 degrees. Cool completely and store in airtight containers. Spoon about 1/4 tsp rum over each cupcake before storing if you like.

To rum soaked loaf shaped fruitcakes, soak a large piece of cheese cloth in rum. Wrap loaf in soaked cheesecloth and store in an airtight container. Make the cakes soon, as at least three weeks are required for a thorough rum soak.

Yeast breads make nice gifts and Pull-apart Citrus Rolls are a refreshing flavor among the heavier Christmas treats. They freeze well, so may be made ahead of time.

Pull-apart Citrus Rolls

1 large orange

1 medium-sized lemon

1 tsp salt

1 tsp ground cardamom

2 packages active dry yeast

5 1/2 to 6 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup butter or margarine, divided

2 eggs

Grate zest from orange, squeeze juice from orange. Add water to orange juice to measure 1 1/4 cups liquid. Grate enough zest from lemon to measure 1 1/2 teaspoons.

In large bowl, combine salt, cardamom, yeast, 1 1/2 cups flour and sugar. In a 1-quart saucepan over low heat, combine orange juice mixture and 4 tablespoons butter, heat until very warm (120-130 degrees).

With mixer at low speed, gradually beat liquid and zests into dry ingredients just until blended. Increase speed to medium; beat 2 minutes, occasionally scraping bowl with spatula. Beat in eggs and 1 cup flour to make a thick batter; continue beating 2 minutes more, scraping the bowl often. With wooden spoon, stir in 2 1/2 cups flour to make a soft dough.

Turn dough onto floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes, working in more flour (about 1/2 cup) while kneading. Shape dough into a ball; cover with bowl and let rest 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in small saucepan over low heat, melt 1 tablespoon butter. Grease 2, 10-inch round springform pans.

Cut dough into 36 pieces and shape into balls. Place balls in prepared pans in a single layer. Brush with melted butter. Cover with a clean towel and let rise in warm place away from drafts, until doubled in bulk, about 30-40 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake 35-40 minutes until browned and rolls sound hollow when tapped with your finger. Cool rolls in pan on wire rack 5 minutes; remove sides of springform pans and cool rolls completely.

Note: if you prefer a glazed rolls, juice the lemon and mix in powdered sugar until desired consistency to drizzle or spread on cooled rolls.

Cheese Squash Rolls are clover leaf shaped rolls ideal for gifts or an addition to holiday meals. Canned pumpkin may be used if you don’t have winter squash on hand.

Cheese Squash Rolls

2 Tbsp granulated sugar

1/4 cup warm water (110-115 degrees)

1 package active dry yeast

1 cup warm milk

4 tbsp butter, divided

1 tsp salt

1 cup cooked, mashed win- ter squash

3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

4 to 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Sesame seeds (optional)

In a large mixing bowl, dissolve sugar in warm water. Sprinkle yeast over the water and stir gently. Let stand until light and foamy. Stir in milk, 3 tablespoons butter, salt, squash and cheese. Add enough flour toform a soft dough.

Turn out onto lightly floured surface; knead until dough is no longer sticky, about 5 minutes. Form into a ball and place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about one hour.

Meanwhile, lightly grease 24 muffin cups. Punch down dough. Break off small pieces and roll into 1 inch balls. Put 3 balls in each muffin cup. Let rise about 30 minutes. Bake at 375 degrees, 16 to 18 minutes.

Serve immediately or cool on wire racks and store in air tight containers.

Share your favorite recipes by sending them to: Welcome to My Kitchen, c/o The Odessa Record, P.O. Box 458, Odessa WA 99159, send emails to: therecord@odessao or drop them in the Welcome to My Kitchen mail tin in The Odessa Record office. Keep fresh trees watered.


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