I hate two things about Christmas food. I hate fruitcake, which doesn't make me unique, and I hate baking cookies, which makes me Satan.
I'm married to a fruitcake fan. He raved for years about how his mother's fruitcake was different. It wasn't. Like most modern-day fruitcakes, it's a brown cinder block dotted with fruit-like substances the color of a fever dream. She puts whole Brazil nuts in it, so every now and then it feels like you're biting into a fossilized thumb. Merry Christmas!
This year I'm not feeling the holiday spirit. Might as well make Fruitcake Slices from Pillsbury's 1976 Festive Baking for All Seasons
. It's fruitcake in cookie form. I want to wedge myself in the chimney until late March.
Make a basic spice dough with flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, allspice, butter and eggs. You can save yourself the money on the expensive candied fruit and cut your heating costs by spackling your leaky windows and doors with the dough. But if you insist, add chopped nuts, some of that sticky candied fruit crap
and sugared dates.
Dump the sticky dough onto a work surface and marvel at how much it looks like the piles in the back yard after the dog ate pecans and Crayons. It's not quite as festive as the time she ate the one-pound bag of Hershey's Kisses and all over the yard left silver wrappers that shimmered in the moonlight. That level of showiness is best reserved for New Year's Eve.
Roll the dough into a log that looks like a giant turd and refrigerate until firm. Cut into rounds. Top with red and green candied cherries and then bake.
What's missing? The goddamn whiskey, that's what. Alcohol is fruitcake's only redeeming quality.
Christmas is ruined.
As for the cookies, they're fruitcakey enough to satisfy my husband and light enough on the candied junk not to repulse me completely. Dunk them Oreo-style in Jack Daniels -- not just because you need to take the edge off, but because the lack of liquid in the recipe makes the cookies dry as coal. The cherries distract from the dryness with a rubber crunch and a mouthfeel that can come only from a marinade in high-fructose corn syrup.
OK, so maybe they're not as bad as I expected. I ate three -- without whiskey. It's a Christmas miracle.Robin Wheeler writes the blog Poppy Mom and is a regular contributor to Gut Check. After years of making and eating fancy food, Robin is sick of it all. She's returning to the basics: recipes that haven't surfaced in three decades. She reports on the results every Monday.