Fruitcakes with Meringue Mushrooms - Once baked, they are blanketed with billowy frosting and topped with another familiar holiday treat, meringue mushrooms. In place of the apricots, figs, and dates used here, you may substitute other fruits, such as dried pineapple or candied citrus peel. Just be sure to purchase good-quality fruits from a store with a high turnover (avoid supermarket varieties sold as “mixed candied fruit”) and use kitchen shears to cut the fruit into uniform pieces.
4 ounces dried apricots, cut into ¼-inch pieces (½ cup plus 2 tablespoons)
4 ounces dried figs, stemmed and cut into ¼-inch pieces (½ cup plus 2 tablespoons)
4 ounces plump, moist dates, preferably Medjool, pitted and cut into ¼-inch pieces (scant 1 cup)
1/4 cup hazelnut-flavored liqueur, such as Frangelico, or brandy
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup packed light-brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons honey
1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup hazelnuts (about 4 ounces), toasted and skinned, then coarsely chopped
Cocoa powder, for dusting
1. Preheat oven to 300°F. Line a standard muffin tin with paper liners. Toss apricots, figs, and dates in a bowl with the liqueur. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
2. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter and both sugars until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated and scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in honey and vanilla. Add flour mixture, and beat until just combined. Fold in fruit mixture and hazelnuts by hand.
3. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tin halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 30 minutes (if cupcakes start to brown too quickly, tent loosely with foil). Transfer tin to a wire rack to cool completely before removing cupcakes.
4. To finish, use an offset spatula to spread cupcakes with frosting. Dust meringue mushrooms with cocoa and place on top of cupcakes just before serving.
MERINGUE MUSHROOMS MAKES ENOUGH FOR 12 CUPCAKES
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
3 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped
1. Preheat oven to 200°F. Line rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Transfer Swiss meringue to a pastry bag fitted with a small plain tip (#6). For caps, pipe dome shapes in various sizes, from ½ to 1 inch in diameter (the ones shown are larger), onto prepared baking sheets. Flatten tips with a damp finger. Pipe stems onto baking sheets, releasing pressure halfway and pulling up to form a peak. Make one stem for each cap.
2. Bake the meringue shapes 1 hour, rotating baking sheets halfway through; reduce oven temperature to 175°F. Continue baking until meringue is completely dry to the
touch but not taking on any color, 45 to 60 minutes more.
3. Melt bittersweet chocolate in a small heatproof bowl set over (not in) a pan of simmering water, stirring occasionally. Using a small offset spatula, spread bottoms of cooled caps with a thin layer of melted bittersweet chocolate, and let set. Melt white chocolate in another heatproof bowl set over (not in) a pan of simmering water. Let cool, stirring, until thickened, then spread over dark chocolate. Use a toothpick to draw lines through the chocolate from center to edge of caps to mimic gills; let set.
4. Using a paring knife, make a small hole in center of each coated cap. Dip one end of each stem in remaining white chocolate, and insert into a hole; let set. Store
mushrooms up to 1 week in airtight containers, and keep in a cool, dry place.
|Fruitcakes with Meringue Mushrooms|