When I hear anyone say fruit cake I practically run screaming from the room. I cringe with embarrassment when I remember how many I made for the kids' teachers years ago. No doubt I was the brunt of many fruit cake jokes in the teacher's lounge...all of them trying to figure out how to dump them tactfully. I never liked fruitcake anyway but my mother, bless her heart, thought it was delicious- so she pried a secret family recipe out of her friend Martha Kirby and passed it on to me. I could have told her not to bother but by then she had the recipe and insisted I make it. Let me be blunt: candied fruit now makes my stomach turn over. (That fruitcake recipe's only saving grace: they were soaked in brandy.) Somebody must still make them because candied fruit takes pride of place in the supermarket- starting pretty much now.
On the other hand these dried fruit cookies are wonderful. They're nothing like fruit cake and to remove even the slightest suggestion, I don't use candied cherries, I use dried cherries. The problem with my substitution is you don't get that little bit of vivid red in your cookie. So if you want, replace my dried red cherries with candied red cherries. Won't bother me and that's what was in the original recipe. Keep in mind the dried fruit must soak overnight so plan to make these a day ahead.
This recipe makes a lot of cookies; you roll it into a log and you can keep it in the fridge, slice and bake them as you want. I don't know why you couldn't freeze the dough for maybe up to a month. Then thaw in the fridge overnight before baking. They travel (and ship) really well and keep for quite a while. They're kind of like peanuts though, nibble, nibble all day long.
Dried Fruit Cookies
(Adapted from Ina Garten)
1/2 pound dried figs
1/4 pound raisins
2 ounces dried red cherries
2 ounces dried apricots, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons dry sherry
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
6 ounces chopped pecans
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup superfine sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed 1 extra-large egg
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
Cut off the hard stems of the figs with scissors and coarsely chop the figs. Combine the figs, raisins, cherries, apricots, honey, sherry, lemon juice, pecans, and a pinch of salt. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to sit overnight at room temperature.
In an electric mixer cream the butter, cloves, superfine sugar, and brown sugar on medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the egg and mix until incorporated. With the mixer still on low, slowly add the flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt just until combined.
Add the fruits and nuts, including any liquid in the bowl. Divide the dough in half and place each half on the long edge of a 12 by 18-inch piece of parchment or waxed paper. Roll each half into a log, 1 1/2 to 1 3/4-inch thick, making an 18-inch-long roll. Refrigerate the dough for several hours, or until firm.
Preheat the oven to 350°.
With a small, sharp knife, cut the logs into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Place the slices 1/2-inch apart on ungreased sheet pans and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until lightly golden.