Candied Fruit: For Fruitcakes Only?

Candied fruit isn't just for fruitcakes anymore. This sweet, colorful mixture is ideal in a number of delicious recipes, from ice cream to Jell-O molds.

When we think of candied fruit, the first thing that springs to mind is fruitcake. There are, in fact, a number of other recipes that employ these tasty little Christmas jewels. From ice cream to Jell-O molds, this holiday staple has a legitimate place in the annals of cooking and offers as much in the way of aesthetics as it does in flavor. If you're among those who have learned to appreciate these colorful yuletide baubles, here are some suggestions for integrating them into your menu - with nary a fruitcake in sight. Recipes for these items can be found through online searches (using titles as keywords) or in various cookbooks.

FRUIT JEWEL COOKIES

The name speaks for itself - these cookies are positively gorgeous and will excite the palate with their combination of nutmeg, brown sugar, vanilla extract, nuts and candied fruits, cherries and peels. Easy to make and quick to bake, these cookies can be given as gifts for the holiday, offered as a party dessert, or just enjoyed with family and friends throughout the year. The only drawback to this exciting recipe is that it can be costly, due to the number of ingredients and the three types of candied fruits. If this doesn't pose an economic issue for you, however, this recipe is well worth the expense.

HOLIDAY FRUIT AND NUT MOLD

Brighten your holiday table with this spectacular Jell-O mold that combines a number of tasty ingredients with which to tempt the palate. A blend of Jell-O gelatin (any flavor will do!), ginger ale, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, dried mixed fruit, raisins, chopped nuts and candied cherries come together for a burst of flavor that's unparalleled as a light yuletide dessert. The prep time is only about 20 minutes, but it will need to be chilled for approximately four hours, so this is something that's best prepared the night before it's scheduled to be served. Since this travels well, due to its firmness, the Holiday Fruit and Nut Mold makes a nice dish to bring along as a contribution to a Christmas celebration that's outside of the home.



CHRISTMAS CANDY

This is truly a holiday confection, resembling brightly colored ornaments in the snow. Everything about this yuletide treat is positive, from the ease in which it's made, to the taste, to the visual presentation. The combination of white chocolate almond bark, candied green and red cherries, pineapple and walnuts makes this the perfect dish for the dessert table during the Christmas season. A box or tin of this, lined with seasonal tissue paper, is an ideal gift or food swap item. Wrapped in translucent cellophane and tied off with a ribbon, this would be ideal for hanging on a Christmas tree that utilizes edible ornaments.

HOLIDAY FRUIT BUNDLES

These fruity delectables are reminiscent of turnovers, in that a flaky pastry crust surrounds the bubbling fruit filling and is topped with a drizzle of mouthwatering vanilla glaze. This recipe partners refrigerated crescent rolls (of the tube variety) with brown sugar, cinnamon, almond extract, cream cheese, raisins, nuts, mixed candied fruit and candied cherries in a way that will entice even the most hardened candied fruit skeptics. After the ingredients are blended, the crescent rolls are laid out and filled with the fruity mixture, then shaped into a ball and baked. After they're finished and have cooled a bit, a sweet, light glaze is applied and are then garnished with candied cherries. These little treasures can be served warm or cold, but are irresistible when fresh from the oven.

PLUM PUDDING ICE CREAM

For a truly unique dessert, serve Plum Pudding Ice Cream to your holiday guests this season. Standard store-bought ice cream can be transformed into a luscious yuletide treat when it's dressed up with a few Christmas tidbits. This creation calls for vanilla ice cream, candied pineapple, candied cherries - of both the green and red varieties - blanched almonds, macaroon crumbs and either brandy or sherry (depending upon your preference). After blending the ingredients and refreezing, the result will be a marvelous gourmet ice cream that's just perfect for the season. Very little prep time is involved, but it can be a bit costly, considering the types of ingredients that are added to the ice cream foundation.

NESSELRODE PIE

For a festive holiday dessert that provides a beautiful complement to any dessert table, try your hand at Nesselrode Pie. Gelatin, sugar, rum, grated lemon peel, candied fruit, butter and sugar are some of the ingredients that team up to create a mouthwatering filling, surrounded by graham cracker crust. Candied fruit plays the dual role of filling ingredient and garnish, giving the impression of a fluffy, snowy pie that's dotted with Christmas ornaments. There are several steps to creating such a dessert, but the result will be well worth the effort. Since this is generally served as a chilled dessert, you'll need to place it on the table immediately before being served or create the type of presentation that will allow you to keep it on ice during your holiday gathering.

STOLLEN

Stollen is a buttery, fruit-filled pastry that, when made well, is a work of art. Often used at holiday time, this luscious dessert combines dark raisins, candied fruit, chopped citron, currants, dark rum, sugar, butter and almonds - as well as a few standard baking ingredients - to provide a holiday festival for the palate. A light dusting of confectioner's sugar on the finished product makes the presentation complete, and adds an extra bit of sweetness to an already delightful dessert. While many folks serve Stollen as a cold dish, it's also quite tasty when heated. The trick is to heat it before dusting it with the confectioner's sugar, and not to make it so hot that it compromises the sugar's consistency. The taste is best when it's served warm, rather than hot.

DIVINITY

This classic confection is as delightful to behold as it is to eat, when candied fruit is substituted for the more traditional pecan ingredient. Sugar, light corn syrup, water, egg whites, vanilla and candied fruit come together to provide a light, fluffy candy that can be given as a gift, included on a holiday party table or simply served to family, friends and visitors. In the same fashion as other homemade candies, you'll need to use a candy thermometer in order to ensure that the finished product is of the proper consistency - or you can use the "hard ball" test, but that can often be deceiving. Divinity can be a bit time-consuming to create, but is actually fairly simple to put together.

The uses of candied fruit are really quite varied and are often one of the staples of the Christmas season. For those of you who prefer to make your own candied fruit, there are a number of delicious recipes that are available online.

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