Fruit, Dried and Candied

Appears in

Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafes of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague

Kaffeehaus

By Rick Rodgers

Published 2002

Raisins, golden raisins, and currants are used profusely in the Austro-Hungarian kitchen. Dried fruit should be plump and soft; stale, hard fruit will lack flavor, even if it is softened by soaking in a liquid, as most recipes require. The soaking step is to infuse the fruit with flavor, not to cover up any staleness. The best place to buy dried fruit is natural food stores, where it is visible in large storage bins or plastic containers, as you want to check it for any signs of dryness or crystallization. Store dried fruit in a tightly covered container in a cool, dark place.

The most common dark raisin is the seedless Thompson, and it will certainly do. But for special-occasion baking, look for especially plump and flavorful Monukka raisins, available at many natural food stores or in the self-service bins at large supermarkets. Both raisins are processed from green grapes, which darken during the drying process. Dark raisins can pose a problem in batters—if they touch the cake’s hot metal pan during baking, they have a tendency to burn. For this reason (as well as for their availability and a simple preference for their color), golden raisins are often preferred by many central European bakers. American golden raisins are also Thompson grapes, treated with sulfites to retain their color during drying. While some bakers generically refer to all golden raisins as Sultanas, these are made from a particular Turkish grape, and are usually imported. Dried currants are a misnomer; they are not dried fresh currants, but tiny Corinth grapes, from whence they get their name (they are also called Zante currants).

Candied fruit is also a popular flavoring in cakes and yeast breads. Candied cherries, orange and lemon peel, and citron (a large, hard lemonlike citrus whose skin candies well) have a bad reputation in our country, thanks to mediocre commercial holiday fruitcakes, which tend to be made from hard, flavorless candied fruit. For moist, tasty candied fruit, with a minimum of preservatives and natural colors, look online for sources that carry the imported versions.

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