Top Secret Fruitcake
Connie Dalton’s mom baked just about everything. So, when Connie was growing up she skipped the Easy-Bake Oven and went straight for the real thing, making cookies and bread. She doesn’t often make more than pies during the holidays because baking is now her full-time job. She spends her days as a development technician in the Harry & David bakery, where you can smell the deliciously sweet things being made from blocks away. I work at one of the buildings nearby and consider this to be one of the daily perks. When Connie started her job some 31 years ago, the bakery was making Baklava, Cinnamon Swirl and Traditional Fruitcake, which are all around to this day. Although a lot has changed since she started, some things have stayed the same. The recipe for the fruitcake is still top secret. It doesn’t get written down, it gets passed down from person to person. I try to get her to pass it on to me, but she says I couldn’t even offer her my first born for it. I’ll have to think of a better bribe. I know she loves Root Beer Float Moose Munch® Popcorn and Hoot-N-Holler Spicy Trail Mix. Connie has developed a lot of recipes over the years, but she’s most proud of the Morning Bread. She digs deep through her recipe files, looking for the award certificate from Cooks Illustrated that it won. It has an orange brandy sauce and somehow Grand Marnier is involved. Yum. They just happen to be making it in the bakery and I can see each cake being frosted by hand. Since they don’t let anybody onto the floor anymore I can’t get as close as I’d like to. It’s probably safer this way since I’d be tempted to sneak a taste. People still tour the bakery and candy kitchen, but they now have to ooh and ah from behind a wall of glass. Connie remembers working on the floor with the tours coming by. A little boy came by one day and she held up the enormous batter vat in front of him, and asked, “do you want to lick the bowl?” She laughs and tells me how his eyes bugged out. You can tell she loves her job, but I ask her if there’s anything that drives her crazy. She tells me how it took 160 rounds to perfect Moose Munch® Popcorn, about the day the chocolate kettle boiled over, and about the trouble with grandmas. All grandmas have a different recipe for pumpkin pie. Connie tells me this is what makes the Deep Dish Pumpkin Pie the most difficult thing they have ever had to develop in the bakery, because trying to get a bunch of people to agree on what the perfect pumpkin pie tastes like is nearly impossible. I say nearly because they eventually came up with a recipe that everyone could agree was as good as grandma would make. Phew. It’s clear that as fun as her job is, there is nothing easy about pie.