"Everyone eats and drinks; yet only few appreciate the taste of food"
What are Chinese Chews? That has been the question in my family home since I was a child. The origins of this "CHEW" is a mystery. You see -there is NOTHING Chinese about them! There is nothing exotic about them . They are just one of those family recipes, that is a tradition on the holiday table.
My mother baked them for every Christmas she was alive. They became a running joke every holiday "Kathy, DID you bake "the chews"? Of course she did. It would not be Christmas with out them. Of course, she baked them..... about one month PRIOR to Christmas and would cover them with tin foil, sitting on a large silver platter. They would be stored in the front foyer of our little house on Linden street in New Jersey. That foyer could get sub-zero with no moisture, so it was a perfect freezer. In fact, all our holiday cookies would be stored there until the 25th of December. If you dared to enter the foyer, you could grab an extra cookie or two prior to the 25th.
My best guess is it is something Italian related because it is a cake studded with dried fruit. Not any fruit, but the awful neon green and red glaceed cherries you find at your local grocer. They are another version of a " FRUITCAKE", more cake than fruit, or a pane tone, more cake than bread. I am assuming they scream CHRISTMAS!..because of the green and red colors.
I have tired several times to change the recipe. I have added other dried fruits, lemon or orange zest, butter instead of shortening. Why Yes, they are made with SHORTENING! Keeps them looking pristine white..like red and green bits sitting in snow. My brother , however, has made it clear he does not like the ALTERATIONS. It does not taste like MOM, or Christmas. The only deviation I have stuck too, is I chopped the cherries in the food processor into smaller bits. My mother would cut the cherries in half, buy hand, (Reminds me of Christmas light peeking out a blanket of snow) Have you ever tried to cut one of those things? They are sticky in all the wrong ways and collapse when you hit them with a sharp knife. This became my job.. every holiday. "cut the chew cherries" Oh and speaking of cutting..they must be diamond shaped, when presented.
Now, they are not as horrid as I am making them sound. They actually taste good. They are a soft dense cake. More a coffee cake than a sweet dessert. I usually eat them for breakfast, or for an afternoon tea snack.
SOOOO without further adieu.............THE CHEWS!
- 1 cup shortening
- 1 3/4 cup white sugar
- 4 whole large eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- pinch baking powder
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts ( toasted or not)
- 2 cups red and green glacee cherries Sliced or chopped
Pre- heat oven to 350 Fdegrees . Butter and Flour, or cooking spray a 9 x 13 inch pan .
- Sift Flour, salt baking powder in a bowl and reserve.
- In a separate bowl, cream shortening and sugar until light, and combined.
- Add eggs one at a time, into sugar/shortening and mix until blended
- Add vanilla to eggs mixture
- Add reserved flour mixture to egg mixture. Mix until batter is combined and smooth
- Add cherries
- Add walnuts
Cutting diamond shapes into a rectangular cake:
- Use a large serrated knife- make sure slices are EVENLY spaced
- cut DIAGONAL slices into the whole cake
- cut HORIZONTAL slices into whole cake
sprinkle with snow ( confectioner's sugar) for serving