We're not talking about the stuff you keep in a bowl on the kitchen counter. Some kinds of fruit aren't going to do you any good in your holiday baking. Bananas, papayas, juicy guava -- these are tasty eaten whole in the summer, but they're not destined for cakes and cookies. Holiday fruit is seasonal fruit, which means you're better off going with the dried stuff. Raisins, apricots, cranberries, cherries, dates, apricots, figs, apples, and currants are all inexpensive, readily available in dried form. Dried fruits complement the spicy, savory flavors in many holiday recipes.
Citrus fruits are also good to keep on hand during the baking season. One secret of good baking is that nearly every recipe will benefit from the presence of orange or lemon zest. Zest, which is the thin layer of color on the outside of the fruit, contains strong concentrations of the aromatic oils that give citrus its scent. In order to collect the zest, run the washed, unpeeled fruit lightly over a small-holed grater. The goal is to scrape only the colored part of the fruit off -- the white part (called the pith) will add bitterness if too much of it gets picked up with the zest. Zest can also be added to melted chocolate to give it some zip.