December is a funny time of year, isn’t it? The want for festivities and cheer is high, but end-of-year fatigue is also very real. I do find, however, that a spot of Christmas baking usually does the trick – tipping the pendulum firmly in favour of cheerfulness (and maybe overindulgence).
Fruit mince pies are one of the items on my mandatory Christmas cook-list (along with gingerbread and meringues) – my mum always makes them in the days leading up to Christmas and it is a tradition I have adopted also. Homemade fruit mince really does make them special, but if you’re pressed for time, a good quality bought one will do nicely. Mum always makes some with tinned apple too (on account of my brother not being a fan of fruit mince), and my kids rather like them with jam instead of mince. I like mine with a layer of frangipane between the pastry and fruit.
360g good quality fruit mince (store bought or homemade, recipe below)
1 large sheet sweet shortcrust pastry (store bought or homemade, I use Carême)
1 quantity frangipane (recipe below)
1 egg, lightly beaten for egg wash
Caster sugar to sprinkle
60g unsalted butter, softened
60g caster sugar
½ tsp vanilla bean paste
80g almond meal
1 tbsp plain flour
To make frangipane, place butter, caster sugar, vanilla, egg, and almond meal in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until fluffy. Add flour and stir gently. Set aside.
(makes approx. 1.1kg, enough for 3 batches of pies)
200g pitted prunes, chopped
200g dried sour cherries
100g dried apricots, chopped
2 tbsp marmalade
110g brown sugar
125ml strongly brewed tea
125ml fortified wine or Pedro Ximénez, warmed
1 large apple, grated
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp Christmas spice (or a mix of allspice, ginger, nutmeg)
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
40g melted butter
To make fruit mince, combine dried fruit, marmalade and sugar in a large bowl. Pour over hot tea and warmed wine. Allow mixture to cool before stirring in grated apple, spices and melted butter.
Transfer to a sterilized jar or container and store in the fridge for at least 24 hours, or up to 3 weeks before using.
Preheat oven to 180°C (fan-forced) and get 2 x 12 hole patty pan tins out ready (these are the small rounded, shallow tins for old-fashioned patty cakes).
To make pies, use a scone cutter that is slightly bigger than your patty-pan holes to cut out 24 rounds from your pastry sheet. Place one pastry round into the base of each patty pan hole (you can, of course, do this in two batches if you only have one tray). Place trays in the fridge to chill whilst you re-roll the pastry scraps and cut out 24 stars to go on top of the pies.
Remove pastry bases from the fridge and place a teaspoon of frangipane in each. Top with a teaspoon of fruit mince and then gently place a pastry star on top. Brush stars with egg wash and sprinkle with a little extra caster sugar.
Place in the oven to cook for 15-18 minutes, or until pastry is golden and fruit mince is bubbling. Allow pies to cool in the tins for a couple of minutes before removing and cooling on a wire rack (you want to take the pies out of their tins before any sugar or fruit mince spills cool and cement them to the tin!).
These are best eaten the day they are baked, but keep quite happily in a tin at room temperature for a day or two (ours never last that long!).