Saturday, November 30, 2013

Fruit mince tarts*

’Twas the month before Christmas, and all through the flat
Not a surface was clean of flour or fat
Pastry and cutters were strewn all around
In the hope that good eating soon would abound

The shortbread was nestled all snug on their trays,
While the oven was hot, as it had been for days.
And I in an apron, with a slogan ironic

Had just settled down for a nice gin and tonic
When into my head popped an unsettling thought,
I sprang to my feet feeling distraught.
Away to the pantry I flew like a flash,
Tore open the doors and spilled out my stash.

I worried I’d find nothing but squishy sultanas,
As appetising as nasty overripe bananas.
When, by what vision my wondering eyes should be lit,
But dark chocolate shavings, cranberries and hazelnut bits.

And crystallised ginger, merjool dates and figs
A small number of raisins, apricots and cinnamon twigs.
Two large granny smith apples, shiny and grated
And candied citrus peel, albeit dated!

Now cardamom! now, nutmeg! now, orange brandy!
on cloves, on brown sugar with a sweetness of candy!
Finally blanched almonds, chopped, toasted and browned!
All tossed from the cupboard and onto the ground.

Then, in a twinkling, I chopped up the fruit
And stirred in mandarin marmalade made by Aunt Jude.
I added the nuts and the apple and mixed it around,
stirred through the chocolate and spices, whole and ground.

I splashed in the brandy, until all was gooey and wet,
And covered with cling wrap to allow it to set.
Then after a week I made more buttered shortbread,
(Although store bought shortcrust would work well instead).
I pressed the pastry to line a small muffin tin,
And filled with the fruit mince up to the brim
And laying atop each a star or stylized tree,
I created some goodies both delicious and twee.

When the last star was fixed, I brushed with egg glaze,
And sprinkled with sugar, then picked up the trays
popped them into the oven, pre-heated and warm,
And sat back to wait for the pies to transform

After twenty five minutes, the timer gave a screaming,
And I pulled out the tarts, golden and gleaming.
After a minute or two, I popped them onto a rack
To cool down and settle before I could snack

As popped my feet up to rest and relax
I heard the sound of a thief scoffing still-too-hot snacks
But I heard him exclaim, that prince of my heart,
"Happy Christmas to all, it’s a bloody great mince tart”.
* clearly a homage to Clement Clarke Moore

Fruit mince tarts

... are an inexact science. Traditionally fruit mince did in fact contain minced lard (creamy pig fat), which made them ridiculously rich and luxurious. It can be hard to source these days, and really, the caloric load of these babies doesn’t need further encouragement.

Approximately 1 kg of dried fruit, in pretty much any combination
For example:
200 gm whole dried cranberries
100 gm raisins
150 gm dried apricots (roughly chopped)
200 gm merjool dates (seeds removed, roughly chopped)
100 gm prunes (roughly chopped)
150 gm dried figs (roughly chopped)
100 gm dried citrus peel
50 gm crystallised ginger
50 gm sultanas
100 gm blanched almonds, toasted in the oven until brown, roughly chopped
100 gm roasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped
100 grams grated or finely chopped very dark chocolate (it’s important for the chocolate to be really bitter to off-set the sweetness of all the fruit)
1 jar of marmalade
125 ml brandy (I use orange brandy, but any will do)
½ cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp ground cardamom
½ tsp ground cloves
2 large green apples, peeled and grated
Mix everything together. The mixture should be sticky and a little bit goopy (it’s very forgiving. A super sloppy mixture makes softer, smoother mince pies, thicker, chunkier mixture makes a denser, crumble pie filling). Leave in the fridge for at least three whole days, and up to two weeks.

After a week ...
Heat oven to 180 degrees celsius.

Line shallow muffin tin with rounds of shortbread mixture or shortcrust pastry. My tins are almost magical in their non-stick-ness, so I don’t line or grease them. Use muffin-tin liners if you’re worried about the pastry cases sticking.

Fill with a heaped tablespoon of fruit mince mixture (or until level the top of the crust). Top with a star (or make a lid, sealed to the case with a bit of egg wash – if you do this, make sure you poke a wee hole in the lid to let the steam escape, otherwise you may end up with exploding pies ...). Brush with egg wash and pop into a moderate over for about 20 to 25 minutes (they’ll smells toasty and buttery, and be golden on top when they’re done). Leave in the tins until almost cool (otherwise the pies might break apart when you try to remove them from the tin).

When completely cool, dust with icing sugar.

Makes approximately 4 dozen mini mince tarts.