Favorite Fruit Mince Tarts
Whilst not quite a meal, but one of my favorite things at Christmas time. There are many a sad and despairing Fruit Mince Tart out there in the world – filled with gum, horrible citrus peel – really, just a memory of their former grand and delicious selves. I like to make a lighter fruit mince and try to make it earlier in the year when apples are in season. For my readers in the Northern Hemisphere, you should have many a delicious apple to choose from. The recipe does make quite a bit, but it will keep in the fridge for ages (I still have some left from last year) and if it’s a bit dry, simply moisten it up with a bit more brandy.
Easy and Light Fruit Mince – Makes 6 cups
300 ml apple juice
250 ml /1 cup apple juice concentrate
1 kg granny smith apples, peeled, cored and finely diced
1 teaspoon mixed spice
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon cinnamon
225gm / 1 ¾ cups seeded raisins, roughly chopped
110gm / ¾ cup currants
125gm/1 cup sultanas
60 gm / 1/3 cup almonds, finely chopped
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
Put all the ingredients except the brandy in a saucepan. Cover and bring to a gentle simmer, then cook for 20 – 50 minutes, allowing the apples to sweat out their juices. Remove the lid and continue to simmer for a further 30 minutes, or until the mixture is thick and the apples have cooked down. I try and mash the apple pieces as I am stirring it. Stir frequently, especially towards the end of cooking.
Remove from heat and allow to cool a little. Stir in the brandy. Keep in the fridge – up to 1 year, or bottle and put through a boiling water bath.
Once made you will need to consider the pastry… this classic rich shortcrust (pate sucree) is one of the most forgiving and easy to do, the difficulty comes with the rolling! If you are one of those that are afraid of making pastry, remember – if the pastry (just like children) catch a whiff of your fear, you’ve had it. No fear.
Rich Shortcrust Pastry (Pate Sucree)
This recipe makes enough pastry to line a 24 x 3.5cm tart tin. If you are making a pie (with a bottom and top), double the quantity. This recipe will make 12 small tartlets.
80gm (1/3 cup) unsalted butter, soft
¼ cup golden castor sugar
1 egg yolk
½ teaspoon natural vanilla extract
1 ¼ cups white/unbleached spelt (cup measure should weigh 130gm at most)
1 – 1 ½ tablespoons water (remember, this tablespoon is 20ml)
Beat the butter and sugar until creamy. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and beat until well combined. Add the flour and water, and beat gently until it begins to come together. It should be firm, but not hard, soft but not moist. Press the dough into a ball, and flatten. Cover well and rest in the fridge for approx 30 minutes. The dough is now ready to use.
When ready to make, pre heat the oven to 190c or 170c if fan forced. Butter the tart tray, and as you can see from the picture above, I cut a couple of thin strips of baking paper and cross them – this makes it so much easier for getting them out when cooked. You can see them in the photo above.
This pastry is best rolled between baking paper, using just a little flour. If your pastry cracks, it’s generally because it is too cold, so just place your hand on it for a minute and it should soften a little. In between each roll, peel off the paper (to break it’s seal) and sprinkle with a little more flour. Roll to 3mm thick. If your pastry becomes too warm, it will become impossible (just like a too tired child), so if you find it becoming too soft, pop it in the fridge or freezer for a minute to firm up. Don’t attempt to cut out pastry rounds to line your tart tin unless it is nice and cold, and not too soft.
Line the tart tins with the pastry, spoon a heaped tablespoon of fruit mince and top with pastry round. Place in the hot oven for 15 mins, then reduce oven to 180c or 165 if fan forced. Cook until lovely and golden – you can see mine are quite yellow, this is from the lovely spring/summer grass the cows and chickens have been eating to make the butter and egg.
When they come out of the oven, let them sit for a couple of minutes to get themselves together, then gently lift them (using the baking paper strips) from the tray. If the fruit mince has oozed out and stuck, you may need to use the tip of a small, sharp knife to cut the seal.
Leave to cool before eating and then store in an air tight container. Save some for Santa.
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