Christmas Tarts – The alternative to a traditional mince pie


IMG_1666I know, I know, it’s not even Christmas, and already you’ve had your fill of mince pies.  Yes, they’re really festive, but after a while you start to appreciate that there’s, well, just too much pastry.  And that mincemeat?  It’s very nice, but this is a special occasion, surely we can add a bit more punch and pizzaz!  Why not try this alternative to the traditional mince pie?  A rich, crumbly sweet pastry, filled with a festive fruity mincemeat filling, crowned with a light frangipane topping.  A sort of festive bakewell tart! This recipe makes 3 dozen – it seems like a lot, but believe me, they’ll be gone before you know it

Makes 36

Ingredients

For the Sweet Pastry:

  • 350g Plain Flour
  • 125g cold Butter, cubed
  • 125g Orange Sugar** (or use Castor Sugar)
  • 2 whole eggs plus 1 extra yolk
  • A little cold water

For the Filling:

  • 1 * 400g jar of good quality Mincemeat
  • 30g Dried Cranberries
  • zest of 1 Clementine, grated
  • 2 tbsp Sloe Gin (or alternative festive spirit)

For the Frangipane topping:

  • 250g Butter
  • 250g Castor Sugar
  • 250g Ground Almonds
  • 50g Plain Flour
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • ½ tsp Almond Extract
  • 1 tbsp Cream Sherry
  • 3 Eggs

Method

  • In a food processor, blitz the cold butter and flour briefly.  Eventually you want a fine crumb, but you don’t want to overwork it at this stage.  Stop when you can still see small bits of butter
  • Add the sugar and pulse for another few seconds
  • Add the eggs & extra yolk a,d pulse again.  If it doesn’t start to bind together add a few drops of cold water and pulse again
  • The dough is ready when it can be pressed together and hold without being sticky.  Tip the crumbs out onto a clean counter and briefly work into a solid lump – do not over handle or get the dough too warm
  • Shape into a flat rectangle, wrap in cling film an refrigerate for at least 30 minutes
  • Meanwhile, prepare the filling by mixing the mincemeat, cranberries, clementine zest and gin together in a small bowl and set aside
  • Prepare the frangipane topping in the same food processor bowl used to make the pastry – no need to clean out
  • Add the butter and sugar and blitz to a paste to soften.  Add the ground almonds and flour and pulse for a few seconds to  mix well.  Scrape down the sides if necessary
  • Add the remaining ingredients and pulse to a smooth paste, again, scarping down the sides of the bowl as necessary
  • Transfer the paste into a piping bag (optional) with a wide nozzle – this seems like a faff but makes the topping much easier to apply
  • When the pastry has chilled, roll out on a lightly floured surface until very thin.  Cut 36 rounds to line a jam tart tin
  • Put a teaspoon full of filling into each pastry case.  Do not be tempted to overfill – you don’t need very much!
  • Pipe the frangipane topping over the filling, bearing in mind it will spread when cooking
  • Bake in a preheated oven (170oC Fan) for about 25 minutes. When cooked the tarts will be a rich, even brown colour.  The sugar in the pastry means it will look darker than usual – this is OK
  • Allow to stand in the trays for a couple of minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool.  If the filling has leaked or the frangipane spread, you may need to use a palette knife to encourage them out
  • Decorate with a dusting of icing sugar
  • Eat warm or cold – enjoy with a nice glass of home made sloe gin!

** When I make my own candied peel, I’m left with a rich, orange flavoured sugar syrup which is effective a waste by product.  I let this set, smash it up and store it to use where an orange infused sugar would add a bit of interest

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