If you are celebrating – Merry Christmas! Before we let Christmas nostalgia set in, we’ve got one more mouth-watering, deliciously scented recipe to share with you :-)
For us, fruit mince has got to be the quintessential Christmas scent. There must be something magical about the mix of fruit, spices and citrus zest that can make you think of Christmas no matter where you are in the world or what the weather has got in store for you.
Daddy isn’t really fond of sweets, but he loves fruit mince pies, so putting these little delicacies together is always a treat in itself for Mummy and Jerry. Mummy is a relatively recent convert to fruit mince pies and so, since we didn’t have a trusted family recipe to rely on, we’ve relied on one of our most favourite kitchen heroes for his: Rick Stein. In the usual Bistro fashion, we’ve tweaked the recipe a little, but this is inspired by Rick Stein’s fruit mince recipe, as published in delicious.
Be warned – we didn’t skimp on the butter and sugar here, because by definition these should be a rich treat. And they were the perfect excuse to use one of our most recent treasure finds – Myrtleford Butter Factory butter. As some of you may remember from the blog’s beginning days, Chef Gerald is rather fond of butter :-) and never misses an opportunity to sample some. He is usually very picky about the produce that he chooses to sample, but his stringent quality approval criteria seem to be completely put aside when it comes to butter – just put any small piece of the fatty stuff in front of him and he will instantly try to snatch as much as he can before his Mummy hides his treat away.
Mummy, on the other hand, has always been very fussy when it comes to butter and for a long time has been complaining about the fact that it just didn’t taste right, especially when used in cooking. Just as she was beginning to doubt her own taste buds, she went on holiday to Paris earlier this year and discovered that…. French butter was absolutely divine :-) So addictive was the flavour that, upon her return home, she decided to make one exception to the local produce buying policy in the Bistro kitchen and vowed to only use French butter from then on.
You can read the dairy experts’ view here, but in summary, the taste difference is due to the manufacturing process – artisanal style butter is made in relatively small batches, freshly churned from fresh cream and using cultures, whereas industrial scale production uses heat treated cream that’s often been frozen for several months before it makes its way into the butter packet. No wonder it didn’t taste right…
Anyway, our ethical consumer conscience got a lovely boost a few weeks ago when we discovered real butter with a proper flavour made right here in Victoria by the lovely ladies at the Myrtleford Butter Factory. We used liberal amounts in the pastry, which had a lovely flaky, melt-in-the-mouth texture and a beautiful golden colour.
100 g dried cranberries
100 g dried apricots
110 g dried sultanas
100 g dried currants
3 medium sized tart apples, peeled and coarsely grated
80 g almonds, roughly chopped
1 ¼ tsp cinnamon
1 ¼ tsp mixed spice
½ tsp grated nutmeg
Zest from one large lemon and one large orange
120 ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
120 ml freshly squeezed orange juice
2 tbsp sherry
80 g cold butter, diced
100 dark brown sugar
Place all ingredients, except for butter and sugar, in a saucepan over low heat and cook gently for about 10 minutes, until most of the liquid has been absorbed. You will need to stir occasionally.
Remove from heat, allow to cool then refrigerate overnight.
The following day, mix in the butter and sugar, ensuring they have been evenly incorporated. Return to the fridge and keep chilled until needed.
We must admit we still had pastry jitters this time, despite the fact that our recent spelt tart pastry attempt proved highly successful. This is why we decided to make this several days in advance, as this would have allowed us to dash to the shops for some of the trusted Careme sour cream pastry if our home made attempt turned into disaster…
There are a ton of pastry recipes out there – ours is adapted from Gourmet Traveller . For step by step advice on how to avoid a pastry making disaster, we turned to Emma from My Darling Lemon Thyme. Thank you for the great tips, Emma, we wouldn’t have been brave enough to make this without you :-) You can read Emma’s pastry tips here
150 g all purpose flour, sifted
150 g white spelt flour, sifted
60 g cornmeal
200 g frozen butter, grated
1 egg yolk
3 – 4 tbsp cold water
Place a small bowl of water in the freezer for approximately 10 minutes.
Place the flours, butter and egg yolk in a food processor and process until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. With the food processor running on low speed start adding one tablespoon of water at a time, until the pastry mixture comes together in a ball. Ours needed about 4 ½ tbsp of water to reach this stage.
Remove from the food processor, turn onto a lightly floured surface, divide into two and shape each half into a flat disc. Refrigerate overnight, or for at least 2 hours.
When ready to bake, pre heat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius and have two muffin or patty pans ready.
Remove one piece of pastry from the refrigerator, then roll it between two sheets of lightly floured baking paper until about ½ cm thick. Cut out rounds with a cookie cutter, ensuring that they are large enough to form both the base and sides of the pies. You can re-roll the pastry trimmings, however don’t do this too many times as you will overstretch the gluten. If you need to, it’s best to work with a small piece of pastry at a time, keeping the remainder in the fridge.
Repeat this process until you have finished all the pastry, but remember to use about one third of the total pastry quantity for the pie tops – you can cut these into star shapes, or rounds covering the entire pie, or any other shape that takes your fancy :-) It’s Christmas after all, so let you decorative imagination run wild!
Line the muffin holes with the pastry rounds, then fill with about 1 tbsp of fruit mince mixture, level with the back of a spoon or spatula, then top with a star or small pastry round. If using pastry rounds as lids for your pies, remember to pierce them with a fork in the middle to allow steam to escape during the baking process.
Bake for about 20 minutes until the pastry looks crisp and golden – baking times will be shorter if making smaller pies, so remember to check them frequently. Makes 21 muffin size pies.