You guys. I think these might be the best things ever seen on The Desserted Girl. They’re so good that even my wary ‘sugar is bad’ better half said “everything about them is perfect”.
These were super fun to make, time consuming, but really fun. Isn’t that what festive food is all about?
Fruity, sweet, spicy, sugary rum-soaked mince filling a buttery shortcrust pastry. I’m not even a fan of dried fruits and nuts, and I wolfed one down in about 3 seconds flat. Soft and rich, these little pies are oozing Christmas all over the place. People often ask me where I get my recipes from. I tell them the truth; I follow some absolutely amazing bloggers and own some great books that inspire me to tinker around with their creations, suit them to Indian ingredients and taste buds and many times, I find myself writing my own version of the recipe. I realised this is what most bloggers do. It’s kind of like how recipes are passed down generations in a family. Except this is one big generation scattered across the world 🙂
Sometimes though, I find it easier to do a lot of research, get my groundwork sorted, but basically wing it as I go. That’s exactly what happened while making this fruit mince. My head spun with the number of possible versions. Add alcohol while cooking, add alcohol while soaking. To cook or not to cook. To add fresh fruits or not. To use orange zest or lemon zest. To macerate for 3 weeks or 3 days. To use pastry with egg or without. I went quite nuts (hee hee).
And finally realised, fruit mince is basically delicious kinds of ingredients, in some form of alcohol. I started there and went looking for the most common fruits I’d come across during my research. Yes, I actually do call this research 🙂
I then tossed all these in with brown sugar and rum. And then I stared at the bowl. Because beautiful as it smelt, it was way too liquidy and would only get more so as the fruits released their juices. I decided to go with cooking the mixture down. Once cooled, it hardened up a bit as the sugar stuck everything together, so I added a splash of rum for the 2 mornings that the mince stayed soaking. I also soaked apricots and stewed apples separately since I didn’t have all the ingredients on hand at the same time.
This is not to confuse you, mainly to say there is a method to the madness. It just depends on what method you choose to go with 🙂 Lastly, while some of the fruits like the peel, definitely need chopping, I didn’t blitz anything in the food processor. A mince that is almost a paste is not rare, but I think a chunkier one is more attractive and better to really taste what’s in there. The mince (can I still call it that?) is BURSTING with flavours of all kinds. I can’t even begin to explain just how many. And yet, they all work together beautifully. Feel free to alter the ingredients to include your favourite fruits 🙂
Once I had the mince sorted, it was just a matter of ensuring it stayed soft and moist, but not liquidy. Next came the question of what kind of pastry to make. I decided against one with egg in it, simply because I prefer it that way. I thought of going with something like this but then found a recipe that involved no rolling. It’s a simple shortcrust base and though the work involved is almost the same, the stress about rolling out dough is eliminated. My favourite part was of course cutting out these adorable Christmas shapes to top the pies. You can choose to create discs and cover the pies completely, but this is more fun 🙂
You should get 16 pies the size of your average muffin moulds. If you choose to omit the toppers (Please don’t! They’re so cute!) you should get about 18.The proportions for the mince below produce enough to fill 18 pies generously. These little guys take time to put together mainly because individual portions always take longer to make. By all means, make one giant mince pie if you prefer. Get friends and family in and make this a Christmas morning activity. It’s the yummiest way of spreading the cheer 🙂
What you’ll need:
For the fruit mince
100 gms raisins
100 gms dried cranberries
100 gms mixed peel, chopped into small pieces
100 gms glaced cherries, chopped into small pieces
1 medium apple, chopped with the peel on, cooked with 2 tbsps butter and 1 tsp cinnamon till soft and fragrant and cooled
100 gms dried apricots, soaked overnight in 1/4 cup rum and then chopped into small pieces (These can be added to the rest of the mince later too, since they’ve been soaking already)
1 tbsp orange marmalade, optional
1/2 cup rum
A handful of almonds or walnuts, optional
1 tsp lemon/orange zest
For the shortcrust base
225 gms cold butter, cut into cubes
350 gms flour
100 gms caster sugar
What to do:
1. Make the mince by combining all the ingredients in a large bowl (except the lemon zest, almonds and apricots) and stirring well. Tip the mixture into a saucepan and cook on low heat for about 20 to 30 minutes till the liquid has been soaked up and the fruits take on a thick, dark, jammy look. Mash them down as they cook, but don’t worry about chunky bits.
2. Allow the mince to cool and then transfer to a jar to macerate for 2 nights. An airtight jar is not required as long as your are stirring the mince every day. Remember to add the chopped apricots after soaking them whole in rum for one night. It helps to add a tablespoon of the same rum to the mince to keep it soft.
3. When you’re ready to make the pies, tip the mince out into a bowl again and give it a good stir to loosen it up.
4. Make the pastry by rubbing the butter into the flour in a large bowl till the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. This will take about 10 minutes. Add the sugar and mix with your hands till a crumbly dough starts to form. A shapeless form is fine since the dough has no liquid to hold it together.
5. Keep aside about 1/4 of the dough to make the pie toppers. Wrap the rest tightly in clingfilm and chill for 10 to 15 minutes. In the meantime, flatten the remaining dough out with your palms to a thickness of about 0.5 cm and cut out your favourite shapes or simply, discs to top the pies with. Chill these for 10 minutes to make them easier to handle.
6. Very lightly grease 16 muffin moulds or individual pie moulds/tartlet moulds if you have them. Preheat the oven to 180 C.
7. Take the larger amount of dough out of the fridge and form rounds slightly smaller than a golf ball. This size really depends on how big your moulds are. Press the rounds into each mould, flattening and spreading it with your fingertips to line the mould 3/4th of the way because it should be high enough to hold the mince.
8. Fill each mould with about 2 tbsps of the mince and press a pie topper on each. Bake for 20 minutes until the pastry is puffed. Since I don’t like the taste of egg washes, I turned the oven to the broil setting for an additional 10 minutes to get the tops nice and browned. This does not overcook the pastry.
Allow the pies to cool for 10 minutes and then loosen each with a small bendable spatula. Leave to cool on a wire rack and dust with icing sugar if you like. They are pretty phenomenal warm 🙂 Vanilla ice cream would be a great side!