Sunday, December 23, 2012
Tis the season to be jolly, and in our family to relax the belt a notch. The religiosity of the feast aside, Christmas day, for us, has always been the time when food is abundant, heavenly sweet and spiced aromas float out of the kitchen, the uplifting mixtures flow freely, and the family banter abounds.
This year we are at sixes and sevens with me packing up to emigrate, with little time to spend preparing elaborate recipes. We have been invited to a traditional Polish Christmas celebration with friends, which starts on Christmas eve, is punctuated by Midnight Mass, and continues with celebrations well into the early hours. Then we will have our usual extended family luncheon, this year at my grandparents' house; and then a standing Boxing day feast with our Urban Family.
I haven't had to make a Christmas cake this year, as our recent house guests brought us one of their own magnificent home made masterpieces. But, wanting to feel just a little bit creative on the culinary front, I thought my brother and I should turn our hands to making batches of fruit mince pies...
To start off with One will need ingredients for the sweet short pastry, lots of candied peel, 2 apples, dried fruit and spices, and lashings of brandy (I usually use Grand Marnier orange brandy or Chambord framboise).
For the fruit mince finely chop the apples, glace cherries, candied orange and lemon peel, ginger, currants, sultanas, and any other dried fruit you like. Add to a large mixing bowl. Add spices to taste (I use allspice, cinnamon and nutmeg, with a little mixed spice). Douse liberally with a brandy of your choice. Set aside to imbue.
For the pastry I follow a standard short pastry recipe: 1 cup of plain flour, 75g (2.6oz) of butter, 1/4 cup of fine sugar, 1 egg yolk and a tablespoon of water.
Sift the flour into a bowl and cut in butter until it resembles fine breadcrumb. Stir in sugar, add the egg yolk and the water. Mix into a stiff dough, and then chill for half an hour prior to use. This will make about 400g (4/5 lb) of pastry. One can also add a teaspoon of mixed spice to the ingredients if you wish.
Once chilled, roll your pastry out onto a nice cool surface...
Once it is about 3-4mm thick, use a 7cm cutter to cut as many rounds of pastry as One needs for One's patty pan...
Line your patty pan with the rounds, and prick the pastry well with fork tines, then blind bake in a medium oven for 10 minutes or until lightly baked. (You don't strictly need to blind bake the bottoms, but I find they turn out better and last longer if the bottoms are crisper).
Once the bottoms have been cooked fill the cases with One's fruit mince and cover with more pastry rounds cut with a 6cm cutter. Brushing the edges of the bases with some beaten egg will help the tops to stick to the bottoms, and One can use the left over egg to glaze the tops.
Bake again in a medium-hot oven (Ca. 180C / 350F) for 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove, cool, and dust with icing sugar...
Alternatively you can make a lattice design for the top of the pies or decorate them however you wish. Enjoy with a glass of mulled wine.