Just as I can not imagine an Easter without hot cross buns, I can not bear the thought of Christmas without fruit mince tarts. Indeed, during the weeks leading up to Christmas, I go in seek of the best and yummiest on offer throughout the bakeries and food stores. I am happy to pay any amount if they give me the intense joyous pleasure that only a fresh tart can give.
In my opinion, the taste and quality are the elements that make up a great tart. The pastry has to be fine and crumbly, and I am not bothered if it completely encases the fruit mince. I am equally pleased with a small decorative pastry topping, such as a star, or a light dusting of icing sugar. The fruit mince needs to be warming, comforting and aromatic. And so, it is crucial to taste good amounts of vine fruit that have had time to drink up Christmas spirit.
250g plain flour
150g butter, chilled
1 egg, chilled
1 tbsp milk, chilled
pinch castor sugar
Blitz all the ingredients in a food processor until it looks like coarse breadcrumbs. Pour the pastry onto a cold, clean work surface. Bring the pastry together into a solid ball without kneading. Put the smooth ball in a clean bowl covered with cling wrap and place in in the fridge for at least an hour. Don’t over work the pastry – be quick and gentle – it will give a more crumbly and finer texture.
Preheat the oven to 180°C
Roll the pastry out on a clean work surface until it is approximately 0.25-0.5cm thick. Use a round cutter (for example, a 68mm) to cut 24 circles to line a small muffin tin, approximately 3cm deep and 5cm diameter. Line each muffin cup with a circle of pasty. Of course you can use any shape tin or tray, just adapt the cutter and quantities to compensate.
Use a small star cutter to cut 24 stars and place them aside until the pastry shells are filled with fruit mince.
250g fruit mince
250g sherry soaked fruit
Combine equal amounts of a good store bought or home made fruit mince with sherry soaked fruit. Use a teaspoon to fill each of the pasty shells. Gently place a star on top of each tart.
Place the tarts in the oven for 25 minutes or until golden brown and the fruit mince is bubbling hot. Don’t worry if the syrupy juice overflows and marks the edges – it makes for a home-made, rustic authenticity.
Remove the tarts from the muffin tray and cool on a cake rack. Dust with plenty of the icing sugar.