Ahh, yes, Christmas is almost here. You may be mistaken for thinking that I was taking an anti-Christmas stance, what with the distinct lack of Christmas themed posts on this here blog. Although I haven’t exactly been prancing around the streets draped in tinsel and merrily singing Feliz Navidad, I’m no scrooge and my non-festiveness has merely been a matter of wedding fever having taken over most aspects of my life. I’m normally one of those annoying people who has their presents bought, if not also wrapped, with at least a few weeks to spare before the big day. This was definitely the case last year, as I had to have all the presents posted off to Australia from Canada with plenty of time to spare in case Quarantine took their sweet time rifling through the souvenir t-shirts, Turtles chocolates and zany (or possibly whacky or kooky, I can’t quite recall) Japanese toys.
Now, although my present shopping is still not quite finished, I got my priorities right and my Christmas gift baking has been taken care of. Following the disorganised theme of my life right now, I was sitting on my couch watching Futurama on Wednesday night, relaxing after a particularly plankt-tastic day at uni, and I suddenly realised that my half-formed plan to take baked treats into uni on Friday was not going to happen unless I actually baked things on Thursday. A revelation, I know. This thought was then followed (at a leisurely pace) by the realisation that if I was going to make some sort of fruit mince something then I would need to start preparing the fruit mince on Wednesday night. I mulled this thought over for a while before it struck me that it actually was Wednesday night.
I then realised that I had no brandy in the house, although I did have a fine collection of dried fruits due to the Christmas pudding that I had somehow found time to make the previous week (post to come!), so I got a little creative and came up with the fruit mince recipe you’ll find below. I used these dried fruits because it’s what I had in the pantry, and the quantities are purely what I thought seemed like a good idea at the time. I wanted to add some lemon and orange zest but was too lazy to zest a lemon and didn’t have any oranges in the house so I thought I’d kill two turkeys with one axe and use Grand Marnier instead of the brandy I didn’t have.
(Thursday morning I was feeling somewhat more energetic so I zested a lemon and went and bought some oranges, which explains how I magically have orange juice in the recipe even though I didn’t have oranges in the house.)
Before I discuss the recipe and resulting morsels, I feel inclined to say something about the whole “mincemeat” thing. I am quite sure that referring to fruit mince as “mincemeat” was thought up by scheming adults trying to trick kids into thinking that fruit mince pies were actually boring old meat pies. Luckily my family has always called them “fruit mince pies”, so I was never fooled by this dastardly scheme, although come to think of it I never actually liked fruit mince pies when I was younger anyway and would probably have been happier with a meat pie. Apparently, according to Wikipedia anyway, “mincemeat” did actually used to contain meat, and still often contains meat and/or uses beef suet as the fat, but I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn that my fat of choice is a different cow product.
So, this recipe was a bit of a gamble seeing as I was making things up as I went along, with a head full of plankton and Futurama, but they worked out really well! The shortbread is nice and short, the fruit mince has a good tang from the Grand Marnier and the two work well together. A great combination, and I’ve had good reports back from those I’ve gifted these to. The only thing I don’t like about them is that they are lacking the nice stars of the fruit mince pies I made last year (pastry base and little pastry star on top) but this was also their blessing as it meant I didn’t have to cut out 60 stars.
Speaking of cutting out piles o’ stars, more Xmas gift recipes to follow!
70 g dates
70 g raisins
30 g golden sultanas
50g dried apricots
45 g glace cherries
50 g prunes
45 g dried cranberries
55 g dried figs
25 g dried blueberries
2/3 cup Grand Marnier
1 apple, grated
1.5 Tb butter
1.5 Tb brown sugar
Juice of 1/2 orange
Zest of a lemon
500g softened butter
2 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup caster sugar
4 cups plain flour
2/3 cup rice flour
2 tsp lemon rind
1. Chop all the dried fruit (not necessary for the smaller things like blueberries and sultanas) and place in a bowl with the grated apple and zest. Add the Grand Marnier and stir through well. Cover and leave overnight, stirring occasionally if you happen to be hanging around in the kitchen. (I added the apple the following morning as I didn’t have any in the house the night before).
2. The next day, place the fruit mixture in a saucepan and add the butter, brown sugar and juices. Bring to the boil and then simmer gently, stirring so it doesn’t catch. I think I simmered mine for around 15 minutes, as I kept tasting it and adding a bit more sugar/butter etc. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
3. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Grease two mini-muffin trays.
4. Beat the butter, vanilla and sugar until light and fluffy.
5. Sift flours and stir through the butter mixture and lemon rind.
6. Use your hands to work the dough until it comes together.
The Whole Shebang
7. Take roughly a tablespoon sized portion of dough, roll it into a ball and place in a muffin hole. Make a well in the centre with your finger, and fill this with around a teaspoon of fruit mince, poking it in and smoothing the top. Continue until you’ve filled all the muffin holes.
8. Bake one tray at a time for 12-15 minutes, until you have lovely golden shortbread staring back at you. Allow the shortbreads to cool in the pan for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Be careful when you remove them from the pans, as the shortbread is somewhat crumbly.
9. After they have cooled, dust lightly with icing (powdered/confectioners’) sugar and serve or give away as Christmas gifts.
Ready to be united with some friendly bags of gingerbread cookies and ANZAC biccies