Friday, December 23, 2011

Baked gifts come from the heart

There are some foods you can't go without at Christmas. You have to overdose on ham (breakfast, lunch and dinner), you must eat Christmas pudding smothered in thick custard (YUMMMM) and you have to indulge in practically everything presented to you. As you might be able to tell, Christmas is all about the food for me. However, I also love finding great gifts for people and watching them open them. So, why not combine these two joys? To continue with my baked gifts, this post features what I made for my son's teachers.

Gift #1 - Snowflake star cookies
I have posted this recipe twice, so I won't again, but these little star cookies were a hit. I think I have finally figured out how to make a nice royal icing, so these crumbly, buttery biscuits were perfect with the sweet, crisp icing.

Gift #2 - Fruit mince pies
I was never much of a fan of fruit mince pies growing up. Even as an adult, I avoided them, until I started making my own. When you bake your own tarts, they will only last about 2 or 3 days, but that's ok, because they generally go within a few hours! I've strayed a little from my normal recipe this year by using treacle instead of golden syrup. One tip I would encourage, make your own pastry! It is so much better than pastry from the shops and results in a more mouth-watering, crumbly pastry. 
Here's how you do it:
(Makes about 48 small pies)
2 cups plain flour
pinch salt
125g butter, chilled and diced
1 egg yolk
1 tbs icing sugar
2 - 3 tbs ice water

In a food processor, pulse the flour, salt and butter until it resembles a breadcrumb. Add the egg yolk and icing sugar and pulse until combined. Then while still on, add a tablespoon of the iced water at  a time. Blend until the dough starts to come together. Take out of the food processor and roll into a ball. Cover in cling wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

Mince meat
3 cups dried mixed fruit (include sultanas, currents, raisins and dates)
80ml brandy
80ml treacle
80ml glucose syrup
1tsp mixed spice
pinch of ground cloves

Add all ingredients to a heavy based saucepan and heat over a medium to high heat. When the mixture starts to boil, turn heat down to medium and simmer for about 10 minutes or until mixture thickens. Remove from the heat and let cool.

Putting it together
Butter a small cupcake tray and preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius. Take the dough from the fridge and roll out between two sheets of baking paper until about a centimetre thick. Using a round cutter, cut circles from the dough and carefully place into the trays. Make sure there is no air under the pastry or it will puff during baking. Pop the tray in the oven and bake for about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and spoon the mincemeat into the pastry trays. With the left over pastry, cut out whatever shapes you want and place on the top. Pop back in the oven for another 10 minutes or until the pastry on top is golden. Remove from oven and allow to cool. I generally like them at room temperature, but you can also reheat and serve with some thickened cream or mascarpone.

1 comment:

  1. These look delicious! Fruit mince pies are my favorite. But perhaps because my mum always baked her own. The fruit is even better if you make it a year to 6 months in advance and let it sit in a load of alcohol! Sadly this is the first year I haven't made my own. I can't wait to get all my baking gear out of storage next year! :-)