Christmas and baking go together like, well, mince pies and sherry – baking seems to be extra-enjoyable at this festive time of year.
I have to admit, however, that it took me a long time to like mince pies; I still find a lot of mince pies just not quite as delicious as I think they could be.
I know that cranberry and almond mincemeat sounds a little bizarre, but it really works. I discovered it whilst watching Nigella Lawson’s Christmas epsiode and have adapted it only slightly, based on the need for gluten-free pastry and the fact that I have no aversion to candied peel as Nigella does.You can find the original recipe here.
I had a serendipitous breakthrough with the pastry. I have written before about the challenges of making gluten-free pastry, but I had resigned myself to that. However, I decided on a whim to add some ground almonds to the mixture in order to match the slight almond taste in the mincemeat. the pastry took on quite an odd texture as I made it, but when I came to rolling it out, it held together really well and baked wonderfully.
So, if you fancy a fresh, fruity take on the original mince pie, and particularly if you need gluten-free Christmas treats for friends and family, this is for you!
For the mincemeat:
200g fresh cranberries
150g mixed dried fruit and candied peel
75g muscavado sugar
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp honey
a couple of drops of almond extract
For the pastry:
9 oz gluten-free white plain flour blend
1 oz ground almonds
2 tsp caster sugar
1 beaten egg.
To make the mincemeat, put the port, muscavado sugar and cranberries into a large pan. Turn on the heat and stir until all the sugar has dissolved. Add the dried fruit and spices. Grate in the zest of the clementine and squeeze in all the juice. Mix together and allow to simmer gently with a lid on until the fruit has absorbed nearly all the liquid.
Mix in the pan, squashing down the cranberries. Allow to cool slightly, then add the brandy, honey and almond extract (you only need the tiniest amount!) and mix well until everything is fully incorporated. Transfer to a bowl, cover, and leave to allow the flavours to intensify.
Meanwhile, make the pastry. Put the flour, ground almonds and sugar into a large mixing bowl and add the butter in small cubes. Rub the mixture lightly between your fingertips until it is all combined. It should form a sandy texture. Add a couple of teaspoons of the beaten egg and a little water and bring together into a ball of dough. Wrap in clingfilm and put into the fridge to rest for at least 30 minutes.
Grease a shallow muffin tin and preheat the oven to 180C.
Roll out the pastry quite thinly (you want delicate, crisp pastry) and use a small, round cookie cutter (or a narrow glass) to cut circles out. Press the circles into the tin and fill each one with a teaspoon of the mincemeat. With the remaining pastry, cut out stars big enough to reach across the top of each pie. Glaze the pastry with the remaining beaten egg to give it a golden glow.
Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes – as soon as the pastry is golden, they are done.
Repeat this process until you have used up all the pastry and mincemeat.Make sure you give the tin a chance to cool before reloading.
Leave the pies to cool on a wire rack then dredge with icing sugar, or serve warm from the oven with a little cream or brandy butter.
Have a delicious Christmas!