Monday, 22 December 2014

Tiny Tarts and Christmas Mish-Mash

Every year, without fail, I hit the kitchen at Christmas to get baking.  These cranberry tarts, mince pies and Christmas mish-mash are tried and tested favourites which fill the house with the scent of ginger, cinnamon and fruit and always manage to help with our Christmas spirit.  They are also perfect to make with children and ideal for putting out for Santa's treat!

They are also really simple - like every other person around this time of year, I am always a bit flustered in the build up to Christmas day and so I cheat as much as possible.  I don't bother making my own pastry and I certainly don't make my own mincemeat, but if you feel the inclination (and have more time on your hands than I do), please go ahead!
I first made the cranberry tarts about 6 years ago.  I was making my own cranberry sauce ready for the turkey sandwiches and could only get hold of a big punnet rather than my usual sized one.  I decided to use the leftover sauce to fill some little tarts, and Steve has requested them every year ever since!  They are not sweet at all; the sugar just reduced the sourness of the cranberries to a more palatable tartness!
You need:

1 sheet ready rolled shortcrust pastry (fully defrosted)
300g fresh cranberries
100g granulated sugar
Splash water

Pre heat the oven to 180C and grease a 12 hole shallow muffin tray

Put the cranberries, sugar and water into a saucepan and cook on a medium heat for about 10 minutes or until the cranberries have broken down and you have a tart sauce.

Cut out pastry disks slightly larger than each muffin tray hole and smaller ones for the lids - I used stars and gingerbread men - and press the larger ones into the holes in the tray.  Fill up each case with the cranberry sauce and then pop a top on each tart. 

Bake for about 15 minutes until golden, remove and leave to cool for 10 minutes, then remove to a cooling tray.

Dust with icing sugar; they will keep for about 3 days in an airtight container.
I also made a batch of mince pies the exact same way, but filled the pastry cases with pre-bought shop mincemeat rather than the cranberry sauce.  They look quite similar once cooked, so I always make sure I put different shaped lids on the tarts to tell them apart!
My Christmas mish-mash is an utterly made up recipe and so called because it is a mish-mash of all the Christmassy flavours I have lying around the house whenever I make it.  Most of the technique involves mashing ingredients as well, so it was the obvious name.  As it is reliant upon using up whatever I have buried in the kitchen cupboards it is never the same twice.  I first made it at Christmas in 2008.  Lauren was over for a chat (at the time she still lived up the road from me in Canterbury and hadn't disappeared to the big smoke yet) and we were mucking around in the kitchen.  We ended up with the first version of these after raiding my cupboards, and I have made it pretty much every year since.  I started off calling them cookies, but that name is really misleading.  They are more of a cross between a cake and a brownie!
So, if you want to make some mish-mash's for Santa, here is how!

200g plain flour
100g caster sugar
100g dark brown or muscovado sugar
200g unsalted butter at room temperature
200g mixed fruit and nuts - whatever you fancy or have lying around (pecans, raisins, sultanas, cranberries, chocolate chips, dates, figs, glace cherries etc)
100g oatmeal
Juice and zest of 1 orange
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cassia bark (or 2 tsp cinnamon)
4 ground cloves
1 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp all spice
2 tsp nutmeg
2 eggs
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Mash the granulated and brown sugar with the butter until you have a smooth paste.  Add the orange juice and eggs and mix to fully incorporate

Mix all the other ingredients together then add to the sugar, egg and butter mixture and mix fully

Bake at 180C for 20-30 minutes

Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out and leave to cool completely before cutting up.
Happy Christmas!  I'm not sure Santa should get these after all....

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