Christmas Brandied Mince Tarts

This Christmas treat, when served in its native England, features a buttery crust filled with a sweet mixture of brandied minced fruit — apples, raisins, and candied peel — plus in its most traditional form, chopped beef. We eschew the beef in our Americanized version, and substitute a sugar-topped pastry star for the more classic meringue.

Prep
35 mins
Bake
20 to 28 mins
Total
1 hr 25 mins
Yield
12 small tarts, or 24 mini tarts
Christmas Brandied Mince Tarts

Instructions

  1. To make the mince filling: In a small bowl, set aside 1/2 cup (67g) of the golden raisins and 1/3 cup (43g) of the currants. (These will be mixed into the filling later.)

  2. Place the remaining raisins (golden and regular), currants, chopped apple, mixed candied peel, zest, sugar, spice, and salt in the work bowl of a food processor. Process until finely minced, but not puréed.

  3. Add the almonds and process briefly, just to break up the almonds.

  4. Transfer the mixture to a bowl. Stir in the golden raisins and currants that were set aside, then add the melted butter.

  5. Mix in brandy to taste.

  6. Cover tightly and store the mince filling in the refrigerator for up to a month, until ready to use.

  7. To make the crust by hand: Combine the flour and salt in a bowl. Add the butter, mixing it in thoroughly until it looks like breadcrumbs. Drizzle in the water, tossing as you go, until you've added enough water so that you can squeeze the dough together and it's cohesive.

    To make the crust using a food processor: Mix the flour, salt, and butter, pulsing till the mixture resembles fine crumbs. With the motor going, drizzle in the ice water, stopping when the dough comes together. It should hold together nicely; if it doesn't, add a bit more water.

  8. Divide the dough in half, and shape each piece into a disc. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes or overnight.

  9. When you're ready to prepare the tarts, remove the dough from the refrigerator. If it's been chilling for longer than 30 minutes, let it warm for 15 minutes or so, until it's rollable. Preheat your oven to 400°F.

  10. Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll it into a 10" circle, about 1/8" thick.

  11. Cut rounds of dough to fit your pan of choice. For a standard muffin pan, cut a dozen 3 1/2" circles (English muffin rings work well here). For a mini muffin pan, cut two dozen 2 1/2" circles (a small-sized biscuit cutter works well here).

  12. Nestle the dough circles gently into the muffin cups without stretching them. Where the dough folds, use scissors to cut the length of the fold, and lay one side over the other, pressing to seal. Cut stars from the dough scraps: 1 1/4" stars for tarts made in a mini muffin pan, 2" stars for the tarts made in a standard muffin pan.

  13. Spoon about 2 teaspoons fruit mince atop each of the mini tart crusts; a level teaspoon cookie scoop works well. Spoon about 4 generous teaspoons filling into the larger tarts; a slightly heaped tablespoon cookie scoop works well.

  14. Prick the bottom of each several times with a fork, to prevent them puffing as they bake.

  15. Spritz the stars with water, and center one star atop each tart. Sprinkle with Baker's Special Sugar or castor (superfine) sugar.

  16. Bake the mini tarts for about 20 to 22 minutes, until they're golden brown. The larger tarts should bake for about 28 to 30 minutes, again until they're golden brown. Remove from the oven, and serve warm, with brandy butter or heavy cream; or at room temperature.

Tips from our Bakers

  • The entire batch of mince will make about 2 1/2 pounds. This is enough for 72 mini-tarts, or 2 dozen generously filled standard tarts — more than the amount of crust called for. What to do with the rest? Well, first of all, it keeps for months in the fridge. Or wrap tightly and freeze; it'll easily keep until next Christmas. You could make a regular-size pie; use the mince as filling in turnovers; or simply spoon it over ice cream, for that rum-raisin effect.
  • Raisins: golden raisins, Thompson raisins, Flame raisins, sultanas, currants... what's the difference? Raisins are sun-dried grapes, and different types of raisins come from different grape varieties. Two of the most popular seedless raisins in the U.S. are Thompson; and Flame, typically larger and moister than Thompson. Golden raisins (a.k.a. sultanas) are Thompson raisins that have been chemically treated, then flame-dried to attain their light-gold color. Tiny Zante currants (usually shortened to just "currants") come from Black Corinth grapes.
  • Our Yuletide Cheer Fruit Blend is a wonderful flavor and textural enhancement to this mince filling. To substitute the fruit blend, omit the mixed candied peel and use 1 1/4 cups (142g) fruit blend in place of the golden raisins and currants called for in step 3.