A week or so before I Easter, I had a huge attack of homesickness...the kind that is almost crippling. And what set it off was a pining for some Aussie food...more importantly, a hot cross bun. Not just any hot cross bun. The wonderful ones you get from a bakers delight. Fresh out of the oven. I love Bakers Delight and unfortunately here in the States there is nothing like it. Then that got me to thinking about all the other wonderful goodies at Bakers delight...the apple scrolls, the cape seed loaf, the boston buns...and so I found an online Australian Bakery in Georgia that sold hot cross buns (Australian style), as well as other goodies such as pies, pasties, sausage rolls, lamingtons and fruit slices. This of course led me to spend an obscene amount of money on some home grown comfort food and I am pleased to say that my freezer is now stocked with said goodies.
I did however, eat the fruit slices already and it got me to thinking about how I should perhaps try my hand at making some of these things myself. That way, I can have them whenever I want and won't have to spend a small fortune to obtain them. The only catch is my skill (or lack there of) as a baker.
I love to cook and whilst certainly not a chef by any stretch of the imagination, I think I am pretty alright. My hubby tends to agree :) But baking is an altogether different beast. However, inspired by the other amazing food bloggers out there I decided to have a crack at the ever popular fruit mince pies...usually associated with Christmas both in Australia and Britain. But when home sickness strikes, food and baked goods should not be confined to a specific season.
The recipe that I tried was after careful study of a quite a few recipes for mince and pies and eventually I decided on a fruit mince recipe from Christmas Joy and the pastry recipe is from Donna Hay. I have never made pastry from scratch before....usually if something calls for pastry, I either buy it, or make something else! It seemed to work ok, although the recipe said it should make 24 tarts and I only just squeezed out 9. Not sure if I had it too thick, but I really couldn't get it much thinner and even if I could, there is no way it would have stretched to 24. I also forgot to brush the pastry with butter and sprinkle sugar just before I baked, which was not a total disaster, but would have made the overall product look a little nicer I think.
Now, the fruit mince on the other hand was to die for. It was all I could do not to just eat this stuff out of the bowl! I have a lot of leftovers, so I could definitely be trying this recipe again soon :) For now, I have 9 not so pretty pies, that still taste good and allow me to manage my homesickness just a little bit better.
(Makes about 10 cups)
3 cups dried currants
1 1/2 cups golden raisins
1 1/2 cups dark raisins
1/2 cup chopped dried figs
1 lb of cooking apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped
2 1/2 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground cinnamon
grated zest and juice of 2 lemons
3/4 cup brandy
1. In a large bowl, place the ingredients and mix well to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and leave overnight.
2. Place the mixture into sterilized jar and leave in the fridge for 4-6 weeks.
(Obviously I didn't wait 4-6 weeks to use this mixture, it was great after 2 days. I am sure it will be better after refrigeration for a few weeks, but there is no reason not to use this mixture straight away).
2 cups plain flour
1/3 cup fine sugar
5oz butter, chopped
1/3 cup iced water
melted butter for brushing and extra sugar to sprinkle
1. Place flour, sugar and butter in mixer and mix until it resembles course breadcrumbs. With the motor running, add water until mixture starts to come together. Turn pastry out onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently. Divide in half, wrap in plastic wrap and place in fridge for 30 min.
2. Preheat oven to 350F. Roll out pastry to appox. 2mm thick and cut out circles with a round cookie cutter, about 23/4 inch round. Line muffin tins (12 hole) with circles of pastry and fill with about a tablespoon of fruit mince filling. Roll out remaining pastry and cut desired shape for the tops (a star is customary, but you can do whatever suits...I did circles). Place the pastry shapes on top of the tarts, brush with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar. Place in the oven for 12-15 minutes or until pastry is golden.