Mincemeat tarts are a traditional Christmas desert in England. But they taste great any time of the year and are rather easy to make. I also like to include them as part of a weekend brunch or serve them with some tea. Mincemeat is a mixture of apples, dried fruits, candied peel and spices. You can make the mincemeat yourself from scratch or just use a jar of good prepared mincemeat. One of the best recipes for making mincemeat yourself is “Homemade Mincemeat” from “frugalfeeding”. The recipe includes fresh and dry fruit, spices, orange zest, lemon juice, brandy and does not include any suet. I also like to enhance a jar of good mincemeat with additional fruit, such as currents or other dried fruit and perhaps some apples, as well as Meyer’s Original Dark Jamaican Rum. You can substitute Cognac, or another good brandy, Grand Marnier, or orange juice
For the dough you can use your favorite recipe for pate brisée or pie dough. One of the best is Ina Garten’s recipe that uses a combination of butter and vegetable shorteningl. In the recipe below I use pâte frolle or French almond pastry. It can be a bit difficult to work with, but I think it has a better taste and texture than a standard shortcrust dough. If you don’t have the time, your favorite pie dough recipe, homemade or purchased and some good mincemeat from a jar will taste just great.
1 sweet apple, such as Golden Delicious, peeled and diced about same size as a raisin
1 tart apple, such as Grammy Smith, peeled and diced about the same size as a raisin
1 cup of currants, or raisins, a combination of both, or other dried fruit
zest and juice from 1/2 of an orange
juice from 1/2 small lemon
1 tablespoon of brown sugar, optional
Meyer’s dark rum, you can substitute Cognac, a good brandy, Grand Marnier, apple cider or orange juice
1 14.5 oz jar of Robertson’s Classic Mincemeat
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon of ground almonds
1/4 cup of turbinado sugar
3/4 cup of chilled unsalted butter, cubed
1 large free-range egg, beaten
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
cold water or beaten egg to help seal the edges of the tarts
milk, or additional beaten egg to glaze the tarts and some additional turbinado sugar for the top
about a 3 inch inch heart or circle-shaped pastry cutter, (you can also cut out circles to fit a mini tart or muffin tin, the size will vary with the size of the tart or muffin tin)
Place the diced apples and lemon juice in a bowl and stir to coat. Add the currants, orange zest, orange and lemon juice, brown sugar and about 4 or a bit more tablespoons of the Meyer’s dark rum. Stir to combine the ingredients and place them in an airtight container. Let the mixture sit at room temperature (refrigerate if omitting the alcohol) for 4 or 5 days, stirring each day.
Add the Robertson’s Mincemeat and mix well. Let the mincemeat sit at room temperature (refrigerate if you omit the alcohol) for another 3 or 4 days, again stirring each day. At this point you can use the mincemeat or keep it in the refrigerator until you are ready.
The flavor will continue to develop the longer you leave it. I have kept it for several days to several months in the refrigerator, stirring occasionally. You should also taste it after each stirring and you may find the “need” to add additional dark rum. You don’t want the mixture to be too wet when you use it, but the rum will absorb into the mincemeat over several days. If you add only apple cider or orange juice and omit the alcohol, the mincemeat should be refrigerated and used within several days.
Add the flour, ground almonds, sugar, butter and a pinch of sea salt to the bowl of a food processor and pulse briefly until a crumbly texture resembling breadcrumbs is achieved. Slowly add the egg and almond extract through the feeder tube and pulse a few times. Remove the dough from the food processor and on a floured surface, bring the mixture together with your hands and knead until smooth. Do not overwork the dough. Wrap the it in plastic wrap and chill for several hours. The dough is quite soft and is easier to handle when it is cold.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll out about 1/8 inch thick. Cut the hearts or circles using about a 3-inch dough cutter.
Place 1/2 them, about 1” apart, on baking sheets lined with a silicone cookie sheet liner, such as Silpat or parchment paper. (If you are using a mini tart pan, cut the circles to fit the pan. Brush the pan with butter and gently place the dough into each circle. You will probably need a smaller circle for the top.) Brush a bit of water or the beaten egg around the edge of the bottom heart, place about a teaspoon of the mincemeat in the center. Spread the mincemeat, leaving about a 1/4” border.
Top the base with a second heart and press the edges of the dough together and then crimp the edges with a fork. Poke the fork prongs into the top of the tart to create a vent for the steam to escape. Repeat with the remaining dough and any re- rolled scraps of dough. If at any time the dough becomes too soft to work, return to the refrigerator until chilled.
Refrigerate the hearts for 30 minutes and preheat the oven to 400oF. Remove the hearts from the refrigerator, brush with egg wash or cream and sprinkle with turbinado sugar Bake until the dough is cooked and they are golden brown around the edges, about 12 to 15 minutes, but the time will vary with the actual temperature of the oven. A larger tart might take about 20 minutes.
Rotate the pans after 7 minutes to ensure even baking and keep an eye on the tarts so that they don’t burn.
Let the tarts cool on the baking sheet for 2 or 3 minutes, then remove to a wire wrack to finish cooling, about 10 minutes. Serve them while they are warm or at room temperature, perhaps with some tea and brandy butter.
You can also store them in an airtight container for about 1 week.