Alternative Mince Pies – Cranberry and Sponge Pies

Hello Everyone.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to feel a little festive. I’m not one of these people who gets fed up with all the shops bringing Christmas to us early. I’m fully enjoying the fact that it is mid-November and all the adverts are Christmassy and decorations are appearing everywhere. I LOVE it.

Naturally, my thoughts are also turning to Christmas baking too. My Christmas cake is already done and being fed with brandy regularly and I plan to make the pudding soon too. I was thinking about Mice pies too. These, in truth, are not my favourite Christmas nibble…I don’t mind them but I wouldn’t go out of my way to buy them if it wasn’t for the fact that my boyfriend could probably eat his body weight in them. So, I’ve decided to make some alternatives for those of us who actually aren’t that keen.

Cranberry and sponge tarts

The first one, which is today’s recipe is for people who don’t like the actual mincemeat but enjoy a little pastry treat still. They consist of the pastry case, cranberry and mulled wine jam filling and a cinnamon sponge topping. Sounding good? That’s because it really is! I will also be doing one for those who like mincemeat but aren’t that keen on pastry and a little treat for the kids too so look out for those as we get ever closer to the festive season.

Today’s recipe includes instructions to make a really lovely Cranberry and Mulled wine jam. The quantities here make quite a lot so if you don’t think you’ll use it for anything else then do go ahead and halve the amounts. The jam can be used to make loads of these pies or for other things, sweet and savoury and wouldn’t go amiss instead of a regular cranberry sauce.

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Make these in the same kind of cupcake or shallow muffin tin/tray that you would normally use to make your mince pies in.

You Will Need:
(Makes 18)

For the Cranberry jam:
300g Cranberries
Juice of 2 clementines & zest of 1
200g Sugar (maybe a little more)
400ml Mulled wine

For the Pastry:
225g Plain Flour
100g Unsalted Butter (Cold!)
Some water

For the sponge:
50g Margarine
50g caster sugar
50g Self-Raising Flour
1/4 tsp Ground Cinnamon
1/4 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 tbsp Ground almonds
1 egg

The first thing you need to make is the Cranberry jam. I made mine a couple of days before I knew I was going to make the tarts so you can do that too if it’s easier. As I’ve already said, the quantities I have given for the jam here are much more than you need to make these so you might want to pop it straight into sterilised jars and it will last you weeks!

Put all the ingredients into a fairly roomy saucepan and bring it up to the boil. (Put the Clementine zest in in strips and remove with tongs once the jam is done).

Cranberry jam ingredients

Then simmer the mix for around an hour. You need to keep stirring every now and again to stop it catch and mix it all together. The cranberries will all pop and break down until the mix is nice and thick. Transfer the jam into sterilised jars or into a bowl to cool down. This could take some time which is why it’s wise to make a day or two ahead.

Cranberry and Mulled Wine Jam

The next step is to make the pastry. Put the flour in a bowl, cube the cold butter and add that to the flour. Start using a knife to cut the butter into the flour and, as the butter gets small, start to use your fingers to rub it in until it looks like breadcrumbs. I start this off with a knife just because it starts off the process and if you use your hand for the whole time you might warm the butter up a bi too much, it needs to stay as cold as it can.

Butter and Flour
Incorporating Butter and Flour with a knife
Rubbed in butter looking like breadcrumbs

Once you’ve got it looking like it should then you need to add the water. Use very cold water and add two tablespoons of it to start with. start to bring the pastry together with a wooden spoon, adding a tablespoon of water at a time until it all comes together nicely but is not sticky. You will probably need to use you hands to press it together at the end. Use the water sparingly – less is definitely more – I used about five tablespoons.

Pastry

The pastry then needs to rest in the fridge for about twenty minutes wrapped well in cling film.
Pastry wrapped and ready for the fridge

Around five minutes before you’re ready to bring your pastry out, turn the oven on to about 190°C to get it heated up and start to make the sponge mix. Cream the butter and margarine together until smooth and fluffy.

creamed butter and suger

Mix the flour together with the cinnamon then add this along with all of the other ingredients. Beat this well with a wooden spoon or in a mixer until all well combined.

cinnamon and flour
 sponge ingredients
cinnamon sponge mix

Get your pastry out and roll it out nice and thin.

rolled out pastry

Once you’ve done this, take a fluted round cutter that is just a bit bigger than the holes in the pan you will be using.

Cutting out Pastry

Cut out rounds of the pastry and place them into the cavities in the pan, making sure they are pressed down.

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Take your jam and pop a teaspoon-full of it into each pastry case. You may want to soften the jam a little in a bowl first just by mixing it with a spoon – this will make it spread better at the bottom of the pastry case.

Cranberry jam in the pastry cases
pastry case full of cranberry jam

Then pop a teaspoon of the sponge mixture on top of each and spread it gently until it is right up to the sides. Do this carefully as you want the sponge to cover the jam and not get mixed into it!

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Put these in your pre-heated oven for around twenty minutes. The sponge will look darker than a usual cake because of the cinnamon in it, so don’t worry about that. They are done when the pastry looks golden around the edges and the sponge springs back when pressed lightly with your finger.

Put the little pies onto a wire rack to cool and enjoy!

These are nice cold or warm and taste superbly festive. A perfect little treat for your friends or family members who aren’t mincemeat fans.

Cranberry and Sponge tarts

I hope you enjoy these and let me know if you give them a try – maybe even send me a photo, I’d love to see.

Happy Christmas Baking

Kate 🙂

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