If there is one sweet food that I do love then it has to be fruit mince pies. Maybe it goes back to my childhood days when I can still remember my grandmother making her delectable little pies filled with her homemade fruit mince, the jars of which made up just a section of her wonderful and mysterious pantry.
This Southern Italian recipe for Pitta di San Martino is a real love of mine and although I traditionally make it at Christmas, I have been known to make it at random whenever I get the mood for mince pies. I love the combination of the figs, walnuts, almonds and sultanas simmered in vino cotto and the aroma once it is sliced is just divine. Perfect with a coffee but if you are feeling a little decadent then I find a slice goes down a treat with a glass of Prosecco.
Saint Martin Fruit Pies
110g caster sugar, plus extra, to sprinkle
60ml light olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 lemon, zested
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
225g self-raising flour, sifted
500g dried figs, finely chopped
120g blanched almonds, chopped
125g walnuts, chopped
250ml vino cotto
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1/2 small orange, zested
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
To make the fruit filling, combine the figs, sultanas, almonds, walnuts, vino cotto, sugar, orange zest, cinnamon and 300 ml water in a large, heavy-based saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring continuously to prevent the mixture sticking, for 40 minutes or until the fruit softens and most of the liquid is absorbed. (Add extra vino cotto if the mixture is too dry.) Transfer to a bowl and cool completely.
To make the pitti dough, reserve 2 tablespoons of beaten eggs, then place the remainder in a bowl with the sugar, oil, milk, lemon juice, zest and vanilla extract, and whisk until well combined. Gradually add flour, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon, until combined. Turn out mixture onto a lightly floured work surface and knead gently for 2 minutes or until a soft dough forms, adding extra flour if the dough is too sticky. Divide into 4 pieces.
Preheat oven to 180°C and line 2 oven trays with baking paper. Dust the work surface with extra flour. Roll out 2 pieces of dough into rough 28 cm rounds, then using a 25 cm plate as a guide, trim to 25 cm rounds. Place 1 round on the lined tray and spread over half the fruit filling, leaving a 1.5 cm border. Top with the second round and press the edges to seal, then using a fork, crimp the edges. Repeat with the remaining dough and fruit filling. Brush the pies with reserved beaten eggs and sprinkle with sugar.
Bake the fruit pies, swapping the trays halfway, for 20 minutes or until the pastry is golden. Serve warm or cold.