Mince Puffs (Brandied All-Fruit Mincemeat Phyllo Triangles)

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Cassell’s Dictionary of Cookery, a compendium of 9,000-plus recipes published in London in 1892 offered readers more than a dozen mincemeat options.  The majority called for ample poundage of boiled beef and finely-minced beef suet in combination with heavily-spiced and soused fruit, not so appealing to today’s pie-eating palate. But, (thought I) “….if you subtract the medieval beefy heaviness from the mix, spiced & buttered brandied fruit still sounds absolutely lovely…”

With that in mind, I set out to recreate a mincemeat recipe with spiced fruit at its holiday heart. To get there, I left the meat grinder I’d purchased in the box, and the suet I’d found, in the freezer. I also increased the “fresh-apples to dried-fruit” ratio to further lighten the load. The resulting all-fruit mince is spiced and fruity without being cloyingly sweet or heavy.

To add textural contrast and shrink the portion size (a little mincemeat goes a long way, right?), I decided to serve the soft filling along with chopped, toasted walnuts in crisp & crunchy, buttered phyllo triangles, rather than putting it in a pie. Eat these hot puffs, right out of the oven with a dollop of mascarpone cheese and a drizzle of wine syrup (from my wine-poached pear recipe) on the side. Substitute a drizzle of honey if you like. NOTE: You’ll have enough mincemeat to last you through the Holidays. It keeps well refrigerated & the flavor improves with time. (Try serving some as a conserve with roast meats & poultry, or as a warm-spiced ice cream topper.) The phyllo puffs, however, should be made right before you eat them so that they are crisp and hot. They don’t keep well.

Makes about 3 qts fruit mincemeat

All-fruit mincemeat Ingredients

  • 12 fresh apples (six Granny Smith; six a combination of Golden Delicious, McIntosh, and/or Fuji) peeled, quartered and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup dried apples (unsulfured, if possible) roughly chopped
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, cut in chunks
  • 1/2 cup dried currants
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup dried Montmorency cherries, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped candied orange peel (OR 1/2 cup candied orange peel plus 1/2 cup Trader Joe’s Dried Fruit Soft & Juicy Mandarins)
  • 1/2 cup dried peaches, roughly chopped
  • 2 Tbsp candied ginger
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • zest and juice of two oranges
  • 1 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 nutmeg, grated
  • 1/2 tsp ground mace
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup brandy
  • 1 cup port

15 phyllo triangles Ingredients

  • 1, 8-oz roll (20, 9 x 14-inch sheets) phyllo dough, thawed, unrolled and cut into 3-inch-wide strips
  • 3, clean, cotton kitchen towels
  • 1/2 lb unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 cups mincemeat
  • 1 cup toasted, chopped walnuts
  • coarse sugar (sanding sugar) for sprinkling on pastries before baking

Instructions

  1. Make mincemeat: Stir to combine fresh apples, butter, apple cider, dried fruit, sugar, salt and spices in a large, heavy sauce pot. Add orange juice and orange zest. Heat to boiling.
  2. Reduce heat to low. Simmer, covered, for 1 hour until fruit has plumped well and softened. Cool.
  3. Place fruit in batches in food processor and pulse to smaller bits. (Don’t pulse to mush.)
  4. Place fruit back in pot. Add port and brandy and cook another 15 to 20 minutes over low heat. Cool and place in large covered storage container.
  5. Make phyllo triangles: Stir 3 cups of cooled mincemeat with 1 cup of toasted,chopped nuts (Note: you can vary this to have more fruit; less nuts, or, more nuts & less fruit, to your liking.) Stack the 3-inch-wide strips of phyllo pastry dough on a lightly dampened towel. Place a second, lightly dampened towel over the dough. Place a third, lightly dampened cotton towel on your work surface. Working quickly, place one sheet of the dough on the work surface. Lightly brush all over with melted butter.  Repeat three more times, until you have a stack of four sheets of buttered phyllo. Starting at the bottom corner of the stacked strips of buttered phyllo dough, spoon a heaping teaspoon of the mincemeat/nut mixture. Fold diagonally across to make a triangular fold, covering the spoonful of filling; continue folding/flipping the triangle onto itself until you finish with a filled triangular packet of phyllo. Place on parchment-lined cookie sheet. Repeat entire process until you use all of the sheets of phyllo and have 15, filled, phyllo triangles. Brush tops with a little more melted butter; sprinkle with sanding sugar. Bake triangles at 350 for 20 to 22 minutes until golden brown. Serve hot with mascarpone cheese and a drizzle of wine-syrup, or, good quality honey.

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