Last week, the trees outside our flat were still heavy with leaves and the gardens were a carpet of brown. Now, there’s nothing. It’s not been particularly cold here and it looks like we’re in for another of those grey and drizzly Christmases that we’ve specialised in recently but at least when I look out the window it feels a bit more like the end of December than it did.
We’ve been more organised for this Christmas than we have for any other. We wrote cards to our friends and family well in advance of the last posting date. Our shopping was completed a couple of weeks ago and everything under the tree is wrapped and ready for distribution. We’ve watched Home Alone (note – this is life changing information via Kathryne) and been to a carol concert.
Despite that, it seems inconceivable that Christmas is just five days away.
We have a fair amount to fit in between now and then though – weddings and birthdays and other celebrations. I still need to start making my giant chocolate and orange battenberg for Christmas Day.
Rather than lamenting the rapidly passing days and complaining that it doesn’t really feel like Christmas, I’m determined to enjoy this festive season and all that it has in store. There will be plenty of champagne and canapés, friends and family I haven’t seen for far too long and lots and lots of love and laughter.
It’s a little late in the year for fresh cranberries but frozen ones will work equally well – you could also use some leftover cranberry jelly/sauce from the Christmas dinner table. The chilli here is not a significant hit of heat; it’s more like how a dash of balsamic vinegar peps up some strawberries. The pies themselves freeze rather nicely and they’re dinky enough to serve as a sweet little nibble at a party. Or you can eat a couple alongside a scoop of ice cream. It is Christmas after all.
The filling in these is lovely - tart from the cranberries, bright from the lemon and with a little bite from the chilli. Taste it as you go to make sure it's sweet enough for you and feel free to up the chilli if you want a bit more heat; it's pretty subtle here - just a slight kick at the end rather than overwhelming you.
- 150g (1 1/4 cups) flour (I've used plain and spelt with no ill effects)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 115g (1 stick) butter, cold and cut into cubes
- 1 tablespoon sour cream
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons ice cold water
- 200g (8oz) cranberries, fresh or frozen
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- The zest and juice of a lemon
- 1/2 mild chilli, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon cornflour
- 1 beaten egg
- To make the pastry, put the flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of stand mixer. Add the butter and, using the paddle attachment, beat on a low speed for a minute or so until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs and there are pea-sized lumps of butter.
- Whisk together the sour cream, vinegar and water and gradually add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients until the dough starts to clump together.
- Flatten the dough and wrap in cling film. You should still be able to see lumps of butter running through it Chill in the fridge for about an hour until just firm.
- While the dough is chilling, make the filling by putting all of the ingredients in a small pan over a low heat. Cook for about 10 minutes until the cranberries have just started to break down and the mixture is sticky and jammy. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
- When the dough has chilled, well it out on on a well-floured piece of parchment paper until it’s about 3mm thick. Chill the flattened dough for another half an hour or so.
- Remove the dough from the fridge and using cut out circles about 4 inches in diameter; you should get about 16. Place a spoonful of the filling on one side of each circle, brush the edges with beaten egg and fold over the other side to make a crescent. Press down the edges to seal the little pies. Cut a vent in each pie and freeze for an hour or so until firm.
- Before baking, preheat the oven to 180C/350F (fan) and brush the top of the pies with beaten egg. Bake for 35 – 40 minutes until golden brown.
Adapted from these little spiced plum pies
PS, if you’re interested in hearing some more about what my Christmas looks like, my lovely friend Skye (both a fellow food blogger and a fellow classicist) has a little interview with me on her new blog.