However delicious, I was unsatisfied with churning out another generic batch of star-topped, icing-dusted mince pies this weekend. Before you bar-humbug me (as those who know me know I a Christmas LOVER) these have the festive touch of chewy sweet dates, punchy orange zest and warming cinnamon that make a welcome alternative to the mince pie. Especially if, like my glamorous Gran, you are raisin hater. Devour after a cold walk with some warm mulled wine to warn off the teasing sniffles of a brewing cold that threatens to sabotage your Christmas day..
Makes about 12 slices
- 175g plain flour
- 125g cold unsalted butter, cubed
- 50g caster sugar
- 250g dates
- 1 orange
- 75g butter
- 150ml water (maybe a bit more)
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 100g flaked almond
- 30g caster sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Start with the shortbread base. In a food processor, combine the flour, sugar and the cold cubed butter until a dough forms. Alternatively, rub the butter into the dry ingredients until you form a dough.
- Line a tin (about 25cm x 16cm) with parchment and mold the dough into the tin pressing it down with the back of a spoon. Chill for 15 minutes in the fridge.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C. Bake the shortbread for about 15-20 minutes until golden but it doesn’t matter if not completely cooked as you will cook it again with the topping. Leave to cool while you make the topping.
- Put the dates, cinnamon, 25g of butter, water and the zest of the orange in a saucepan. Bring to the boil and then remove from the heat. Leave to cool and puree in a food processor. Add a splash more water if too thick.
- Combine the flaked almonds, vanilla, sugar and remaining 50g of butter in a saucepan and heat until the butter melts. Coat the almonds in the melted butter and leave to cool a little.
- Spoon the date puree over the shortbread base and spread out evenly. Scatter over the buttery almonds and bake for about 25-35 minutes until golden.
- Leave to cool in the tin before cutting into slices and dusting with icing sugar.