One of my favourite holiday recipes is mince pies. I don’t even like them that much. I have a thing about candied peel and I’ve tried cutting it out of the recipe, but it just isn’t the same thing. So I make a batch every Christmas and dole them out to friends and family. They’re really popular here in Italy. Not sure why, but people love them almost as much as they love my pavlova. Anyway, my attachment to mince pies is tied to my own Southern Italian grandmother. My ‘nonna’ always makes a batch of them. It’s one of her signature Christmas dishes and something she always prepares when she knows I’m coming home for the holidays… or at least I thought she did. A couple of days ago, I was talking to my mum and I mentioned my grandmother’s mince pies. Mum had no idea what I was talking about. Turns out, my grandmother hadn’t been making mince pies all these years. She had been making her own Italian holiday recipe. A Calabrian dish from her childhood that just happened to look like a mince pie. To be honest, I’d had my suspicions. They did taste pretty different from your usual mince pie filling. I just thought my grandmother was putting her Italian spin on them! Long story short, since her recipe doesn’t have candied fruit in it, it’s become my new go-to holiday recipe. This is my take on Italian mincemeat tarts. I hope you love it as much as I do.
Bocconotti (Italian mince pies)
2 cups plain (all-purpose) flour
½ cup caster (superfine) sugar
2 egg yolks
¼ teaspoon baking powder
1 lemon, finely grated rind only
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
120g butter, cubed
½ cup strawberry jam
4 tablespoons dutch cocoa
¼ cup walnuts, finely chopped
caster (superfine) sugar, extra, for dusting
Place the flour, baking powder, lemon rind, vanilla, sugar and a pinch of salt in a bowl. Using your fingertips, rub in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Knead very lightly then wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 180°C. Combine the jam, cocoa and walnuts, and set aside.
Divide the pastry into two disks. Roll out each pastry disc between 2 sheets of non-stick baking paper to 4mm thick. Use 1 pastry sheet to line 12x 8cm-round lightly greased deep-sided and scalloped tart tins. Fill with the jam mixture and top with the remaining pastry sheet. Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Dust with the extra caster sugar while still warm. Makes 12.