garam masala

“Marge, it’s 3 AM. Shouldn’t you be baking?”
Homer Simpson

Christmas Mince PiesDid you make your own fruit mincemeat this year? I just about did, and far too late in the month IMHO. I procrastinated forever; then noticed it was the 18th of December and hit the panic button. It was now or never since it needs a few days to soak the fruit. I eventually got it done, also getting distracted along the way …  and suddenly, it was time for a batch of Christmas Fruit Mince Pies!Fruitmince sans suetChristmas Mince PiesDay 3 yesterday and the soaked fruit was looking plump, good and shiny. I should have waited to turn the whole batch into my Garam Masala Christmas Cake, but I couldn’t resist making some little mince pies! {I write this post as my fruit cakes finally bake in the oven!}Baking goodiesChristmas Mince PiesMy sister sent me a load of baking goodies with the BIL who flew in from the US, much like Santa who got here before time. Petit tins of all sizes, something that I love, vanilla beans, sprinkles, a dessert cookie baking tray, a Lindzer cookie cutter, a ‘sack‘ of baking chocolate chips … loads more!Christmas Mince PiesDespite telling her that I hardly bake ‘fancy‘ {read tedious} cookies any more, I pulled out the Lindzer set to make a batch of Toasted Walnut Linzer Cookies with Strawberry Filling. Typically, my mind wandered in the opposite direction, and  I whizzed some pâte sucrée in the Thermomix. Soon the dough was being rolled and the Lindzer cookie cutters were being used to make toppings for petit fruitmince pies!Christmas Mince PiesChristmas Mince PiesIts dangerous to have a big bowl of fruit soaking on the counter. Hungry mouths on the prowl get attracted to it, so I hid it … but couldn’t get it it out of my head! Yesterday I figured I could nick some for a before Christmas cake treat. These little pies are fun to make; quick too. I love using the snowflake cutters sweet Nic @ Cherrapeno gave me … so festive!Christmas Mince PiesChristmas Mince Pies Use your favourite pâte sucrée / sweet pastry dough or use the one below. This works a classic 2:1 ratio of flour and butter. As with pie/pastry dough, keep handling/kneading to an absolute minimum. That way you’ll have a nice light, crisp pastry once baked. If you like, you can add some apple to the filling, like Alli did in her Christmas Chocolate & Fruit Mince Pies. Nice!!Christmas Mince Pies

Christmas Fruit Mince Pies

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 24 petit pies

Christmas Fruit Mince Pies

The fruitmince pies get made really fast and make for handsome bites, crisp too. Use your favourite pâte sucrée / sweet pastry dough or use the one below.


1 portion Pâte Sucrée {recipe follows}
1/2 to 3/4 cup fruit mincemeat {recipe follows}

1/2 egg white {or yolk for egg wash}

Vanilla sugar for sprinkling

Pâte Sucrée / Sweet Pastry

200gm all purpose flour

2 tbsp sugar

pinch of salt

100gm chilled butter, cubed

1 egg, lightly whisked with fork

1/2 vanilla bean, scraped

1 tsp vanilla extract

1-2tbsp chilled water {to bind if required}

Mincemeat or fruit mix, sans suet {you will need about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of this}

700gms raisins, chopped if desired

200 currants

100gms orange peel, chopped

170gms almonds, chopped

250gms cashewnuts, chopped

100gms candied cherries, chopped

1/4 cup Cherry liquor/brandy

1/2 cup rum {or brandy}

3/4 cup fresh orange juice {from 3 keenus/oranges}

Juice of 3-4 limes

Zest of 2 keenus/oranges

4 tbsp garam masala


    Pâte Sucrée / Sweet Pastry

    Place the flour, salt, scraped vanilla beans and sugar in bowl of processor and blend briefly. {Thermomix: Speed 6, 5 seconds}

    Add chilled butter and process until you get a breadcrumb like mix. {Thermomix: Speed 8, 6-7 seconds}

    With the machine running, add the egg and process till it the dough begins to come together. {Thermomix: Speed 8, 7-8 seconds}

    If you pinch the dough with your fingertips it should stick together. If not add a tbsp of chilled water and process.

    Turn dough onto work surface and pat together into a firm ball. Do not knead / overprocess. Let it rest 10-20 minutes {I left it on the counter as its very cold here. If the temperature is warm, rest the dough in the fridge}.

    Preheat the oven to 180C.

    On a very lightly floured surface, take a quarter of the dough and roll it out thin. Cut out 12 circles with a fluted cookie cutter and place in tart tray. Repeat with next portion of dough.

    Fill each base with a heaped tsp of mincemeat.

    Now cut out 24 'toppers' from the remaining dough {or a combination of fluted cut-out tops, stars, snowflakes etc} and place over fruit, pressing down slightly.

    Brush the tops with a beaten egg white {or egg yolk}, sprinkle with vanilla sugar and bake for 15-18 minutes until light golden brown.

    Leave in tray for 1-2 minutes, remove to rack and cool.

    Mincemeat / fruitmince or fruit mix, sans suet

    Mix all the ingredients nicely and soak overnight in a cool place, or for 3-4 days. The longer you soak the fruit, the more mature the flavour. I soaked mine for 3 days. {You can substitute the alcohol with an equal amount of orange juice too}

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“I wish we could put up some of the Christmas spirit in jars and open a jar of it every month.”
Harlan Miller

Christmas Fruit Cake {with garam masala}I love this season, and agree with the quote above. Christmas is not our main festival, but certainly is an adopted one, one we have learnt to love. Christmas & New Year also mean FRUIT-CAKE season to us. My mother set the trend years ago, when she baked a fruit cake every winter without fail. Would you believe I never imagined that there could be people who dislike fruit cake? Crawled out from under a rock last year when I saw tweets being exchanged, and I discovered that there were 2 very definite sides to the fruit cake coin – LIKE vs HATE … no in betweens. Thankfully, we are a family who LOVE our fruit cake to bits. I have to hide the loaves from the daughter who loves a good fruit cake nibble.Christmas Fruit Cake {with garam masala}I heard her rummaging through the fridge and cupboards yesterday and I knew just what she was looking for! My precious cake has been wrapped and is maturing {in hiding}. We’ve had the ‘tasting ceremony‘ a few days ago, and the cake is darned good. Now to wait a few more days, and we shall savour it bit by bit. I am pretty miserly about it because I make it from scratch. Peels, chopping, caramel syrup, butter, weighing, zesting … I heave a sigh of relief when the fruit is finally soaked because the rest of the cake-making seems a cakewalk.

Christmas Fruit Cake {with garam masala} The fruit cake season was kicked off a couple of months ago with this traditional cake mixing ceremony at the Hilton Garden Inn. That was a fabulous experience, and I still hold those huge bowls of peels and dried fruit in my eyes! At the time, I was hit by infectious enthusiasm and the drive back home saw me mixing my fruit the next day… well, in my thoughts!Mincemeat sans suet {with garam masala}How very ambitious! Back home and life returned to the fast track in the week to follow … mundanities like laundry, driving the hapless kids in circles, laying out winter flower beds, baking, pulling out winter clothes & putting away light summer mulmuls happened. The ‘traditional fruit mixing left on the back burner’, yet not forgotten.Christmas Fruit Cake {with garam masala}Each time I reached out for a baking ingredient I would see the fruit and promise myself, tomorrow! Tomorrow never comes! That ‘tomorrow’ came last week. I knew I was desperately late, and it was a now or never. Twitter was buzzing with fruit cake activity, Meeta had posted her gorgeous  cake, and frugal Monsieur Lebovitz had his list of fave Holiday Recipes out. Shameful that my fruit was still sitting pretty in bags!Mincemeat sans suet {with garam masala}I eventually emptied the fridge and larder out. It was like an end of year clearance, literally. I used all the left-over nuts and peels, making up the remaining weight with candied cherries and almonds. In went the bag of raisins from Madhulika in Nasik, currants and black raisins from Old Delhi, dried apricots which had seen better days {but were in for a sweet soaking}, leftover crystallized ginger and orange peels from a Lebovitz recipean entertaining connect of people, places, feelings as I mixed fruit! Instead of Christmas spice in the cake, I took my favoured route of garam masala.Christmas Fruit Cake {with garam masala}Have you ever added garam masala to your fruit cake? You really should try it. It doesn’t add curry flavours to your cake, I promise. It adds deep warm winter flavours that mingle with the fruit ever so deliciously, you’ll wonder what kept you away so long. Besides, making your own garam masala fills the house with wonderful warm aromas. I make a largish portion now and freeze it.Mincemeat sans suet {with garam masala}The fruit was soaked for 3 days, but overnight is good too. If you want to go the non alcohol way, just substitute the alcohol with fresh orange juice, but then store the soaked fruit in the fridge for a day or so. Alcohol preserves the fruit so they keep out in a cool place for long. I also added zest from the oranges, and on day 3 I had this fabulous plump shiny sweet smelling mincemeat of sorts. Not the traditional kind as that has suet and grated apple maybe, but my own sweet kind. I was delighted to find a similar link on David Lebovitz for a Quick Mincemeat.Christmas Fruit Cake {with garam masala}Once the fruit is mature, the rest of the cake is a virtual breeze. I follow a basic recipe that my mother learnt from a baking course almost 40years ago. The soaked fruit are tossed in the flour mix, coating each fruit well. This way the fruit doesn’t sink to the bottom. The cake gets a rich dark colour thanks to a caramel to which coffee is added. The rest is normal cake procedure. Butter & sugar beaten, eggs added, floured fruit folded in …  and off it goes to bake.

Christmas Fruit Cake {with garam masala}

Twitter got me great ideas from Barbara the Vino Luci gal {oh, she is sweet}, and Colleen aka Colly Wolly, the adorable Brown-Eyed Baker from South Africa. Barbaras Last Minute Fruit Cake, and CW was sweet enough to send me hers. I eventually made my own, but have to thank these 2 great gals for the inspiration. The world is certainly better with folk like you, and I can thank twitter for making 2010 such a wonderful year!

Mincemeat sans suet {with garam masala}Mincemeat or fruit mix, sans suet
{made from 1 kg of fruit/nut/peel combination}
300gms raisins, chopped if desired
200 currants
200gms black grapes, chopped
100gms crystallized ginger & orange peel {David Lebovitz recipe}, chopped
100gms almonds, chopped
50gm dried apricots, chopped
50gms candied cherries, chopped
1/4 cup Cherry liquor/brandy
1/2 cup rum {or brandy}
3/4 cup fresh orange juice {from 3 keenus/oranges}
Juice of 1/2 lemon {or 4 limes}
Zest of 2 keenus/oranges
4 tbsp garam masala
Mix all of the above nicely and soak overnight in a cool place, or for 3-4 days. The longer you soak the fruit, the more mature the flavour. I soaked mine for 4 days as I didn’t have time to bake. {You can substitute the alcohol with an equal amount of orange juice too}

Christmas Fruit Cake {with garam masala}Garam Masala Fruit Cake
1 kg mixed fruit,nuts,peel mincemeat {mincemeat recipe above}
3 cups plain flour
300gms unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cup sugar
5 eggs
3/4 cup caramel syrup {Made with 1 cup of sugar caramelised. Add some water and heat gently to liquefy. Measure and top up with water to make 3/4 cup liquid. Cool}
1 1/2 tbsp instant coffee
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt {skip if using salted butter}
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
Toss the soaked mixed fruit in the 3 cups flour well in a large bowl {I used a huge wok} so that the fruit is completely coated. Reserve.
Stir coffee into caramel syrup. Reserve.
Beat the butter and sugar till fluffy, 2 minutes, add the eggs and beat well again.
Now add the caramel syrup and vanilla extract and beat again for a minute till well incorporated. The mixture may appear curdled but that’s fine. Add baking powder and whisk again.
Turn this batter out over the mincemeat and stir well with spatula to blend uniformly.
Turn into lined loaf pans/baking tins and bake at 140C until the top appears done when you touch it, about 1 hour for the loaf pans, and almost 2-2 1/4 hours for my 15 X 11 tin. {Do keep an eye on the top of the cake. My ovens ‘bake’ setting is just the lower level so the top doesn’t brown too quick. If you find the top browning too soon, please slip a foil loosely over the top about an hour and a half into baking.}
Cool in tin, turn out and wrap in cling-film when cold. Allow to stand and mature in a cool dark place for a day or two, at least overnight. The longer it stands the better the flavours, but we never get that far in my fruit-cake loving household.

Christmas Fruit Cake {with garam masala}Note: You can poke holes on top and pour over some more rum/brandy if you like. In this case, first wrap it in cheesecloth, and then in clingwrap and store in a cool pace.

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