Christmas baking: Mincemeat and Polenta Shortbread
Although I made mince pies for the Christmas Cookalong, that was the night I realised why I don’t normally make them. As I fiddled with the pastry and Little Missy stuck her hands, once again, under my rolling pin – difficult to avoid when she’s standing on her wee stool directly in front of me so she can help with what she calls “‘tars” – I kept thinking that there have to be easier ways to make things with Christmas mincemeat.
These Christmas Mincemeat Muffins go down a treat and my mother always makes a large mince tart – short pastry underneath, puff on top – in a swiss roll tin which can be cut up as needed. But this Christmas Mince and Polenta Shortbread, adapted from a Julie Le Clerc recipe, is the new favourite at the cottage.
This recipe makes a big slab of crunchy, Christmassy yummyness that you can a) cut into large squares and serve warm with some Cointreau cream for wintertime puddings or b) slice into more elegant fingers for afternoon nibbling. Incidentally, Cointreau cream – whip a 250ml pot of cream and add 2-3 tablespoons of Cointreau, 1 teaspoon icing sugar and the zest of 1 clementine – goes well with lots of Christmas sweet things.
Christmas Mince and Polenta Shortbread
You can use either fine or medium polenta in this recipe but the medium sort will be a little crunchier. I buy my polenta in a local health food shop and have also found it stocked in most Middle Eastern shops under the brand name Aytac and marked as corn meal.
Fine or medium polenta – 200g
Self-raising flour – 300g
Demarara sugar – 225g
Baking powder – 1 teaspoon
Cinnamon – 1 teaspoon
Butter – 250g, cubed
Egg – 1
Sweet mincemeat – 400g
Fresh or frozen cranberries – 100g
Preheat the oven to 160ºC (150ºC fanbake).
Grease the base and sides of a 25cm x 38cm x 4cm Swiss roll tin. Mix the polenta, flour, sugar, baking powder and cinnamon together in a large bowl or, using the pulse button, in the bowl of a food processor. Rub or process the butter into the dry ingredients until it looks like breadcrumbs then add the beaten egg and bring together in a crumbly mass.Pat half the mixture into the bottom of the tin, spread with the mincemeat and scatter the cranberries on top. Cover losely with the rest of the polenta shortbread. Bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes until golden brown.Cut into large squares and serve warm with cream for desert or allow to cool and slice into fingers.