Scottish Ecclefechan Tarts made with a sweet shortcrust pastry and a filling of light brown sugar, butter, mixed dried fruit and walnuts, some delicious festive tarts that make a wonderful alternative to the classic mince pies. The tarts have a hint of caramel coming from the rich butter and sugar filling, and go down a treat with a hot drink at Christmas.
Another Scottish festive treat for you - after the delicious Scottish shortbread, these Ecclefechan tarts are sure to be your favourite Christmas bake, and the perfect addition to your Christmas treats list.
Named after the town of Ecclefechan (pronunced Eck-el-fech-han) in Dumfries and Galloway, these buttery pastry tarts are filled with traditional Christmas ingredients: mixed dried fruit and walnuts in a rich and caramel-like brown sugar and butter mixture.
Sounds delicious? They really are! Mince pies are the more popular mini tarts throughout the festive season, and while they look and are made in a similar way, the Ecclefechan tarts aren't as overly sweet and have no brandy in their filling.
They can be made in a bun tin, muffin tin - like mine, or even as a large tart in a quiche/tart tin - it's entirely up to you. I prefer the individual tarts, as they are easier to serve to your guests.
I would say they are also easier for portion control, but I guess at Christmas, portion control isn't really a thing. The tarts have been adapted from Ecclefechan Tarts – Easy Baking.
For the sweet shortcrust pastry
- flour - plain flour works well in shortcrust pastries
- butter - unsalted works fine, but if you have salted butter, you can use that too
- egg - to bind the dough together
- sugar - caster or granulated
- milk - if needed to bring the dough together
For the filling
- mixed dried fruit - or you can use whatever dried fruit you have around, sultanas, raisins, cherry glace, and so on
- melted butter
- light brown sugar - the dark one makes the filling a lot darker and richer and more similar to the mince pies, I prefer the light brown sugar
- lemon juice
Step-by-step photos and instructions
- To make the pastry, sift the flour in a large bowl, add the butter cut into cubes, and use your fingers to rub them together until it resembles breadcrumbs
- Add the sugar and mix well
- Crack the egg in, add the milk, and mix to get a smooth dough
- Cover the dough with clingfilm, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes
- Flour the work surface well, and use a rolling pin to roll the pastry to a thickness of 3mm
- Use a large cookie cutter with a 10 cm diameter to cut out rounds
- Carefully line the muffin tin holes with the pastry circles and refrigerate until the filling is ready
- To make the filling, melt the butter, and add it to a bowl together with the light brown sugar, egg beaten lightly, chopped walnuts and dried fruit
- Give everything a good mix
- Divide the mixture evenly between the 12 muffin holes lined with the dough circles, and bake in the preheated oven at 180 degrees Celsius for 25 minutes or until the pastry is golden and the filling is set and risen.
Chilling the dough is a crucial step, as the pastry does tend to shrink quite a bit in the oven - that's the case with all butter pastry though, and unless you bake it blind beforehand, you will end up will too little pastry.
An important step is rolling the dough thin, as otherwise you end up with tarts that have more pastry than filling.
Do not overbeat the butter and sugar for the filling, there is no need for a hand mixer, just mix them lightly with a spatula, otherwise the filling becomes marshmallowy.
Do not fill the tarts too much with filling, as this rises in the oven and will overflow, making the tarts less pretty and sticky too. I would fill them only about half or 3 quarters, but not all the way to the top.
You can sprinkle some icing sugar over the tarts once the cool down for a more festive look, but that's entirely optional.
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For the sweet shortcrust pastry
- 150 g plain flour
- 75 g unsalted butter, cold
- 1 tablespoon caster sugar
- 1 small egg
- 1 tablespoon full-fat milk
For the filling
- 150 g mixed dried fruit
- 50 g chopped walnuts
- 1 egg
- 100 g light brown sugar
- 75 g butter
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- To make the pastry, cut the butter into cubes.
- Sift the flour in a large bowl, add the cubed butter, and use your fingertips to rub the flour and butter together until it resembles breadcrumbs.
- Add the sugar and mix.
- Crack in the egg, add the milk, and knead the dough gently until it's smooth.
- Cover the dough with clingfilm and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
- Flour the work surface, and use a rolling pin to roll the dough to a thickness of 3 mm.
- Use a large cookie cutter (mine is 10cm in diameter) to cut out rounds - reuse the dough until you get 12 rounds.
- Arrange the rounds onto the muffin tin holes and refrigerate the tin until the filling is ready.
- To make the filling, melt the butter and transfer it to a bowl together with the sugar.
- Mix them, add the egg beaten lightly, followed by the lemon juice, and mix again.
- Add the walnuts and dried fruit, and mix to combine.
- Divide the mixture evenly between each muffin tin and bake in the preheated oven at 180 degrees Celsius (350 Fahrenheit) for 25 minutes until the pastry is golden and the filling is set and risen.
- Leave the tarts to cool down in the tin for 10 minutes, then carefully pop them out and leave them to cool down completely on a cooling rack.
- If you'd like to see the ingredients listed in cups and ounces, please check the US Customary Link.
- Also, the amount of ingredients changes depending on the servings, so click on the number listed to change it to the number you prefer.
- Chilling the dough is a crucial step, as the pastry does tend to shrink quite a bit in the oven - that's the case with all butter pastry though, and unless you bake it blind beforehand, you will end up will too little pastry.
- An important step is rolling the dough thin, as otherwise you end up with tarts that have more pastry than filling.
- Do not overbeat the butter and sugar for the filling, there is no need for a hand mixer, just mix them lightly with a spatula, otherwise the filling becomes marshmallowy.
- Do not fill the tarts too much with filling, as this rises in the oven and will overflow, making the tarts less pretty and sticky too. I would fill them only about half or 3 quarters, but not all the way to the top.
- You can sprinkle some icing sugar over the tarts once the cool down for a more festive look, but that's entirely optional.