Festive Sponge Slice

festivespongethumb.JPGDecember 2008 - Christmas is coming! - fancy a change from mince pies? Here's a recipe for a delicious festive slice - crammed with fruit and topped with soft almond sponge.

The Recipe

Makes enough to fill a rectangular tray approximately 20 by 30cm by 3cm deep

Ingredients:

For the base

  • 200g Plain flour
  • 50g Rolled oats
  • 75g Butter or margarine
  • 25g Caster sugar
  • One tablespoonful of water

For the filling

  • 120g Peeled and diced fresh apple
  • 150g Raisins
  • 150g Sultanas
  • 75g Dates, stoned and chopped
  • 50g candied mixed peel (or any other dried fruit, if you prefer)
  • Zest (just the grated or pared outer rind) and juice of one orange
  • 200ml water
  • Half a teaspoon of mixed ground spice

For the topping

  • 200g Self-raising flour
  • 100g Ground Almonds
  • 100g Caster Sugar
  • 100g Soft butter or margarine
  • 2 Eggs
  • 50ml Milk
  • Half a teaspoon of baking powder
  • A few drops of almond essence

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C

Prepare the base:

festivesponge3.JPGPlace the flour, oats, butter and sugar in a food processor and run it for about thirty seconds, until mixed to a fine crumb texture.

Add the water - just a very small amount - and run again briefly to mix in. Don't add too much water or it will form a ball of pastry dough - we don't want that, we want it to stay fairly loose.

festivesponge4.JPGLightly grease or oil a metal baking pan. Tip in the mixture, then spread it out evenly and press down a little with the back of a spoon.

Place in the oven and set a timer for 10 minutes.

Prepare the filling:

festivesponge2.JPGPlace all of the filling ingredients in a pan and bring gently to a simmer, stirring occasionally.

Simmer for a few minutes, then turn off the heat, cover with a lid and leave until all of the liquid has been absorbed.

festivesponge5.JPGWhen the base comes out of the oven and has cooled a little, spread the filling mixture evenly on it.

Prepare and add the topping:

festivesponge6.JPGPlace all of the topping ingredients in a large bowl and beat together until a smooth batter is formed (an electric hand mixer is ideal for this)

Spoon the mixture over the top of the filling, then spread it out evenly (don't overdo the spreading, or you will find that pieces of fruit start to be drawn up through it).

Bake in the oven for 20 -25 minutes, or until the top is evenly golden-brown.

festivesponge7.JPGRemove from the oven and allow to cool for twenty minutes or so. Then cut into portion-sized pieces, but do not remove from the the tray until completely cooled.

festivesponge1.JPG

About The Recipe

I created this recipe to serve as an alternative to mince pies - I wanted something that was neither pie nor cake, or perhaps something that was a little bit of both.

The base is something I have been experimenting with recently - it's essentially a pastry mix that is baked without ever having been formed into a ball of dough and rolled out - the result is a light, very crumbly crust.

Mincemeat

The filling used here could be described as 'mincemeat' - a term that can cause some confusion, as modern mincemeat contains no actual meat - just a mixture of dried fruits, sugar and spices.

However, it was not always so - it used to be the case that mincemeat really did contain minced beef - mixed with dried fruits and spices - partly because this would help to preserve the meat, but mostly because the distinction between sweet and savoury dishes just didn't exist in the form it does today.

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