If time is of the essence, buy some decent quality fruit mince (about 2 generous cups) and this is the quickest dessert for a crowd. Or if Christmas is the one time of year you love to cook, make the fruit mince and replace the store-bought pastry for your own sweet shortcrust. For slicing perfection, allow the slab to cool completely (at least 2 hours). You could pop in the fridge and wait an hour or so if you need it quickly.
200g brown sugar
2 granny smith apples, coarsely grated
100g dates, pitted and finely chopped
100g glace pears, finely chopped
100g glace orange, finely chopped
finely grated rind and juice of 1 orange
1½ tsp vanilla bean paste
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp mixed spice
½ tsp ground ginger
For the spiced crust
260g plain flour
120g icing sugar
½ tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla bean extract
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
240g unsalted butter, melted
50g almond meal
60g flaked almonds
1 x sheet sweet shortcrust pastry (I used Careme vanilla bean shortcrust pastry)
icing sugar to dust (optional)
1. For the fruit mince filling combine ingredients in a large bowl, mix well, then transfer to a sterile container and refrigerate for at least 24 hours (and up to 2 weeks).
2. Preheat oven to 180C.
3. Line a 35cm x 25cm lipped baking tray with baking paper. Combine the ingredients for the spiced crust in a bowl and, using your hands, work the mixture until fully incorporated.
4. Press the mixture into the lined tray in an even layer. Bake in the oven until lightly golden, 18-20 minutes. Remove and allow to cool before spreading the fruit mince across the top of the baked crust.
5. Using a cookie cutter, press out shapes of pastry from the sheet of shortcrust. Gently arrange the pastry cut-outs on top of the fruit mince layer. Return the tray to the oven for 15 minutes or until the pastry shapes are golden. Remove, allow to cool completely*, then dust with icing sugar. The slab will keep in the fridge for 3 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.
Tip: I used a holly-shaped cookie cutter to cut out the pastry but use whatever shape you have on had; any repeated pattern looks great.
*Warning: if you are impatient and pull this from the oven to serve piping-hot, the base will crumble. However, in this glorious hot spiced state with a hefty dollop of vanilla bean ice-cream, no one will judge.