Here’s a great family recipe for the holidays. It’s a recipe for Banbury tarts, which are named for an English town known for fine cakes. These traditional English pastries contain fruit such as raisins and currants. There are many recipes on the Internet for Banbury tarts, and this article includes some variations that you might find on the web.
Banbury Tarts – An Old English Christmas Recipe For Today
By Harriet Hodgson
The recipe for Banbury Tarts goes back centuries. Early recipes contained soaked raisins and sugar. Extra fruit was added to later recipes. My mother-in-law made these tarts every Christmas. She got the recipe from her English grandmother and it has been passed down to succeeding generations.
Centuries ago these mini pies were served at church gatherings and afternoon teas. They are also a thoughtful, labor-intensive gift. When you give these cookies to a family member, friend or neighbor, you are not only giving them a dessert, you are giving them the gift of time. Though they look sturdy, the tarts can break, so pack them in a box or tray for gift giving.
Our family recipe begins with ground fruit that is refrigerated for a week. An old fashioned metal meat grinder was used to chop the fruit. Now, thanks to the invention of the food processor, you can make the filling in minutes. Thanks to crust mixes and refrigerated crusts, you don’t even have to make the pastry. Of course, you always have the option of making your favorite crust from scratch.
There are many recipes for Banbury tarts on the Internet. Some use candied cirtus peel, while others call for dried figs. Butter may also be added to the filling, though this is not an ingredient in our family recipe.
I was surprised to learn that some cooks do not fold the dough circles in half. Instead, they make one-crust, mini pies. The baking temperature varies, too, and you can bake the cookies at 375 degrees for less time.
Remember to wash the grapefruit, orange and lemon before processing them. According to my mother-in-law’s handwritten recipe, pound cake crumbs may be substituted for cracker crumbs. The juice in citrus fruit varies and, if the filling seems dry, add a little ore orange juice. Do not over-fill the tarts or you will have a big clean-up job on your hands. Banbury Tarts smell and taste like the holidays. Here is our historic family recipe.
1/2 pound currants
1 pound raisins (dark or golden)
1 large orange, juice and rind
1 lemon, juice and rind
3 tablespoons cracker crumbs (My mother-in-law used Ritz.)
1 cup sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1 package refrigerated pie crust or frozen puff pastry
Extra sugar (regular or colored holiday sugar)
Cut the fruit into small pieces. Place in food processor. Add cracker crumbs, sugar, and egg. Pulse until mixture is combined, yet still has texture. Pour into food container and refrigerate for one week. Cut the pie crust into 2 1/2-inch or 3-inch circles. Put a rounded tablespoon of filling in the center of each circle. Fold crust over to make half moons. Crimp the edges with a fork and sprinkle tops with sugar. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes, or until the crust is firm and lightly browned.
Copyright 2009 by Harriet Hodgson
Harriet Hodgson has been an independent journalist for decades. She is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, Association of Health Care Journalists, and Association for Death Education and Counseling. Her 24th book, “Smiling Through Your Tears: Anticipating Grief,” written with Lois Krahn, MD, is available from Amazon.
Centering Corporation has published her 26th book, “Writing to Recover: The Journey from Loss and Grief to a New Life” and a companion journal with 100 writing prompts. Please visit Harriet’s website and learn more about this busy author and grandmother.
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