IT'S easy to imagine Christmas Day at Darren Purchese's house as a sugar-filled wonderland.
The pastry chef rose to fame thanks to his regular appearances on MasterChef, with his most recent creation, an opening chocolate and tropical fruit flower, producing one of the show's highest rating episodes of this year. But when he's at home the dessert master prefers to keep things simple, fresh and local.
The British chef followed his heart to Australia 10 years ago after meeting his wife and fellow chef Cath Claringbold. "I'm quite into the hot Christmas these days," Purchese tells Weekend.
"I love chucking something on the barbecue. When my parents come out and visit they enjoy the informality of Christmas lunch (Down Under). My perfect Christmas Day is a mud crab, some mangoes and oysters."
His love for a laidback Christmas most likely stems from the thousands of orders that his Melbourne boutique Burch & Purchese fills every December. Each holiday season his Chapel St "sweet studio" is filled with wondrous festive treats, from chocolate reindeer, Christmas tree baubles and angels to Christmas tree lollipops and a passionfruit, raspberry, peach and white chocolate Yule log.
Purchese exclusively shares his twist on the classic fruit mince tart with Weekend. "It's like a fruit mince tart but instead of just being completely covered with sweet pastry, there's a toping of orange Amaretti," he says.
"These can be made and frozen uncooked, so you can simply pull them from the freezer and bake them from frozen.
"Desserts can be easy to make and I just want to show people how a few little tweaks can make their food look, and taste, a little more special."
Darren's fruit mince tarts
- 270g plain flour
- 90g icing sugar
- pinch of salt
- 135g unsalted butter cold and diced
- 1 medium egg
- ½ egg yolk.
METHOD: Place the flour, icing sugar and salt in a mixing bowl and crumb in the butter until you have a fine sandy texture. Add the eggs and egg yolk and mix again until the dough starts to come together. Turn it out on to a lightly floured workbench and work it together briefly with your hands. Chill and rest the dough in the fridge for 30 minutes before removing and rolling the dough using a rolling pin to a thickness of 2mm. Cut discs of pastry and line greased tartlet moulds or tin foil cups with the pastry.
- 100g walnuts toasted and chopped
- 100g flaked almonds
- 100g dried cherries
- 100g dried cranberries
- 100g dried and chopped apricots
- 200g currants
- 200g sultanas
- 200g raisins (chopped if too large)
- 200g peeled and diced apple ( ½ cm dice)
- 150g caster sugar
- 100g brown sugar
- 350g candied mixed peel, chopped
- the zest of one lemon/orange/lime and juice of each
- 300g brandy
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp mixed allspice (ground)
- 1 tsp cinnamon (ground).
METHOD: Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl and allow the mixture to steep for a minimum of a few days in the fridge before use. Mix the fruit regularly to ensure an even steep.
- 200g almond meal
- 200g sieved icing sugar
- fine zest of 2 oranges
- fine zest of 1 lemon
- 4 egg whites
- splash of orange flower water
- splash of vanilla essence.
METHOD: Mix all of the ingredients well together in a bowl; transfer the mix into a piping bag fitted with a plain nozzle.
Fruit mince tarts
METHOD: Preheat the oven to 180C. Fill the lined pastry tarts with a generous spoonful of fruit mince tart filling. Pipe the Amaretti on top of the tarts and liberally dust with icing sugar. Bake the tarts in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until cooked. Remove from the oven and allow them to cool down sufficiently before dusting again with icing sugar. (Makes 24)