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I’ve had these Gluten Free Ecclefechan Tarts on my to-do-list for quite some time. They are gluten free with my favourite gluten free pastry and can easily be made dairy free too with a simple switch for plant based butter. I’ve not yet worked out how to make these egg free though. Let me know if you would be interested in such as recipe in the comments below.
The humble Ecclefechan Tart became rather popular in 2007 all thanks to Sainsbury’s promoting them as an alternative to mince pies. But there was a bit of confusion over what they are and where they come from, so this post not only holds a delicious recipe for Ecclefechan Tarts, but also a bit of history on the tart and its origins too.
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Skip to the good bit
- What is an Ecclefechan Tart?
- Where do Ecclefechan Tarts come from?
- What does Ecclefechan mean?
- A thank you to Miss Lilly
- Why add vinegar to an Ecclefechan recipe?
- Can Coeliac’s have vinegar?
- How to make an Ecclefechan Tart
- What different fruit and nuts can I add?
- Easy pastry hack to fill your tins
- Fan of fruit pies? Here are more recipes you might like
- Gluten Free Ecclefechan Tarts Recipe
What is an Ecclefechan Tart?
Simply put, an Ecclefechan Tart is a rich, sweet, dried fruit tart either in a flan size or individual tart size. It’s similar to the mince pie in the fact its dark and rich with dried fruits and a pastry crust but that’s where the similarities end.
Ecclefechan actually have no added spices, so those who aren’t keen on mincemeat, for this exact reason, this is welcome news. The filling ingredients are; dried fruit, butter, brown sugar, egg and vinegar – that’s it.
Where do Ecclefechan Tarts come from?
Hands up who thought Ecclefechan came from Germany (puts hand up, then down when no one else puts their hand up!)
Honestly, I thought it was a Germanic recipe for years. This is why I love researching tradition recipes, I learn so much.
Let me enlighten you if you didn’t already know. Ecclefechan is actually a small town, or rather a large village near Locherbie in Dumphris and Galloway in the south of Scotland. You can drive through it on the A74.
What does Ecclefechan mean?
The village apparently is known locally as Fechan. Its name is said to come from the Gaelic ‘Eaglais Fheichein’ which is believed to mean ‘Little Church’.
Ecclefechan is pronounced Eck-el-fech(as in loch)-han .
A thank you to Miss Lilly
As part of my research I came across many slight variations of the recipe but this one touch my heart as it was dedicated to Miss Lilly whoever she was. I wanted to use her recipe but make it simpler in terms of ingredients we’re more likely to have in our cupboards these days. Plus three 10 inch flans is quite a lot so I’ve scaled down the amounts too!
Ecclefechan Butter Tart Recipe
passed down with grateful thanks from Miss Lilly
INGREDIENTS: 11/2 lb Soft Dark Brown Sugar
2lb Dried Mixed Fruit
8oz Chopped Mix Nuts
1lb Melted Butter (unsalted)
3 Table Spoons of Red Wine Vinegar
Short Crust Pastry
Makes enough to bake 3 x 10” Flan dishes – This dish once cooled will freeze well
Source: Ecclefechan Butter Tart Recipe – Selkirk Arms Hotel 46 miles from Ecclefechan
Why add vinegar to an Ecclefechan recipe?
This was an interesting thing to research. There were several theories out there. I’d started with the idea that vinegar was a special ingredient linked to the town of Ecclefechan. Obviously not where vinegar originates as that’s from ancient Rome. That theory was a dead end.
I next wondered if the vinegar helped elevate the flavours of the fruits in the Ecclefechan Tarts? This is true as vinegar (like salt) brings out the flavours in things and this works for both savoury and sweet dishes.
Finally the answer came from someone who follows me on social media. I say the answer, it’s not bonafede as 100% the actual reason but it does 100% work. This helpful person pointed out that the vinegar prevents sugars from crystalising and YES! my Ecclefechan Tarts do not crystalise so this I am taking as gospel and feel I have satisfied my need to know why vinegar is added to Ecclefechan Tarts.
Can Coeliac’s have vinegar?
But wait! Can a Coeliac have vinegar?
A follower on my Facebook Group – Gluten Free for Life wrote this after I posted a request to my Scottish friends for memories of Ecclefechan Tarts.
Vinegar has gluten in it, so you can’t add to your recipe
This was my reply
Actually no, malt vinegar does not have gluten (over 20ppm) in it because the barley malt is stripped of gluten in the fermentation and distillation process.
Malt vinegar is however NOT okay for anyone intolerant to BARLEY because (of course) it still has BARLEY in it.
The traditional recipe for Ecclefechen has white or red wine vinegar in it. So no BARLEY or GLUTEN has gone anywhere near the vinegar.
Balsamic vinegar is also gluten free because this is made from a reduction of wine into a deliciously thick rich vinegar (it takes years, hence the cost!)
Coeliac UK did mark all vinegars up as gluten free until a year or two ago. However they have since removed vinegar from it’s directory of safe products. Not because it’s not gluten free but because they want to encourage the vinegar industry to put their money where their mouth is and use the Cross-Grain marker.
Coeliac UK wrote about it here Barley Malt Vinegar and Malt Extract Explained – please note this advice would not be true if in US or Australia as they do not have the 20ppm exception.
How to make an Ecclefechan Tart
As mentioned previously. Ecclefechan Tarts are very similar to mince pies in the fact that they are rich fruit filled pastry shells. So the process for making them is similar but not the same.
To make Ecclefechan you need to make your gluten free pastry (I always chill my pastry to prevent shrinkage). Next you make the filling which is super simple.
In a large bowl add the dried fruit, nuts, dark brown sugar, melted butter, vinegar and egg – then mix. That’s it. No added spices or gluten free suet.
Finally, bake in the oven for 20 minutes of so until the tops are crispy and look similar to that of a pecan pie or treacle tart.
What different fruit and nuts can I add?
In honour of Miss Lilly I have kept this Ecclefechan recipe simple as I believe the old ways are often the best. However, if you want to switch things up a bit and make these into luxury Ecclefechan then you could consider adding anything from the list below.
- glace cherries
- dried cranberries
- dried blueberries
- dried cherries
- chopped pecans
- chopped walnuts
- pine nuts
- dash of Scottish whisky
Easy pastry hack to fill your tins
I see people struggle with gluten free pastry and deep filled pastry tarts. The jam tart tins aren’t so bad as you just lay the pastry circles in the moulds and gently press down. With deep filled moulds it can be a different story so to make like easier I’ve shared my Gluten Free Pastry Hack in the form of a 40 second reel over on my Instagram page – click the link to see how I do it with no fail results every time!
Fan of fruit pies? Here are more recipes you might like
Gluten Free Ecclefechan Tarts Recipe
If you make it and like the recipe I would be eternally grateful if you popped back and commented leaving a star rating as this will tell search engines that this recipe is worth checking out and others will get to find it in searches.
Gluten Free Ecclefechan Tarts
Gluten free sweet shortcrust pastry
- 100 g gluten free plain flour
- 40 g butter or butter alternative (I use Flora plant butter) I use Flora DF blocks for diary free version
- 10 g lard/trex I use Trex or Crisp n Dry
- 30 g light brown sugar
- 1 egg(s)
- 50 g sultanas [see notes for alternative]
- 50 g currants
- 50 g sliced almonds
- 25 g mixed peel
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 100 g soft dark brown sugar
- pinch salt
- 1 egg(s)
- 50 g melted butter
To make the pastry
- Add the butter, lard and flour to a bowl and using your finger tips rub until the mixture resembles crumbs or use a pastry knife/blender until you get the same result.
- Stir in the caster sugar.
- Make a well in the middle of the crumble mixture and then add the egg.
- Using a rounded knife cut through the crumble mixture to incorporate the egg or water until the mixture starts to come together, now you can tip the contents of the bowl onto a clean kitchen worksurface.
- Bring the crumble mixture together and begin to knead, this will take about 3 mins, no need to add more liquid, trust me it will come together.
- Take your ball of pastry dough and pop into a Tupperware container and put in the fridge [optional] for at least 30mins to chill, this will prevent shrinkage in the final bake.
To make the Ecclefechan filling
- Melt the butter and then in a bowl simply add all the filling ingredients and beat together to combine.
To build your Ecclefechan tarts
- Take the chilled pastry out of the fridge and preheat the oven to 200°C | 180°C fan | 400°F | Gas 6
- Knead the pastry for a minute to make it manageable and roll out to approx. 3-4mm thick.
- Using an 8cm cutter (I use a fluted cutter as they’re prettier) cut 6 (or however many you're making) circles.
- Carefully place the large pastry circle into a 6 (or 12) pie tray and gently press down into the corners.
- Add a dollop of the Ecclefechan mixture to each pastry case.
- Pop into the oven for 20-22 mins depending on your oven or until a golden brown.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool almost completely in the tin before taking out, this pastry is fragile when hot/warm but fine to reheat afterwards.
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