from my wife’s blog cocoa + cotton
Buttery, sugary, flaky, melt-in-the-mouth mince pies. Without suet or palm oil. Come bake with us – these Christmas delights are so much better when made at home.
Mince pies as much as snowfall are surely a first and essential stop for anyone looking for a hint of Christmas magic here in England. Flaky, buttery and fruity, these delightful little morsels have long been loved by our nation in the cold season. And for any internationals yet to be inducted into these scrummy little gems, don’t be misled by the name: there’s not a hint of meat about them. Ours even miss out on the suet, and they’re fully vegetarian. We’ve trialled hundreds of recipes to find the perfect method: these just don’t get better.
– You should have enough mincemeat for two lots of mince pies here. It seems like a lot of work to make mince pies, but the beauty of making your mincemeat ahead is that you can keep it in reserve. The mincemeat will actually keep for up to a year or more if stored properly in sterilised jars with wax seals in a cool place like a larder. Then all you’ll need to worry about when you come to make batch, is throwing together your pastry for the pies which takes less than half an hour. The pastry can be kept in the fridge, but only for three days, so you could make that a few days in advance too.
– Err on the side of thinner pastry, around 3mm. Equally be careful not to roll so thin that they crack on the base as you place them in the tin. If you’ve chosen a tin for achieving straight high sides, which we feel look a little more artisan, you will have to mould the pastry to the shape with your fingers. I like to get the bottom in fast and then the rest can be gently eased around. Don’t over worry about cracking on the sides though – when you mould you can close up the gaps.
– Mixing the dough by hand is good fun for the family and doesn’t take too long. If you’re feeling lazy, it works just as well in an electric mixer, but make sure your butter is softened and don’t overmix.
– Once you’ve taken your pies out of the oven leave them to cool for a few minutes before you try to release them.
– If you think the bases aren’t quite cooked through once you’ve released them from the tins, put them back in the oven loose on a baking tray for a couple more minutes – often necessary if you have a silicon mould which can cause soggy bottoms. In this case 15 minutes baking in the mould and 5 minutes standing free should do the trick.
– If you have a little mincemeat leftover spread on crackers with a good cheese and you will have another Christmas winner.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED
- tartlet or cupcake/small muffin tin. This depends on how big you want them – you can make mini ones too, always popular among the little ones and ladies. Click on the following links to find some options if you haven’t yet got one: this sort of tin will prevent soggy bottoms and give you small, shallow mince pies. These will give you deeper sides and look a little more artisan. There’s also a mini version of the latter here.
- Food rings or pastry cutters. These come as a set of five, so you can be fairly confident of some of them fitting your tin – they’re also dual edged, offering fluted and non fluted on the same cutter. These are professional food rings, without fluted edges, useful for all manner of food presentation, not just in baking.
- A good rolling pin – we used this Joseph Joseph one, wonderful for getting the dough an even thickness.
- Pestle and mortar like this
mince pies: makes up to 30 medium pies
for the mincemeat:
- 100g caster sugar
- 1 litre water
- juice of 1 lemon
- 2 bramley cooking apples (or 500g), peeled and quartered
- 8 cardamon pods, broken open, seeds scraped out and crushed
- 1 tsp mixed spice
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- 200g sultanas
- 200g raisins
- 200g dried currants
- 200g dried apricots, roughly chopped
- 100g light muscovado sugar
- 100ml brandy
for the sweet shortcrust pastry:
- 250g lightly salted butter, softened
- 350g plain flour
- 130g icing sugar, plus a little more for dusting
- 2 egg yolks, plus 1 extra egg yolk for glazing the mince pies – water would suffice as an alternative
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
for the brandy butter:
- 200g lightly salted butter – remove from fridge half an hour before using to soften
- 200g icing suga
- 1 tsp vanilla paste, or seeds scraped from 1 vanilla pod
- 8 tbsp brandy
making the mincemeat:
- Pour the water into a medium saucepan, add the sugar and bring to the boil.
- Pour the lemon juice into the pan. Gently lower half of the apple quarters in – cut the other half into small chunks and set on one side in reserve.
- Lower the heat and gently simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat.
- Toss the crushed cardamom seeds, mixed spice and cinnamon into a large saucepan. Add all the dried fruits and combine well. Add the cooked apple quarters with 400ml of the cooking liquid and the brown sugar. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally – the apples should be completely broken up.
- Pour in the brandy and throw in the reserved apple chunks. Simmer gently for a further 5 minutes.
- Spoon into sterilised jars and seal.
making the pastry:
- Cut the butter into small pieces and throw into a mixing bowl. Add the flour and mix with your fingertips until you have what looks like fresh breadcrumbs. You can use a mixer – won’t take nearly as long.
- Add the icing sugar and mix again. Finally throw in your egg yolks and vanilla essence and mix briefly.
- Pour onto a clean surface and bring together into a smooth dough with your hands. Wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for 10 minutes. If left overnight, take out of the fridge half an house in advance of using.
making the mince pies:
- Preheat the oven to 190°C, gas mark 5, (375°F).
- Take your pastry from the fridge and cut in half. Taking one half, on a floury surface, roll to 3mm thick. Using a circular cutter a little larger than your muffin/tartelette mould, cut out as many rounds as you can. Mould them into your muffin tin/tartelette tray and fill with mincemeat – be generous!
- Roll out the second half and cut rounds the same size as your moulds. Brush the edge of each pie with a little egg yolk and lay a smaller round on top. Press around the edges to seal and glaze with more egg yolk. Finally make a small cut in the top of each pie – don’t want the tops to pop off!
- Re-roll any leftover pastry and make a few more mince pies in the same way.
- Bake in the oven for 15 – 20 minutes or until golden brown.
- Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 5 minutes before releasing from the tray.
- Now dust generously with icing sugar and pop them into your prettiest dish for the table. When you’re ready to serve, heat gently through in the oven for 5-6 minutes at 190°C, gas mark 5, (375°F).
making the brandy butter:
- Pop your icing sugar and butter into a mixing bowl (or electric mixer) and beat thoroughly until pale.
- Add in your vanilla, and mix in your brandy.
- Store in a cool environment like the larder. Keeps for a couple of weeks, or a little longer in the fridge.
Now why not heat up some mulled wine, light the candles and build a crackling fire. Gather friends and family and fill the house with festivity – and watch, with a tinge of regret, as your perfect little mounds of sugary, crumbly, fruitiness disappear. But be sure to hold one on reserve – come Christmas Eve you’ll be needing one of these for Santa.