I love mince pies. They totally reminded me of my Mum’s house at Christmas time. She wouldn’t dream of buying them and makes her own gorgeous crumbly short crust pastry. They may not look perfect, and I am glad about that – because they look homemade and sure taste better for it.
What I hate are the mince pies from the standard supermarket or bakery that are made with poor ingredients. Sickly sweet and either full of a jam like filling, or so heavy in pastry its hard to recognise the insides at all. They are a total disappointment and enough to put anyone off the idea that the mince pie is the mere morsel you are going to squeeze in no matter how full you are on Christmas day!
So, I asked Mum really nicely for her recipe a couple of days ago. She probably has a vision of me up to my arms in pastry as I create some pre Christmas treats for her grandsons. Actually, I was being sneaky and thought I could share it with you – my special treat for you at Christmas!
An extract of her email is as follows:
“I always use my 50 year old biscuit pastry mix –
125g butter and 1/2 cup sugar
1 beaten egg, 1 cup SR flour, 1 cup plain flour
It’s possible to roll out small quantities – I cut it out with a cutter to fit my smallest muffin pans – fill with fruit mince – top with a small round of pastry to not quite cover and bake in 180C (I’ll let you know time later today!)
I then put a small blob of icing on cooked pie and half a glace cherry. They are not beautiful but everyone says they are very edible!”
So, Mum is in the habit of buying her mincemeat – and she always uses the Robertsons and it seems a pretty good option. The truly keen though can go the extra step and create their own.
Whilst there are always updates to the mince pies, clever cooks who try to glorify the recipe with additions, I have to say I am more inclined to the traditional simplicity of a mince pie. I have tried those with a touch of orange, a little cream cheese, ground almonds and even the use of filo pastry and I can’t say I have been riveted enough to move away from the simple old fashioned version. One move I have made is away from the use of lard. I really can’t deal with lard pastry so I definitely espouse the use of a crumbly short crust (as does my Mum)
Last year I made my own mince meat and I used Delia Smiths easiest ever recipe – it’s pretty straight forward so if you are new to this, start with this one for sure
Making your own little pies serves quite a few purposes. They make fabulous little gifts for those tricky to buy people, or the awkward moments when someone pops by and need to have something special on hand. They are quick to make and the great tip is that you can freeze them raw and cook them from frozen when you need them – or freeze them cooked and defrost and warm through.
My Mum’s pastry has sugar in it – don’t judge – it is a 50 year old recipe and they didn’t have the paranoid concerns about sugar as we tend to now. So, you can go with hers or you can follow the one I have copied here from Nigel Slater. His is lovely and simple too so you can’t go wrong.
If you get a chance to comment below I would love to hear your thoughts on the mince pie. If you have had a store bought one worth reporting on then please let me know!!
Mince pies – a recipe from Nigel Slater
Makes 18 small pies.
For the pastry:
150g unsalted butter
300g plain flour
1 egg yolk
a little cold water
375g good-quality mincemeat
icing sugar for dusting
You will also need a 12-hole tartlet tin, each hole measuring 6cm x 2cm deep. It is best to bake the pies in one batch of 12, then a second one of six.
Cut the butter into small pieces and rub it into the flour with your fingertips until you have what looks like coarse, fresh breadcrumbs. If you do this in the food processor it will take a matter of seconds. Add the egg yolk, then mix briefly with just enough water to bring to a smooth dough. You will probably need just 1 or 2 tablespoons. Bring the dough together into a firm ball, then knead it gently on a floured board for a couple of minutes until it softens. Reserve half of the dough, then roll the remainder out thinly. Set the oven at 200°C/gas mark 6.
Using cookie cutters or the top of an espresso cup, cut out 18 discs of pastry. (There may be a tiny bit left over.) Place 12 discs of the pastry in the tartlet tins, smoothing them up the sides so the edges stand very slightly proud of the tin. Fill each one with a dollop of mincemeat. A level tablespoon is probably all you will get into them, unless you have especially deep tins. Be generous. Roll out the remaining pastry and make a further 18 discs of pastry, reserving 6 of them for the second batch. Slightly dampen each of these round the edge with cold water then lay them over each tart and press firmly to seal the edges.
Cut a small slit in the centre of each pie and bake for 20 minutes till golden. Let them calm down for a few minutes, then slide them out of their tins with a palette knife and serve warm, dusted with icing sugar. Repeat with the remaining pastry and mincemeat.