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mince pies

Updated: Tue, 8 December, 2020

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Mince pies mean Christmas. So when that time of the year approaches, you'd better mix some zesty, buttery pastry and whip up fruity mincemeat - homemade mince pies are the best.

classic mince pies cuisinefiend.com

Why are mince pies called mince pies?

There are a few interesting things about mince pies. First and foremost the filling – mince? Mincemeat? Surely there isn’t any meat in them?

Their history goes back to the times of crusades and the Middle Eastern approach to sweet and savoury, mixing meat with spices, fruit and nuts.

The crusaders must have brought back the pies around Christmas time and so they became a traditional seasonal treat, albeit at times frowned upon as Catholic whimsy. But then what did the Puritans not frown upon?

Back in the day they were indeed filled with mutton, goose or beef mixed in with suet, cinnamon, cloves, raisins and orange peel. Makes you almost feel it's a shame that meat is left out these days, doesn’t it?

deep filled mince pies cuisinefiend.com

Shop bought mincemeat is a no-no

The second interesting thing is that although they are easy to make AND I MEAN IT, not many people make them at home. Papers and magazines are full of rankings for supermarkets' best mince pies, but none will ever match homemade from scratch.

And it doesn't take much skill - especially the mincemeat is just a case of emptying a few bags out of store cupboard and mixing them a bit in a bowl.

They sell jars of the filling in shops instead and there are actually recipes for mince pies with 'a jar of mincemeat' features in the list of ingredients. What a joke!

I should think, if anything, buying ready pastry and making your own mincemeat would make some sense but the other way round beats me, frankly. A bit like buying cooked beetroot.

homemade mince pies cuisinefiend.com

Who ate all the mince pies?

And the third thing is they can be lovely or thoroughly disgusting – the latter some of the shop bought ones without naming or shaming. They tend to be overwhelmingly full of sickly peel and reeking of cheap brandy. That, or worse: novelty mince pies with gin glaze, filled with frangipane or salted caramel.

Many people I know truly hated mince pies until they tried homemade ones (mine, needless to say!). This recipe is a conglomerate of several, with the mincemeat owing the most to Good Food Channel.

the best mince pies cuisinefiend.com

How to make the shortcrust pastry

Unless you have your own, favourite, go-to recipe for pie crust, this is hands down the best I have tried. If you have a food processor, it will take five minutes; if not - ten.

Rub the butter into the dry ingredients with your fingers (or engage little helpers), then add the egg and water mix and give it a knead, just until it comes together.

Wrap up the pastry in cling film and dump it in the fridge while you make the mincemeat.

How to make the mincemeat filling

Chop, chop, chop, glug, sprinkle and mash up. That's all there is to it. I wouldn't make the mincemeat in a food processor because you want textures instead of a paste. Save the paste for Caribbean Christmas cake.

The composition of good mincemeat is free to a point, as long as you add a banana (for glue) and apple (for moisture). Skip or double up the brandy/port, as you wish.

dried fruit mix cuisinefiend.com

Cut, fill and bake

Rolling out the pastry is a bit of a chore, admittedly, especially that it never wants to be the right temperature. If too cold, it will crumble; if too warm, it might leach butter whilst baking.

And even though I know that pastry works the best when it's chilled for an hour and then waits at room temperature for 45 minutes before rolling, it's remembering to take it out at the right moment which seems to be a trick impossible to master.

Depending on your tin (or tins; get some throwaway little foil cases which are great if you're gifting your pies), the cutter for the bottom should be a little larger than the opening. Chill the bottoms while you cut out the tops because the best result is when pie crust goes to the oven fridge-cold.

The tops can be any shape you like, or another circle to close up your pie. Don't forget to pierce a hole in the latter for the steam to escape.

mince pies before icing cuisinefiend.com

And once they are out of the oven, the best moment comes: dusting them with icing sugar. Let it snow!

More Christmas baking recipes

My absolutely all-time Christmas favourite bake is Stollen - and if you're patient, you can make Stollen bites, adorable bits of indulgence!

Easy, fun and lovely: lebkuchen are traditional German gingerbread biscuits, the best.

You could try your hand this year at the Italian version of a giant mince pie: spongata di natale.



mince pies

Servings: 2 dozenTime: 2 hours
Rating: (2 reviews)

INGREDIENTS

  • For the pastry:
  • 250g plain flour
  • 75g ground almonds
  • 50g icing sugar
  • 150g softened butter
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 3 tbsp iced water
  • zest from a large lemon
  • For the mincemeat:
  • 55g melted butter
  • 1 small apple, coarsely grated with skin on
  • 260g mixed dried fruit: sultanas, raisins, currants, chopped apricots, chopped figs
  • 40g mixed peel
  • 45g chopped bleached almonds
  • grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 ½ tsp mixed spice
  • 3 tbsp port or brandy
  • 80g brown sugar
  • 1 banana, chopped finely


METHOD

1. You can make the pies in individual tin foil cases, about 7cm/2½ inch in diameter. You can use a mince pie or Yorkshire pudding tin with holes similar size. Even a muffin tin will do, but the pies will be quite deep filled - which is not a bad thing.

2. Make sure you have the right size cutters: the one for the bottoms needs to be slightly bigger than the cases/holes in your pie or pudding tin. For the individual cases I used a  3 1/16 inch/78mm cutter. For the lids use a cutter as large as the holes. You can also cut small shapes for half-open pies.

3. First make the pastry: mix the flour with the almonds, the icing sugar and the zest, then dice in the butter and rub in or mix everything in a standing mixer with a paddle attachment. Beat the egg yolks with the iced water and pour in. Mix or knead to a soft dough, form a ball, wrap it in cling film and chill for at least half an hour.

4. Prepare the mincemeat: melt the butter, mix together all the other ingredients, then add the melted butter and stir in. It will last a few days in the fridge and freezes well but make sure to give it a good stir before using.

5. Before rolling it out, take the pastry out of the fridge to thaw a little - the chilling is for gluten development but it must be a bit more pliable again to roll out and cut. Roll out the pastry, in batches, to about 3mm thick.

pastry cuisinefiend.com

6. Cut out the bottoms and insert them into the tin holes or the individual cases by pressing very gently from the edges. Chill briefly while you cut out the lids. Put the lids on a tray and chill as well while you fill the pies.

mince pie bottoms cuisinefiend.com

7. Do not overfill, pack the mincemeat in gently. To make the half open ones, just press the lids onto the mincemeat. To make the closed ones it’s handy to brush a little of the egg white left over from making the pastry around the rim of the lid, slip on and press it gently around the edge. Pierce the tops to let the steam escape while baking.

8. Bake in the oven preheated to 190C/375F/gas 5 for about 15 minutes until lightly golden around the edges. If using cases, leave the pies in them to cool and to store. If a tin, let it stand for a few minutes and push them out gently with a little spoon.

9. Cool on a wire rack and dust generously with icing sugar.

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Your comments

Anna @ CuisineFiend
Thank you - what a charming comment! Hope you manage to taste some excellent mince pies this Christmas (and see your sister!).
6 months ago
Macartan Caughey
@Macartan Caughey
They look delightful delectable and delicious my dear Lady But me am like a bull in a china shop in the kitchen would actually burn water. Am sure you are a great cook and are very handy in the kitchen. Must copy this recipe and print it for my sister though she lives across the border from me hopefully the Covid dies down before Christmas
6 months ago
Anna @ CuisineFiend
True - you can't beat a good mince pie! Thank you!
2 years ago
BWG
Unbeatable. My absolute favourites! Thank you for this recipe.
2 years ago
1 

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Hello! I'm Anna Gaze, the Cuisine Fiend. Welcome to my recipe collection.

I have lots of recipes for you to choose from: healthy or indulgent, easy or more challenging, quick or involved - but always tasty.


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