When Maia was a baby, a colleague of mine gave me the recipe to the best mince pies I had ever eaten (and have ever eaten since). I’m not normally a fan of mince pies, but I could (and did) binge on these any time of the year. They are so good that every year I am asked for the recipe, so I thought I’d copy it out (and add my own tips) and share it with you. Christmas is only a few weeks away!
So, put on some Christmas carols, roll up your sleeves and get baking! I suggest you make more than one batch and share them with friends and family. They’re the most popular Christmas gift I have ever given. And let me know if you do try them!
For the pastry:
- 285g plain flour
- 200g butter
- 85g icing sugar
- 30g ground almonds
- 1 egg yolk
- 3 tablespoons milk
- Grated rind of half a lemon (use the other half in the mincemeat mix)
For the mincemeat:
You can make the mincemeat yourself but I use Robinson’s (about 450g) and I’ve always been very happy with it. However, I always jazz it up a little by adding some ingredients. Do not skip this step! It will elevate the mixture from ‘straight out of a jar’ to ‘luxury mix’.
This is what I add:
- 1 coarsely grated medium/large apple
- Grated rind of half a lemon (the other half of the one used for the pastry)
- 1 tablespoon blanched almonds OR walnuts OR pecans OR hazelnuts chopped into small bits (avoid peanuts or cheap nut mixes)
- 2 tablespoons red glace cherries, each cherry cut into 5 or 6 pieces
- You can add 3 or 4 chopped apricots or figs (I don’t usually add these)
(You will also need some extra ground almonds to use later)
How to make the pastry by hand (my preferred method)*
Before making the pastry, sift the flour into a large bowl and cube the butter. Separate the egg yolk from the white and reserve the white for a topping variant. In a cup, mix the egg yolk with 2 tablespoons of the milk.
With your fingertips, rub the cubed butter into the sifted flour and ground almonds. Make sure the butter is just up to room temperature so you won’t have to overwork the pastry (this is the single most important advice I can give you: DO NOT OVERWORK THE PASTRY!). Add the icing sugar and grated lemon rind. Mix lightly.
Now add the egg yolk + milk that you mixed earlier to the flour mix and form into a dough. If needed, dribble on another tablespoon of milk until you get a rough dough bind. The gluten in all flours varies so you will need to judge your flour. The size of the egg yolk makes a difference too.
Turn the dough onto a floured work surface and knead very lightly a few turns so it all joins together and the cracks disappear. Turn the mixing bowl upside down to cover the pastry and leave it to rest for about 10 minutes whilst you jazz up the mincemeat (if you are using bought mincemeat like me).
Assembling the Mince Pies
- Butter two 12-hole muffin trays (the holes shouldn’t be too deep).
- Flour your work surface.
- Divide the pastry into 3 batches and roll each piece one at a time into a circle. Make sure a palette knife will slip under the rolled pastry.
- Use a 3″ scallop edge ring cutter (or just an upturned glass of those dimensions) and in total cut 24 patty rounds for the bases. Before you cut the rounds dip your cutter into flour – this will help the cut rounds come away more easily.
- Line the buttered tins with these rounds. (If you find it hard to handle the pastry when pushing it into the holes, take a one inch ball of the dough and use that to mould each round into the patty tin. That way you won’t poke your fingers through each base.)
- Re-roll the pastry scraps to cut out more bases. You should have enough to get 24 bases plus 24 toppings.
- Place a teaspoon or two of mincemeat in each base. Then place a level teaspoon of ground almonds over the top of each amount of the mincemeat filling. This will stop any mincemeat juices boiling over the pie edges.
- For toppings, you can either cut out holly leaves or stars or just circles. (Whatever shape you decide to cut your toppings in, make sure you don’t completely seal the pies, so the juices don’t leak through the edges.)
- Bake for 15 minutes in a preheated oven at 190C/375F/gas mark 5. You can give them a couple more minutes if you feel they need it, but watch them carefully.
- Allow them to cool for a few minutes, then carefully use a knife or a teaspoon to loosen the pies around the edges. Make sure they are cool enough not to break while you’re transferring them to a wire rack, but warm enough to yield to the knife.
- Once completely cool, dust them lightly with some icing sugar.
Note: You can freeze the uncooked pies in their tins. Or let them freeze solid in the tins, then remove them, place them in a container and pop them back in the freezer.
* You can also make the pastry with a processor
You can whiz the dry ingredients in a food processor and then tip them into a large bowl and add the wet ingredients manually, binding first with a knife and then with your hand. It’s still worth mixing it all by hand instead of using the food processor. The pastry is melt-in-the-mouth, but only if you are very gentle with it.