Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Mince Pies

What would a baking blog be without that quintessential Christmas treat: mince pies? These little beauties may not look like the most spectacular pies in the world, but the pastry is so light and buttery that it literally melts in the mouth, revealing the rich flavours of mincemeat within.

This recipe has been in my family for generations, and I think I can just about do it with my eyes closed now. Making the perfect pastry is really very simple if you just follow this guide step by step; remember not do use too much water and not to overwork the dough.

I always use shop bought mincemeat to avoid the hassle of making my own, but do feel free to make it! After experimenting with a variety of different mincemeats (my family eat a LOT of mince pies), my favourite is Tesco's Finest, although the Co-Operative mincemeat is also yummy. If you fancy something a bit boozier, than Sainsbury's Taste the Difference do an amazing one, packed with port and sherry. Avoid Robertson's however, its far too runny.

For the pastry:
10oz flour
7oz unsalted butter (plus extra for greasing)
1oz of caster sugar
For the filling:
1 Jar of mincemeat of your choice

Begin by greasing some fairy-cake tins with butter.This recipe usually makes 12-14 mince pies. Grease each hole thoroughly with the same butter that you intend to use in the pastry. Set aside.

To make the pastry. rub together the butter and flour between your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs. (Tip - shake the bowl to make any large chunks of butter come to the top, then rub them in.) Stir in the caster sugar.

Add a little water, then stir. Repeat this until the dough comes together, then use your hands to bring it together into a ball. This should take about 2 tbsp of water. You don't want the pastry to be too sticky or too crumbly, so add the water slowly.

Once you have formed the dough into a ball, wrap it in clingfilm and put in the fridge to rest for half an hour.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius (fan.) Remove the pastry from the fridge and divide into two with a sharp knife. Place one half to the side (NOT back in the fridge).

Roll out one half of the dough until it is 3-4mm thick. Again, use your judgement here; a pastry that is too thick will not cook thoroughly. Using a large fluted cutter, about the same size as the fairy-cake tin holes, cut out the bases and use them to line the fairy-cake tin.

Fill each pastry base with a generous teaspoon of mincemeat, but not so much that it spills over the edge! Wet the edges of each pastry case with a little bit of water.

Next, roll out the next batch of dough to the same thickness. Using a slightly smaller fluted cutter, cut out the lids to the pies and place them on top of each individual pie. Press down lightly at the edges. Using a sharp knife, poke two small holes in the top of each pie.

Bake in the preheated oven for 18-20 minutes, they should be a pale golden brown. The moment you remove them from the oven, sprinkle them generously with caster sugar and leave to cool in the tin.

When the mince pies are completely cool, give the tin a few sharp taps, and using a palette knife remove them from the tin.

Enjoy cold, or warm up with 10 seconds in the microwave and serve with a dollop of cream or vanilla ice-cream. Merry Christmas!

If you fancy something equally as festive but slightly different, then check out these Christmas Spice Cupcakes. 

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