Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Mince Pies with Homemade Mincemeat

I have never had mince pies in my house at Christmas.  Well, I don't think I have.  They don't ring any bells.  They may have been at extended family Christmas parties but for dinners at home, they weren't there.  I don't think they held any appeal for my family.  I would have rejected them outright since I don't really like pastry.  And I admit, for the longest time I thought they contained meat and found that weird as they were a dessert.  Obviously I know that's not the case now but they still don't appeal to me.  I'm terribly picky.

However, mince pies do seem to be a traditional addition to most people's Christmas dinners so I thought I would try and make some for the one I was attending.  It was an excuse to try working with pastry after all.  Although in the end I picked a pastry that was more like shortbread than actual pastry since it saved a lot of time.  I also decided to challenge myself by making my own mincemeat, which really wasn't that hard after all, even though I made a mistake and missed out some of the ingredients in the first stage.  Namely the spices.  I'd gotten confused by the change in text colour on the screen.  Silly me needs to read things better.  There were also no sultanas because the fiancĂ© didn't pick them up from the shop, even though they were on the list, and they ended up being non-alcoholic.  I don't drink and as such don't keep alcohol in my house.  The recipe called for brandy, which I did consider buying but it was all too expensive to justify buying for one recipe.  So after some research I substituted the brandy with apple juice.  No one seemed to notice.

In fact, the mince pies went down really well.  People liked the ratio of pastry to mincemeat, saying it was less stodgy than shop bought pies.  They also liked the taste of the mincemeat.  I was so pleased.  And since I had mincemeat left over, I made more for the New Years party today.  They went down well there too.

Since I made these twice, I experimented with how I made the pastry part of pies.  In the recipe, it says to pull parts off by hand the size of a walnut and flatten it into a circle for the base, and then do the same with a slightly smaller piece for the top.  This worked perfectly fine and made great pies.  But they did look a little messy.  So on my second go, I used two different sized cookie cutters to make the two pieces for each pie.  Equally effective, though I got a more equal amount of pastry per pie and the overall appearance of the pies was much better.  Hence I'll be putting that method in the recipe write-up.

Recipe - makes about 48 mince pies

You need to make the mincemeat at least the day before you want to make the pies since it needs to rest for a few hours, be cooked for three hours and allowed to cool again.

Mincemeat - adapted from Delia Online
  • 225g/8oz Bramley apples, cored
  • 110g/4oz shredded suet (I used vegetable suet)
  • 175g/6oz raisins
  • 110g/4oz sultanas
  • 110g/4oz currants
  • 110g/4oz mixed candied peel
  • 175g/6oz dark brown sugar
  • Zest and juice of 1 orange
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 25g/1oz flaked almonds
  • 2 tsp ground mixed spice
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 3 tbsp apple juice (or brandy if you prefer) 
  1. Chop the apples into small pieces.
  2. Combine all the ingredients except the apple juice (or brandy) in a heat safe bowl and mix together thoroughly.
  3. Cover the bowl in a clean cloth and leave in a cool place for 12 hours or overnight to let the flavours mingle together.
  4. Preheat the oven to 125°C/225°F/Gas Mark 1/4.
  5. Once hot enough, cover the bowl of ingredients with tin foil and place inside the oven.  Leave to cook for 3 hours.
  6. Remove from the oven and place to one side to cool.  Stir the mixture from time to time as it does so.
  7. When the mincemeat is cold, add the apple juice (or brandy) and mix well.
  8. If you are not going to use all the mincemeat, store it in a sterilised jar with a wax paper sheet between the mince and the jar lid.

Pies - adapted from BBC Good Food 
  • 450g/16oz cold butter
  • 700g/24oz plain flour
  • 200g/7oz caster sugar 
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1.35kg/3lb mincemeat
  • 1 egg
  • Icing sugar , to dust 
  1. If planning to use the pastry straight away, preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6 and grease four 12 hole patty tins (unless you're like me who only owns 1 and therefore has to do it in batches).
  2. Cut the butter into cubes, or scoop out in small spoonfuls and place in a large bowl with the flour.
  3. Rub the butter and flour together until you get a mixture resembling breadcrumbs.
  4. Stir in the sugar and salt and then bring the dough together into a ball.  Do not add any liquid.  It may take some time but it will come together.
  5. Knead the dough for a couple of minutes.
  6. If saving pastry for later, wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge to chill.
  7. Roll pastry out on a lightly floured surface until it is 0.5cm/0.25inches thick and use a 6.5cm/2.5inch pastry cutter to cut circles out.  Place each circle in one hole of the patty tin.
  8. Spoon a heaped teaspoonful of mincemeat into the centre of each pie.
  9. Now use a 5.5cm/2inch cutter to cut out circles for the pie tops.
  10. Place the pie tops over the mincemeat and gently press down all around the edges to seal the pies.
  11. Beat the egg in a small bowl and use a pastry brush to cover the pie tops in an egg wash.
  12. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes.
  13. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool.
  14. Dust lightly with icing sugar.

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