Mince Pies

No major secrets to making mince pies, but you will need to do some calculating and engineering to get the pastry circles the right size. I use muffin tins (in which I’ve made all sorts of things, but never muffins) and aim for a pie about a half an inch deep.

This will use up about half of the mincemeat in the previous recipe, and produce 24 small pies. (I don’t hold with huge deep pies, as they will go soggy.)

My parents used to get very worked up about making pastry from scratch. I don’t think there’s any major secret, other than not letting the fat melt. It helps if you’re the sort of person about whose cold hands people complain.

  • 350g plain flour (you could substitute 25g of ground almonds for 25g of the flour if you fancied)
  • a pinch of salt
  • 75g butter
  • 75g lard (you could use all butter but the pastry would not be as crisp nor as light)
  • 25g caster sugar (about 2 tablespoons)
  • mincemeat (around 500g)

Start by filling a small bowl or large teacup with cold water and putting it in the freezer.

Roughly chop up the fat, and then pop all the ingredients into a large bowl and rub the flour into the fat with the tips of your fingers until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Shouldn’t take more than a couple of minutes. Some recipes tell you to do this stage in the blender, which I reckon just creates unnecessary washing up. (If it’s a hot day, or the room in which you’re working has a blazing oven or fire, then there is a slight risk the mix may go slimy, that is, the fat will start to melt. If this happens, wrap in cling film, and pop it into the fridge for ten minutes to recover.)

Retrieve the now icy water from the freezer, and mix it in with your hands, one tablespoon at a time, until the pastry comes together in a ball. There’s enough fat for it not to stick to the bowl. You’ll probably need 5 – 6 tablespoons, i.e. 75 – 90mL, maybe one or two more. Tightly cover the ball in cling wrap, and put it into the fridge for at least 30 minutes to rest. (This is vital, otherwise it will not behave. At all.)

Once the pastry has rested, flour a work surface, and divide the ball into four roughly equal pieces. A single heroic sheet will be too much trouble to roll. Roll the pastry as thin as it will go, without tearing: probably 2-3 millimetres thick.

Now, you’ll need to cut the pastry into large and small circles, for the bases and lids, respectively. You could use a pastry cutter, I tend to use a large tumbler and a small tumbler. Press bases and lids in alternation, so you don’t run out of pastry and find you don’t have enough lids. Using the quantities above, I got enough pastry for about 16 pies on the first attempt. Squish all the off-cuts of pastry into a ball and roll out again to do the rest. I needed to re-roll a second time for the final four.

Get the oven going. I crank my fan-forced up to 200ºC.

Put the large discs into the muffin moulds. Doesn’t matter too much if there are wrinkles etc as these will smooth out during baking. Put about a tablespoon of mincemeat in each pie. Try not to overstuff. Less is more. Pop the lids on. If you moisten the edges, the lids stand a chance of sticking to the bases. (In the photo above you can see that the lids look like they’re about to escape, but are in fact firmly glued in place by the mincemeat: I should have made both bases and lids a whisker larger.)

Twenty minutes in the oven should do the trick. Whip the pies out of the moulds and onto a cooling rack, and dust with icing sugar. (This is purely for visual effect.)


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