Mince pies are traditional British sweet pies eaten at Christmas time. The pastry, which can be sweetened or not, is filled with a spiced dried fruit mix called mincemeat. According to Wikipedia, mincemeat dates back to the 13th Century, although back then the pies contained actual mince meat along with the familiar dried fruits and spices. In this recipe I used my brandy and date mincemeat, which has been sitting in the fridge becoming increasingly more delicious every day since I made it two weeks ago. If you don’t fancy making your own mincemeat (although you really should, it’s so simple and makes all the difference) you can get hold of it in all supermarkets across the UK, although vegetarians/ vegans be aware that traditional mincemeat contains beef suet, so always check the label.
In this recipe I went for a sweet pastry, now this is a bit controversial. My mum and grandmother would never use sweet pastry, and would stick to a simple butter, lard, flour (1:1:4) shortcrust pastry. This is the traditional way, and I do love mince pies with a plain pastry. But then I also love sugar, and I have to say, the recipe below is a real crowd pleaser even for people who don’t like mince pies. The pastry is short and just sweet enough. The sugar means it’s a little crunchier than the plain pastry, which complements the ooey gooey mince meat perfectly. Don’t go out and buy remade pastry… pastry is EAAASSSYYYY. Seriously. I don’t understand why people are scared of it. Shove everything in a mixing bowl, get your hands dirty and stick it in the fridge.
This recipe will make 18-24 fairly large mince pies, for which you will need two 340g jars of mincemeat. If you don’t fancy making that many, half the recipe (although it is pretty difficult as it requires a whole egg) or you can always freeze half the pastry and make a few more pies later on in the week.. it’s not Christmas unless there’s a constant stream of mince pies.
- 375g plain flour
- 250g cold unsalted butter, cubed
- 125g caster sugar
- 1 medium egg
- splash of ice cold water
- 2 x 340g jars mincemeat
- splash of milk
- a little icing sugar
- To make the pastry, sift the flour into a large mixing bowl. Add the cubes of butter and rub together until you get fine crumbs. Add the sugar and mix through before adding the egg. If the mixture looks a little dry add a little water, but do this gradually and be very careful not to make the dough to wet. (The key to good pastry is cold hands, you don’t want to over work it, so if it looks alright leave it. The less you faff about with it the better). Wrap the dough in clingfilm and leave in the fridge for at least twenty minutes.
- When you’re ready to make your mince pies, preheat the oven to 200˚C, and grease a muffin tray.
- Lightly flour a clean flat surface. Roll out your pastry until it’s a few millimetres thick, and using a large round cookie cutter cut out the pie bases. Carefully press the pastry bases into the muffin tray carefully. Now cut out the pie tops and set them aside on a floured surface.. some people like full pastry tops, I personally like stars because that’s the way my mum does them (See Mum, I kept some of it traditional!). If you go for full pastry tops, make sure you prick the pastry with a fork or knife to let the air out when baking.
- Now fill your pies. Each pie should need a single teaspoon’s full, but use your judgment, just be sure not to overfill them, top them and glaze with a little milk (you can also use a little beaten egg, but I always think it’s a waste of an egg).
- Bake the pies for 18-20 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool a little before removing the pies from the tray and transferring them to a wire rack.
- You can dust the pies with a little icing sugar (sorry Mum!) after all it is Christmas and you can’t go wrong with a little icing sugar. Enjoy warm or cold, with or without cream/ ice-cream.