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Marvellous Mince Pies

December 23, 2009

I’ve been trying to post this for the last three days (technical and power issues – almost all my fault I suspect!) So here it is. You might have time to get to the shops before they shut…

I briefly touched on traditions in my last post. I’m sure I’ll be having a great time this Christmas, but one of the traditions I’m missing is making mince pies with my mum on Christmas Eve, and then putting them through ‘Quality Control’ with my brother.

But, just because I’m not in my mum’s kitchen doesn’t mean I can’t make her mince pies. It’s fitting that I make them here – this particular recipe came from a friend of her’s when we were here in the 70s and 80s – so thank you very much to her! It’s given us years of yumminess!

What you need:

  • 1lb plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 teaspoon cream of Tartar
  • ½lb (ish) butter – non-salted
  • soda water
  • 1 teaspoon brandy (optional – purely as a preservative of course ;))
  • 2 jars of mincemeat (obviously)
  • You’ll also want to have a little bit of milk – preferably full fat.

This makes about 2 dozen, but obviously it depends on how thick you make the pastry, and how full you make your pies! Also I usually find a jar of mincemeat does just over a dozen – but again it depends on how much you put in!

What you do:

Combine the dry ingredients with the butter – it doesn’t take long, even by hand.

Add the liquid very slowly, mixing thoroughly as you go. Top Tip – when opening Soda Water, don’t open it quickly! (And you may want to stand by the sink…)

Once you’ve made the pastry, try to keep it cool and don’t handle it more than necessary. (I would recommend you don’t try to make these at a room temperature of 27+ºC. But, y’know, some of us have little choice.)

Roll out the pastry, cut ‘tops’ and ‘bottoms’. Place the ‘bottoms’ into a well greased tin, then fill with mincemeat. Don’t skimp on the mincemeat – it’s the best bit!

Brush the edge of the bottoms with milk (full fat is best) and then seal the tops in place. Cut two slits in the top to let steam escape then glaze with more milk. (Glazing is optional, the slits are not.)

Cook for about 20 minutes at approx 220ºC (Gas mark 7, 450ºF) You can have it slightly cooler and cook for longer, just keep checking. Make sure bottoms are cooked! If the tops are getting too dark but the bottoms aren’t ready, cover them with foil and keep checking.

Take the pies out of tins and leave on rack to cool. (Or improvise if you don’t have a rack – I piled them up in a sieve, which I sat on an upturned bowl.)

These are far from the most beautiful mince pies I’ve ever made, but according to the Official Taste Tester (no it wasn’t me), they’re still pretty tasty, so I chalk it as a win.

I also had a bit of a disaster with one batch (that’s what you get for baking with an oven you don’t know). However! Never one to give up on a potentially groundbreaking new recipe, I scooped them out and crushed them all together to make Mince Pie Mash Mix, then made little balls. These went down a treat with people who don’t normally like mince pies, so I think I’ll definitely be making them again! Even when they don’t ‘go wrong.’

How you serve them:

Both are great on their own – as we had them in the office and at my Alpha group yesterday, but there’s something about mincemeat that demands brandy. (Or maybe it’s just me!)

Serve the pies hot with brandy butter. You can reheat them in the microwave, but be careful – the fillings get really hot!

The Mince Pie Balls (they need a better name don’t they – any suggestions?) would be great served warm (not hot) in the middle of a ball of ice-cream, (a bit like tartufo but not, obviously) or simply gently warmed with a healthy dollop of thick brandy cream on the side. You read it here first folks!
One last thing – don’t forget to taste test your creations. Quality control is very important 😉


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