Saturday, December 07, 2013

Mince Pies

It's December, and mince pie baking season is in full swing.

When baking mince pies, I use a particular pastry recipe that I copied from my mother's cooking notebook, and that she had copied from my grandmother's notebook.

It makes the lightest melt-in-the-mouth mince pies you could ask for, but it is a bit tricky to work with...

  • 12oz Plain Flour.
  • 4oz Cornflour.
  • 4oz Icing Sugar.
  • 12oz Butter, softened.
  • 1 medium Egg.
The original method called for creaming the butter and icing sugar and then gradually working in the flour, cornflour and beaten egg to bind into a soft dough.

These days I just throw everything in the food processor and process it into a smooth soft dough. If you are used to making shortcrust pastry, then you may think that something went wrong, it's so soft. Relax, it's okay - it just needs to chill before using.

Scrape the soft dough out of the food processor bowl onto a sheet of baking parchment, and gather it into a ball, handling the dough as little as possible.
Wrap the dough ball in the parchment and then in a plastic bag.
Refridgerate for at least an hour, or preferably overnight.

This dough is quite tricky to work with, and becomes unhandleable if it gets too warm. On the other hand, straight from the fridge it can be sometimes be slightly too stiff and need a moment to warm up. It is best to roll out and cut the dough in a COLD room - which can be hard to do these days in a centrally-heated house!

Use plenty of flour on the pastry board and rolling pin to prevent sticking.

When rolling out, cut only as much dough as you need off the ball and keep the rest in the fridge. Gather up any offcuts and return them to the fridge to chill rather than re-rolling them straight away.

Roll the dough fairly thin, and cut circles for the pie bases. Gently lift from the board and slide into place to line the indentations in a nonstick bun tin. Gently shape with your fingers, so the warmth of your hands helps mould the dough to the shape of the indentation.

Fill the pies with mincemeat to the brim. Press down and smooth the filling with a teaspoon.

Cut smaller circles of pastry to top the pies, and place on the pies.

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Bake the pies for 15-20 minutes until lightly golden but not too browned.

Remove from the oven and let stand for 2-3 minutes so that the pastry sets but is still warm enough to not have adhered to the tin.

Gently loosen and lift the pies with a small spatula or palette knife - they are quite fragile. Cool on a wire rack.

Any that manage to not be eaten immediately will keep in an airtight box for a couple of days, though the pastry will gradually lose its crispness. This can be remedied by warming the pies in the oven before serving.