Quite Easy Mince Pies

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I’m typing this with the mixed scents of freshly baked mince pies and pine trees in my nose, and the sound of Otis Redding singing ‘White Christmas’ in my ears… it’s safe to say I’m finally feeling Christmassy 🙂

Buying a real tree has definitely helped this year, although we misjudged the size of the tree versus the size of our living room, and now can’t really see the TV. Oh well, the tree is prettier!

If you remember, a while back I posted a recipe for homemade mincemeat – now it’s time to make the mince pies. I make these mince pies every year, and they always get good comments – the pastry is very short which makes them lovely and crumbly, and obviously the mincemeat is delicious 😉

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They’re not the most professional-looking mince pies, but they make up for that in taste.

The recipe they come from calls them ‘unbelievably easy’ mince pies, and although they aren’t rocket science, I would say they aren’t as easy as the title would have you believe – that’s why I’ve called them ‘quite easy’! There’s no need for a food mixer, just your fingers, and the pastry doesn’t need rolling out, just pressing into the trays – this makes them easier (and fun for kids to do), but they do take a while to assemble because of this however, and when trying to make the lids by just squashing them in your palms, there are invariably some cracked lids when they come out of the oven. I ended up rolling out small amounts of the pastry for the lids as I could control the size/thickness of them better that way. I also had half a packet of sweet shortcrust pastry left in the freezer which I used for some of the lids, this meant I could make 24 mince pies instead of 18. (Don’t judge me for cheating slightly!)

They are ridiculously tasty, so without further ado, here’s the recipe:

Recipe taken from BBC Good Food

‘Quite Easy’ Mince Pies

Makes approx. 18

Ingredients

225g cold butter, diced
350g plain flour
100g golden caster sugar
280g mincemeat
1 small egg
icing sugar, to dust

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For the pastry: Put the cold cubed butter and the plain flour into a large bowl and rub together with your fingers until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. (It’s good to have cold hands for this bit!) Add the golden caster sugar and a pinch of salt, and combine well.

Preheat the oven to 200C.

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Lightly grease a cupcake tin (or 2). As the dough is pretty dry and doesn’t have egg or water added to it, I find it easier to knead a small amount at a time, rather than all in one go – a walnut sized piece is enough for each mince pie and a good amount to knead at a time. When pliable, push each ball of dough into your cupcake tin with your fingers.

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Now it’s time to add the mincemeat – about a teaspoonful is a good amount.

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Next, either roll out a small amount of the dough (after kneading briefly) and cut out circles for the lids – a 68mm cutter is perfect, or form a circle from squashing a small ball of the dough in the palms of your hands until it’s the right size (it’s good to have warm hands for this bit). Top the mince pies with their lids, pressing down at the edges to seal – you don’t need to seal them with anything as they’ll stick fine on their own. Brush each mince pie with some of the beaten egg, and put into the preheated oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

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When ready, take out of the oven and allow to cool for at least ten minutes in the tin, they’ll be easier to take out once cooler. When removing from the tin, you may need to trim the edges of each hole, and ease the knife down the side to help release the pie – they should come out easily after this. You can trim the pies after removing them too, to give them more of a uniform shape. Leave on a rack to cool down completely (if you have willpower…)

NB: The mince pies without the cracked lids are the shop-bought pastry tops.

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When ready to serve, dust liberally with icing sugar and make a pot of tea – or some mulled wine. Delicious!

I have plans for one more last-minute Christmas gift idea before the big day, but in case I run out of time…

Happy Christmas!

Christmas Mincemeat

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First of all let me apologise for using the C word… but some Christmassy things are better done before December – Mincemeat is one of those in my book. The flavours have more time to develop and the mixture gets stickier the longer you leave it, which makes it all the more tasty.

For the last three years I’ve made mince pies with homemade mincemeat, and it’s all come from one batch! So once you put the effort in, it’s definitely worth it – not least because people are always impressed you’ve made it yourself (even if it’s pretty easy to make – sshh). It’s an ideal weekend job, as you have to leave it overnight, then pop it in the oven for three hours the next day. Be warned – it smells so good cooking in the oven, it might make you feel a bit Christmassy 😉

The recipe I use is Delia’s, but i tweaked it slightly to make it cheaper – instead of buying all the currants, sultanas etc separately, I used a kg bag of mixed fruit and added some extra peel.

Recipe taken from Delia Online

Makes 6 lb (2.75 kg)

Ingredients
1 lb (450 g) Bramley apples, cored and chopped small (no need to peel them)
8 oz (225 g) shredded suet
12 oz (350 g) raisins
8 oz (225 g) sultanas
8 oz (225 g) currants
8 oz (225 g) mixed candied peel, finely chopped
12 oz (350 g) soft dark brown sugar
grated zest and juice 2 oranges
grated zest and juice 2 lemons
2 oz (50 g) whole almonds, cut into slivers
4 level teaspoons mixed ground spice
½ level teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ level teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
6 tablespoons brandy

You will also need some preserving jars to store the mincemeat.

Method

Put all the ingredients (except for the brandy) in a large ovenproof mixing bowl, then stir and mix them together thoroughly.

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Cover the bowl with a clean cloth and leave the mixture in a cool place overnight or for at least 12 hours, so the flavours can mingle and develop.

The next day:  Pre-heat the oven to 225°F /110°C.

Cover the bowl loosely with foil and put in the oven. When three hours is up, remove the bowl from the oven. Don’t worry about the amount of fat in the bowl, this is how it should look.

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As the mixture cools down, give it a stir it from time to time – the fat will thicken and coat all the other ingredients.

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When the mincemeat is completely cold, stir well again and add the brandy. Pack in sterilised jars.

* To sterilise your jars: Wash the jars and lids in warm soapy water, rinse well, then dry thoroughly with a clean tea cloth. Put them on a baking tray, and in an oven preheated to 350°F/180°C  for 5 minutes.*

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And there you have it! Told you it was easy.

If you don’t need so much mincemeat, or don’t want to keep it in a cupboard for three years (which is what i do!) then feel free to halve the recipe, that should make quite a few batches of mince pies this Christmas anyway!

Give yourself a pat on the back for being so organised, and i’ll tell you the ‘worlds best mince pies’ recipe a bit closer to December…