Makes 12 mince pies
30 minutes + 30 minutes chilling
"This recipe is the way my mother made mince pies throughout my childhood, and the way I learned to make them. Mum was an enthusiastic advocate of the craze for whole food cooking in the 1980’s, and the wholemeal flour in this pastry gives it a nutty flavour which perfectly complements the mincemeat."
I’m not an enthusiastic baker, though I very much enjoy watching other people do it on The Great British Bake Off. I find the process too hit and miss; one day a cake will rise, the next it will emerge from the oven a dense disc of disappointment. Of course, this is a self-fulfilling prophecy, the less I bake, the less likely I am to learn how to avoid these mistakes. I think the truth is that I’m not interested enough in eating cakes and cookies to want to perfect the baking of them. It’s also very messy, all that flour everywhere.
However, there is one annual exception to my baking apathy: Christmas. I’ll slip on an apron practically every weekend in December, even in November, when pudding just has to be made.
The use of shortening makes this recipe nice and light. By using a shallow bun tin rather than the deep, muffin type, the ratio of filling to pastry is optimal, further enhanced by leaving the tops part-open, rather than fully encased in shortcrust. By contrast even the most expensive and luxurious of bought mince pies tend to be over-sweet, over-large and made with thick, stodgy all-butter pastry.
You can customise these with your own mincemeat recipe, I use a classic Delia one every year and throw in a few extra ingredients such as glace cherries or nuts. Of course there’s no need to make your own mincemeat if you’re not inclined. You can buy a fancy jar of it, or add excitement to a less fancy one by mixing in dried fruits, nuts, orange rind or a splash of brandy. As a minimum, I always grate some cooking apple into bought mincemeat, to balance out the sweetness.
Give these mince pies a try, they may not look sophisticated, but the taste is refined, subtle and incredibly moreish.
First, sift the flours and salt into a large mixing bowl (or food processor). The higher you can hold the sieve, the better, as this will help to make the pastry light. Cut the butter and shortening into little cubes and drop them into the bowl of flour. Rub the fats into the flour using your fingertips (or whizz the lot in the processor using the standard blade), until it resembles breadcrumbs.
Add the water gradually, while using a knife or metal spatula to bring the mixture together until it forms a dough and comes cleanly away from the bowl – you’ll need to use your hands once it starts to bind. Again, if you’re using a processor, gradually add the water into the funnel with the motor running, and just whizz it until the dough comes together and starts to thump around the bowl.
Wrap the dough in cling film and pop it in the fridge to chill for 20 – 30 minutes. Pre-heat your oven to 200C (180C fan).
When you’re ready to make the pies, roll out the pastry on a floured surface til it’s nice and thin. Now cut out 12 bases with the large, round cutter. Using the smaller round cutter, cut six lids (you may need to re-roll the pastry).
Now take your star/snowflake/holly cutter and press it into the middle of each lid to cut out the shape, leaving you with 12 lids – 6 shapes, and 6 circles with a shaped hole.
Gently press the bases into the greased tin, and fill with a generous teaspoon of mincemeat. Dampen the edges of the pastry bases on six of the pies, and press the larger lids into place. Pop the smaller, shaped lids onto the mincemeat on the other six.
Brush the pies all over with beaten egg to glaze, then slide the tray into the pre-heated oven and bake for 25 – 30 minutes. When the pies are done, lever them gently out of the tin with a knife, and cool on a wire rack.
Top them with a dab of brandy butter if you fancy, and serve with mulled wine or cider, or a glass of sherry. They also go fantastically well with cheese – especially a good strong cheddar or stilton – making them a great option to end a festive meal.
These will keep in a tin for at least a week, so it’s worth making a batch and keeping them on hand for any Christmas occasion – they can be warmed through in the oven or microwave.