Saturday, December 24, 2005

'Tis the season... for mince pies

And so begins the Christmas cooking. Today I made a whole lotta mince pies. This excited me greatly, as mince pies are one of my favourite things to eat, and for me, a culinary highpoint of the year. (My favourites include Baker's Delight, Phillipa's Bakery, David Jones, Brumby's, that bakery around the corner, Mr. Kiplings). However, before today, I'd never made my own. Like Nigella writes,

"Mince pies, I feel, are a bit like Christmas pudding: you may as well buy in".

Nigella doesn't exactly have a recipe for mincemeat or mince pies in How to Eat, rather, she provides some guidelines for those of us who want to "go one step further than getting shop pies". Namely, she suggests buying a 400-500g jar of mincemeat, and souping it up to make fully sick mincemeat. I did this about a week ago, adding to a bottle of Robertson's mince, a grated apple, rum, flaked almonds, and the zest and juice of 1/2 an orange and 1/2 a lemon.

With this fully sick mincemeat, she says to either make star-topped mini pies with a shortcrust pastry, or ordinary sized pies made with almond pastry and topped with frangipane. In fact, one batch of souped-up mincemeat gives you enough for two batches of mince pies. How very convenient. This morning, my family went out to see a film and I had the house to myself, so I decided to make the mini ones.

213. Mini star-topped mince pies

The pastry for this one is just Nigella's ordinary shortcrust (see page 41 in your own copy of How to Eat for details), but made with the juice of an orange instead of iced water. I made the pastry last night, using Nigella's freezer-to-processor method, and let it sit in the fridge overnight. I rolled out the lovely and pliable pastry in the morning. The smell of the fresh orange juice in the buttery pastry is quite wonderful.

I didn't have a mini-tartlet tin, so I just used a mini muffin tin. FYI, I found the small circle cutter and the small star cutter in the Living Kitchen cookie cutter set to be the perfect sizes.

mini pies in progress


Bake them for 15 minutes at 200C, and they're done! As I only had the one tray, I had to do these in batches, but it wasn't a huge drama as my tin cooled down quite quickly after baking. (Probably because we had the airconditioning on; it was 34 degrees today, not really a day for baking). I got about 33 tarts out of the mixture.

mini pies

How cute are they? We ate them when my family came home from the film with some tea and coffee.

Mum: Daniel don't you want any more?
Daniel: I've had four already! Well, ok... grabbing another one... I'm gonna turn into a fat slob.

Dan looking at mince pies

These are very delicious, and totally compulsive. I'm not really used to having shortcrust pastry on mince pies (all the ones I've ever bought have been with a more shortbread-like pastry), but the plainer pastry was a good foil for the super-sweet and cloying mince.

And keep reading, there are certainly more mince pies to come.

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