Christmas would not be Christmas in England without a mince pie or two – or three or four. These little sweet pies have no meat in them – the word mincemeat comes for medieval England when spices brought back from the Crusades were mixed with fruit and shredded meat and put into pies – traditionally eaten at Christmas time, sometimes called manger pies. Over hundreds of years these pies have shifted from savory to sweet – and have become classic Christmas treats. As you bite in to your first mince pie remember to make a wish! Minty and Rémy can’t get enough of these little pies – they are quite labor intensive and it’s worth making up double if you can – believe me they go very quickly.
On Sunday I made up the first batch of many for our annual Nativity Play. Over the years I have adapted recipes for the pastry and the filling and I think these are the perfect mince pies – two bites of sweet filling with just enough pastry to make a neat little pie but not too much so as to be cloying. I’ve moved away from a flaky shortcrust pastry to use pate sucre – but either works really well. I now use the sweet pastry recipe from Chef Ludo Lefebvre’s book Crave, doubling the quantities – it’s such a great recipe and super easy to whip up in my new KitchenAid food processor – bonus!
For the filling I took a handful of golden raisins, a handful of Zante currants, 1/4 cup of apple sauce, a generous 1/2 cup of Rémy Martin Cognac and lots of mincemeat (about 1 1/2 cups) – mixed it all up, kept it in a Weck jar in the fridge and then fed it with cognac – you can make it from scratch months in advance (as per Yotam Ottolenghi’s instructions to me this summer) or you can cheat and use it from a jar (Crosse and Blackwell makes a good Mincemeat using heirloom apples that’s pretty decent once you’ve added the other ingredients). Mix it all together to get a thick consistency. As the alcohol macerates the raisins they will plump up.
As I mentioned these mince pies were for our Nativity Play – Manger Pies seemed most appropriate until I recieved the script for this years production. An unexpected Star Wars component had been inserted – in a galaxy far far away… Here’s Minty dressed as Padmé (Natalie Portman’s character in the new Star Wars) – so I guess we should have called them Star Wars Mince Pies… may the force be with you this holiday season.
Makes about 24
What you will need
special nonstick mini pie pan that makes 24 at a time
small crinkly cut circle cookie cutter that’s just a tiny bit bigger than the pie pan indentations
a little star cookie cutter
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
pinch of fleur de sel
4 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 egg beaten
mincemeat (If you don’t have mincemeat you can always make up a batch of jam tarts using jam)
1. Place flour, sugar, salt and butter in the food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles sand.
2. Add the egg to form a soft dough.
3. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour. I keep a batch made up in the refrigerator over the holidays to make up a batch of mince pies at a moments notice – as Minty says they are best fresh from the oven!
4. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
5. Place the pie pan in the freezer to cool off. Roll out the dough once it has rested between two pieces of plastic wrap to about 1/8 inch thick. Cut out the circles of pastry and gently place in each pie space. Place a small amount mincemeat in each and top with a pastry star. You can use an egg wash on the stars before putting them in the oven if you want shiny mince pies or leave them for a more matte finish.
6. Bake in the center of the oven for 7 – 10 minutes until the pastry is a nice golden brown on the bottom.
7. Coll on a wire rack and then transfer to a cake stand. Dust with confectioners’ sugar for a snow effect and eat – don’t forget to make a wish! This year I found silver edible glitter at the store which is perfect sprinkled on top.