Mince Pies 

(click thumbnails below)

 Very much part of the Christmas celebrations, the mince pie is a very British thing. It is thought to have originated back in the 13th Century, introduced by the returning Crusaders from the Holy Land. The process of cooking and combining meat with fruit, plus the new found spices, led to it becoming a product that only the rich could afford and it became a status symbol.

As with a lot of foods in those early days, it was also influenced by both politics and religion as a means of power and social standing, the most notable being the Puritan/ Protestant view that it was a very Catholic product as it seems to originated in Rome. It has been suggested that it contained 13 ingredients to represent Christ and the twelve Apostles.

Originally mutton would have been used but there is evidence that veal, duck and beef were all used at some time. Over time the product became more sweeter than savoury and by the Victorian era it was a sweet product as we know it today however the use of suet has remain to this day, although a vegetarian suet is now widely used.

As recently as 40 years ago, mince pies were only made during the festive season, the bulk of production, that was made by the Family high street Bakers, was actually made and purchased on Christmas Eve. Over time the "factory produced" product took over the market and was made increasingly earlier each year, where today, we now have mince pies made and sold all the year round.


Short sweet pastry (makes 8 mince pies) 



30g (1oz) Self-raising flour.

90g (3oz) Plain flour.

30g (1oz) cooking fat (Trex or similar) or Lard.

30g (1oz) Butter.

15g (1/2 oz) Caster sugar.

15g (1/2oz) Cold water. (It is recommended that you weigh, not measure, this amount).

As stated this amount should be enough for 8 pies but is dependent on rolling the pastry accurately,so you may wish to increase the amount you make, for more information on increasing a recipe go to short/sweet pastry

Note: Ideally all ingredients should be 16-21C (61-70F) unless stated. Under this temperature the fat will not combine readily with the flour but above the temperature the fat will become too soft and "oily" and will over shorten the paste. The finished paste should not exceed the stated temperature. Self-raising flour can be omitted and the plain flour increased by 30g to 120g but do not use all self raising flour.

Method
  1. Weigh and sieve together the Self-raising and plain flour onto a piece of greaseproof paper or a suitable container  (not your mixing bowl) twice to ensure an even mix and set aside.
  2. Weigh the cooking fat and butter and place into the mixing bowl. 
  3. Weigh the sugar and  water and mix together in a separate container and set aside.
  4. Take half of the sieved flour, 60g (2oz) and add to the fat in the mixing bowl.
  5. Carefully blend the fat and flour together and when evenly mixed cream together using  the back of a large spoon or spatula. Continue beating for about two minutes to give a light creamy result.
  6. Stir the sugar water mix to ensure that the sugar has dissolved completely and then add to the creamed fat and flour .
  7. Carefully blend together until evenly mixed. Finaly add the remaining flour and mix the ingredients to a smooth paste. Do not over mix as this will toughen the pastry.
  8. Wrap in plastic film or place in a lidded container and set aside/rest in a cool place or fridge for approx 20 minutes. The pastry is then ready to use.
Note: This method of making pastry is known as the creamed fat and flour method, this method ensures that there is no undissolved sugar and will give a lovely short eating, melt in the mouth paste. This recipe can of course be made on a machine but given that this is such a small amount we recommend that it be made by hand. As previously stated, you can of course use ready made but it will not be as good as yours.

For further information on short/sweet pastry, recipe and methods go to short-pastry


For the next stage you will require a bun tray or 8 patty pans.

Rolling Pin, 

3in (7.5cm) and 21/2 in (6cm) plain or crimped round cutters.

Flour for dusting.

Icing /caster sugar for decoration.


6oz (180g) Pastry  (above recipe)

6oz (180g) Mincemeat. (This is the recommended minimum amount but can be increased according to taste, however, it is our opinion, that the balance of pastry too filling is very important and whilst it might seem a good idea to have a lot of filling, the end  result, both in appearance and eating quality, will be affected). We recommend a good quality Mincemeat, this can be enhanced by the addition of spirits such as rum, brandy or whisky according to taste but do not over use as it will overpower the flavour and also make the filling a lot wetter.

(1) Preheat the oven to 180c fan, 200C, 400F, Gas 6-7.

(2) Roll out 2/3 rds on a lightly floured surface to 1/10 in (2 1/2 mm) thickness.

(3) Using a plain 7.5cm (3in) round cutter cut out 8 rounds and use to line a bun tray or patty pans. Use a spare piece of pastry to help press the base into the pans. (click on thumbnails below)

(4) Divide the mincemeat equally between the 8 units.

(5) Mix together the pastry trimmings with the remaining 1/3 rd of fresh pastry and roll  out again this time a little thinner 1/16th in (1 1/2 mm).

(6) Using the smaller cutter, cut out 8 rounds for the lids.

(7) Damp the edges of the base with water and lay on the smaller disc of pastry, pressing down lightly so that the top is secured to the bottom.

(8) Prick the lid with a pointed knife.

(9) Bake for approx 15-20 mins or until a golden colour.

(10) When 1 minute from the end of baking, carefully take out the oven, lightly dredge with caster sugar, return to the oven for 1 minute to allow the sugar to start melting and then remove from oven and allow to cool for at least 5 mins before removing from pans. An alternative finish is to take the baked pies out of the oven, allow to cool for 5-10 minutes, remove to a wire tray and then dust with icing sugar as and when required, they will store better if not dusted in icing sugar, when required they can be dusted for a good appearance.

(11) These pies can be stored in an airtight container for at least 4 weeks. There is no need to deep freeze them. This product is best frozen unbaked if long storage is required.


Using this basic method it is possible to produce a variety of finished pies.

(1) Bake the lids and the filled base separately, (2nd/3rd thumbnail below)  taking great care not to over bake them. When the filled base is cold pipe brandy butter onto the mince filling, place on the baked lid and then dredge with icing sugar. 

(2) Roll out and line the base, add the mincemeat and  top with the streusel mix  Recipe before baking. On removal from oven dredge with icing sugar.


Brandy Butter:

 Beat together, thoroughly, equal amounts of Butter (preferably unsalted) and sieved icing sugar. Carefully add rum to taste.  100g (4oz) of each is a good amount, it can be stored in a refrigerator in a lidded container for many weeks. Allow to return to room temp and give another beat before use. 


Brandy/Rum Sauce: 

300ml (10oz) milk.

16g (1/2oz) butter.

32g (1oz) caster sugar.

24g(3/4oz) cornflour.

Rum or Brandy to taste.

(1) Mix the cornflour to a paste with some of the milk in a basin.

(2) Heat the remaining milk  to a steady boil.

(3) Pour the boiling milk onto the cornflour paste and stir until it thickens.

(4) Return the pan to the heat, stirring and gently boil for 2/3 minutes.

(5) Stir in the butter and sugar to clear.

(6) Finally remove from heat and add the spirit of your choice.

This sauce is best served warm as it will thicken as it cools.