Mince Pies, a traditional Christmas treat! They are an essential part of Christmas, and consist of mincemeat and shortcrust pastry. In America, the filling is known, as some may say, by the more appropriate name of ‘Fruit mince’. The recipe is versatile and can be interpreted in many ways, and the filling can be a variety of different mixtures. It can include, raisins, sultanas, apricots, glacé cherries, candied citrus peel, apples, various types of nuts and mixed spices typically nutmeg and cinnamon.
Mince Pies, are traditionally made with a lid shaped into a star. This was done to represent the Christmas Star which according to religious belief led the Shepherds and Wise Men to the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.
This recipe makes roughly 12 mince pies, which leaves enough to leave for Father Christmas on Christmas Eve.
It was only in the 16th century that mince pies became part of a traditional Christmas. At this time, mince pies were coffin or cradled shaped, rather than round as they are now. Due to the spices that are included in the recipe, it was seen as appropriate to celebrate Christ’s birthday with a pie containing spices from his native land. It was always important to add three spices (cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg) to symbolise the three gifts given to Jesus from the wise men.
Finally, it is said to be lucky to eat one mince pie everyday on the twelve days of Christmas. So its lucky that this recipe makes twelve mince pies, if you keep them all to yourself! Make sure to make a wish when eating your first mince pie of the festive season!
2 batches of Shortcrust Pastry or 2 ready-made, Sweet-Shortcrust Pastry sheets. (make sure your pastry is thawed, if frozen and taken out the fridge about 30 minutes before making your mince pies.)
Plain Flour for dusting.
A jar of Mincemeat
Caster Sugar, icing sugar, or light brown brown muscovado sugar.
1. Either follow a recipe for shortcrust pastry, or if using ready-made pastry sheets, preheat the oven to 180°C/ 350°F/ Gas Mark 4.
2. Gently unroll one sheets of your pastry onto your worktop, leaving it on the plastic sheet, or on a surface dusted with flour if using your own pastry recipe.
3. Dip the larger of your cutters (roughly 7.5cm wide), in flour than carefully press it, sharp side down onto the pastry, pushing down on your cutter hard enough to cut through it to stamp out a circle. Carefully cut out 11 more circles in the same way.
4. Life out one circle and gently press it into one of the hold in the muffin tray with your fingers, pressing out and smoothing out any wrinkles or air bubbles. Do the same with all the other circles which you have cut out of your pastry.
5. Give the jar of mincemeat a stir to soften the jarred mixture, then spoon about 1 and a half teaspoons of the mincemeat into the centre of each pastry base.
6. Unroll your second sheet of pastry as you did previously and this time cut out 12 circles using the smaller of your two cutters (roughly 6.5cm wide). I chose to use the curveted side of the cutter to add a nice detail to the lids of my mince pies, but obviously this is entirely up to you, some bakers enjoy shaping their lids into festive shapes, such as christmas trees, stars or reindeers for the more technical baker, of course.
7. With your pastry trimmings add these to the first batch of pastry you used and wrap tightly and chill. (This could be used for another batch in the future, if your mince pies are popular or for some delicious jam tarts, or a chocolate tart.)
8. Dip a pastry brush into a small bowl of cold water, and shake off the excess water off the brush so it is only slightly damp, then brush the edges of each pastry lid with water.
9. Turn the circles upside down and gently set one (damp side down) on top of each base. Press the edges together very firmly so they form a seal (you want to minimise the chances of the filling leaking out, but often this does happen.)
10. Make a small hold in the centre of each lid with a cocktail stick so that the steam can escape from inside your pies during baking.
11. Bake in your preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes until the pastry is golden. Leave to cool for 5 minutes in the tray that you baked your pies in and carefully remove them out onto the wire cooling rack and sprinkle with your chosen sugar.
It is best to eat these mince pies warm or at room temperature. When they are cold, pack into an air tight container and eat within 3 days. These are an easy recipe and make lovely traditional sweet pies with the added bonus of making your home smell just like Christmas!