Mince pies have been confusing plenty of us for years. (“Are they meat or fruit?”) And yet, they’re still a yummy Christmas staple that we love to see when December rolls around. You can buy some pies from the local shop, but you’ll really wow your guests (and yourself) with some home-made goodies.
What you’ll need:
- Icing sugar for dusting
- butter for greasing the trays
- mince pie filling
- 200g almonds
- 1 egg
If you’re making the pastry yourself:
- 500g plain flour (plus extra for dusting)
- 100g icing sugar
- 250 g butter
- 2 eggs
- 1tbs milk
If you’re buying pastry that’s ready to go:
- 1kg frozen shortcrust pasty from your local supermarket
If you’re making the mince filling yourself:
- 2 granny smith apples
- 250g sultanas
- 250g glacé cherries
- 2 oranges
- 150g brown sugar
- 200ml brandy (rum can also work, or you can omit the alcohol if you like)
- 200ml apple cider
- 1/2 a teaspoon of each of the following spices:
- ground nutmeg
- ground cloves
- ground cinnamon
- ground ginger
- 50g butter
If you’re buying filling that’s ready to go:
- 800g mince pie filling from your local supermarket
How to make the mince pies:
To make the filling:
- Core and peel the apples, then chop them to roughly 1cm squares.
- Juice your oranges to get roughly half a cup (100ml) of orange juice. Then grate the orange skins to get a quarter of a cup of rind.
- Put a medium pot over a medium heat. Now you can pop in your apples, sultanas, cherries, orange rind, orange juice, brown sugar, brandy, apple cider, spices, butter, and a pinch of salt.
- Stir the mixture, letting the fruits soften and the liquid mostly evaporate. This should take roughly 20-30 minutes.
- Once you’re satisfied with the filling, remove it from the heat and transfer it to the fridge to let it cool.
- If you like, leave in the fridge to let the flavours come together and develop. (A day or two will do the trick.)
This filling can be made up to three months ahead and left in the freezer in an airtight container.
To make the pastry:
- First, sieve the flour and icing sugar to remove any lumps. You can make the pastry on a large, clean work surface if you have the space, but if you don’t you can always do it in a large bowl. Whichever you prefer, you can sieve the dry ingredients straight into the workspace (surface or bowl).
- Dice the butter into 1cm square cubes.
- Add the butter to the dry ingredients and then use your fingers to rub it all together. You should end up with a fine, crumbly mixture that looks a bit like bread crumbs. You can just chuck it into a food processor and let it do the work for you, just be sure you don’t overwork the dough in the processor.
- In a separate bowl, beat the eggs.
- Add the eggs to the crumbly mix and gently work it all together until you have one big ball of dough. Remember to still not work it too much at this stage — you still want some crumble happening.
- Put the dough ball into a bowl and cover the bowl in cling film. Put it into the fridge and let it chill for at least an hour.
Bringing the mince pies all together:
- Preheat the oven to 180°C.
- Grab your almonds and roughly chop them up. You can do this in a food processor to make it a bit easier and faster.
- Lightly flour a large workspace and start rolling out the dough. You’ll want to roll it to a thickness of about 3-5mm.
- Cut out your pie crusts. If you have one, it’s great to use a round dough cutter to keep the pies uniform. The pie crusts should be 10cm in diameter and the tops 8cm in diameter. If you don’t have cutters of the right size, trace out circles in baking paper and use them as stencils to cut out the dough in the right size and shape.
- Meanwhile, if you have extra dough left over, you can use it to make decorative dough leaves or other shapes to go on top of the pies for a fun touch.
- Grease your mini pie tray or cupcake tray (either will work) with butter, this makes getting the pies out at the end a lot easier.
- Place the larger circles of dough into the spaces in your pan. You can gently press them in to make sure they fit, but be careful not to tear them.
- Take your filling out of the fridge and mix in the almonds you chopped up earlier.
- Once your almonds are nicely mixed in, gently spoon the filling into the waiting crusts in the pan. At this point, be careful not to overfill the crusts because overfull pies have a tendency to leak.
- Place the tops you cut out before on top of the now-filled pies.
- Pinch the edges together to seal the pies. You can even crimp them by pressing the prongs of a fork down onto the edges.
- Put your remaining egg in a small bowl and beat it lightly.
- Add any extra pastry decorations you made and lightly press them into the tops
- With a pastry brush, brush the beaten egg onto your pies. This helps create that gorgeous golden brown colour we love to see.
- Put the pies into the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until they’re golden. Leave them to cool and firm.
- Once the pies are firm, dust them with icing sugar. You can do this by sieving the icing sugar directly above the pies from a height (10-20cm is good). If you didn’t cut out any extra pastry decorations, you can still decorate the pies now. Cut out stencils from baking paper (or use your own if you already have some). Cut out whatever shapes you like, but stars are always a classic. Lay them over the tops of your pies and dust the icing sugar over. Remove the stencil and you’ll be consequently left with icing sugar dusting with a cute shape in the centre.
Do you have your own beloved mince pie recipe? Let us know!
All original recipes come from the author, Paige Riddiford.