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Baking, Treats

Mince Pies – Simple, Festive Fun

Hello again. Please allow me to preface this test by saying that I have never baked before – never! It is the season to be jolly however and so why not try out a Christmas favourite? I was just flicking through the BBC Food website and saw this recipe, I had all the ingredients in the house so thought I’d give it a go, a journey into the unknown. As I mentioned earlier this recipe is from the BBC Food website and can be found here. It is one of many mince pie recipes on the site and was produced by Sue Lawrence, the 1991 MasterChef champion and current food writer and TV personality.

  • Preparation Time – 30 mins to 1 hour
  • Cooking Time – 10 to 30 mins
  • Makes – 12 pies

Ingredients:

  • 350g/12oz high quality mincemeat, preferably home-made
  • 200g/7oz plain flour, sifted
  • 40g/1½oz golden caster sugar
  • 75g/2¾oz ground almonds
  • 125g/4½oz unsalted butter, diced
  • 1 large free-range egg, beaten
  • Milk, to glaze

Method of Preparation:

  1. Lightly butter a 12-hole pie or patty tin. Tip the mincemeat into a bowl and stir so that the liquid is evenly distributed.
  2. Place the flour, sugar, almonds and butter in a food processor and process briefly until resembling breadcrumbs, then slowly add the egg through the feeder tube. (Or rub the butter into the dry ingredients by hand and stir in the egg.)
  3. Bring the mixture together with your hands, wrap in clingfilm and chill for an hour or so. Thinly roll out the pastry on a floured surface. Cut out 12 circles with a fluted pastry cutter, large enough to fill the base of the prepared tin. Press gently into each hole, then fill with the mincemeat.
  4. Cut out another 12 slightly smaller discs and use to cover the mincemeat. Press the edges together to seal. Make a small slit in the top of each, then brush lightly with milk. Chill for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.
  5. Bake the pies for 20 minutes until golden brown. Remove to a wire rack and serve warm.
  6. To create a snowflake pattern, use a festive doily as a template and sprinkle with icing sugar.

And this becomes pie???

Fist of all I got all my ingredients together and buttered my pie tin. I know that baking is more of a science than other cooking disciplines so I made sure all the measurements were exact and I got down to making my pastry. I don’t own a large blender which meant working all the ingredients by hand. This was new to me and I was looking for a breadcrumb consistency but it never really got there. The mixture did get a bit looser and the egg wasn’t a problem to stir through with a fork after about 10 minutes. I then rolled it up into a ball, flattened it out a little and wrapped it quite tightly in cling film and put it in the fridge. After an hour or so I took it out and started to try and roll it on a floured surface. It just crumbled under my rolling pin so I gathered it back together and really worked it quite hard for a minute or so until it felt quite a lot more elastic and I tried again. Success, it rolled well and I was able to get 11 discs (cut with a cup) out of it. I then picked up the scraps, reworked the pastry again and got back to rolling. Again I got 11, this time slightly smaller, discs (sturdy red wine glass) and I decided to leave it at 11 mince pies for this batch. I did have a bit of a problem getting these discs off the surface as I had forgotten to flour the surface again, try not to make that mistake yourselves. I now had my shop bought mince (Robinsons) between my two layers of pastry in the tin; I quickly put a small slit in the lid of each, brushed the tops with milk and left them to stand on the side for the 30 minutes while the cooker heated. After they’d been in for 20 minutes I took them out and they smelled gorgeous. I’d obviously put a tad too much mince in a couple of them as they’d just popped at the edges but that didn’t matter. Wife was now home and as chief dessert tester she got stuck in. I’ve not heard her say this too often but the response was “These are the best mince pies I’ve ever had”. Praise indeed!!!

Wife was very quick…

The pastry was easy to work and though I’d rolled it quite thin it kept it’s form well. The shop bought mince was very tasty and so when you put them together with a great recipe you can’t really go wrong. For a first time baker I was very happy and I’ll be making them again this weekend – result! This time I will be trying to make them a bit prettier but as long as I get the same flavour I will be a happy boy. I’d be really happy to hear from any first time bakers giving this, or other similar recipes, a go.

Just before I go we’ve been talking to David Savidan again and who doesn’t like a little tipple with their festive mince pies? David suggests a Sauternes Château Broustet 2005 which is a sweet wine with aromas of peach, mirabell and flowers with a bit of acidity too. I’ve found the 2007 at the Grand Cru Store and it comes in at £22.69 per bottle, the 2006 at Formula Wine is £22.43 and the 1990 (also at Grand Cru Store) is £33.38. This might seem an expensive accompaniment for the humble mince pie but it’s Christmas after all.

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