Wednesday, 22 December 2010
After making mincemeat, the first thing to master is a great mince pie.
This recipe is the product of several years of tweaking with a lot of help from Delia and my mum. My main addition is the clementine juice in the pastry, which adds a very subtle flavour but most of all just seems to make the pastry particularly crisp, slightly flaky and generally delicious.
I used to top my mince pies with stars. These days I go for a flurry of snowflakes - they look so pretty. I like my mince pies open-topped because then the top of the mincemeat caramelizes and bubbles everywhere.
You could of course then go over the top like we do and top them with a few spoons of brandy butter and a drizzle of double cream. That's what we did to two of the above.
After we had scraped our plates clean, I realised I hadn't dusted them with icing sugar before photographing them. Admittedly I don't normally bother but they do look nice with a bit of sugar snow.
Anyway, I hope this recipe comes to life in your kitchen. It has lead to many smiles of rich satisfaction in my home.
(Adapted from Delia's Christmas)
175g plain flour
pinch of fine sea salt
75g cold butter, cut into cubes
juice of a clementine, chilled*
about half a big jar of homemade or best quality mincemeat
Sift the flour and salt into a mixing bowl. Rub the butter into the flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs (see here for a guide). Add the clementine juice and use a knife to combine. Add a little cold water and try to bring the pastry together into a ball, adding more if needed - it should still be fairly dry, not sticky or crumbly. Squish into a disc then wrap in cling film and chill for half an hour.
Preheat the oven to 200C/390F. Evenly roll out the pasty - I like it to be thin for these. Either use a circle cookie cutter or use a glass as a guide to cut out circles - you should get 10-12 with some spare. Use biscuit cutters to cut out snowflakes or stars out of the leftovers. Place each circle into a cupcake/muffin tin and lightly press into shape. Add a few teaspoons of mincemeat until nearly full, then top with the decorations. Put into the oven until golden brown and bubbling - about 20-25 minutes. Remove to a wire rack to cool quickly (any escaped bits of caramelized juice will set hard and make them very difficult to remove). Serve warm with brandy butter and/or cream.
*You can also just use cold water, or use milk instead - it's about 2-3 tbsp.
15g ground almonds
55g unsalted butter
50g soft brown sugar
pinch of fine sea salt
2 tbsp brandy
Toast the almonds until they start to turn golden brown in a dry pan over medium heat then set aside to cool. Beat the butter, sugar and salt until pale and fluffy. Beat in the almonds. Slowly add the brandy one tablespoon at a time. Spoon into a bowl and put into the fridge to harden. Serve cold. Will keep for 2-3 weeks in the fridge covered in cling film.
(Makes 1 small bowl, enough to serve with the mince pies above, but easy to multiply up)