My father was a true connoisseur of fruit mince pies, as a man of an older generation, he took a dim view of “store-bought” pastry. My mother, sister and I, indulged his mince pie mania. I recall one year actually counting 500 mince pies made!
The first thing before making any decisions is to determine YOUR preferred pastry-to-filling ratio. This is the key to making your perfect mince pie. The type of pastry you select to use will be important here. Rough puff pastry gives a thicker flakier pastry than shortcrust (more traditional probably) which gives a more filling-rich result. I am more of a filling girl, so I would recommend a shortcrust such as the one in the recipe below. Also making shortcrust is a heck of a lot easier than rolling out a million layers of puff pastry. Having said that, if you want to go ahead and purchase your pastry ready-made look out for an all-butter version which will be infinitely more “melt in the mouth”.
For the filling, you can prepare your own Christmas mince (best done well ahead of time…like 2017!) as it tastes best when it has been matured. My mother (bless her) would make it in the old school method using grated suet. Yes, that is, in fact, the fat from around a pig’s organs. But if grating pig fat is a step too far for you, and let’s face it, it is for most people. I recommend purchasing a pre-made Christmas mince and doctoring it slightly. I add a peeled, grated apple and a large slug of brandy or sherry.
The shape of the pie
Once you have your pastry chilling in the fridge ready to roll, and your filling doctored, your next choice is what to make the pies in. A muffin tin would probably to do the job but a slightly shallower tin would be better. In fact, my mother had a special tin just for this purpose – the individual holes were rounded (not as square as the bottom of a muffin pan) allowing for easy removal of the pies. The bottoms were even embossed with a shell (extra festive!) Don’t forget to grease these tins well with cooking spray.
Constructions and décor
Once you start rolling our “tops and bottoms”, it is best to test the sizes in your selected pan. You might have to try out your drinking glasses to find the perfect fit. Your “bottoms” should be larger than your tops. Place your bottom snuggly in the tin, add a teaspoon of filling and top with a smaller “top”. Stick your top on with a touch of water and poke or cut a hole to allow the steam to escape. If you want something a little more exciting, cut your tops into stars. Overfilling your mince pies will result in them exploding sticky mince all over your tins and a fight to get them out of the pan, so start with a modest amount of filling. Don’t forget to egg-wash the tops to make them a lustrous golden colour.
Mince pie crumble
If the tops and bottoms are too time-consuming, you could always make a mince pie crumble. Basically, roll out two-thirds of a batch of sweet shortcrust into the bottom of a baking tray, cover it with mince, and then grate the remaining pastry over the top. Bake and cut into squares. My mother endearingly called these “fly cemeteries”. Yummy!
Storage and serving
Store in an airtight container for up to a week or freeze for up to a month. Serve warm or room temperature and dust with icing sugar before serving.
Use this recipe to make the best Christmas mince pies ever!