Christ­mas mince pies made easy

And you don’t even have to grate pig fat — just buy a pre-made mince mix

The Witness - - FEATURES - JULIE DON­ALD

MY fa­ther was a true con­nois­seur of fruit-mince pies. As a man of an older gen­er­a­tion, he took a dim view of store­bought pas­try. My mother, sis­ter and I in­dulged his mince pie ma­nia. I re­call one year count­ing 500 mince pies made!

Pas­try to fill­ing ra­tio

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 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 on this page. 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”.

The fill­ing

For the fill­ing, you can pre­pare your own Christ­mas mince, which is best done well ahead of time as it tastes best when it has been ma­tured. My mother would make it us­ing the old-school method of 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.

Con­struc­tion 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 time­con­sum­ing, 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 with mince, then grate the re­main­ing pas­try over the top. Bake and cut into squares. My mother en­dear­ingly called

these a “fly ceme­tery”. Yummy!

Stor­age and serv­ing

Store in an air­tight con­tainer for up to a week or freeze for up to a month. Serve warm or at room tem­per­a­ture, and dust with ic­ing sugar be­fore serv­ing.

— Food24.

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