Shall we ease ourselves into it gently? I mean, I could have gone all out, in your face Christmas with the first post of December, but . . . well, I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure I’m ready for that just yet.
So let’s start here, with mince pies. For those of you unfamiliar with mince pies, they are sweet not savoury (like the name suggests) and are little pastry shells filled with mincemeat (a mixture of spices, sugar, booze, suet, apple and dried fruits such as raisins and sultanas). Aside from Christmas cake and Christmas pudding is there anything more synonymous with this time of year than mince pies? I love them. I can’t wait for December to start so that I can legitimately have a tin full of these in the kitchen somewhere. They are a very gentle introduction to the festive period.
May I say now that I advise that you go and get yourself one of these:
It’s what is rather fashionably called a ‘Mince Pie Tin’ these days, but when I was growing up it was known as a ‘bun tin’ because it was the tin you made buns (aka fairy cakes) in before the cupcake / muffin tray came along. It is shallower than a muffin tray, therefore giving you the perfect mince pie shape. You could make them in a mini muffin tray (they would be bite-sized and adorably cute) but a mince-pie should not be devoured in one mouthful. It should take at least three and there should be the added jeopardy of crumbly pastry and falling blobs of mincemeat and/or squished mincemeat up your nose. That’s the Christmas rule.
* A word of warning – for those of us for whom avoiding gluten is imperative, please please please check the ingredients list on the jar of mincemeat. Some manufacturers roll the suet in wheat flour. It is not difficult to find gluten-free mincemeat and it doesn’t involve a trip to the expensive free-from aisle, but you do have to be careful. I used a bog-standard jar of mincemeat from Sainsbury’s, in which the suet had been rolled in rice flour. So apart from the fact that it contained the Beelzebub of all ingredients – candied peel (bleurgh) – it is safe for is non-gluten-ites. But as I say, check before buying.*
Even the pastry for these pies gets a festive makeover with the addition of some ground cinnamon and clementine zest and juice. We had these tiny little things lurking in the fruit bowl, so I used them but you can use either a normal sized clementine or even an orange.
Those are little miniature pastry / cookie cutters in the photo on the left, so you can see how diddy they were. Probably about the size of a key lime.
I find the pastry easiest to work with if used straight away, but if you want to get ahead then you can make the pastry in advance and then store it in the fridge (wrapped in cling-film) until needed. Just allow it to come back to room temperature before you try to roll it or it will crack and break on you and try your patience.
- 100g rice flour
- 50g gram flour (chickpea flour / garbanzo bean flour)
- 2 tbsp polenta (fine ground cornmeal)
- 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
- 75g butter, cold and cubed (plus a little extra, softened, for greasing the tin)
- 2 tbsp rapadura sugar (alternatives: soft light brown sugar or caster sugar)
- zest and juice of 3 small clementines (alternatives: one normal sized one or 1/2 an orange)
- 1 egg yolk
- 411g jar of mincemeat (you won’t use it all)
- Icing sugar for dusting (optional)
- Pre-heat the oven to 180 celsius / 160 fan / 350 fahrenheit. Grease the cavities of the tin with a little butter.
- Using either a stand mixer or your hands, place the flours, polenta, ground cinnamon and xanthan gum in a bowl. Add the butter and mix (or rub between your finger tips) until it resembles bread crumbs.
- Add the sugar and the clementine zest and mix.
- Add the egg yolk followed by the clementine juice, gradually adding it until the mixture starts to form a dough. Using your hands, bring the dough together in the bowl, adding more liquid a little at a time if needed (if you run out of juice, use water instead) until it forms a ball.
- Roll the dough out between two pieces of cling-film until it is approximately 5mm thick. Using a round fluted cutter, cut out the bases for the pies and place in the tray. Gather the pieces of dough together and re-roll as required. Then cut out the shapes for the top and put to one side.
- Place a heaped teaspoon of mincemeat into each pie and then place your chosen shape on top.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.
- Allow the pies to cool for 5 minutes in the tray before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
- Dust with icing sugar to serve.
Sneaky peek at what is coming up tomorrow:
Mini Eggnog Bundt Cakes