Mince Pies Tested Recipe
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Pies, also known as Mincemeat Tarts, are made with a buttery short crust pastry
and a really good mincemeat (homemade or store bought). Mince Pies have been around for centuries although not
in the form we enjoy today. In the past mincemeat did, as its name implies, contain meat (beef, chicken, or fish) along with
eggs. Dried fruit and spices were also added but were only used as
secondary flavors. Over time, beef suet came to replace the meat and today's mincemeat is thought of
as a spicy preserve consisting of a mixture of dried and candied fruits, nuts,
apples, and spices (with or without beef suet) that is heavily laced with brandy
Growing up we always had Mince Pies during the Christmas season. This
English tradition has been around since the 16th century and Maura Laverty
tells us in her Feasting Galore -
recipes & food lore from Ireland that mince pies do have some biblical
references. It seems they were once made in cradle-shaped tins in memory of the Christ Child's manger and the spices added to the
mincemeat were a commemoration of the gifts given by the Three Wise Men.
Today we seem to have replaced the cradle shape tins with round shapes
(practical reasons I'm sure as most of us do not own cradle shape tart pans) but
it is common to cut the pastry, that is placed on top of each individual tart,
into a star shape.
course, we must talk about the mincemeat as this is the most important part of
these tarts. You can either make your own mincemeat (recipe
here) or you can use a really good commercially made mincemeat which I often like to doctor
a little grated apple and lemon zest. Depending on your likes
and dislikes you can also add orange zest, chopped nuts, candied or dried fruits
and a splash or two of brandy or rum. Now, for the pastry I use my
favorite, Pate Brisee, which is cut into 24 rounds that are placed into 2 inch
(5 cm) miniature muffin tins. A teaspoon or so of mincemeat is put on top of the
pastry lined tins and then covered with star shaped pastry cutouts. Brush
the tops of the stars with a little egg wash and granulated sugar and bake the
mince pies in a hot oven until the pastry has nicely browned. These are
excellent warm from the oven or at room temperature with a dusting of
confectioners' (icing/powdered) sugar. The added bonus is that they freeze
In a food processor, place the flour, salt, and sugar and process
until combined. Add the butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse
meal (about 15 seconds). Pour 1/8 cup (30 ml) water in a slow, steady stream,
through the feed tube until the dough just holds together when pinched. If
necessary, add more water. Do not process more than 30 seconds.
Turn the dough onto your work surface and gather into a ball.
Divide the pastry in half, flatten
each half into a disk, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30
minutes to one hour before using.
This will chill the butter and relax the gluten in the flour.
Mince Pies: Have ready 24
mini muffin tins. After the dough has chilled sufficiently,
take one of the disks of pastry and place on a lightly floured surface.
Roll out the
pastry dough until about 1/8 inch thick and cut into 24 rounds that are slightly
bigger than the muffin tins. (To prevent the
pastry from sticking to the counter and to ensure uniform thickness, keep
lifting up and turning the pastry a quarter turn as you roll (always roll from
the center of the pastry outwards).) Gently
place the rounds into the muffin tins. Place about a teaspoon of mincemeat
into each tin and set aside while you make the pastry stars.
Roll out the second disk of pastry and cut
out 24 stars and gently place the stars on top of the mincemeat. If
desired, brush the tops of the stars with a little egg wash (one large egg
whisked together with 1 tablespoon water) and sprinkle with granulated
sugar. Bake in a 400 degrees F (205 degree C) oven for about 10 - 15
minutes or until the pastry has lightly browned. Remove from oven and cool
on a wire rack. Dust with confectioners' sugar (icing/powdered) before
serving. Serve warm or at room temperature. These tarts freeze very
Makes 24 - 2 inch tarts.
Pate Brisee (Short Crust Pastry):
1 1/4 cups (175 grams) all-purpose
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon (14 grams) granulated
1/2 cup (113 grams)
unsalted butter, chilled, and cut into 1 inch (2.54 cm) pieces
1/8 to 1/4 cup (30 - 60 ml) ice
1 - 11 ounce (312 gram) jar of
mincemeat (about 1 cup (240 ml))