Prep: 45' // Bake: 25'
What is it?
For us living in the UK, it is one of the treats we absolutely got addicted at first bite. Unfortunately, not all of us share the same feelings for Christmas pudding, another English festive classic, me being one of Christmas pudding critics. Maybe for just that this pudding is so overwhelmed with "fermented" booze, dried fruits and sugar, but that might be just me. Anyway, just wanted to let you know that my pies are lighter (in sugar and butter) and taste festive at every bite, so feel free to bake and consume as much as you like to drown your sorrows of yet another strict lockdown and the cancellation of Christmas 2020 in the UK.
This modern English delight traces its origins from the medieval ages where the European crusaders brought Middle Eastern methods of cooking from the holy lands. These methods sometimes combined meats, fruits and spices, all quite popular at that time. Combine them with the English tradition of making pies with meat and suet and the mince pie was born! It's an absolute must for English Christmas and you find it nearly everywhere, just like the 'Melomakarona' cookies in Greece! I find it pretty exciting discovering other nations traditions for Christmas; food can travel you far away and bring back memories or pictures at every bite.
The whole job here is to make the filling, the so-called “mincemeat” (took me ages living in the UK to realise we are not talking about beef mince). The list of ingredients and prep times might be looking long, but it is not hard to make, cooking everything in one pot and let it cool down and absorb before filling up the pies. All you need is some cookie cutters for the dough and your cupcake baking tin. I have some online shopping recommendations down the end of the post.
Ingredients (12-14 pies)
For the pastry:
300g plain flour (I like 200g Plain + 100g Coconut flour for extra flavour)
150g unsalted butter, room temperature (plus some more for greasing)
3 egg yolks (2 for the pastry, 1 for glazing)
2 tbsp light brown sugar (e.g. muscovado)
1 Clementine (or small Orange) zest and juice
Pinch of salt
Icing sugar and cinnamon for serving
Optionally: 1 tsp orange blossom water
For the mincemeat filling:
2 Clementines (or 1 big orange) zest and juice
1/2 unwaxed lemon, zest and juice
150g Sweet apples and pears (usually 1 apple, 1 pear)
150g pitted dates, finely chopped
200g mixed dried fruits, finely chopped (raisins, cranberries, orange, apricot etc)
3 tbsp molasses sugar or honey
30g unsalted butter
30g suet (works fine even without suet)
30g pecan nuts, toasted and finely chopped (other nuts will do too)
2 tbsp brandy (or try the all times Greek favourite and rick Metaxa cognac instead)
2 tbsp mixed spice
1 tsp orange blossom water (optional)
Muffin/cupcake tin, pan with matching lid, round cookie cutter 9cm, Christmas shapes cookie cutters
Before you get your hands dirty, take a step back, make sure you have all the ingredients and equipment and have read through the steps of the recipe to be prepared for what's coming.
Make the pastry:
Sift the flour(s) in a bowl and then add salt and sugar. Add the butter and the clementine juice and using an electric hand mixer at a low speed, start beating and adding the 2 egg yolks one by one. Add 1-2 tbsp water, the orange blossom water (if using) and beat again until it forms a large ball of dough. Don't worry if it looks crumbly, it will come together when you knead it.
Remove and knead it briefly on a floured work surface until smooth. Wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge until you prepare the 'mincemeat'.
Prepare the 'mincemeat':
In a large non-stick pan with a matching lid, grate the apple and pear, zest the half lemon, the clementines and add their juices in the pan. Heat it up in medium heat.
Continue by adding the butter, dried fruits, spice mix, brandy, orange blossom, dates and sugar, lower the heat and cook, lid on, stirring frequently, for 30 minutes or until the apple has broken down, the dried fruit has plumped up and all the liquids have been absorbed.
Remove from heat, stir the nuts and suet in and let the mixture cool down completely before filling the pies. The mix should be good enough even without suet.
Assemble and bake:
Preheat the oven to 180c (150-160c fan)
On a lightly floured surface, roll and press the dough and cut 1/3 off for later (to do our pie lids). Roll the rest to a thickness of 3mm and stamp round shapes with a 9cm cookie cutter (I used this one).
Grease your muffin/tart tins and line the rounds into. then fill each pastry nest with about 2 tbsp from your mincemeat. Transfer the filled pies into the fridge until you cut the cover lids.
While the pies are chilling, bring the rest 1/3 of dough on the bench, roll it (2-3mm thick) and cut the shapes for the pastry covers (I used these cutters for the shapes in my photos).
Beat the egg. Top the mince pies with the pastry cover shapes and brush with beaten egg.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden and crisp.
Cool in the tins for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to completely cool down before eating.
Sift some icing sugar and cinnamon for serving.
Enjoy my recipe and have a Merry Christmas and a happy covid-free new year!
Below are my favourite authentic products I used to cook and shoot this recipe. If you can't see the icons and links, please deactivate your ad-blocker and refresh the page :-)
Muffin tin and Wire Rack: I use them for muffins and cupcakes but they turned out really handy for these pies too. Le creuset is always the best choice but quite pricey, so I'm posting below another brand that I've used and worked out pretty well for my bakes! I wouldn't recommend the silicone tray, turned up pretty annoying and messy getting your bakes out of the moulds.
Cookie Cutters: I totally recommend getting this pack of 11 round cookie cutters as they turned useful not only for my cookies, but also for pizzetas, tartlets, mini pies and other party and finger food you will be making from time to time. An absolute must in your kitchen arsenal. Festive cutters are optional but really fun to use with these pies or other festive cookies (like gingerbreads or these low sugar cardamom cookies)
Mixed spice: there are plenty of choices in mainstream supermarkets, here are 2 blends from Amazon in case you place an online order:
Orange Blossom Water: Blossom water is widely used in Middle Eastern, North African and Mediterranean cuisine, predominantly in desserts. Rosewater is very popular in Greek cuisine too, but I personally like more the orange-scented one for my desserts. Be aware, it's blossom water, so the taste intensity is pretty heavy so go easy and strictly follow the quantities in the recipe to not be overwhelmed.
Bought a big orange blossom bottle and don't know what to do with it? Here are 5 things to give you some ideas:
Click the "Orange Blossom" tag at the end of the recipe to see more recipes with blossom water and get inspired ;-)
Mix a few drops with your iron's water and you’ll come out smelling of blossom
Add a dash to smoothies; especially those with yoghurt
If you like scented syrups in your coffee, add a dash (1/4 of tsp) of blossom water
Pop a few drops in your humidifier to scent the air