My mother’s mince pies are like no other I’ve ever tried. Her mincemeat is far more how I imagine it tasting to a Medieval palate. Made with tart apples, raisins, citrus peel, a lot of spices, a lot of brandy and suet (or vegetable shortening), it’s not sweetened with extra sugar and therefore the pies, I’ve found, are often enjoyed by people who find more modern Christmas mince pies too sweet. Paired with a perfect sweet shortcake pastry, it’s a marriage made in heaven. I URGE you to try these. They’re so easy to make. I often make them vegan, too, with vegetable shortening in the mincemeat and vegan spread in the shortcake. They work really well. I also often make them in to a large tart with extra stewed apple or frangipane and a grated pastry or crumble topping.
Makes at least 24 regular-sized pies using a 12-hole bun tin like this one, shallower than a muffin tin
250g peeled, roughly-diced granny smith or similarly tart apples
250g suet or vegetable shortening
2 Tbsp mixed peel
2 tsp mixed spice
2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground ginger
2 Tbsp brandy (though I often slurp it over the edges of the spoon)
SHORTCAKE (enough for a dozen. It's best to make balls of dough per dozen, wrap them individually and refrigerate):
225g plain flour
1 level tsp baking powder
75g caster sugar
125g butter or vegan baking spread (the vegan baking spread makes it a bit harder to handle but it still works well)
First make the mincemeat (you can do this weeks in advance and it's definitely best to make it at least a week before making your pies). In a food processor, pulse the apple and raisins until they're chopped finely but still have definition - ie not a paste! Then, add the suet/shortening, peel, spices and brandy and mix all together again. Store in a jar or container in the fridge until ready to use - or give it to someone as a gift! There are so many things you can use it for. You can heat it gently and stir through vanilla ice cream if someone is gluten-free, for example.
Anyway, the shortcake: In to a clean food processor, mix all the ingredients except the egg until it's almost binding. Add the egg and process into ball. Wrap the ball of pastry in a wax wrap or clingfilm and refrigerate for two hours before using. Grease your tins! Then, on a floured board, roll out the pastry to about 4mm thickness. Using a biscuit cutter, cut rounds suitable to fill your bun tins (mine require a 9cm/3.5in cutter). Spoon in a tablespoon or so of mincemeat, pat it down, then cover with a cut-out pastry star (or whatever shape you prefer!). Put assembled tarts into fridge for 1 hour before baking in the middle of the oven on fanbake, 180˚C for 10 - 15 mins, or until they're very gently golden (they're best if they don't brown at all).
Serve warm dusted with icing sugar.
If you're the kind of person that has leftover crumble topping in your freezer and extra apples to use up, do yourself a favour and make a large tart, with a shortcake base, then mincemeat layer, then apples stewed with a little water and juice of one lemon and then the crumble topping. The apples don't need any extra sweetness. They provide the beautiful tang to counter the crumble and shortcake.
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