I am currently basking in the glory of having made a near perfect batch of mince pies*, so I thought I’d share with you some tips for making them. I blogged the recipe I use last year and the pastry is yet to fail me, which is saying something if you know about my pastry history before that.
1) Make or buy a jar of really good mincemeat
My Mother-in-Law very kindly gives me a jar or two of her homemade mincemeat once a year, which is excellent. If you can, make your own but if don’t it is worth buying a good quality homemade mincemeat – farm shops, delis and local farmers markets have lots of choice. Supermarket mincemeat tends to be full of too much sugar, which means the sugar caramelises in the oven and bubbles over the sides of your pies. And it also makes the pies stick to your tin if you are particularly unlucky.
2) Grate your butter, don’t dice.
This tip works for all pastry and also for crumble, it is so simple but it makes making pastry ten times easier, and keeps the butter cold. Freeze your butter beforehand if you can too as it makes it easier to grate. Another tip I picked up, which was from Mary Berry, is coating the butter in flour makes it easier to grate without getting in a big mess.
3) Thin pastry is better
It makes sense, a big thick lining of pastry is going to take ages to cook and you’ll end up with claggy horrible mince pies. A nice thin layer of pastry, about 3-4mm is best for mince pies – that way your mince pies will stay crisp and will bake in 15 minutes.
It is really important to chill your pastry after you’ve made it so that it doesn’t shrink up or go all melty in the oven. The pastry recipe I use also doesn’t contain any liquid but if you find it takes a while to come together a bit of ice cold water won’t hurt, but it helps if you chill your pastry down for a bit longer to counteract shrinking/melty pastry. After filling and topping my mince pies I also give them another 15 minutes in the fridge for the same reason.
5) Don’t use too much mincemeat
I’m starting to sound a bit mean now, aren’t I? It’s ok, you can just eat two instead of one. A scant teaspoon of mincemeat is enough, otherwise you’ll have mincemeat bubbling over the edges of your pastry and your mince pies will burn on top and probably stick to the tin.
So there you are, happy mince pie making! I made a double batch of dough and the second half is waiting for me in the freezer so I’ll be making another batch this weekend.
* They lose marks for not being too pretty, but if it tastes good, who cares?