Every X'mas, I make mince pies. I have learned to love this little pastry in England and from its fruity sweet and citrusy flavor, I also started to like the English fruit cake which is more heavier with the brandy and rum effect. I guess it is very true that our tastes and palates change over the times and I loathed the sight of fruitcake when my own dad got it every X'mas last time and I couldn't figure out what he loved about it then. But now, I look forward to next year to make one myself and share with my kids, perhaps lighter on the alcohol and sugar content as I think it was the overbearing smell of the brandy and rum that really put me off eating it when I was younger.
Although they are called Mince Meat Pies, I rather call them Mince Pies as there is no meat at all and Meat Pie sounds savory rather than sweet. I haven't learned the trade of making the mince meat filling yet and bought a large jar which contained no rum ingredient. And I thought there was no one who will make them till I return to the same aisle in my grocery the other day to find all the mince meat filling gone!! Luckily I bought mine a month ago. Without mince pies, I think I will not enjoy X'mas!
The pastry cases were made from a combination of 3 cups flour, 1/2 tsp baking soda, 2 sticks of butter and 3/4 cup cold water. The butter must still be cold and cut to slices before rubbing them with the flour. The idea is to get every bits of flour coated with the butter and the hands are the only best tool to do this. I used plastic gloves to maintain the temperature of the butter while in contact with my hands and for easier clean up later. I skipped the addition of sugar to the dough as the filling will be sweet enough and added the cold water in 3 batches of 1/4 cup each time. Doing it this way gave me a better control of the texture of the dough and to ensure that I get the right firmness. The dough must be rested for at least an hour in the fridge before the rolling out, cutting and filling. This recipe is enough to make 12 pastry cases measuring 3.5 inches each. Depending on the shape of the upper surface of the pies, my star shape used less dough, hence the scraps from the 12 perfect rounds were enough. For close tops, I would recommend an extra batch of the dough recipe.
For extra bite, I added dried cranberries to the bottom of each pastry case before adding on a tablespoon of the filling. I think the star design was from a previous recipe in my BBC Good Food magazine and I like the idea of exposing the filling, hence I couldn't be skimpy!! The whole bottle of mince pie filling was used up. Before baking, they were brushed with milk with emphasis on the pastry to get the right brown color and also to adhere the tips of the stars to the main pastry cases. Baked them in a preheated oven of 425F for 18 to 20 minutes, with 1 rotation of the pan and another brushing with the milk for the last 5 minutes of baking. The oven was turned off after the baking and I left them inside for an extra 10 mins so that they will set and brown evenly. I like them served warm with the English custard but whipped cream will do too. Sprinkling the confectioner sugar is also a must or else the pies look bland and can never tempt a non fruit cake eater to try these!
I made mini sizes of these pies a week ago for my friends cookie tins. The little ones took more effort as they were much more smaller with less filling of 1 teaspoon each. I wasn't sure if my friends were into these pies so I made them mini sizes. One feedback was not favorable towards sweet pies so I know now what to make next year for that friend's gift but hopefully the rest likes them.
Wishing everyone who reads this blog a Merry X'mas and Happy Holidays. May you all have good food, be merry and enjoy yourselves. X'mas comes once a year and we have to wait till the last month every year, so cherish the gatherings of families and friends and the companies of good people.