Taste of Christmas
Nothing says Christmas like a mince pie. Turkey and Christmas pudding and mulled wine may all be key components, but for a period of just three weeks or so it is acceptable to eat mince pies which have no other comparison anywhere in the world. They are Christmas. I vowed last year that I would make my own mince pies from scratch this year. Come the start of December I was starting to regret this hasty decision, not least because gf mince pies are readily available in supermarkets now. However, I pulled out a cookbook, found a recipe and came to the conclusion it shouldn’t be too tricky.
Making mince pies does need some planning, so either start right away, or plan to make them next year (or use shop-bought mincemeat of course). That said, each stage takes very little time and even putting them together isn’t too tricky so this is definitely a doable task. Further, the pastry is very easy to make and work with, and, as with all gf pastries it’s virtually impossible to overwork it. The end result will be mince pies that look real (look, they look like real mince pies) taste better than real (I added lots of extra peel to mine to give them a nice marmaladey flavour) and give you a warm fuzzy feeling when you eat them that has nothing to do with Christmas and everything to do with your mad skillz in the kitchen.
Adapted from Healthy Gluten-free Eating
The original recipe called for egg wash and icing sugar to decorate the mince pies. Perhaps I’ve been eating odd mince pies all these years but I have never eaten a shiny egg-wash-glazed mince pie; they’ve always been matte on top. So I ditched that in favour of a simple sprinkle of caster sugar, which makes them, to me, more authentic. Feel free to glaze or decorate however you like though.
450g, or just under, of sweet pastry (1 portion of the recipe below)
450g mincemeat (1 portion of recipe below)
2 tablespoons water
Caster sugar, for dusting afterwards
1. Preheat the oven to 180 C.
2. Remove the pastry from the fridge 5 minutes or so before you need it. On a rice-floured surface roll out the pastry to a couple of millimetres thick.
3. Using a 3-inch round cookie cutter cut out circles of the pastry and use these to line shallow bun tins. Fill each mince pie with a heaped teaspoon of mincemeat.
4. With the remaining pastry (you should have between 20 and 24 mince pies in total) cut out rounds 2 3/4-inch in diameter. Dampen the edges of the filled mince pies with water and top with the smaller rounds of pastry. Press the edges together to seal. Using a knife, or fork, poke steam holes in the top of the mince pies.
5. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes (mine took about 22 minutes) or until brown at the edges. Leave to cool in their tins and dust lightly with caster sugar.
Makes 20-24. These keep very well in an airtight container, or even just out on the side, for a few days (that’s as long as mine lasted).
225g gf flour blend
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
Pinch of salt
50g caster sugar
1 egg, whisked with 1 tablespoon cold water
1. Sift the gf flour blend, xanthan gum and salt into a bowl. Add the cold butter, cut into cubes, and rub into the dry ingredients until it resembles coarse meal. Stir in the sugar.
2. Make a well in the centre of the mixture and pour in about half of the egg. Stir with a fork. Add more liquid if necessary and bring the mixture together into a ball with your hands. You won’t need all of the liquid and don’t add too much. If you knead the pastry gently it will come together more as well.
3. When it is a single cohesive ball flatten it out slightly into a disc and wrap in clingfilm. Refrigerate for an hour, or until needed.
1 apple, cored
Juice and zest of half a lemon
100g grated butter (easier to do when it’s frozen)
1 whole orange, cooked and diced (see note)
200g dark brown muscovado sugar
2 tablespoons brandy
1. Preheat the oven to 180 C.
2. Bake the apple in the oven for 30 minutes, or until soft. Leave to cool, then peel and chop.
3. Mash the cooked apple in a large bowl. Add the lemon juice and zest, grated butter, diced orange, raisins and sugar. Stir thoroughly so all the ingredients are well mixed. Add the brandy and stir again.
4. Wash a 1lb jam jar (large and squat in shape) and place it in the hot oven, upside down, with its lid, for 5 minutes. Remove and spoon the mincemeat into the jar while still warm. Top with a circle of parchment paper and put the lid on. Leave to mature for two weeks, or until ready for use (it theoretically could last a year but I’m not a canning expert so personally I wouldn’t leave it that long).
Makes 500g/just over 1lb of mincemeat.
Although the butter will melt somewhat when the mincemeat is put in the jar, and some will float to the top of the jar, you’ll notice when you open it to use two weeks later that most of the butter is actually in very tiny pieces surrounding the fruit, and only a small proportion forms a seal in the top of the jar. When this broken-up butter melts in the oven a second time, when it is being cooked inside the minces pies it contributes to making a lovely rich, shiny, creamy sauce for the fruit and really gives the mince pie filling its lovely texture.
Note: To make edible peel, for candying or using in recipes, take a whole orange and place in a saucepan of water, so the orange is completely covered. Bring the water to a boil and boil for 5 minutes. Drain the water and replace with new water. Repeat three times, then bring to a boil for 15 minutes, or until the orange is soft. Cut the orange and peel into small pieces and use as directed. Be careful when cutting though as the orange retains its heat very well.
If you have any mincemeat left over (I used just shy of a pound) it works amazingly well in mulled wine. Think about it. Brandy. Tick. Sugar. Tick. Orange and peel. Tick. Some plump raisins. Tick. And a little bit of butter to give it a nice rich, oily sheen. Lovely.