Saturday, 23 December 2006

Mince pies

This week's Christmas preparations included baking mince pies and apple pies (for he-who-does-not-like-
Christmas-pudding, namely Tevye). The less said about the apple pies the better, as I forgot to set the timer to remind me to turn the gas down part way through cooking them and they got frazzled. Tevye assures me he will still enjoy them, but I'm afraid they are only just the right side of the fine line between edible and inedible. Fortunately the mince pies came out well.

The recipe I use for mince pies comes from Cooking for Your Freezer by Mary Berry (one of a series of slim volumes sold by Marks and Spencer many years ago) ...

1 lb (4 cups) self-raising flour
4 oz (½ cup) butter
4 oz (½ cup) hard margarine
2 oz (¼ cup) lard
1 egg, separated
1½ lb mincemeat
A little castor sugar

Sieve flour into a bowl (I don't bother with the sieving)
Add butter, margarine and lard cut in small pieces, then rub into the flour until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs
Add the egg yolk with enough milk to make a firm dough
Knead until blended then chill dough in refrigerator for 20 minutes
Roll out half the dough thinly. Cut out about 35 circles 2¾ inches in diameter and use to line pie tins. (I use slightly larger cutters and get about 30 pies)
Fill with mincemeat
Roll out remaining dough and cutout 35 circles 2¼ inches in diameter for lids
Wet edges of the dough circles in the tin and press the lids on gently to seal.
Brush tops of pies with beaten egg white, dust with a little sugar.
Bake at 400ºF / 200ºC / Gas Mk 6 for 20 minutes, or until pastry is crisp and golden brown.
Leave to cool in tins.

Pies can be frozen. To serve hot (from frozen) replace in tinsand reheat at same temperature for 25 minutes.

I have made my own mincemeat, but decided the ready-made version was just as nice and much easier. It is widely available here, including various luxury varieties. If you want to make your own, this recipe should do nicely. I haven't tried it myself, but it comes from a reliable book - 1000 Freezer Recipes ed. Carole Handslip and Jeni Wright. I bought this used for £1 years ago, and it has become my most used cookery book. Recipes are simple and they work. It also gives both British and American measures, making it a very useful source for kitchen-type translations.

1 lb (4 cups) seedless raisins, finely chopped or minced (ground)
½ lb cooking apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped or minced
4 oz (2/3 cup) candied peel, finely chopped or minced
3/4 lb (2 cups) currants
½ lb (1 1/3 cups) sultanas (seedless white raisins)
6 oz (1 cup, firmly packed) shredded suet
½ teaspoon ground mixed spice (or ¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg and ¼ teaspoon of a mixture of ground allspice and cloves)
finely grated rind and juice of 2 lemons
1 b (2 2/3 cups) light brown sugar
6 tablespoons dry cider (dry hard cider)

Put all ingredients in a bowl and stir well to mix. Cover the bowl, leave to stand overnight, then spoon into small rigid containers or freezer-proof jars.

If frozen, thaw at room temperature for 3 hours, then store in the refrigerator. Makes about 5lbs. That would fill an lot of mince pies (about 100). I would only make half quantity.

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