Lola and Finn's Mum

Lola and Finn's Mum

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Making mince pies with Lola - Two recipes: rich shortcrust mince pies and rose mince pies.


Christmas. I love it lots. Yes, it starts too early, is hideously commercialised and it is like a marathon of jobs to be done before it arrives but when it finally does get here it is wonderful, and for me has been made infinitely better by the presence of my children who are at that age where the whole thing is truly magical. After years of cynically wandering about in a Yuletide wilderness where too much drink was drunk, many suspect presents given and received and the real meaning was lost amongst the wrapping paper and the decorations, the arrival of Lola and Finn has sprinkled a sense of wonder over proceedings.

Despite episodes of chaos and the odd kitchen disaster, I do like cooking with the children and I think they get a lot out of it, not least learning about food and that it is a valuable skill to prepare and cook it. I always (wrongly maybe) think of mince pies as an adult taste, with the rich pastry and the mincemeat often laced with booze and occasionally tooth aching sharpness or sweetness, but both Lola and Finn adore them, Finn particularly, who will eat them one after the other in a fashion that can sometimes be quite alarming, and whilst it is easy to sidle off to the supermarket to buy a packet of six, warm them up and dump cream on them, I think there is something quite honest and special about making them yourself and it is part of the Christmas ritual here. Buying them doesn't hold the same appeal.

I have provided two pastry recipes here. The first (and the ones that are topped with the stars) is the recipe that I always use, but the second recipe is one I discovered from Sophie Conran, via the Good Food website, which adds rosewater to the pastry. It's subtle but I loved it. And it was the type of pastry that behaves itself. Always a bonus.

Mince Pies (makes 24)

Recipe one: shortcrust pastry
340 g plain flour
a pinch of salt
200 g butter
2 egg yolks
4 tbsp cold water, to mix

Two jars mincemeat (or make your own)
milk or beaten eggs, to glaze
icing sugar, to serve


First make the pastry. Sift the flour into a large bowl, Rub in the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

Mix the egg yolks with the water and add to the flour mixture. Mix to a firm dough, at first with a knife and finally with one hand. It may be necessary to add more water, but the pastry should not be too damp.

Wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 190°C/gas 5.

Divide the pastry in half and roll one half out thinly and use it to line tartlet tins.

Cut out circles that will form the bases of the mince pies. We used an upsidedown glass.

Fill each tartlet case with enough mincemeat to come about three-quarters of the way up the pastry.

Roll out the remaining pastry and either stamp into shapes, such as stars, dampen lightly with water and press firmly but gently on top of the mincemeat or cut into circles to fit the tarts as lids. Dampen the pastry edges and press the tops down lightly, sealing the edges carefully.

Brush your chosen glaze on the lids. The milk will give a matt finish, and the beaten egg a shiny finish.

Bake for 20 minutes until light golden brown.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly on a wire rack.

Serve warm sprinkled with icing sugar. Once completely cold mince pies can be frozen in an airtight container.

Recipe 2, Mince Pies with Rose Water Pastry, from Sophie Conran on the 'Good Food' website:

Makes 12

100 g unsalted butter, straight from the fridge
150 g plain flour
a pinch of salt
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 tbsp rose water
1/2-1 tbsp chilled water

This pastry is best made the day before, but it's not crucial if you leave the pastry enough time to chill thoroughly in the fridge. Cut the butter into cubes, and put it into a food processor with the flour and salt. Using the cutting blade, blitz until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the sugar and pulse it until mixed in. Add the rosewater and the chilled water, a little at a time. Pulse the mixture until it binds together into a ball.

Scoop it out of the food processor and dust with flour. Form the dough into a thick disc. Cover with clingfilm and chill for an hour in the fridge. Allow the pastry to come back to room temperature before using.

Butter a  and preheat the oven to 220°C (425°F / Gas Mark 7).

Roll out the pastry on a floured board, dust your rolling pin with flour too. Roll it as thin as you can. Cut into 24 discs using an upturned glass or biscuit cutter with a diameter of about 6½cm (3in).

Push the pastry discs into the muffin cups. Scoop about half a teaspoon of mincemeat into each cup.

Cut little tops for the tarts from the remaining dough in the shape of stars, hearts or the more traditional discs. Place a top on each of the pies.

Put the muffin trays in the oven and bake for 15 minutes, then remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly. Dust each one with icing sugar by putting the icing sugar into a sieve and gently shaking it over the pies.

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