I do believe, there is nothing more wonderful at Christmas than hurrying home to the family, into a kitchen hopefully bestrewed with fairy lights and glittery decorations galore and being offered a freshly baked and still warm mince pie. A blob of brandy butter if I’m not the designated driver for me please! Each year, magazines do round ups of which shop is selling the best mince pie but honestly, once you crack your own, you will never be able to have the boxed versions without feeling disappointed. I’ve tried many a version over the years, looking for my idea of the perfect pie and now I think – enough tinkering! It’s time to share my Mince Pies with Cream Cheese Pastry.
Rather than being a bit cynical about people trying to reinvent the wheel, I think of the 1.5 million hits you get from Googling “mince pie recipe” as a sign of enthusiasm for this traditional festive treat and rejoice in there being a perfect recipe out there for us all. My idea of perfection starts with the ratio of filling to pastry – I like the mincemeat to be a flavouring for the pastry, rather than the pastry being a carry case for a ton of spiced and boozy fruits. This year, I treated myself to some
The pastry I use is something which is much more popular over in America from the food blogs and cook books I’ve read but really, us Brits need to start making much more of it! It’s a sweet shortcrust pastry with some full fat cream cheese worked right in. If you have struggled with getting your shortcrust tender and flaky enough, then this is pastry for you. Yes it’s rich but it’s Christmas! Eat your pie, enjoy yourself! Honestly, I’ve turned so many “mince pie haters” with my pies and I think the pastry is what clinches the deal. Just make sure you do not over bake it – these pies are meant to be pale – an overcooked mince pie is so disappointing. No less because it makes them harder to reheat if they aren’t all eaten soon after baking.
As for the mincemeat, again, it’s taken years to settle on the perfect recipe and I really believe that Hettie’s Suet Free Mincemeat from Nigella’s
- 300 g plain flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 75 g caster sugar
- 100 g soft butter
- 100 g full fat cream cheese
- 1 large egg
- 1 small jar of mincemeat
- Milk to brush
- Caster or icing sugar to sprinkle
- A 12-hole tart tin/bun tray with round bottoms*
- A small star shaped cookie cutter or plunger cutter optional
I make my pastry in the food mixer by pulsing together the flour, baking powder, sugar, butter and cream cheese until it forms a crumbly texture then I add in the egg and pulse again until it comes together in a ball. Scoop onto some clingfilm and chill for a minimum of an hour before using.
If making by hand, rub the butter into the flour then stir in the baking powder and sugar. Use a dinner knife to cut in the cream cheese and then bring together using the egg. Whichever way you go, don't over handle the pastry and stop just before it comes together.
Preheat oven to 180˚C.
Work with half the pastry at a time, keeping one half in the fridge. Roll out to approximately 2-3mm thick and stamp out circles of pastry big enough to line your tart tin* and press into the tin. Add a spoonful of mincemeat (don't over fill) then stamp out circles of pastry just big enough to cover each tart and cut out a star with your small cutter before placing on top of the tart and pressing lightly to seal. Brush with milk and sprinkle generously with extra caster sugar.
Bake for 20 minutes until the pastry is dry to the touch but at most, pale golden brown - these little pies aren't meant to be very brown when baked.
Cool on a rack for 10 minutes to allow them to firm up and then pop each one out onto a rack to finish cooling. If you have only one tin, make the second batch in the same way.
If you prefer, you don't need to sprinkle with caster sugar before baking and instead, can dust liberally with icing sugar to serve.
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