Mince pies

Mince pies

By
From
The Tivoli Road Baker
Makes
24
Photographer
Bonnie Savage and Alan Benson

Mince pies were one of the earliest written British recipes, first documented in the Middle Ages. They originally contained minced meat, offal and suet, made tasty with generous spicing. They have since evolved into a spiced fruit pie traditionally eaten at Christmas time.

At Tivoli Road we make about 140 kg (300 lb) of fruit mince for our pies, starting in March. We macerate the dried fruit for a couple of weeks, and then when the apple season starts we prepare and add those. Once a month for the next nine months, we give it a good stir and add some Pedro Ximenez. By Christmas we’ve got a rich, heady mix of plump fruit, liquor and spices. Pedro Ximenez isn’t traditionally used, but it adds a lovely rich flavour to the mince. To appease the traditionalists, we also use brandy and apple cider, rounding the flavour out nicely. When the first batch of pies comes out of the oven everyone around the bakery knows that Christmas is coming.

Fruit mince

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
300g currants
300g raisins
60g see method for ingredients
100ml brandy
330ml apple cider
60g soft brown sugar
2 medium cooking apples, peeled and cored and chopped in 1 cm (½ in) dice
25g unsalted butter
80g raw almonds, roughly chopped
juice and zest 1 lemon
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
1/2 teaspoon ground clove
100ml pedro ximenez

Method

  1. Place the currants, raisins and mixed peel in a large container with a lid, and stir to combine. Pour the brandy and cider over the fruit and stir it through. Leave the fruit to macerate in the alcohol at room temperature for at least a week or up to three weeks, stirring occasionally for the first few days to thoroughly distribute the liquid – you want it soaked through the fruit, not settled at the bottom of the container.
  2. Once your dried fruit has been soaking for a good week or three, prepare the rest of your filling. First place a colander over a large bowl, then heat a large frying pan over medium heat and sprinkle the brown sugar evenly into the pan. Leave it to melt, and when it starts to bubble, stir the sugar and add the diced apples. Continue stirring until the apples are well coated in caramel, then add the butter and stir for another 30 seconds to make sure that it’s melted and fully incorporated into the caramel.
  3. Transfer the apples to the colander to drain the liquid, and set aside to cool. The reserved liquid can either be discarded or kept to use as a delicious caramel sauce – it’s great over ice cream or apple crumble. It will keep in the fridge for up to one week.
  4. Once the apples have cooled completely, add them to the macerated fruit mix. Add the almonds, lemon juice and zest, spices and Pedro Ximenez, and mix well with a spoon. Leave the fruit mince to mature at room temperature for at least one month before assembling your mince pies. If keeping aside for longer, mix the fruit once a month, and add Pedro Ximenez or brandy to your liking each time.

Pastry

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
800g plain flour, sifted
25g table salt
600g unsalted butter, softened
300g icing sugar, sifted
105g egg yolks (approx. 6 yolks)

Method

  1. To make the pastry, place the flour and salt in a medium sized bowl and whisk to combine, and to remove any lumps. Gently cream the butter in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, until smooth. Add the icing sugar and cream the butter and sugar together to form a paste, mixing on a slow speed to avoid incorporating air into the pastry.
  2. With the mixer still running, add the egg yolks one a time, beating between each addition until just combined. Add the dry ingredients in three batches, mixing slowly between each addition until just combined.
  3. Divide the dough into two pieces and flatten each out into a disc roughly 2 cm (¾ in) thick. Wrap the pastry in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Assembly

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
1 egg
pinch salt
splash full-cream milk
100g caster sugar
10g ground cinnamon

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C (340°F). To make your egg wash, whisk together the egg, salt and milk. In a separate bowl, mix together the caster sugar and cinnamon. Lightly grease twenty-four 6.5 cm (2½ in) foil pie cases with a little butter.
  2. Lay your pastry discs out on a lightly floured bench, and roll each out into a sheet 2 mm (1⁄10 in) thick. Cut out 24 discs of pastry with a diameter 2 cm (¾ in) larger than the bottom of the pie cases, to form the bases. Next, cut out 24 discs of pastry the same diameter as the cases – these will be the tops of the pies.
  3. Lay the pastry bases over the pie cases, and use your thumb to press the pastry into the corners all the way around. Divide the fruit mince into 24 portions, and fill each case with mince.
  4. Lightly brush the rim of each case with the egg wash, place the pastry lid on top and gently press the two pieces of pastry together to seal the edges. Brush the top of each mince pie with egg wash and sprinkle with a little cinnamon sugar. The assembled pies can be refrigerated for up to five days before baking, or frozen for up to three months. Bake from frozen until the pastry is nicely golden all over.
  5. Place your mince pies onto baking trays and put them on the middle rack in the oven. Reduce the temperature to 160°C (320°F) and bake for 15 minutes, until the pastry is nicely golden. Gently lift one mince pie out of its case and check the pastry on the bottom, to ensure it is cooked through evenly. The pastry should be nice and golden both top and bottom.
  6. Transfer your mince pies to a wire rack and leave to cool slightly before eating. The mince pies will last for 3–5 days in an airtight container at room temperature, although the pastry will start to soften after a day or two.

Bakery notes

  • Start this recipe at least one month before you want to eat your mince pies. The longer you leave it, the more flavour the mince will have. Our head baker, Emily, also makes mince pies at home. She creates a suet-based mince mix each year, leaving some for the next year, and some for two years. The complexity of flavour in the two-year aged mince is incredible.

    Feel free to adjust the fruit, spices and alcohol to create a mince that suits your tastes. Write down your changes each year to develop your own family recipe.

    The pastry will keep in the fridge for a week, and 3 months in the freezer, wrapped well in plastic wrap or in a container.

    We use 6.5 cm (2½ in) individual sized foil pie cases for our mince pies. You could use small shallow muffin tins instead, though you may need to adjust the sizes and quantities to suit.
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