Today, I am writing about something completely different. Sharing with you my “take” on the Christmas treat of mince pies. My husband and I love mince pies, but making them is something of a fiddly thing to do. As I am flying off to New Zealand, I thought I would make some mincemeat slice for him to enjoy whilst I am away.
If you are unfamiliar with mincemeat, it is a mixture of dried vine fruits – raisins, sultanas currants, often includes grated apple, spices and suet. Vegetarian or beef suet is fine and it is possible to buy vegetarian mincemeat. Unlike jam, mincemeat needs to be cooked prior to eating. For anyone thinking “Yuk” at the idea of suet, once it has been cooked you can’t tell it is there. Being lazy, I buy a jar from the supermarket, and then subject it to my special treatment: Using a chopstick I make holes in the contents of the jar and add some rum and brandy to the mix and leave it for a few hours to soak into the mincemeat.
I then make a quantity of all butter shortbread. The amount I make is dependent upon the size of the tin I am using. The proportions I use are 6:4:2 – 6 of a mixture of plain flour and a heaped tablespoon of cornflour: 4 of butter and 2 of caster sugar. (You can use sunflower margarine but is does not taste the same)
Today I used an 8 inch diameter loose bottomed cake tin, so I used all of a packet of butter (250 grams) So almost a pound of flour and cornflour mix, and almost 4 oz or 100g of caster sugar.
I start by weighing the flour and dicing the butter into small pieces. Place both in the food processor and whizz until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs, add the sugar and whizz again to mix. When making a small quantity of shortbread, I would tip the mixture into a bowl and knead until the mixture forms a dough. The heat of my hands helps to melt the butter and mix with the flour. When making a large quantity however, I add some beaten egg to the food processor and whizz until it starts forming clumps. Just how much beaten egg is really a case of trial and error as you do not want the resulting dough to be sticky. Add about half of the beaten egg to initially and add a little more if needed. Once there are some reasonable clumps of dough, put it in the mixing bowl and knead until I have a form ball of shortbread.
Cut the ball roughly in half, on a little bit larger than the other. Reform the smaller portion into a ball, and using your knuckles, form the ball of dough into a round, large enough to fit in the tin. Place in the tin and ensure that the dough completely covers the base of the tin. Take the larger portion of dough, and repeat the process, making the dough very slightly larger than the tin.
Leaving a narrow margin, cover the shortbread base with a thick layer mincemeat. Cover with the other shortbread round and pinch the edge together very firmly. Finally prick the surface lightly with a fork and bake in an oven at about 200 degrees C . Check after about 25 minutes, it may well need between 30 – 40 minutes to achieve a nice pale golden-brown colour, it really depends on your oven. When cooked, remove from the oven and dredge with caster sugar. Let it rest it in the tin until it is just warm to the touch.
Slide the slice out of the tin still on its base and place on a cooling rack until completely cold, and you can slice into portions.
This is a very unhealthy take on mince pies, full of butter, sugar and alcohol but eaten in moderation, is a lovely pre-Christmas treat. It also makes a nice dessert complete with cream or ice cream.
Having just quality controlled a slice I am happy to report it is up to my usual standard 😉 .