Finally… make your “short paste” and enjoy your mince pies!
Traditional short paste would have been made with two thirds plain flour and one third butter with a small amount of water to bring it all together. I have tried many different old fashioned and modern pastries: just butter, half butter-half lard, with / without egg, with / without sugar and in the end, there are two pastes I particularly like, so I’m including them here.
The first one, adapted from a savoury short crust pastry, is my personal best for mince pie making. I suspect that the original version circa 1900 would not have had the addition of sugar, but I do like a hint of sweetness in the pastry.
NB Don’t be tempted to replace the lard with butter, you won’t get nearly such a deliciously short melt in the mouth end result (veggies, I recommend using veggie suet, but it needs a bit of working in). You can use caster sugar if you don’t have icing sugar, but again, not such a smooth end result and I think the icing sugar gives the cooked pastry a stability you don’t get with caster sugar, (I don’t have the science to back that up, it’s purely an observation / gut feeling).
This recipe makes approximately 18 mince pies (they will keep very well in an airtight container and reheat perfectly too).
- 300g plain flour
- 30g icing sugar
- 75g butter
- 75g lard
- Pinch of salt
- 2 tbsp water
- Sieve the flour and icing sugar together with the salt.
- Chop the butter and lard up (I do this in the bowl as it makes the fat less sticky to cut when it’s coated with flour) and rub in to the flour.
- Add the water and use a knife to cut the water through the flour before bringing the whole together with your hands, kneading as lightly and briefly as possible until you have a smooth ball. If you feel it’s not coming together well, add a further tbsp of water, but try not to add more as it will make the pastry tougher. However, that said, this is a very forgiving pastry mix!
- Let it rest for half an hour (I don’t bother putting it in the fridge unless it’s the height of summer).
Rich Short Pastry (from `Popular Home Cookery’)
- 225 g plain flour
- 60g butter
- 60g lard
- 1 egg yolk
- Pinch of salt
- 1 tbsp water
Assembling Your Mince Pies
Remember, size is everything! Mince pies are undeniably rich with their butter-lard-suet-sugar combo packing a calorific punch. And when you’ve got your beautifully light short crust pastry cradling your fresh and fragrant mincemeat, the best way to set it all off is to keep your mince pies small enough to leave room for a second (or even a third)! To this end I use a fluted base cutter of approximately 8cm and a fluted top cutter of approx 6.5cm.
Having rolled out your pastry and cut it, I find 2 slightly heaped teaspoons of mincemeat per pie is ample and, for the record, better to under-than-over fill, mincemeat that bubbles out inevitably takes on a burnt and bitter flavour which, however good the rest of the elements are, will ruin the end result.
Bake them at 160 degrees (gas mark 5) for approximately 15 minutes. Many recipes recommend higher, faster baking but through trial and error I have found this to be the most burn-proof method (and the pastry doesn’t suffer for it either)!
When they come out of the oven brush the tops over with egg white, three at a time and sprinkle with caster sugar, repeating in batches of the three until you have done them all. If you do all the tops with egg white wash at once you will find that the wash has instantly dried and the sugar won’t stick.
Alternatively (which I prefer with the second, fancier pastry) simply dust with icing sugar.
Perfect accompaniments in another post, but, for my money, a few carols are perenially just the job. Meanwhile all that’s left to do is get some folk round for a few pies and a little Christmas spirit. Enjoy!