Its December, and for me that means only one thing – its finally mince pie season! But Kate, I hear you cry, mince pies have been in the shops since July – don’t get me started on the ridiculously early appearance of Christmas food, suffice to say that for me part of the joy of the mince pie is that its SEASONAL, a mince pie is for Christmas, not for all year round! (OK, rant over.)
I always look forward to the first mince pie of the year, and I am very strict that I don’t have one until the first of December. Last year Eli and I made a special day of it, by combining the first mince pie with the first festive hot chocolate and a wander around the Christmas market for a spot of retail therapy. This year I decided it would be fun to try to make my own mince pies, and as Eli isn’t actually a fan of mincemeat, I thought I would make some spiced apple pies for her so she didn’t feel left out.
I don’t do a lot of baking, so I think Eli was slightly worried when she was banished so that I could get into that kitchen and rattle them pots and pans.
The beauty of making your own mince pies is you can make them exactly the way you like them – your favourite pastry – shortcrust or puff -tasty filling- with or without alcohol – and even decide on the top – full crust, fancy shapes, or even iced!
I made two lots of pies, one was my mince pies which were very standard, nothing fancy. In fact, you may be surprised to see I actually took the traditional brandy out of my filling. It’s one of the things I find I’m not a fan of. It overpowers the flavours I think. The second batch was aspiced apple pies for Eli. Cause pie day is no fun on your own.
Mince Pie Filling
- 125g raisins
- 180g currants
- 1 apple, peeled and grated
- zest of 1 lemon, juice of ½
- 150g butter (replacement for suet)
- 125g dark brown sugar
- 50g chopped mixed peel
- ½ small nutmeg, grated
Apple Pie Filling
- 3 large apples, chopped into small chunks
- Juice of one orange
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons of light brown sugar
- 200g Cold butter
- 100g Golden caster sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons of water
Put the flour and butter in a bowl and rub together until you have a mixture like breadcrumbs, then stir in the sugar and salt.
Separate the egg and put the yolk into the flour, butter, and sugar with the vanilla essence. Stir with a knife.
Add the water a bit at a time and stir with a knife until it begins to clump together, then make a ball with it using your hands and knead until smooth you may not need all the water you just have to judge when it’s holding together without being sticky.
Put the pastry in the fridge to chill for an hour.
Make your apple pie filling
Peel and chop the apples and squeeze the orange juice over them, then put the sugar and spice and mix together with your hands making sure the apples are all coated evenly.
Make your mincemeat filling (the further in advance the better)
Soak the raisins and currants in the lemon juice while your pastry chills. They should plump up, then drain the excess liquid. Mix all the ingredients together. If you can seal this up and refrigerate it for a couple of weeks it tastes much better. You can also store it in sterilised jars. If you are going to keep this, it is worth looking into the correct procedures for safely canning and storing.
Constructing and cooking
Once your pastry has been chilled, preheat the oven to 180C fan and roll out the pastry to about 3 or 4 mm. Cut out circles to fit your muffin tray (about 10cm) and place them in the wells of the tray.
Divide the apple mixture or mincemeat filling between the pies then re-roll the pastry to make the tops and place them on. Remember to keep the pies separate and mark them in a way so you can easily distinguish the mince pies from the apple pies.
Glaze them with milk and stab the tops once with a knife to let steam escape.
Bake for 15-25 minutes or until golden brown.
Leave to cool for about 5 mins before releasing them from the muffin trays and then dust with a little caster sugar before serving.
All in all, I had a fun afternoon in the kitchen doing some baking, and dare I say it, it’s starting to feel a little bit like Christmas!!