Deck the halls …

Still a bit early but it’s not too soon to practice some Christmas treats.  These mince pies must be nearly calorie-free being so very tiny and encased in just a wisp of pastry.  How could anyone refuse

I’ve been experimenting with a different pastry: sweet and spiced hot water crust.  Usually this is reserved for pork or game pies but I’ve found it very flexible for many different uses.

This quantity made 24 very small pies and even enough to make tops for four.  The rest were given a crumble topping.  I used homemade mincemeat made with our own apples but shop-bought would work just as well – perhaps with some added orange zest, chopped apple and a splash of brandy to make it your own.

Thumbs up for this version: pastry could be pressed very thin to contrast with the succulent filling, crisp with a little bite and easy to extract from the tin.  Ideal pastry for blind people as minimum mess with no floury rolling out – and good for children too.

75g lard

100g water

50g sugar

200g plain flour

50g strong white bread flour

1 rounded teaspoon ground mixed spice

Half teaspoon salt

50g butter.

Melt the lard, water and sugar until everything has dissolved and allow to cool a little.

Meanwhile, rub the butter in to the flours, spices and salt.

Pour the liquid mix in to the bowl of dry ingredients and mix well to combine, first with a wooden spoon and then your hands.

Roll small pieces of the dough in to balls and press in to the tin, over the bottom and up the sides of each hole.

Trim the excess pastry from each pie and reform the scraps to fill every hole, using anything left over to make lids.

Fill the mini-pies with mincemeat – not too much as it may run over in the oven.

Top with lids, re-trimming as necessary, or with a few tablespoons of crumble mix.

Chil the tray in the fridge for an hour or so.

Cook at Gas 4 for 10 minutes and then at Gas 2  for a further 15 minutes.

Dust the lidded pies with a little sugar and allow the whole tray to cool for at least 30 minutes before gently removing the pies.

I always have a bag of my standard crumble mix  in the freezer.  It uses a ratio of 1  each butter; crushed hazelnuts; soft brown sugar to 2 porridge oats.  Excellent   on top of cooking apples and some more of the mincemeat – and no more sugar needed.



Mince pies with Rough Puff pastry.

Watch me make them on You Tube

If you made enough shortcrust pastry for the apple tarts, you can use the remainder for these seasonal essentials.

Imperial Metric Ingredient
  Shortcrust pastry (see apple tarts)  
12 ounces 300 grams Plain flour (chilled)
8 ounces 200 grams Butter (frozen)
    Water to mix
    Jar of sweet mince meat (commercial or home-made)
1   Egg (beaten)
    Caster sugar for dusting

To make the rough puff pastry, place the flour in a large bowl.

Quickly grate the butter in to the bowl using the largest cutting side of a box grater.

Use a knife to mix the butter and flour.

Add the first cold water and mix with the knife – some of the mixture will start forming a dough.

Keep adding water in small amounts until the dough starts to form a single ball.  Towards the end, just dipping your hands in water can stop you adding too much!

Form the dough in to a single ball and chill in a plastic bag in the fridge for 20-30 minutes.

Roll out the pastry on a floured surface to form a rectangle.

Fold one short end of the rectangle in to the middle and repeat with the other end.  Fold again so that you have four layers.  Return to bag and chill in the fridge for 20-30 minutes.

Repeat the rolling and chilling.

Remove the sweet shortcrust pastry from the fridge and roll out on a floured surface.

Cut circles of pastry and line your tin.

Place tin in fridge.

Roll out rough puff pastry and cut lids for the pies – return the pastry and lids to the fridge.

Take the tin out of the fridge and fill each about two-thirds with mincemeat and top each.

Take the lids out of the fridge and brush the edges of each with beaten egg then press firmly over each pie.

Return tin to fridge for 20 minutes.

Heat the oven to Gas Mark 7 (425 Fahrenheit; 220 Celsius).

Brush the pie lids with beaten egg and make a hole in each for any steam to escape.

Cook pies for 15 minutes and then reduce to Gas Mark 5 (375 Fahrenheit; 190 Celsius) for a further 5-10 minutes until pastry looks golden brown on top and feels crisp.

Dust with caster sugar.

My tips:

Shortcrust makes a firm base for these little pies while the rough puff tops have extra crunch.

The amounts of pastry needed will vary depending on the size and number of pies you are making.  This amount of Rough Puff made 12 lids with enough remaining to make sausage rolls.

A clear shelf in the fridge will help as this pastry works best if everything is kept chilled: the flour and bowl, the pastry between rolling outs, the tin before filling.   Working quickly will mean that the pastry is never out of the fridge for too long.

The amount of mincemeat might seem mean but it can easily boil out of the pies if over-filled.

Orange or lemon zest, chopped nuts, a dash of brandy or a pinch of spice can all cheer up a commercial mincemeat.

If there are any scraps of pastry, stack them on top of each other to keep the layers (rather than rolling in to a ball) before rolling out again.

Once the lids have been pressed on, the whole tin can be stored in the fridge overnight until ready to cook.  The tin can also be placed in the freezer and then individual frozen pies removed and kept in the freezer until needed.

Penny Melville-Brown OBE

Disability Dynamics ltd

Helping disabled people to work since 2000