As it’s practically dark by the time the boys are awake from afternoon naps and we’ve got ready to go out, we can’t go to the park or even in the garden really, so baking and craft activities have been filling our late afternoons and early evenings recently. And as we’re in December, I thought it was time for some Christmas baking.
I don’t eat loads of mince pies, but it’s always nice to have a few over the Christmas period, and as I’m trying to use up jars and tins in the cupboards, I thought it would be fun to add some stem ginger that I opened a while ago to the mince meat, to add extra favour and spice. I prefer to make mince pies with unsweetened pastry, because the mince meat itself is so sweet, and to add another flavour I decided to put some cinnamon in with the flour. Finally, I added a splash of Amaretto to the filling, again because the bottle I have could do with using up having sat there untouched for a while since we’ve had kids.
Andrew enjoys rolling out pastry, so that was also a good reason to make pies, and he helped me cut out the rounds and put them in the muffin tins – we went for deep filled pies rather than the little ones you can make in fairy cake tins.
If you’d like to give these a go, here’s the recipe….
Ingredients – makes 10 deep fill pies
- 400g jar of mincemeat
- about 4 chunks of stem ginger, cut into small cubes
- optional: splash of Amaretto (or any other alcohol that you like)
- 100g unsalted butter
- 225g plain flour
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- cold water
- Lightly grease the holes in a muffin tin, and preheat the oven to 180ºC (fan).
- Put the flour and cinnamon in a bowl and mix until evenly distributed.
- Chop the butter into smallish chunks (make sure it’s as cold as possible) and toss into the flour.
- Use your hands to work the butter into the flour until it resembles bread crumbs.
- Add a small amount of water at a time and mix until it starts to form a stiff dough, then leave to one side whilst you mix the filling.
- Mix the ingredients for the filling together in another bowl.
- Take the pastry and roll out on a floured surface.
- Cut 10 larger circles and 10 smaller circles to fit the size of the muffin tin holes.
- Place the larger circles in the holes, fill with the filling, then places the lids on top, sealing with a bit of cold water run around the rim and the pastry pieces pressed together.
- Bake in the oven for about 15-20 minutes, until the pastry is lightly golden.
- Leave to cool in the tins, before turning out with the help of a sharp knife to loosen them from the tin.
- Eat as fresh as possible, and they can also be frozen.
When I bought a 24-piece biscuit cutter set a while ago for Andrew to use with play dough, I noticed that there was a Father Christmas cutter included. As there aren’t many weeks of the year that you can get away with baking in such a festive shape, I thought I’d give it a go this week. I also had some marzipan left over from the star cupcakes that we made last week, so I came up with something that used it – mince pies with marzipan lids in the shape of Father Christmas. But because you can see some of the filling, they are really tarts rather than pies, and their small size means I’ve called them tartlets.
I’m not a massive fan of shop-bought mince pies, mainly because the pastry isn’t great unless you buy the really expensive ones. I actually prefer a plain unsweetened shortcrust pastry rather than a sweet pastry, because it tones down the highly sweet filling. Obviously the marzipan lids of these pies add sweetness, but at least it’s marzipan, which I LOVE – it’s one of the best tastes of Christmas in my foodie opinion. But the bases are unsweetened pastry, to which I added a dash of cinnamon, just to spice things up a little and make these tartlets a real twist on a classic bake.
I don’t usually bake mince pies in cake cases, but I have had times when they have stuck to the tin a bit, so I was pleased when I came across the idea of using paper cases on the website of Holly Bell, Great British Bake Off finalist 2011 – recipesfromanormalmum.com. We gave it a try, and it worked well.
Here’s how we made them. You could use whatever shape cutter you have for the lid, it doesn’t have to be Father Christmas (or Far Kissmas as Andrew is calling him 🙂 )! As there were two lots of rolling and cutting out dough , Andrew was very impressed, so I’d recommend it for toddlers who like that sort of thing. I’d also be interested to hear about other mince pie recipes, especially if they’re a bit unusual like this one – please leave a comment if you have one.
Ingredients (makes a dozen)
- 110g plain flour
- 2tsp cinnamon
- 55g butter
- cold water
- mincemeat (I used about half a 454g jar)
- ready to roll packet of marzipan (I used about a quarter of a standard supermarket packet)
- First make the pastry. Chop up the butter into chunks and add to the flour and cinnamon in a bowl.
- Rub the butter chunks into the flour and cinnamon until you have a breadcrumb consistency.
- Add water, small amounts at a time, and combine with the butter-flour mixture until it forms a stiff dough. Don’t overwork it.
- Leave to rest in the fridge overnight, and get it out an hour or so before you want to roll it out, to get it to room temperature again.
- Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC (fan), and put paper cake cases into a fairy cake tin.
- Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured board to about 3mm thick.
- Cut circles out for the base of the tartlets using a circle cutter, and press them lightly into the cake cases.
- Add a heaped teaspoon of mincemeat to each base.
- Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes, until the pastry is lightly golden and the mincemeat is bubbling.
- Meanwhile, roll out the marzipan on the same lightly floured board, to about 3mm thick.
- Cut out Father Christmas shapes, or whatever festive shape you have a cutter for!
- When the tartlets are ready, remove from the oven and leave to cool.
- When they have fully cooled, place a Father Christmas on top of each tartlet and press down lightly.