There is no greater treat than a really good Christmas Mince Pie. Sadly it is very difficult to obtain one from any food retailer in this country. When we visited the UK a number of years ago we were treated to very good pies wherever we went. While we were there I made it my mission to sample as many as was humanly possible and can happily say I was actually never disappointed. The CM pie story in NZ is not so rosy... Even an extravagant $11 investment in six speciality baked ones only led to disappointment. All this just served to reinforce what I had long suspected: there is no greater Christmas Mince pie than the one you make yourself.
Christmas Mince Pies
First make the fruit mince. This is better made in advance and left to mature. No surprises that I made mine the day before, and it was just fine thank you very much.
Rind of 1 lemon
Rind of 1 orange
1 cup brown sugar
2 large tart apples
juice of 1 lemon
2 cups sultanas
2 cups mixed fruit - I used raisins, cranberries, ginger, glace cherries and currents
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground mixed spice
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 cup brandy
Peel the rind from the orange and lemon with a potato peeler. Place in a large food processor with the sugar and process until the rind is finely chopped.
Add the unpeeled apples cut into chunks and lemon juice. Process until finely pulped.
Next add half the sultanas, the ginger, raisins, and half the cranberries. Process again until finely chopped.
Finally add the remaining fruit and the spices and flavourings. Pulse briefly to combine. The final lot of fruit should retain its shape. Place the fruit mince into a large airtight jar and into the refrigerator to store until your ready to use. It will keep for weeks in the fridge. Freeze for longer storage.
Make the pastry:
Make a sweet pastry by creaming together 125g of butter with 125g caster sugar. Beat in 1 egg, then fold in 1 1/2 cups of sifted flour with 1 teaspoon of baking powder.
The pastry is very soft and delicate and needs to be wrapped and firming up in the fridge before it can be used.
Make the pies:
Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C.
Roll the sweet pastry out between two sheets of plastic food wrap or cooking paper.
Peel off the top layer of food wrap and sprinkle the pastry with a little flour; replace the wrap and invert the pastry. This will allow the pastry to be easily handled without sticking to the bottom layer of wrap.
Using a biscuit cutter or appropriate sized glass cut out circles of pastry and place them into shallow tartlet tins.
There is no need to grease the tins as the pastry has sufficient butter to prevent them from sticking.
Place a teaspoon of fruit mince into each one and top it with your choice of shape.
This year we did diamonds, only because I couldn't find the right sized star cutter.
You can re-roll the pastry, just be careful not to handle it too much or let it get too warm.
Bake the pies for about 10 to 12 minutes.
You may need to rotate the baking tin half way through cooking to ensure an even colour.
Take the pies from the oven and allow to cool in the tins for about 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.
Once cooled sprinkle with icing sugar, put the jug on for a cup of tea - or get out the liquir glasses - and call the family: the taste of Christmas is served.