The Ultimate Mince Pie Recipe from Ballymaloe’s Pastry Pro

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JR Ryall, head pastry chef at Ballymaloe House, gives us a masterclass in Christmas baking with his mouthwatering mince pie recipe …

There are many Christmas traditions that mark the start of the festive season. At Ballymaloe House the unmistakable scent of citrus peel slowly candying in late October marks it for me. This might seem unimaginably early to get into the mood for Christmas carols and roasting chestnuts on an open fire, but with the task of Christmas baking ahead it is the perfect opportunity to ease into the spirit of things.

Local whiskey from the distillery in Midleton is mixed with dried fruit in early November to make the first batch of Christmas puddings. Rich fruit cakes, mince pies, sherry trifle and of course the yule log all follow suit. Before we know it brandy is being creamed into butter and glasses of mulled wine are enjoyed by guests sitting by the fire in the drawing room…

The Ultimate Mince Pie Recipe from Ballymaloe's Pastry Pro

For me though, the perfect Christmas treat is a warm mince pie, served with a generous spoon of softly whipped cream laced with good Irish whiskey. The recipe here is my all time favourite and is used throughout the season at Ballymaloe House.

Mincemeat will keep for a year, if not longer, in a cool place. This recipe fills two 450g (1lb) jam jars, enough for approx. 40 pies made in shallow 6.5cm (21/2in) tins.

For the mincemeat:
1 cooking apple
1 lemon
225g (1/2lb, 11/2 cups) raisins
110g (4oz, 3/4 cup) currants
110g (4oz, 3/4 cup) sultanas
60g (2oz, 1/3 cup) candied peel
450g (1lb, 2 cups) firmly packed moist brown sugar
225g (1/2lb, 2 cups) chopped beef suet
75ml (21/2fl oz, generous 1/4 cup) whiskey
1 tbsp orange marmalade

1. Put the apple in a hot oven to bake.
2. Grate the lemon rind finely without any white pith. Squeeze out the juice.
3. Mix in the other ingredients one by one, mixing thoroughly.
4. When the apple is cooked, peel and core it and mix the flesh in thoroughly with the fruit.
5. Put into jam jars and cover closely. Use as required.

For approx. 20 mince pies:
225g (1/2lb) cream pastry, puff pastry or flaky pastry
225g (1/2lb) sweet shortcrust pastry
1 jar mincemeat
egg wash

1. Roll out the sweet pastry to 3mm thick and cut into rounds, 7.5cm (3in) in diameter, and line shallow bun tins with the discs.
2. Put a heaped teaspoon of mincemeat in the centre and brush the pastry edges with egg wash.
3. Roll the cream pastry to 3mm thick and cut into rounds, the same as you did for the shortcrust base, and cover a pie with each.
4. Prick the lid of each pie with a fork. They can be kept like this for a day or two in a fridge before baking.
5. Brush with beaten egg before putting in the oven.
6. Bake for 20 minutes approx. in a moderately hot oven, 200°C/400°F/gas 6, until golden brown.
7. Serve warm with Irish whiskey cream.

The Ultimate Mince Pie Recipe from Ballymaloe's Pastry Pro

For the Irish whiskey cream:
1 tbsp Irish whiskey
1 tsp icing sugar, sieved
225ml (8fl oz) softly whipped cream

Fold the whiskey and sugar into the whipped cream.

For the cream pastry:
110g (4oz, 1/2 cup) flour
110g (4oz, 1/2 cup) cold butter
150ml (1/4 pint, 2/3 cup) cold cream

1. Sieve the flour into the bowl of an electric food mixer.
2. Cut the butter into small cubes and rub into the flour using the paddle attachment until the mixture forms a coarse texture. Do not overmix – if you do, the mixture will form a shortbread-like ball.
3. Pour in the cold cream and mix until a smooth pastry forms.
4. Wrap the pastry in parchment paper and chill overnight.
(Tip: Always roll cream pastry straight from the fridge. If the pastry comes to room temperature it will be too soft to handle.)

For the sweet pastry:
300g (11oz, 21/4 cups) flour
60g (2oz, 1/4 cup) caster sugar
30g (1oz, 1/4 cup) icing sugar
170g (6oz, 3/4 cup) cold butter, sliced
1 small egg, lightly beaten

1. Sieve the flour and sugars together, then rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine crumbs.
2. Bind with the beaten egg to form a smooth pastry.
3. Divide the pastry in two and wrap each piece in cling film.
4. Rest in the fridge for at least 1 hour or freeze.

Words and photos by JR Ryall | Ballymaloe House

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