A classic, simple mince pie, devoid of bells, whistles and creative meddling. The pastry is a rich but workable shortcrust. It won’t collapse in the carol singer’s mittens. The pies themselves will stand or fall by the quality of mincemeat. Go for broke – Christmas is not the time for parsimony. The little darlings are at their most delicious when eaten warm. Baked a day or more before, they reheat nicely.
Makes 18 small pies
75g unsalted butter
l50g plain flour
an egg yolk
a little cold water
375g good-quality mincemeat
icing sugar, for dusting
You will also need a 12-hole tartlet tin, each hole measuring 6cm x 2cm deep.
It is best to bake the pies in a batch of twelve, then a second of six.
Cut the butter and lard into small pieces and rub it into the flour with your fingertips until you have what looks like coarse, fresh breadcrumbs. If you do this in the food processor, it will take a matter of seconds. Add the egg yolk, then mix briefly with just enough water to bring to a smooth dough. You will probably need only one or two tablespoons. Bring the dough together into a firm ball, then knead it gently on a floured board for a couple of minutes until it softens. Reserve half of the dough, then roll the remainder out thinly. Set the oven at 200°C/gas 6.
Using cookie cutters or the top of an espresso cup, cut out eighteen discs of pastry: (There may be a tiny bit left over.) Place twelve discs of the pastry in the tartlet tins, reserving six for the second batch, smoothing them up the sides so the edges stand very slightly proud of the tin. Fill each one with a dollop of mincemeat. A level tablespoon is probably all you will get into them, unless you have especially deep tins. Be generous. Roll out the reserved pastry with any leftover trimmings and make a further eighteen discs of pastry, reserving six again. Slightly dampen each of these round the edge with cold water then lay them over each tart and press firmly to seal the edges.
Using the point of a small kitchen knife, cut a small slit in the centre of each pie and bake for 20 minutes until golden. Let them cool for a few minutes, then slide them out of their tins with a palette knife and serve warm, dusted with icing sugar. Repeat with the remaining pastry discs and mincemeat.
Extracted from The Christmas Chronicles by Nigel Slater (Fourth Estate, approx €30).
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