Sleigh bells ring, snow is glistening – and I’m all snuggled up inside with a hot drink and a delicious homemade mince pie! The perfect thing in the freezing cold weather we’ve been having lately. But we actually had some snow for 3 days – the most since I’ve moved to the UK 4 years ago! Mince pies are one of the most popular things to bake around Christmas in the UK – sweet little pies filled with a mixture of dried fruit, sugar and other flavours like apple or orange depending on the recipe.
Now, mine are rather different to the traditional mince pie, because I have to admit I don’t really like mince pies the way you can buy them. They are too sweet for my taste and also contain currants, which I’m not a big fan of. So in my recipe I’ve omitted the currants, added in dried apricots instead, and I have also cut down on the sugar. The apricots give the mince pies a much more delicate flavour than currants would and the addition of grated apple, with the zest and juice of lemon and orange add a freshness which cuts through the sweetness of the dried fruit. So, if you’re not a fan of mince pies, but like sultanas and dried apricots, these mince pies might be the ones for you!
You can actually get a specific tin to make these in (a bun tin), but I find they work just as well in a muffin tin. They might be slightly bigger than ones made in a bun tin, but let’s be honest: when is a bigger treat ever a bad thing? 😉 If you have a bun tin, feel free to use that for this recipe instead, you might just find that then you need slightly less mincemeat in total. Because the pastry has a lot of butter in it, you don’t need to grease the tin, the pies will just come out by themselves. The easiest way to get them out of a muffin tin is to flip the tin onto a board and lightly tap it onto the counter. Then you can turn the pies over and put onto a cooling rack.
The pastry for these mince pies has some added orange to give them even more flavour. I love the extra zing of orange, but if you’re not a big fan, you can just make plain pastry. To do that, just omit the orange zest and juice and add a little bit of cold water to bring the pastry together instead. This will still result in a delicious mince pie in crumbly sweet pastry. Talking about crumbly, the pastry is quite fragile, especially when it’s fresh out of the oven. It will be more stable once it’s cool, which is why you leave the pies to cool in the tin for a bit first. But they still require some careful handling when getting them out of the tin.
Makes about 20
You will need
For the mincemeat
125g dried apricots, finely chopped
85g light muscovado sugar
Zest and juice of ½ lemon
Zest and juice of ½ orange
85g coarsely grated and 50g finely grated Bramley apple
1 ½ tbsp brandy
¼ tsp grated nutmeg
50g beef or vegetarian suet
Up to 1 tbsp ground almonds, optional
For the pastry
250g strong flour
70g icing sugar
185g cold butter, diced
Zest and juice of 1 small orange
1 egg, beaten
- For the mincemeat, stir all the ingredients, except the suet and the almonds, together in a bowl. Cover and leave overnight, so the fruit can soak up all the juice.
- The next day, stir the mixture again and add the suet and some ground almonds to soak up any excess juice.
- For the pastry, put the flour, icing sugar and butter into a food processor and pulse until they resemble fine crumbs, or rub them together with your fingers. Add the orange zest and 1 ½ tbsp juice and pulse until the mixture starts to come together. Bring together into a ball with your hands, wrap in cling film and chill for about 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 190°C / gas 5. Roll out the pastry to about 2-3mm thick and with fluted cutters, cut out 12 x 8cm circles and 12 x 5cm circles. Press the 8cm circles into the bottoms and about 2cm up the sides of the holes of a muffin tin. Fill each base with about 1 tbsp of mincemeat and press the 5cm circles on top.
- Brush with the beaten egg and bake for 15-20 minutes until golden on top. Leave to cool in the tin for about 5 minutes, then remove onto a cooling rack to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining dough and mincemeat. Will keep for up to 1 week in an airtight container.