Rose Prince's Baking Club: mince pies

Date:20-12-2013 08:58:42 read:3

Rose Prince's Baking Club: mince pies

Our weekly column shows you the way to beautiful bread and consummate cake. Today: the mince pie

Christmas future: short buttery pastry gives shortbread flavour to mince pies  Photo: Andrew Crowley

Almost as soon as it is written down, a recipe begins to evolve. No sooner has the finite word on a method been committed to paper, I begin to wonder whether there’s another way, even a better way, to make something. Having always made mince pies with shortcrust pastry, this year I braved making them with a sweet, short buttery pastry.

This type, which is the one used to make tart cases, has a slippery nature. It can, unless moulded into the tin and refrigerated for a long time, simply melt into a pool of goo. Using it to make a lidded pie is even more risky, because it has a tendency to collapse onto the filling, making the surface look like a mogul field.

So I have adapted my usual sweet pastry to make one that is more stable. The secret is replacing the caster sugar in classic sweet pastry with icing sugar, and reducing the eggs. To my delight and amazement, the pastry lid actually rose into a professional-looking dome as it cooked, instead of melting, and had the lovely sweet, buttery flavour of shortbread.

You can make the mincemeat but it is best to leave it a few days before using. I made mine this year with Daylesford damson gin ( and added damson jam to accelerate the fruitiness. The quantity below fills at least eight average-sized jars.

For the mincemeat

4 English apples

Zest of one orange

2 tbsp damson jam

450g/1lb beef suet

100g/3½ oz chopped candied peel

225g/8oz currants

450g/1lb sultanas

900g/2lb dark soft brown sugar

2 tbsp damson gin

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4. Using a sharp knife point, score the apples around their circumference. Put them in a baking dish and bake for 20 minutes or until they are soft. Allow them to cool, remove the soft flesh (discarding the core and skin) and mash it. Put in a large bowl with all the other ingredients and mix very well. Divide the mincemeat among the jars, seal and store.

For the pastry

Makes about 12 deep-filled mince pies

350g/12oz plain flour

½ tsp salt

125g/4½ oz unsalted butter

125g/4½ oz icing sugar

2 egg yolks

Approximately 100ml/3½ fl oz cold water


A bun tray and two round cutters: one to fit the pie bases, the other for the lids.

Put the flour, salt, butter, icing sugar and egg yolks in a bowl and mix briefly with a spoon. Rub the mixture with your fingers until the butter breaks up and it has a rough breadcrumb texture. Add about 75ml of the water and mix – it should begin to form a smooth dough. If it does not come together, add more water. Wrap the dough in cling film and refrigerate for at least two hours.

To make the mince pies, take the dough out of the fridge and allow it to soften. Cut it in half and roll one piece out into a large round, about ½cm thick.

Use the larger round cutter to cut 12 rounds of pastry. If the piece is not large enough to allow 12, cut what you can then squish the pastry together. Wrap and put it in the fridge for five minutes to relax it. Roll it out again and cut the rest.

Press the rounds of pastry into the bun tray then put it in the fridge while you roll out the second piece of pastry to cut the lids. Take the bun tray out of the fridge and fill each pie base three quarters full with mincemeat. Use your finger to wet the edge of the pastry lids then place them on top of the pies.

Press the edges firmly together with your fingers. Do not pierce the tops – the steam helps the lids rise up into a dome shape.

Decorate if you want with a little motif – the ivy leaves on the pies pictured were made with cutters from Return the tray of pies to the fridge for about 15 minutes and preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas 6. Do not glaze with egg wash before baking as they will be dusted with icing sugar later. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the pastry is crisp and pale gold.

Dust with icing sugar, then serve warm with brandy butter.

Your letters

Melita Evans’s bread machine query is one I hear often. “Can you use any bread recipe in an automatic bread machine or do you have to stick to those in the manual?”

You can use any yeast dough recipe in a bread machine but only as far as it is ready to shape, unless you are happy for the machine to make the usual rectangular loaf. The volume of dough must match the machine’s capacity, however. Also, it is not necessary to put things such as milk powder in.

Mary Berry's scone recipe

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