Summer Christmas for us in New Zealand! The weather has been lovely, although a summer Christmas still seems SO wrong. However, I’m not going to allow the thermometer to dictate my festive foods. My brother has come out for a visit with his family, so we have a great reason to cook up a storm. They’ve been here two days and so far we’ve baked Gingerbread Christmas stars for the kids to decorate, easy banana muffins, eaten a lot of my traditional Christmas cake and some mince pies. Actually, rather a lot of mince pies. And they are amazing! This is not an exaggeration. My brother, who is a mince pie connoisseur, has rated these as the best ever. Considering he’s had our Gran’s incredibly yummy ones, and some also seriously posh British ones (from whence these originate), he is well placed to judge.
Some people like flaky mince pie pastry cases (eeurgh) and the people with really good taste prefer a good, short, crumbly sweet shortcrust. I’m sure you can tell which camp I fall into.
The filling I made using a recipe, highly recommended by a friend, from stuff.co.nz and includes figs, ginger and chocolate. Good mix. Great mix actually. I’m never making plain sultana mince ever again. Ideally you want to make this a couple of months before making the mince pies. For the pastry I combined a couple of recipes to make a short sweet pastry that I liked. I baked mine in small catering foil pastry cases because they help my pastry cases get nice and crisp. However, you can use a muffin tin for small muffins, simply don’t use the full height of the muffin holes.
The Fig, Ginger and Chocolate Mince Filling
3 cups packed dried figs
1 cup sultanas
1/4 cup crystallised ginger
150g dark chocolate
1 apple, peeled and grated
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup brandy
Chuck everything apart from the brandy and sugar into your food processor and roughly chop. Mix through the sugar and brandy.
Cover and leave in a cool place for two days, stirring occasionally.
Pack into two large sterilised jars and seal well. Leave to mature for at least 1 month before using.
Sweet shortcrust pastry (for approx 36 pies)
450g cold butter cut into cubes
700g plain flour
200g golden caster sugar
1 jar of your mince meat
2 small eggs
around 4 tablespoons of cold water
Cut the butter into the flour. Try and use a pastry cutter if you can to keep the butter from melting. If you don’t have one, use a sturdy fork, or rub it in with your hands. Once the butter and flour mix resembles fine bread crumbs, stir in the sugar. Using a spoon, quickly stir through the eggs, and use a teeny amount of water to bind the pastry dough together. You are looking for a fairly dry and crumbly mix that only just holds itself together. I used 4 tablespoons of water today, but this can vary. Add a tablespoon at a time and see how you go. If you add too much, the dough will get sticky and be useless.
Wrap in clingfilm and chill for 30 minutes.
Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees C (fan). Roll the pastry out to approximately 3mm thickness. You want the pastry to be quite thin if you can manage it. Cut rounds slightly bigger than your muffin tin openings so that you can form the base and sides of the pastry bases. Fill these 2/3rds full with your mincemeat. Cut a smaller round or a shape to top off the pie. If you use a solid circle for the topping, don’t forget to poke a cross with a knife to let the steam out. Bake for 25-30 minutes.
Once cooled on a cooling rack, top with sprinkled icing sugar.
If you want to freeze these, do so before baking them.