Category Archives: Pastry

Mince Pies: The Taste of Christmas

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Mince pies are among my favourite Christmas treats. When I first came across mince pies, shortly after moving here from France, I was intrigued by the name: did these crazy Brits really eat sweetened meat? A quick Google search reassured me that this wasn’t the case anymore, and only the suet remained from what was originally a meat-based dish. Vegetable suet can of course be substituted if you prefer.

Baking mince pies has to be the best way to spend a cold December afternoon; it is a real joy to bring the lovely, golden pies out of the oven and it makes the whole house smell of Christmas!
This recipe makes more mincemeat than you need. Store the remainder in sterilized jars and keep for another baking session; or decorate the jars with pretty labels to make a lovely home-made gift!

You will need (for 24 mince pies) :

For the mincemeat:

250g Bramley apples, peeled and grated
100g sultanas
60g currants
70g dried cranberries
180g raisins
110g chopped mixed peel
30g chopped almonds (optional)
4tbsp brandy
Grated zest and juice of 1 orange
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 tsp mixed spice
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
170g dark muscovado sugar
120g shredded vegetable suet

For the pastry:

450g plain flour
230g cold butter, diced
Juice and grated zest of 1 orange
1 beaten egg
Icing sugar

Method:

Make the mincemeat:

In a large saucepan, combine the apple, dried fruit, peel, almonds, alcohol, zest, juices, and spices. Cook over a low heat, stirring regularly, until the mix is fairly dry and the dried fruit has plumped up (this should take 45 min to 1h).

Leave to cool, then mix in the suet and muscovado sugar.

Make the pastry:

To make by hand, rub the flour into the butter until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs, add the zest and juice and bring together into a ball ( add a bit of iced water if necessary).
Alternatively use a food processor: mix the flour and butter until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs, then add the zest and juice and mix again until it comes together, adding a bit of iced water if necessary. Knead lightly a couple of times.
Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 15 to 20 min.

Assemble the mince pies:

PrehEeat the oven to 190*C/ fan 170*C/ Gas 5. Cut the pastry into 2 pieces, about one third to two thirds.
Roll out the larger piece (leave the other piece in the fridge) on a lightly floured surface to a thickness of about 3 mm. With an 8 cm round fluted cutter, stamp out 24 bases and use them to line 2 12-hole mince pie tins, or patty tins ( you will need to re-roll the trimmings).
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Fill each pastry case with about 1 tbsp mincemeat.
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Roll out the rest of the pastry as before, and cut out 24 lids with a 7 cm cutter.
Brush the edges of the pastry cases with water, then press a lid down on each base, sealing well.
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Make 3 slits in each pie top with a sharp knife, then brush with some beaten egg and bake for about 20 min or until nice and golden.
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Cool for 10 min in the tins, then remove to a wire rack and dredge with icing sugar.

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Filed under Bakes, Cakes, Christmas, Desserts, Pastry, Pies, Sweet Tarts

Little Rhubarb and Apple Turnovers

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Every year, I look forward to the appearance of rhubarb in the shops; I absolutely love baking with it and experimenting with new recipes.

When I was growing up, there was always  an abundance of rhubarb at home, as we had plenty in the garden.  We started making turnovers with my mother as an alternative to rhubarb tart. 

Initially we were using shortcrust pastry, and making them into large triangles. I have evolved the recipe over time to the current, more indulgent version, but you can easily sustitute the puff pastry for shortcrust, and vary the size and shape of the turnovers. 

 You will need (for 40-45 turnovers):

For the rough puff pastry:
500 g plain flour
500 g cold butter, diced
2 tsp salt
250 ml very cold water

For the filling:
40 g butter
500 g rhubarb, peeled and diced
1 apple, peeled, cored and cut into small cubes
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 tbsp golden caster sugar

For glazing:
1 egg yolk, beaten

Method:

Make the pastry:
Put the flour and salt in a large bowl and make a well in the middle where you will put the butter.

With your fingertips, lightly rub the flour into the butter until you end up with very small pieces of butter and a sandy consistency.

Gradually add some of the water, mixing as you go, until you have an elastic, coherent dough (you probably won’t need all of the water). Wrap it in cling film and refrigerate for 30 min.

On a well-floured board or worktop, roll the pastry out to a 40 cm x 20 cm rectangle. Fold it in 3, then give it a 1/4 turn. Roll it out again to a rectangle, fold as before, then wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 20 min.

Repeat the last step in full, then rest the pastry in the fridge for another 20 min. It is now ready to use.

Meanwhile, make the filling:
In a large frying pan or sauté pan with a lid, melt the butter on a medium heat. Add the apple and the rhubarb and cook for about a minute. Add the vanilla and sugar, stir, then turn the heat down and cover.

Cook for about 15 min, or until soft and the rhubarb starts falling apart. Leave to cool.

Assemble the turnovers:
Preheat the oven to 200ºC/  180ºC fan/ Gas 6.

Cut the pastry in half, leave 1 half in the fridge until needed and roll the other one out on a well-floured surface to a thickness of about 4 mm.

Stamp out as many circles as you can with a 10 cm fluted cutter. Spoon a little bit of filling in the middle of each circle, about 2 tsp should do.

Brush the edge of each circle with a bit of water, fold the circle in half and press down along the edge with your fingers to seal.

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Re-roll the trimmings and repeat, then roll out the other half of the pastry. Keep going until you run out of filling.

Transfer to a floured, non-stick baking sheet. Brush some egg yolk over the top, and bake for about 12 min or until well-risen and golden brown.

 

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Filed under Bakes, Breakfast, Cakes, Desserts, Pastry