Easy Christmas Mince Pies with Chocolate Pastry
It’s so much more special to make your own mincemeat than to buy shop-bought. It doesn’t take that long to make either; in fact you can make the filling and pastry all in one go. I love a good Christmas tradition, and mince-pie making is one of mine: every year, with a couple of friends (and a few drinks), we get down to making these.
- FOR THE MINCE MEAT (Makes twice as much filling as you need, but store in the fridge for up to a week ready for another Christmas knees-up!)
- 50ml cranberry juice
- 50ml port
- 80g soft dark brown sugar
- 2 cooking apples, peeled and cored
- 80g currants
- 80g sultanas
- 50g flaked almonds
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground allspice
- ½ tsp ground ginger
- ¼ tsp ground cloves
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tbsp treacle
- FOR THE SWEET SHORTCRUST PASTRY
- 200g plain flour
- a pinch of salt
- 50g butter
- 25g cocoa powder
- 50g vegetable shortening (e.g. Crisco, Trex, Cookeen)
- 25g sugar
- 50ml cold water
- 1 egg, whisked with 1 tsp cold water, for glazing
- YOU WILL NEED
- 12-hole non-stick patty tray
- 5.5cm-round fluted pastry cutter
- a small star pastry or biscuit cutter
First make the mincemeat. Put the cranberry juice, port and brown sugar into a saucepan over a low heat and stir gently until the sugar has completely dissolved. Add the rest of the mincemeat ingredients, apart from the vanilla and treacle, and continue to bubble away for about 15 – 20 minutes, stirring occasionally – be careful not to let the mixture stick to the pan. Remove from the heat and leave to cool slightly, then add the vanilla extract and treacle and give it a good stir. Roughly break down the mixture by mashing it with a wooden spoon. (Little pies = no large lumps.) Leave the mixture to cool completely.
For the pastry, remember, think COLD: cold hands, cold butter (straight from the fridge) and cold water.
Step 1. Tip the flour into a mixing bowl with a good pinch of salt and add the cocoa powder. Use a knife to cube the butter and drop it into the flour.
Step 2. Quickly start rubbing the butter and flour together breaking down the lumps until they resemble ground almonds or small breadcrumbs. Lift the flour from the bottom of the mixing bowl to circulate lots of air, and to find more lumps to rub. Go for it: lift it high, mix and let it fall, rubbing as you go.
Step 3. You have to know when to stop. I know it feels lovely, but the more you handle your pastry, the warmer it gets. Think COLD. When most of the lumps of fat have magically disappeared and your mix resembles ground almonds, STOP. Sometimes what you may think are lumps of butter might only be the shortcrust pastry naturally clumping together, so STOP it. Conquer your pastry. You have to control it; don’t let it control you. Mix in the sugar now.
Step 4. Make a well in the mixture and slowly add the cold water. With one hand holding the side of the bowl steady and the other hand shaped like a claw, make quick circular motions in the flour to bring the crumbs together into dough. Don’t worry if it’s a little crumbly at this stage.
Step 5. Turn out the dough on to a lightly floured surface. Now, with both hands, squeeze the dough together so that all the crumbs merge together. Turn and squeeze, then turn it upside down and squeeze again; try not to handle it too much, just squeeze it all together about six times, until you achieve a lovely smooth dough. If you need a little more moisture, dip your fingertips in cold water and tap them on the pastry; this should be enough to bring the dough together. Don’t add too much water.
Step 6. Once you have a smooth dough, flatten it and wrap it in cling film (flattening the dough instead of forming it into a ball will let it cool faster). Place your wrapped dough in the fridge for about 30 minutes to chill.
Once your pastry has chilled for 30 minutes, preheat the oven to 180°c/160°c/gas 4. Grease your patty tray.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry to the thickness of a pound coin (about 2mm). Cut out 12 circles, each one larger than the size of the patty hole. Press them into the holes. Cut out 12 stars from the remaining pastry.
Drop a teaspoon of cold mincemeat into each pastry case and top with a pastry star lid. Lightly brush the tops with egg wash.
Bake for 12 – 15 minutes until the pastry is crisp; they don’t take long, so watch them to make sure they don’t burn. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.