I think my mother makes wonderful pastry. She insists she is slapdash, but slapdash may be the key. Pastry doesn’t like too much fuss and handling just a light careless touch. The memory of watching my mother’s hands working swiftly, cutting out little circles of pastry, and covered in flour remains vivid.
It’s no secret that home-made pastry makes all the difference, short crust, unsweetened and eaten warm from the oven. Why would you need sweet pastry encasing the mother of all sweet fillings? It’s the contrast between the two that makes the magic.
Home-made mincemeat has to be one of life’s most pointless exercises. Buy a top quality product like 'Tiptree' and grate a bit of orange zest in - but that’s all I will allow – and remember small portions (see note below on the Americanisation of portion sizes) you should be able to pop a whole one in your mouth.
There’s a world of difference between your own mince pies than any luxurious, extra special, finest, limited edition, brandy infused, deep filled, stodgy-dodgy stuff that you buy in the shops. It’s all about ratio. Mincemeat is so rich – you only want a smear of it. Sticky and melt-in-the-mouth spicy sweet, sandwiched between flakes of warm, buttery, pastry.
So I urge you, they must be warm, they must be small, and made in those traditional shallow bun tins that people used to use when they made normal sized cakes – remember that real French pain au chocolate or croissant are a third of the size of those found in 'Starbucks'. Less is more!
For the pastry:
8oz plain flour (I use 00 these days)
4ozs salted butter
1 egg yolk with a smidge of very cold water, lemon or orange juice
Sift flour into a large bowl. Cut the butter into the flour and rub into breadcrumbs. Stir through, with a knife (important), the egg yolk and water mixture. Bring mixture together with your hand to form a dough. Wrap in cling film and rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.
When ready, lightly flour a surface and roll the pastry as thin as possible. Using two cutters (base bigger than top) cut out 12 bases and put into some very lightly buttered tin cases. Add a teaspoon of mincemeat to each. Roll pastry again to cut out enough tops (you could do a star). Lightly brush the edges roughly with a little water to help seal (not necessary with a star). Cut a slit in the top with a sharp knife and glaze with a little beaten egg. Bake in the oven for 10-12 mins on 175C.
Remember to dust them with icing sugar before serving. Icing sugar creates the magic - that’s another problem with bought ones.
Love Katie x