I know winning isn’t everything and gloating is a social no-no, however I’m pretty chuffed to have won a bake-off.
Now this isn’t the famous BBC show, it was my offices mince pie bake-off. I had a few ideas on what I’d like to make which involved making my own mincemeat & shortcrust dessert pastry (something which I’d not yet attempted).
One lesson that I learned during this process, that I’d like to share with you dear reader is to always, always read a recipe thoroughly before baking day. I quickly scan-read the mincemeat recipe and then got so carried away with altering it that I didn’t notice it should be left to macerate overnight, or that after this it should be baked in the oven for 3 hours. Yes, that’s right; 3 whole hours.
So 6pm on a Sunday evening and I am stuffed from beautiful roast chicken dinner (made by the lovely Zoë) and need to start the mince pie baking. I set about chopping the bramley apples and adding the dried fruit, sugar and spice and then popped it straight in the oven. Now, I’m pretty sure leaving the flavours to mingle overnight would make this amazing, but I was short on time. Plus cooking the mix on a very low heat the flavours have quite a while to combine. As we had some gorgeous brandy liquer with honey and orange in, I added a liberal splash of this to the mix before cooking
Once this was prepped it was into the oven on a low heat for 3 hours. Plenty of time to start playing with the pastry!
Ready for the oven!
As I was going to the effort of making the mincemeat from scratch I thought it best to add some additional flavour to the pastry. Oranges always make me feel Christmassy and the warmth of nutmeg was too tempting to resist so orange and nutmeg shortcrust dessert pastry was the order of the day.
First I sifted the flour, followed by the icing sugar onto the breakfast bar…
All ready to mix!
I then chopped the cold butter into cubes, grated the orange peel and the fresh nutmeg and then got stuck in! With fingertips only. I had seen a tip on a cookery program (I forget which one as it was a while ago) which suggested running your hands under the cold tap before drying and then rubbing the butter in. In for a penny, in for a pound I thought I may as well.
The golden result looked like breadcrumbs:
The next part was to stir in the egg, followed by the splash of milk. As I didn’t want the butter to overmix (and prevent the shortcrust being all flaky and, well, not “short”) I used a fork to mix it in. Eventually using my hands to make it into a nice ball of orange dough.
Into the fridge for the remainder of the time it took to cook the mincemeat. (The recipe recommends half an hour)
Once the mincemeat had finished in the oven, I let it cool whilst rolling the dough. I halved the dough and rolled out half at a time for ease. I greased the baking tins with butter before using pastry cutters to cut several discs of pastry and eased them into the tins.
I then put around 1 1/2 teaspoons of mincemeat into each case, and prepared my secret weapon; 250g tub of mascarpone well mixed with 25g golden caster sugar. I then popped 1 1/2 teaspoons of this onto the mincemeat (as an aside, I would suggest popping the mascarpone in before the mincemeat and only using teaspoon of each filling).
I then cut out 24 stars using a cookie cutter and popped it onto each pie, before glazing with a small amount of milk before popping in the oven for 25 minutes.
After all that, this is what emerged from the oven, smelling like Christmas in an orange grove!
Pastry recipe adapted from original here with the replacement of orange peel for lemon peel and some freshly grated nutmeg for good measure. Mincemeat recipe adapted from Delia’s legendary recipe here. See below for my adapted recipe & instructions!
Kirstys’ Orange, nutmeg & mascarpone mince pies!
225g bramley apples- peeled & chopped small
110g vegetarian suet
500g dried mixed fruit (I used mostly Sainsburys mixed fruit topped up with dried blackcurrants, but picked out the peel, and chopped it into much smaller pieces)
175g brown sugar
Grated zest and juice of a lemon & orange
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons of mixed spice
Large amont of grated nutmeg
a good soaking of brandy (I used M&S Orange and honey brandy liquer)
250g tub mascarpone
35g golden caster sugar
500g plain flour, with plenty more for dusting
100g icing sugar
250g cubed cold butter, cut into small cubes
Zest of 1 orange
Half a fresh nutmeg seed
2 eggs, gently beated
Dash of milk & more for glazing the pies<;;/address<;;
Start by making the mincemeat- preheat the oven to 120°C peel and chop the bramley apples, add the dried fruit, the sugar and then then a good few glugs of brandy. Add the suet and mix together
Transfer to an oven dish, cover with tinfoil and cook for 3 hours at 120°C
Whilst that is cooking, Sift the flour, followed by the icing sugar onto your work-surface, add the cubed butter, and then the zest and grated nutmeg.
Using fingertips, mix the butter by squishing between your fingers until it resembles breadcrumbs
Once combined, add the beaten egg to the mix. using a fork mix together until well combined. Add the dash of milk and use your hands to mix into a dough ball.
Cover with clingfilm and refrigerate.
Once the mincemeat has finished, leave to cool, stirring occasionally. Mix the mascarpone and sugar in a bowl. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Using butter grease two 12 hole cake tins, and then on a floured surface roll out the pastry and cut out 24 large circles. Ease these into the tins.
Top the pastry with a spoon of the mascarpone mix, followed by a spoon of the cooled mincemeat. Add either a circle of pastry and crimp the edges, or use a festive biscuit cutter to cut a star/tree/holly and pop on top of the pie.
Glaze the top with milk, and pop in the oven for 10 minutes. After the ten minutes swap the trays oven and turn round so that they brown evenly. Leave for another 10-15 minutes keeping an eye to ensure that they don’t over-brown.
Once ready, leave to cool for a few minutes before gently easing out the tin and popping on a wire rack to cool. When either cool (or just warm if you can’t resist) sift over a little icing sugar mixed with edible glitter if you have any!