A Continental Christmas: Mince Pies and Mulled Wine

No need for planes, trains or automobiles here as we are staying put with a British classic: the mince pie. A buttery shortcrust pastry choc full of spiced mincemeat, and, for my twist on the classic, topped with a cinnamon-spiced crumble mix. Originally made with actual mincemeat and shaped into much larger oblong shapes (to resemble the crib in which Jesus lay) these desserts have been around for centuries, dating back further than the 13th century. The switch from containing mince meat and spiced fruit to exclusively spiced fruit occurred around the 16th century, as the pies transitioned from being served as the main course to a sweeter dessert-like meal. Moreover, they began to contain more spices due to the availability increasing and the status symbol associated with lavish ingredients. The debate as to whether these particular treats are tarts or pies is ongoing, but there is absolutely no debate as to how tempting these tiny traditional treats are.

I already had some sweet shortcrust pastry left over, but you can find a fool-proof recipe to make a batch right here. After leaving mine to defrost out of the freezer, I began to portion out dough for each mince mini tart. Each portion will be rolled into a ball and placed into a mini tartlet tin to be squashed into the tart shape; after previous attempts using 25g/20g portions for each tartlet resulted in undercooked tartlet walls and soggy bottoms, the optimum weight for each portion has settled at 15g. Equally, rolling out the dough to around half a centimetre thick and cutting out (fluted) discs before pressing into a cupcake tin will work as well.

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Now we come to the crumble topping. Instead of a pastry lid which can be unnecessarily fiddly, this crumble mix is just scattered over the top of the mincemeat in a slightly haphazard fashion, leaving it to crisp up and turn beautifully golden. Using the apple and cinnamon flour adds further to the Christmas vibes, and a using the brown sugar enriches the flavour of the mincemeat hiding underneath. It might not be traditional, but crumble in place of pastry is my new favourite thing. Don’t knock it til you try it, trust me.

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Lastly, any addition of flaked almonds, crushed pecans or walnuts would add a much-needed crunch to the texture table. Washed down with a mug of mulled wine, or left out for Father Christmas, anyone who tastes these tiny, bite-sized classics will not be able to get enough of them.

RECIPE

Ingredients:

  • 300g Sweet shortcrust pastry
  • 1 Jar Mincemeat
  • 120g Plain flour (or a flavoured flour of your choice)
  • 60g Butter, unsalted and chilled
  • 60g Light brown sugar

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°c/350 Fahrenheit/Gas Mark 4
  2. Roll out/portion out the sweet shortcrust pastry to fill each hole in your chosen (mini) tart tin.
  3. Lightly press each portion of pastry into each tin cavity.
  4. Fill each case with around half a teaspoon of mincemeat, or a whole teaspoon if making larger tarts.
  5. Scatter over approximately half a dessert spoon, or a whole dessert spoon for the larger tarts, of the crumble mix.
  6. Place in the preheated oven and bake for 10-15, depending on the size of the tarts – the case should be lightly browned when fully baked.
  7. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely in the tin.
  8. Once cooled, remove and sprinkle over icing sugar if desired. Serve warmed with clotted cream for an even more delicious dessert.

Notes: Adapted from the Apple and Blackberry crumble recipe on BBC good food, and the BBC sweet shortcrust pastry recipe.

Christmas isn’t all about last-minute, frantic shopping and judging of viral Christmas advertisements, it’s about coming together. Eating good food, being in good company and taking time out to appreciate the smaller things in life. That’s what it’s all about.

Merry Christmas, and a very happy New Year to all.

Lots of Festive Wishes, Pip x

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