Merry Christmas to all you inspiring bakers. If you’re reading this in December it’s officially the start of the annual festive baking season but if you’re reading this in a European summer please put the slice of Christmas cake down and get some sun and exercise outside. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with a little Christmas cheer all year round but for me, at least if not for you, winter is the best time to enjoy Christmas baking.
Winter is a diverse baking season too, as tips, ideas and recipes from around the world get swapped and enjoyed. I’m seeing lots of German stollen being made by bakers in Japan, while Australian and South-East Asian bakers are turning out amazing Italian Panettone. Many English bakers are making Scotland’s Dundee cake or a dark, muscovado-rich Caribbean Black Cake, in place of iced Christmas cakes this year.
So what about the littlest baking treat – the simple mince pie – who is singing its praise? Well, all the great baking talents I’ve spoken with are saying you can’t beat a carefully made one, and that the mince pie is the ultimate expression of Yuletide joy in the United Kingdom: The Land of Pies!
And so, to mark this good news, here’s my BakeryBits 2021 Mince Pie, a new easy-to make recipe that celebrates all the millers and growers that our own Patrick Thornberry - founder of BakeryBits - has championed right from the early days of this company. Forget bland flabby pastry, add in one of our many stoneground flours or get some of our wholegrains and a Mockmill, so you can mill your own flour, to give exceptional flavour and colour to our Three-Grain Shortcrust Pastryand you’ll make your best-tasting mince pies ever.
I've used our BakeryBits 12 Cup Muffin Tray for these, manufactured especially for us by USA Pan who part of the world's largest industrial bakeware manufacturers. This 12 cup muffin pan is tough like commercial bakeware but designed for the domestic baker: meaning you get a dependable sturdy tray that will last extremely well.
Tips and tricks for the best mince pies
The are two main schools here – puff pastry vs shortcrust – and no, filo is simply wrong (I can’t find the official “mince pie rule book” but it’s a banned pastry in there, I’m sure). But seriously, use the pastry you enjoy eating, that you’re guests will enjoy and you can’t go wrong.
What the pastry has to do is hold it shape and filling while you bite into it, because they’re best served warm and the mincemeat could fall out if the pastry isn’t study enough. So, the first time I make them I roll the pastry slightly thickly until I’m sure how my choice of baking tin and deepness will work out.
Again, two schools of thought here, some prefer a shallow flying-saucer shaped pie, and others prefer them King Wenceslas style, “deep and crisp and even”. Patry tends to shrink a little during baking so once the pastry has been rolled out let it sit for 5 minutes on the bench before cutting the disks and gently pressing them into the tins.
Keep the filling cold and don’t overfill: remember that the pastry on the base and sides will rise and this will force the filling upwards. A little leaking out looks very inviting but too much oozing and they’ll stick to the tin
Keep the oven temperature high and bake for a short time. This will mean the pastry should cook and colour slightly just before the filling is piping hot.