My festive mince pies
I remember the first time I read about mincemeat. It was 10 years (or a bit more) ago. There was one ingredient that I could not understand. Suet. I had no idea what that was until I translated it and was shocked. Suet in dried fruit mixture? That seemed odd. Too bad. I read about it more and understood the tradition of making it and then it felt ok. Since suet is and has always been hard to get in Latvia, I had to find other ways to make mince pies without it. This was a challenge because I was one of those people in the kitchen who follow the recipe step by step. It took me 5 years to make my first mincemeat - without suet but with grated apples and butter. And I fell in love. I tried to make more and it resulted in a recipe in my first book.
Five years have passed since I published that recipe. This recipe is based on that original one, but I believe this one is much better. This is because I have learned so much over the years that it is logical that things become better. This recipe has pastry made from flour and polenta (inspired by my visit to Four & Twenty blackbirds bakery in Brooklyn, NY) and filling that has been evolving over 5 years, as well as my Christmas spirit this year. And yes, these mince pies are the ones that we make only during December – they just taste much better then.
240 g plain wheat flour
80 g corn meal (polenta)
60 g golden caster sugar
pinch of sea salt
1 tsp cinnamon
zest of ½ orange
2 tsp vanilla extract
240 g cold butter
65 ml cold milk
1.5 tbsp. lemon juice
pinch of sea salt
300 g cored apples, small pieces
80 ml freshly squeezed orange juice (from those that you grated the zest off of)
125 g cold butter, cut into cubes
260 g sultanas or raisins or mixture of both
100 g naturally dried apricots, cut into small pieces
60 g dried pineapple chunks (the sugary ones), cut into small pieces
50 g walnut, crushed
50 g fresh ginger, grated
110 g dark muscovado sugar
1 tsp Ceylon cinnamon
2 cardamom pod seeds, crushed
5 grains allspice, crushed
1/2 tsp ginger powder
60 ml orange liquor
pinch of sea salt
2 quail eggs (or smallest chicken eggs)
20 ml milk
icing sugar to serve
Prepare the tart shell. In a bowl, pour the flour, polenta, vanilla, sugar, salt, orange zest, and cinnamon. Grate the butter on a course grater into the flour. Rub the butter into the flour mixture with your fingers until it resembles course breadcrumbs. You can also prepare the dough in a food processor with the fine blade – add all the ingredients and process on medium speed until crumbly. Then add the milk, lemon juice, and if using, vanilla extract, and mix lightly until a smooth dough forms, but do not over-knead or the piecrust will not be crumbly, but hard. Wrap the dough in cling film and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Filling. In a bowl, mix raisins, sultanas, apricots, pineapple, walnuts, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, allspice, salt, and ginger powder. In a big pan, sauté apples and orange juice until apples are soft (approx. 4-6 min). Add butter and let it melt. Add dried fruit mixture and sugar, mix, and simmer for 2 more minutes. Let it cool.
Heat the oven to 190°. Prepare tart pan or muffin pan. Unwrap the dough, divide in two parts, and roll out (2-3 mm thickness).
Press out 12 circles with a biscuit cutter and place neatly in a muffin tin so that the sides are all the way up. Or, roll out the dough, place it in the tart pan, and press into the bottom and along the sides. Place (either of the pans) in the freezer for 15 minutes. Take the pan out, fill with filling almost to the top (leaving 5 mm).
Gather the pastry trimming and re-roll the dough the same thickness as before. Cut out trees, stars, angels, and snowflakes. Whatever you like. Place them on the mincemeat.
Lightly whisk eggs with milk and brush over the stars (or other shapes you have) and put the pan in the oven (middle rack), Bake for 25 – 35 minutes until golden (time depends on the size of the cake). Take them out, let them rest in a pan for 15 minutes, scoop out, and cool on a wire rack. Just before serving, dust with icing sugar. Serve.
Style and recipe: Signe Meirane
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