Mince Pies – Bake or Buy?

With all the hustle and bustle of Christmas making mince pies can seem like one job too many and with all the wonderful shop-bought versions around it can be seem easier to buy them.

There are three separate approaches when it comes to mince pies.  There is the traditional mince pie made with short crust pastry and either shop bought or homemade mincemeat, the boozy version with added alcohol for the grown-ups, or the modern twists which include puff pastry, fondant shapes or lattices. It is easy to get many new mince pie ideas from Live well for Less, either on the website or from the instore magazine.

If you want to make your own mince pies it is important to make really good pastry.  There are many different recipes for mince pie pastry but shortcrust is the most traditional as this all-butter pastry adds a touch of luxury rather than margarine or half lard.  The butter makes the pastry crumbly and soft without falling apart.  The ratio is half the amount of fat to flour. The recipe for basic short crust pastry is butter, flour sugar and an egg to combine.  Rub the butter into the flour and sugar until it looks like fine breadcrumbs then add the egg slowly to bind the mixture together until it is a soft dough.  For best results cover and leave the pastry to rest in a cool place for at least half an hour.  Making your own mincemeat can take a long time and can be tricky to get right so most people use shop- bought.  Mincemeat is made from dried and chopped fruit, nuts, candied peel and suet in a syrup. Alternatively vegetarian mincemeat can also be bought.

To add a touch of decadence to your mince pies, soak the mincemeat in a few tablespoons of brandy, sherry or whisky before putting into the pies.  The alcohol will evaporate during baking but the taste will remain. There are ready -made mincemeats which contain alcohol but adding your own ensures the mincemeat is to your taste.

There are many modern versions of mince pies using different types of pastry.  Filo or puff pastry are great substitutes for short crust.  It is probably easier to buy filo pastry but puff pastry is not complicated to make.  Puff pastry is made from the same basic ingredients as shortcrust but chunks of butter are added during the rolling process to create the layers. It takes more time than short crust but the results can be fantastic.  Dusting with icing sugar when the pies are warm from the oven gives a lovely finishing touch, especially when served with mulled wine. For an extra special touch stars made from marzipan or fondant can be placed on the pies instead of a pastry lid.

One of the great advantages of making your own mince pies is that they are made with the ingredients you like.  There is nothing nicer than a warm, fresh mince pie on a cold winter’s night.


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Vanessa is a blogger and work-from-home mum who writing about cooking and parenting, when not tied up by her two toddlers. She’s also into arts and crafts, likes things that glitter and any excuse for a childrens’ party.

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