And I’m just going to warn you from the get-go: I took way too many pictures of them. Sorry in advance.
Mince pies are some of my favourite things about the Christmas period, and it wasn’t until my year abroad last year that I really realised they’re a uniquely British treat. Germany does Christmas food blimmin' well, but the lack of mince pies was deeply felt.
As much as I adore them, I’d never made my own, somewhat shockingly. Let’s be real here: you can get some pretty darn spectacular mince pies from bakeries and supermarkets.
Delicious though they are, mince pies ain’t generally the healthiest of snacks. Sure, you could take the view that Christmas is the time of year to throw caution to the wind and chuck healthy eating out the window for the whole of December. And my natural instinct is to do just that. But I think we know we’d all regret that come January. (Or so I try and remind myself when faced with a tin of Quality Street…)
Christmas is a time of excess, it cannot be denied. And hey, I enjoy that as much as the next gal. But I was super keen to find a way to make healthier mince pies.
So when I stumbled upon Hemsley + Hemsley’s healthy mince pie recipe, I knew I had to give it a try. I’ve made a few changes but my recipe is indeed based on theirs. (After all, they are best-selling cookery authors so we’d be wise to do as they say, no?)
These mince pies are totally gluten-free: the pastry is made with ground almonds, and I for one adore the subtle almondy flavour. It lends itself perfectly to the apple in the mincemeat, which is another fab addition in my books.
The ground almonds also create a softer pastry – almost shortbread cookie-esque – and I am a fan.
D’you know what I hate? Mince pies that are basically all pastry with a couple of raisins in. No, no. That is not OK. Such a disappointment, don’tcha think?
So, I’ve made sure to stuff these babies with mincemeat. The result? A fabulous texture sensation with very bite. The mincemeat is super easy to make too, and the spice mix makes it gorgeously Christmassy: plump dried fruits, sweet apple and warming spices. Oh yes.
These mince pies aren’t huge, but I rather love their size. You can either keep them in their paper cases or take them out.
They’re genuinely super good for you too! The only “bad” ingredient is the teeeeny sprinkling of sugar on top (and depending on your position on the saturated fat matter, the tiny bit of butter/spread.)
Ideally you’d have a star-shaped cookie cutter to make the toppings of your mince pies, but I had to make do with a flower. Personally, I still think they look charming though.
It’s Christmas joy in a guilt-free mouthful. I love them
If you don’t gobble them all up in a day or two, the pastry may start to go a little soft but if you pop them in the oven for a few minutes to warm up before munching they should crisp right up again.
This recipe makes 14 mince pies.
For the almond pastry:
200g ground almonds
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp baking powder
¾ tbsp Sweet Freedom (or sub maple syrup)
15g butter/spread, at room temperature
1 medium egg
For the mincemeat:
1 ½ apples, about 150g
160g mix of raisins/sultanas/currants
The zest and juice of ½ lemon
½ tsp ground mixed spice
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 pinch of ground nutmeg
2½ tbsp apple juice
25g coconut oil or butter
1. Preheat the oven to 170C. In a bowl, mix together the pastry ingredients until they form a dough – I started with a spoon then got stuck in with my hand. Separate into thirds (mine were about 95g each), cover with clingfilm and chill in the fridge while you make your mincemeat.
2. Core and finely chop the apples so that the pieces are the size of raisins – there’s no need to peel them. Place all the mincemeat ingredients into a large saucepan and cook on a medium heat, lid on, for about 15 minutes until the apples are soft.
Stir every now and then to prevent sticking.
Lift the lid and allow any extra liquid to evaporate on a low heat. Line a fairycake tin with paper cases.
3. Working with one third of the chilled dough at a time, roll it out between two pieces of greaseproof paper until a few millimetres thick (use a rolling pin if you have one. Use a wine bottle if you’re a peasant like me). With a pastry cutter that fits the diameter of your cases, cut several discs of pastry. Use a knife to gently lift each disc and place in a paper case, carefully pressing it into shape.
4. Gather the scraps and re-roll – I made 14 pies from two thirds of the mixture. Keep the remaining third for the star/flower tops.
5. Bake the tart bases for five minutes (there’s no need to use baking beans) and remove from the oven.
6. Fill each crust with a heaped teaspoon of mincemeat and press down with your fingers (be generous). Cut stars/flowers from the remaining dough and gently place one on top of each pie.
Brush the tops with melted butter or an egg-yolk wash, sprinkle with a little sugar and bake for approximately 10 minutes until lightly golden. Cool the tin on a wire rack for five minutes, then ease the tarts out on to the rack to cool further – they will crisp up as they cool. Once cool, remove the mince pies from the paper cases if you wish.
7. Enjoy! Ideally warm from the oven. With a cup of tea. No, wait... Make that mulled wine. Whilst in a plush armchair beside a roaring fire. To the sound of carollers.