Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without traditional homemade mince pies to nibble with a nice cuppa in front of the fire. Or with a warming glass of mulled wine.
I do love a mince pie, but it has to be said, not all mince pies are created equal.
There are those that are just way too heavy on the pastry front (my pet hate) and those with tasteless mincemeat.
There are those who lack character and those that just don’t look the part. My homemade mince pies are super easy to make and I like to jazz them up with extras too.
Mince Pie History
In my book So Easy Christmas I give a brief rundown on the history of the mince pie. So here is a bit of info just to keep you up to speed on this great Christmas classic.
Just like the Christmas pudding mince pies were originally made with minced meat in the form of lamb, offal, beef etc. Not the fruity mincemeat we think of today.
They weren’t always round in shape. In fact they used to be oval. The shape of a manger and the fancier types would even have a baby Jesus on top.
During the Stuart and Georgian period in the UK mince pies became a bit of a status symbol.
They got fancier and fancier. With all sorts of shapes from stars to flowers and some even made to fit together like a jigsaw as a huge centrepiece on a dining table.
Having the fanciest Christmas pies showed that you were rich enough to afford the spices and had a damn good pastry cook in residence.
Of course, a good mince pie, like any pie starts with the pastry. You can have mince pies made with puff pastry, shortcrust pastry or filo pastry. It is all just a matter of choice really.
For my Christmas pies, I have gone for a basic shortcrust pastry. Now if you don’t have time to make your own pastry just buy it ready-made from the supermarket.
Nobody is judging you especially at this time of year when everyone is so bloody busy and pastry making might just be a step too far.
As I’ve already mentioned the mince in mince pies used to be meat and is now fruit.
It’s the spices and these fruits that are all important in the taste department in festive pies. All good mince pies have a good quality (and it’s quality that matters here) mincemeat inside them.
I have used my own Super Easy Vegetarian/Vegan Christmas Mincemeat for my pies. It contains no suet and also has no refined sugar relying on maple syrup for sweetness.
Extra Special Fillings
Every year the supermarkets are full of the latest flavour for mince pies. Heston Blumenthal will come up with something amazingly outrageous and every shop will have some sort of whacky flavours and styles.
I like to ring the changes too. And while I fill some of my mince pies with the classic mincemeat filling and leave it at that.
I also like to add little extras to make some pies a wee bit different.
Chocolate and orange is a classic Christmas combination. Go on, who doesn’t love a good old Terry’s Chocolate Orange. I just grate some dark chocolate and zest from an unwaxed (or well-scrubbed) orange.
Grated apple. Add this to your standard mincemeat for a real fruity taste and juiciness too. Just grate the apple skin and all.
Lemon zest gives a real zing to your festive bakes. Again use unwaxed lemons or simply scrub well in soapy water and then rinse and pat dry before grating off the zingy zest.
Chilli flakes. Oh yes a bit of extra heat can really liven things up. Don’t serve these to kids though if they are too hot.
Flaked almonds or crushed pistachios or walnuts.
Mini mince pies
I class my pies as mini. This is because I use a really old pie pan to bake them in and they are the old small size. This would be considered normal-sized about a decade ago.
However, nowadays everything is made bigger (and maybe not better) and the humble mince pie has taken on much larger and deeper proportions.
My mince pies have just a teaspoon of mincemeat filling then about half a teaspoon of the extras I was just talking about.
I’ll be totally honest with you, I far prefer having a plate of small pies on the table than those massive things you get in the supermarket.
Treat yourself to a feast of three mince pies all made with different flavours rather than one massive stogy thing.
Decorating Christmas Pies
I have just used some simple cookie cutters to make my pies a wee bit different.
Actually, it means I can tell which pies have which flavours in them and don’t accidentally pass the red hit chilli pies to children.
I used a snowflake cutter, a large heart that was a lid in its own right.
Also, a smaller heart that was used to cut holes in a plain round pie lid. The cut-outs were then either used to top a plain pie lid or they were grouped together to form one new hearty lid.
Cutting thin strips of pastry dough and just criss-crossing them over the top to make a lattice effect is a good idea too.
Glazing Mince Pies
You will get different colours and finishes to your mince pies depending on what you glaze them with.
For these pies I’ve just used plain old milk as a glaze.
You can use an egg wash for a much more golden and shiny glaze.
Or mix the egg with milk for a halfway measure which looks really effective.
Finish your pies off with a dusting of icing sugar for that snow like finish. After all it wouldn’t be Christmas without snow. Even if it’s only in our own imaginations and on movies.
What to serve with mince pies
I like to serve mine warm alongside either a nice hot cuppa or with mulled wine in the evening.
Add a dollop of ice-cream and your mince pies cross the tea time treat divide and step into the dessert arena.
Or add custard to make a warming totally comfort food dessert to finish off a festive meal.
How long will these mince pies keep?
They will keep for up to a week in an airtight container. You can also freeze mince pies for up to 3 months.
There is a custom dating from the middle ages that says if you eat a mince pie on every day from Christmas to Twelfth Night (evening of the 5th January) you will have happiness for the next 12 months!
This will, of course, do bugger all for your new year diet plans, but hey, you might have a great year instead!
Looking for more Christmas bakes to try? Then check these out before you go;
Gingerbread men (aka gingerbread husbands!)
Finally, if you do try this recipe don’t forget to leave a comment/star rating below as I just love to hear from readers. Want more Larder Love? Then follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter and sign up for my newsletter too of course.
Quick And Easy homemade mince pies
- 170 g plain flour all purpose flour
- 100 g unsalted butter chilled and cubed
- 1 tbsp caster sugar
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tbsp milk or milk and egg for glazing
- 1 tsp Icing sugar to dust
- 300 g mincemeat
- Preheat oven to 220C/425F/Gas 7 and lightly grease a 12 hole tart tin
- Sift flour into a bowl with a pinch of salt and rub in the chilled butter till you have a crumb like texture
- Add the sugar and egg yolk and cut this into the dough with a knife adding 1-2 tablespoons of water to form a dough. Wrap in clingfilm and chill in fridge for 10 minutes to make it easier to roll out
- Roll out pastry to 2-3mm thick and cut out rounds that are just bigger than the holes on your tart tin. Make the lids whatever shapes you want, just reroll the dough
- Add a heaped teaspoon of mincemeat to each pie and top with the extra of choice if you fancy before adding the pie lid
- glaze the pies with either milk or milk/egg
- Pop into the oven and bake for approximately 15-20 minutes or until they are golden
- Lightly dust with a little icing sugar for a snowy festive look.
- Leave in the tin to cool for a few minutes before carefully easing them out.
- Serve warm.