While British cuisine doesn’t have the very best reputation, its Christmas treats can definitely keep up with those in rest of the world. Together with Christmas Pudding, Mince Pies are at the forefront of winter desserts in the UK. The sweet pastry is simply a Christmas staple in British homes. Traditionally, the freshly baked Mince Pies are dusted with icing sugar and served warm together with aromatic Brandy Butter. Who could ever resist this delicious, festive combo? Well, Santa Claus definitely can’t!

British families traditionally leave one or two Mince Pies in front of the chimney on Christmas Eve. After all, the little pastries are supposedly Santa’s favorite dish. Together with a glass of brandy, sherry or milk and a carrot for the reindeer, they show the children’s appreciation for the received Christmas presents.

How to make traditional Mince Pies

Mince Pies are small pastries made from shortcrust or puff pastry with a filling of Mincemeat. The mix of dried and candied fruits commonly contains raisins, currants, apricots and cherries, among others. Many recipes call for adding chopped walnuts or almonds to the mix. A seasoning of cinnamon and nutmeg adds the Christmassy touch. And since a dash of alcohol is always a good idea for Christmas desserts, brandy or rum round it all off. As a greasy component for the mix, beef suet was originally the fat of choice. And while many traditional recipes still make use of it, plant-based shortening has become a pretty common substitute.
 

 

For detailed instructions on how to make these delightful Christmas pastries, check out our simple and authentic recipe at the bottom of the article. And if you aren’t ready for Christmas yet, a bite of a Mince Pie will definitely get you into the festive mood!

Mince Pies from Great Britain: traditional Christmas sweets with a fruity filling

Why “Mince Pies” when they don’t contain meat?

Mince Pies originated from a medieval pastry with the name of Chewette. Back then, the dough was usually filled with pieces of meat and liver, mixed with boiled eggs and ginger. Initially, filling the pies with dried fruits or other sweet ingredients was rather an exception. Over time, the pies established their standing as a Christmas staple with British families.

Due to other influences, the ingredients changed along the course of the pies’ triumphal procession. A mix of meat, fruits and spices became more and more common for the filling. This so-called Mincemeat was based on recipes that European crusaders had brought back from the Middle East in the 13th century already. While the fruits persisted, the meats slowly got replaced by other sweet ingredients. Thus, Mince Pies without actual beef – as we know them today – became the standard from the 19th century. And although Mincemeat as well as the pies are both meatless nowadays, their names have have stayed the same.

 

Mince Pies

Yield: 24

Mince Pies

Ingredients

  • 560 g mincemeat 
  • 350g plain flour
  • 75g lard
  • 75g butter
  • Pinch of salt
  • Some milk
  • Icing sugar

Instructions

  1. Sieve the flour into a bowl, add the salt and rub in the fats until you get fine crumbs
  2. Add a bit of water and blend it well until the dough leaves the bowl clean
  3. Fill the dough into a plastic bag and let it rest for about 20-30 minutes in the fridge
  4. Now, roll out half the dough very thinly and cut out 24 circles of around 7.5 centimeters. To get to the full amount, keep re-rolling out the scraps of the dough
  5. Do the same with the other half of the dough but make slightly smaller circles of about 6 centimeters
  6. Grease the muffin tins and place a larger round into each mould
  7. Spoon the mincemeat onto each circle up to the edge of the dough
  8. Cover up the mincemeat portions with the smaller rounds by dampening the edges of the dough with a bit of water and then slightly pressing the dough together to seal the edges
  9. Brush each of the pies with milk
  10. Pre-heat the oven up to 200°C and then bake the pies for 25-20 minutes until they are golden brown
  11. Take the pies out of the oven and let them cool down on a wire tray
  12. Sprinkle them with powdered sugar and serve straight away or store them in an airtight container


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Photos by neal whitehouse piper, the real Tiggy

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