Christmas Isn't Christmas Without... Mini Mince Pies

I'm about to scare the pants off you, Dear Reader. Traditionally I write a Christmas post venting my hatred for the season, and my deep-seated desire to hide from it. Well, this year I'm gonna do something different:
I'm going to celebrate the season

Because, the truth is, there are many things I love about Christmas; and I'm going to focus on that this year, instead of snarling my way through the month. 

Thus, I present to you a list: Christmas Isn't Christmas Without...

My intention is to think of one thing, per day, of something little, or big, that makes the holiday that much more special. I would love for my readers (all 8 of you) to chime in and let me know what traditions you just couldn't do without.

My British roots are showing. Americans, I think, are not too acquainted and/or fond of mince pies and I understand. That spicy sweet flavor is very strong, and singular, a little bit like licorice. But no matter how rough the holiday season is treating me, I am shoving a muffin tin of mini-minced pies in the oven.

Do not even try and tell me that it's the holidays if there are no mini-mince pies; I simply can't accept that without a golden, flaky, palm-sized pie filled with spiced fruit.

Probably the one question I hear over and over again is, "what is mince meat?"

In Britain mince is how they refer to ground meat, and in Ye Olde Days mince meat pies genuinely did contain ground beef, along with suet, dried and reconstituted fruits like raisins, prunes, and currants, as well as apples. Then it was spiced with cinnamon, black sugar, cloves, nutmeg, allspice, and brandy. All these things, as far as I'm concerned, are the scent of Christmas. Nowadays mince meat is made sans meat.

I think there's 2 camps of mini mince pie bakers: Those that top their pie with a star, and those that use a traditional pie lid. I'm the latter.
Image result for mincemeat pie

Over the years I've perfected my technique on this smackerel through trial and error. There've been some unmitigated disasters, and some trays the Pie Gods had smiled benevolently upon. I'm not a selfish person, so I'll generously gift you some tips:

The Crust: If you have a go-to pastry recipe, keep on keeping on with it. If you don't, I always use Jamie Oliver's sweet shortcrust pastry recipe. (I just want to say, though, he is definitely showing off  by rubbing the butter in the flour with his fingertips. A trusty food processor makes the whole thing easier, slightly less messy, and definitely less time consuming.) The key thing to making pastry is: don't freak out! You can always go get the grocery store, ready made crust if it all goes Pete Tong. If you don't make pastry and just use the ready-made variety, that's fine and I don't judge you.... much.

The Muffin Tin: In years past I've unnecessarily wrestled with a mini-muffin tin that produced bite-size  mince pies. They usually crumbled to gooey, sticky flakes upon extraction, and I could never find the right size glass to fit the damn thing. Go regular size. Grease the heck out of it!
Image result for victorian mincemeat pie recipe

The Mince Meat: Epicurious has a recipe to make your own, but, honestly, I can't be arsed. A jar of  Nonesuch Mince Meat works great. The thing with making small pies is judging how much filling should go in. After all, you don't want a pie that's all crust. But too much filling means a slow explosion in the oven and not such giftable pies. Stick as closely as you can to a Tablespoon portion.

Bringing it All Together: Firmly join the lid to the pastry base to avoid pie leakage. Or, plop a star in the center, if that's more your style. Put in an oven that was pre-heated to 350F and bake until crust is golden, about 30 mins or so.

Enjoy with eggnog.


  1. You inspired me to make a batch last weekend which will have vanished by Saturday so may make another batch. I still do the minis, more fouter, less calories - and bake faster.


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