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Bringing Mince Pies Across the Pond…

December 9, 2009

There are many reasons why having a mate from another country is pretty awesome. There are the envy laden glares your friends give you every time your partner opens his or her mouth and out spills that lovely accent. There is the benefit of having extended friends and family on whose couches you can crash should you travel abroad. And there is, perhaps my favorite, the food. Sure, the Internet and cookbooks can provide you with a vast multitude of international recipes, but it is helpful to have someone near and dear who can verify authenticity and tell you it’s just like mum or nan used to make.

 Matt is my resident expert on all things British. During a recent conversation about Christmas, the associated nuisances, and pressures, he told me, “All I want for a happy Christmas is a mince pie and a cup of tea and I can’t get that in this bloody country!” (or something very similar). Enter Samantha: caterer to whims, defier of declaratives! I thought to myself, “well, mince pie can’t be too difficult. Plus, it’ll give me a reason to get a tart pan!” Any excuse to buy new bakeware…

 So, I set out to surprise the boy and ensure a Christmas free of miserly grumbling. I visited Shakespeare’s Corner Shoppe to buy the mince. I could make my own, I know, and next time I will. But I thought my first attempt at photo-worthy mini pies should be a little less complicated. I used Robertson’s brand mincemeat–but I’m getting ahead of myself. Mincemeat, for those who don’t know, is a marinated, spiced mixture of dried apples, currants, raisins, citrus peel, etc. It’s very rich, spicy, and wintery…very clovey. Its complexity pairs well with a plain shortcrust recipe (a 2:1 mixture of flour to fat).

My Shortcrust Recipe (makes a top and bottom crust for a 9 inch pie or for 12 mini pies)
2 cups flour
1 cup butter (really, just shy of 1 cup)
2 tsps baking soda
¾ tsp salt

Cut all the ingredients together until mixture resembles course crumbs. Add very cold water by the spoonful and knead together till dough forms a ball. Wrap in saran wrap and chill in the fridge for thirty minutes. Then dough is ready to roll out and use.

 Of course, this post wouldn’t be relevant to the theme of the blog without reference to beer. I reckoned that a stout would work nicely with the richness of the butter crust and the filling. I picked up some Guinness in order to test my theory.

Construction was simple enough: I rolled out the chilled dough, cutting out circular shapes for the crust tops and bottoms. I lined the tart pan with the bottom crust, filled them with about a tablespoon of mince, laid the second crust circle on top, and pressed the edges together with my forefinger. Then in an effort to incorporate the beer into the actual recipe, I brushed the tops with the Guinness (similarly to how one might brush a crust with milk or egg for extra shine). I baked the pies for 15 minutes at 400 F, popped em out of the pan to cool, and that was that.

 

Matt was impressed and said they were pretty spot on. I actually thought they were darn tasty too. I’d never tasted a mince pie and, while I imagine one would have a stronger appreciation for them if there was associated nostalgia (i.e. you were raised with them), the depth of flavor was something to experience. Unfortunately, I could not taste the beer on the tops. I think next time I will get more adventurous, perhaps using beer instead of water in the actual crust mixture. But the cute little pies did pair nicely with an ice cold Guinness, served in a frosty mug. Sure, tea may be more traditional–but, as I’ve said, traditional just ain’t my style. So go ahead and drink whatever you want with them, see if I care! Regardless, I am very excited to have a simple treat that looks fancy in my arsenal of holiday goodies.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 18, 2009 10:01 am

    Great title, good pics, really good writing. A little tangenty and gushy over the boyfriend, but the ladies might think differently, and it does provide the reason for making the dish in the first place. Definitely makes me curious to try a mince pie. Sounds like a mix between shepard pie and pot pie? Brushing the Guinness on top feels like an afterthought, I want to see beer become more integral in the recipes going forward. The design-nerd in me cringed when I saw the justification switch from left to right on the bottom of the post. Just sayin. All in all, well done, yo!

  2. Manny permalink
    December 20, 2009 12:04 pm

    Are any of these making their way north for the holidays? I’ll spring for the Guinness.
    (I liked the justification bounce. It seemed appropriately balanced with the final pic.)

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