FRESH FRUIT MINCE PIES
Fresh apples and grapes add a refreshing crunch to the traditional mincemeat mix of dried fruits. Grandma assembles most of the mincemeat a month or two ahead so it can mellow alongside the Christmas cake, adding the fresh fruit just before baking. She usually serves the pies hot for lunch or dinner, with the same hard sauce as the Christmas pudding, but they are just as good at room temperature at teatime.
Makes twelve 2½-inch/6-cm pies
¼ cup/30 g ground beef suet
1/3 cup/45 g chopped mixed candied peel
1/3 cup/45 g raisins
1/3 cup/45 g golden raisins
1 tablespoon slivered blanched almonds
¼ cup/30 g coarsely chopped walnuts
1/3 cup/75 g dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 small tart apple, pared, cored and coarsely chopped
1 cup/250 g seedless grapes halved
Sugar for sprinkling
For the pie pastry:
1 2/3 cups/200 g flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup/60 g butter, more for the pans
1/3 cup/60 g lard
2 tablespoons water, more if needed
12 medium shallow muffin pans: 3-inch/7-cm and 1½-inch/4-cm fluted cookie cutters
1. For the mincemeat: Combine the suet, candied peel and raisins and work through the coarse blade of a grinder into a big bowl. Add the almonds, walnuts, sugar and cloves and mix thoroughly. The mincemeat can be made a month or more ahead and stored in the refrigerator or freezer. Pack the mixture into a crock or glass jars and seal tightly. Stir in the chopped apple and the grapes just before using.
2. For the mince pies, make the pie pastry: sift the flour with the baking powder and salt into a bowl. Cut the butter and lard in small cubes and add to the flour. Rub the fats into the flour with your fingertips to form crumbs. Stir in the water with a fork to make sticky crumbs, adding more water if they seem dry. Press the dough together with your fist to make a ball, wrap in parchment paper and chill until firm 15-30 minutes.
2. To shape the mince pies: Butter the muffin pans. Sprinkle the work surface with flour and unwrap the dough. Roll three quarters of the dough to ¼-inch/6 mm thickness and stamp out 12 rounds with the large cutter. Press the rounds down into the buttered muffin pans, easing out the folds and fill the pastry cups by two-thirds with mincemeat. Roll out the remaining dough and trimmings and cut out lids with the smaller cutter, rerolling trimmings to make the count. Set the lids on top of the mincemeat, press the edges of each pie together, brush the surface lightly the cold water and sprinkle with sugar. Snip air holes in the centre of each pie with scissors, then chill them until firm, 15-20 minutes.
3. Heat the oven to 375˚F/190˚C and set a shelf low down. Bake the mince pies in the oven until the pastry is lightly browned, 15-20 minutes. Let them cool in the pans 5 minutes, then transfer them to a rack to cool completely. Mince pies are best eaten the day of baking but can be kept a day or two in an airtight container. Serve them hot or at room temperature.
Brandy Butter is a necessity for mince pies in the UK, you cannot have one without the other.
For 4-6 people, let ½ cup/90 g of butter come to room temperature. Beat with an electric or handheld mixer until soft, 1-2 minutes. Beat in 6 tablespoons/90 g of sugar until very soft and light, 2-3 minutes longer. Still beating, add 1-2 tablespoons brandy to your taste, plus a squeeze of lemon juice. Spread the Brandy Butter about ¾-inch/2-cm thick on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and chill until the butter is very firm, at least 3 hours. Cut the Butter into ¾-inch/2-cm cubes, pile them in a bowl or sauce boat and serve very cold.