I’ve been bored with mince pies for some time despite how much I enjoy them. As established as they are, I find they are rather disappointing at times especially as they typically consist of thick bland shortcrust pastry over-generously coated with sugar. To me they are a tale of two parts: mincemeat and pie, equally as important as each other. Over the past few years I’ve taken to making my own mincemeat, not that I will knock store bought at all. If you do use mincemeat from the supermarket I think it’s fun to customise it a bit, add a dash of rum, maybe chuck in some chopped apple or orange. As for the pie, you probably know by now that puff pastry is my favourite form of pastry. It’s perfect as it's crunchy and delicious and can hold its own even when rolled out rather thinly. I decided this has to be the casing for mince pies. As for the top, the first thing that popped into my head when I thought about puff pastry was a custard tart, so what better than to add a layer of custard, and what is custard without crumble? Crumble is essentially pastry without water binding it together. I substitute some of the butter you would use to make a crumble with marzipan to add a hint of almond to every mouthful. And there we are. My version of the mince pie!
Hands-on Time inc. Chilling 50 minutes
Baking Time 30 minutes
1/2 portion of Puff Pastry or 350g of ready-made
100g plus 4 tsp plus extra for dusting
4 tsp Caster sugar
4 tsp Cornflour
Pinch of salt
Pinch of Ground nutmeg
2 Eggs, medium
200 ml Full-fat milk
1 tsp Vanilla bean paste or the seeds from
1/2 vanilla pod
25g Unsalted butter (chilled)
2 tsp Soft brown sugar
1 tsp Spiced rum or brandy
12-hole Muffin tray
3 Mixing bowls
Hand whisk (silicone if possible)
Take your prepared dough and place on a lightly floured worktop.
You need to roll the dough out into a rectangle measuring 36cm x 32cm.
It's best to roll outwards from the middle of the dough. Don't roll back and forth. You should also lift the dough occasionally to let it relax and add more flour if it’s starting to stick.
With the longest side of the dough in front of you, roll it up like a Swiss roll.
Using a sharp knife, make 11 indentations along the length of the dough. They should be about 3cm apart.
Go back to the first and press down with the knife so you make a clean cut.
Repeat until you have 12 rolls.
Turn each roll on its side and place on a lightly floured surface.
Pick up a roll and place it in the palm of your hand.
Flatten it using your other palm.
Dust both sides of the dough before placing down on the floured worktop.
Using a rolling pin roll the dough out into a circle. It’s best to roll away from you and roll only once before lifting and turning the dough 90°. This will help you get an even circle.
You will need to make sure the dough is a few centimetres wider than your muffin tin. It’s best to test using your first piece of dough, putting into the tin until you’re confident it is big enough.
When you’re happy with the circle, place it into the tin.
Press the bottom down into the corners and press against the sides. You may find some of the dough will overlap, try and spread the dough using your fingers and flatten, this is to keep the sides even.
Repeat for the other 11 rolls.
Place the tray into the fridge and chill for at least 30 minutes.
It’s best to wait at least this time before getting on with the filling.
Before you do. Pop the marzipan into the freezer to firm up. It will make it easier to grate later.
In a mixing bowl whisk the eggs together with 4 teaspoons of caster sugar until you have a pale yellow mixture.
Add 4 teaspoons of plain flour along with the cornflour, and pinches of salt and ground nutmeg. Whisk until combined.
Pour the milk and vanilla bean paste into the saucepan.
Place over a medium heat until steaming.
Whilst whisking the egg mixture slowly add the milk until it has all been incorporated.
Tip the custard mixture back into the saucepan and place back over the medium heat. Continuously stir this with a spatula.
You should find the mixture will thicken up fairly quickly.
Once you have a thick custard remove the pan from the heat.
Clean the mixing bowl you used earlier. If there are lumps you can always press the custard through a sieve over the bowl, this is optional though. Otherwise transfer it directly to the bowl.
Cover with clingfilm and leave to cool.
In a clean mixing bowl add the remaining 100g of flour.
Cube the butter and add it to the bowl.
Tear the marzipan into pieces and add to the butter and flour.
Using your thumb and fingers rub until you have breadcrumbs.
Add the soft brown sugar and stir through using a spoon.
Finally tip the mincemeat into the last mixing bowl. Add a splash of spiced rum or brandy and stir with a clean spatula to loosen it up.
Preheat the oven to 190°C/170°C(Fan)/375°F/Gas mark 5.
When the oven has warmed up remove the tray from the fridge.
Divide the mince between the cases, pressing it down with the back of a spoon.
Remove the clingfilm and dollop the custard on top of the mincemeat. Smooth it out again using the back of a spoon.
Last but by all means not least, spoon one teaspoon of crumble on top of each pie.
Gently pat it down with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle the remaining crumble over the tops of the pies into mounds.
Pop the tray into the oven on a middle shelf and bake for 10 minutes.
Once the time is up reduce the temperature to 170°C/150°C(Fan)/325°F/Gas mark 3 and bake for a further 20 minutes.
Remove from the oven.
As soon as you’re able to remove the pies from the tin, you may need a knife to do this in any of the filling has oozed out. Pop them out and leave to cool on a wire rack.