After three wet days the sun finally came out for a while today so I unpacked the box of bulbs I got in the mail the other day and planted them in pots ready for spring. A handful went under the apple tree as a gift to the garden. While I was out there I decided that it was high time that I cleaned up the garden shed so I did. I was proud of myself for completing this chore so I took some photos to celebrate.
I thought that I would re-run this post again as it is my favourite recipe for mince pies.
I am not a professional cook. It’s not even really a hobby. The main time of the year that I bake is at Christmas because I love all the traditional British Christmas goodies and I get more pleasure out of making them than buying them as it brings back pleasant memories of past Christmases that I’ve shared with my family.
I love mince pies and look forward to having them every Christmas. The shops usually start selling them months before Christmas but I like to make my own. I do remember mum teaching me to make these when I was in my early teens and I took charge of making them for our family when I was about fifteen. I don’t think I have ever missed a year. I’ve experimented with various recipes. I used to make them with sweet short crust pastry but I’ve never been a very good pastry cook. When I was first married mum gave me the first Margaret Fulton Cookbook and in it was a recipe for mince pies made with biscuit pastry. I liked it so much I have been using it ever since. Every year my battered old book comes out and I make two dozen mince pies which is enough for Hubby and me and for my sister to have a batch as well. They can be frozen if you want to make them ahead of Christmas.
6 ounces (yes this is an old recipe) of butter. I sometimes use cooking margarine instead.
2 ounces (1/3rd cup) castor sugar
10 ounces (2 1/2 cups) plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder To my horror when I came to make these this morning I found I had no baking powder so as hubby was unavailable to go to the shop I substituted bi-carbonate of soda. Baking powder is basically bi-carb (baking soda) with some other salts in it so it will work the same way.
1 jar fruit mince. (The book has a recipe for home-made fruit mince but I’m too lazy to make it.)
Cream butter and sugar well
Add the egg and beat well
Sift flour with baking powder and stir into the mixture.
If you are lucky enough to have a food processor or mixer with a dough hook go ahead and use them. I don’t have either so I mix with my old Sunbeam hand mixer which I remember getting for my mum when I was about thirteen. There is a story to that but I’ll save it for another day. I mix the flour in with a knife and then with my fingers. This may be why I don’t make pastry too often. Still I’m better off than my grandmother. She did all her mixing with a wooden spoon or a fork. This Fork.
After mixing the pastry you knead it lightly on a floured board. At this point Margaret Fulton says chill the pastry for one hour but I have to admit I skip this step. I used to do it but I found the pastry even harder to handle chilled so now I just get on with it. I should mention that Margaret Fulton is an Australian and the recipes in the book are probably designed for Australian conditions so maybe if you are in a cool climate the chilling is not so essential. As I said, I’m not a chef. So chill or don’t chill as you please. If my dough is crumbly I sometimes add a tablespoon of cold water to the mixture too. I didn’t today though.
Roll out your pastry thinly and cut rounds to fit your patty pans. If you don’t have biscuit cutters a small glass is fine for this. Cut the same number of smaller circles for the tops. I digress from Margaret here and cut all mine the same size.
Place your larger rounds, or just half of them if you made them all the same size, in greased patty tins and moisten the edges with beaten egg.
Fill each pie with 1 heaped teaspoon of fruit mince. I like the English-made Robertson’s Fruit Mince best. I’ve tried other brands but you can’t beat this one in my opinion. One jar of it will make 15-20 pies, that’s what the jar says and it is true. Of course if you don’t like them really fruity it will go a lot further.
Make a small slit in each pastry top or cut centre with a small star-shaped cutter and put into place on top of the fruit mince. Press edges together to seal the pastry.
Brush with beaten egg to glaze.
Cook in a moderate oven, 350 Fahrenheit. I do them at about 175 Celsius for 20-25 minutes or until pale golden brown. Remove from the oven and dust with icing sugar. Depending on how thinly you roll your pastry and the size of your patty tins you should get between 12-20 mince pies from this mixture. I tend to roll mine quite thick and I still usually get about 15.
Don’t forget to make a wish when you eat your first one for the year. We did a lot of wishing on things in our family.
Here is another post from 2014 when I shared some favourite Christmas recipes. I thought that I would share them all again this year for those that may not have seen them last time around. White Christmas is a great no-cook recipe.
Unlike the previous recipes in my Christmas Cooking series of posts White Christmas is a relatively new thing to me. I had never heard of it until I was well into my forties. It has become a firm favourite though and I sometimes make it to give as gifts to friends as well as for the Christmas goodie basket I give my sister. It is very easy to make and doesn’t take long. In fact it’s so easy you could hardly even call it cooking.
I have two recipes for it to share with you. One is made with copha and the other with white chocolate.
Go on, you have still got time to make some before Christmas.
This is my favourite Christmas Cake recipe. I love rich fruit cake so I will probably make one this year. I’m not so good at cake decorating so I usually top mine with nuts but it is a very good cake to ice and decorate not just for Christmas but would probably work nicely as a wedding cake too as it keeps well.
This rich fruit cake is very easy to make and although I like to make it ahead you don’t really have to. It’s just as nice if you make it the night before Christmas, but do allow sufficient time for baking. I first found it in the Australian Women’s Weekly (published monthly) of November 2006 and I have been using it ever since. The measurements are in metric and I have included a couple of conversion charts as links for readers overseas.
Night Before Quick Mix Christmas Cake
The mixture will make either:
one large cake in a 22cm round or 19cm square deep cake tin
two smaller ones in either a 17cm round or 15cm square tins
four small cakes in 12.5cm round or 9.5 cm square tins
250 grams butter/cooking margarine, melted and cooled
200 grams/ 1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
4 eggs beaten lightly
300 grams/2 cups plain flour
150 grams/ 1 cup self-raising flour
2 teaspoons mixed spice
blanched whole almonds, pecans, Macadamia and walnuts to decorate
Note: If you don’t have sherry you can use brandy or rum or for a non alcoholic cake use 2 tablespoons of brandy or run essence combined with 1/3 cup of orange juice.
Read the instructions before you go any further. One or two of these things need to cool before you can use them and planning ahead saves time. Melt the butter and heat the fruit first. While you are waiting for them to cool you can prepare the baking tin as follows:
Line the tin with two layers of brown paper and two layers of baking paper. Extend the paper 5cm above the top of the tin. I have never seen brown paper being sold by the roll around here so getting brown paper is a bit of a problem. Usually my hoarding instinct saves me and if I get anything wrapped in brown paper during the course of the year I save it. A couple of years ago I was volunteering at our local radio station and one of the sponsors sent round some goods to be used as raffle prizes in brown paper bags. After the bags were no longer needed I asked if I could have them so I have a good supply of brown paper for the next couple of years. If you really can’t get any brown paper just use extra baking paper instead.
Preheat the oven to 140 degrees Celsius or if you have a fan forced oven 120 Celsius is fine.
Combine the dried fruit, fruit mince and sherry in a large microwave safe bowl and heat it, covered, on HIGH (100%) for 4 minutes, stirring once. Cool, uncovered, for half an hour.
Stir in the cooled, melted butter and sugar until combined. By the way if you don’t have dark brown sugar I’ve done it with light and it turns out fine.
Stir in the eggs and the sifted dry ingredients.
Spread mixture into the cake tin and smooth the top.
In my recipe you can then decorate the top with nuts before putting it into the oven. If you prefer not to have nuts skip this step and you can ice the cake later.
This may vary according to your oven of course.
For 1 large cake 3 1/2 – 4 hours
For 2 medium-sized cakes 2 – 2 1/2 hours
For 4 small cakes 1 3/4 – 2 hours
Remove cake from the oven and brush it with more sherry. Cover the hot cake with foil and wrap it in a large towel. Leave it to cool in the tin overnight.