According to Wikipedia:
A mince pie is a small British fruit-based mincemeat sweet pie traditionally served during the Christmas season. Its ingredients are traceable to the 13th century, when returning European crusaders brought with them Middle Eastern recipes containing meats, fruits and spices.
According to this baker:
A mince pie is a small thermonuclear device with the capacity to burn, maim and destroy any baker worth their salt, and if, after that, they’re still alive their capacity to drive to insanity is not to be reckoned with!
Let us now look at the hazards surrounding this small and innocent looking object of festive feasting…
Making the pastry
We all make our own pastry, right? So just how thin can you roll it out? What if it’s too thick? Do I blind bake, or fill it and bake it with the filling? Will I get a soggy bottom! Just that thought on its own should be enough to put you off for life – and if you thought Paddington has a hard stare, have you seen the combined might of both Mary and Paul? Even though they’re not next to you, you know that your customers will be inspecting and checking now… Enough to make the most seasoned baker think twice.
But lets assume this doesn’t put us off. What next?
The mincemeat filling
Buy it or make it. If making it, do you see if any of your carefully stored apples are still edible or go out and buy local apples (at this time of the year?) organic or not? And what about the suet. Do you cater for vegetarians or go traditional with beef suet? So you go vegetarian – does it contain palm oil from a carefully managed source, or are you killing baby orang-utans? Have you got the fruit to sauce ratio right? Enough sugar (fair-trade raw cane sugar, of-course!) Almost enough to make you give up and just buy the damned things!
OK. We’ve sourced the mincemeat…
Pastry top or not?
And if you do decide to add a cap to it, (would you ever sell them topless?) traditional pastry or something a bit more modern – marzipan or frangipain perhaps? Round, star shaped, or something else? Decorations? What a holly-leaf shaped piece of pastry with that? Just how much time do you have when hand-making 100’s of the things anyway?
Finishing it off…
If you’ve got this far, you’ve made your mince pies, you might even have sold a few or given them to friends, but do they look OK? Worry not – icing sugar to the rescue! A light dusting covers a multitude of sins – trust me on that one, and look at the photo above…
Beware! Mincepies have the thermal properties of a small nuclear reactor. Freshly baked out of the oven, they’ll reduce your mouth to a melted mess. Microwaved to warm up? Oh no – they have the capacity to absorb all the energy the microwave can throw at it, and then some. A mincepie will sit on your plate, innocently looking appealing until you put it in your mouth. At that point, you’ll realise that the filling is still at a temperature that would make any nuclear scientist proud.
Top baker tip: Keep a glass of cold water handy. Helps out put the ensuing mincepie induced mouth fire.
Safe and enjoyable mincepie eating to everyone, everywhere!