This recipe comes, once again, from the pen of Frederick T. Vine. I like it because it shows how much can be achieved with a very small number of ingredients.
I chose it because ’tis the season and is also a great way to present mince pies, making the most of each component.
Mince pies are delicious, but they can be fiddly – especially if you have sausage fingers like me. Trying to get the pastry rolled thin enough, and neatly into the tins, is a challenge. Then too, with a very rich filling, a little variation in cooking times and they can either be a little greasy, or overcooked and dry, and an overall disappointment. With Mr Vine’s approach, everything is prepared separately, and then merely assembled when required. This allows for everything – mincemeat, cream, pastry – to be at it’s absolute best and remove much Faff™ and stress.
The pastry is baked by itself: rolled slightly thicker than usual – although ready-rolled is fine – the pastry is glazed and baked in whatever shape you like. Once cooled, you can decorate with royal icing (optional), split them open and add your filling.
These are called Sultana Tarts because the original recipe has a crescent of puff pastry added as a garnishing flourish, held in place with royal icing, and with both pieces of pastry being decorated with patterns also in royal icing. Neither is compulsory, of course, but the dazzling white of the royal icing and the glossy burnished surface of the pastry does make for a very striking appearance.
I think the pies look just as attractive without the crescent of pastry and some dots of royal icing, in as simple or as elaborate a style as you can muster.
If you want to serve mince pies with the minimum of fuss and the maximum of impact both of taste and visual appeal, I don’t think you could do any better than to serve these delightful Victorian versions.
Puff pastry – home-made, block or ready rolled.
sieved icing sugar for dusting
mincemeat of choice – delicious vegan version here
cream – double, whipped or clotted
- Heat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
- Roll out your puff pastry if necessary, slightly thicker than usual, about 8mm.
- Cut your pastry into the shape you want, although it will probably change shape during baking. NB My circles never stay circles, despite being fastidious in letting the pastry rest for ages.
- Put the sieved icing sugar onto a tray or piece of parchment.
- Wet the tops of the pastry with water, turn them over onto the powdered sugar, then set them right side up onto a baking sheet lined with parchment. The bit of moisture is enough to melt the sugar which will turn a rich, glossy brown during baking.
- Now, a word or two about baking. Puff pastry is capricious and will rise like a phoenix, but all too often a phoenix that has been on the Christmas lollywater, i.e. in many a lopsided way. To mitigate this, you can balance a cooling rack over the top, resting it on top of some metal egg-cups or small pudding tins, to help control the rising to a set height. Due to the sugar glaze, it is probably best to have a layer of parchment between the rack and the pastry, to prevent any sticking.
- Bake for 20-30mins, depending on size. Puff pastry can be tricksy, in that it looks done long before it actually IS done. It needs a surprisingly long time to both puff up and crisp up.
- Cool on a wire rack.
- Decorate with royal icing when cold.
- Store in an airtight container until required.
- Warm in a 160C, 140C Fan oven for 10 minutes before splitting, filling and serving. Be sure to warm your mincemeat enough to allow the suet to melt, before filling.