As the festive season approaches, one cannot help but think of the delightful and aromatic treats that grace our tables. Among these, the British Christmas mince pie stands out as a true icon of holiday indulgence.
Rich in history and steeped in tradition, these small, delectable pies have become synonymous with Yuletide celebrations across the United Kingdom.
From Medieval origins to modern delights
The origins of the mince pie can be traced back to the 13th century when Crusaders returned from the Holy Land, bringing with them a taste for spiced and sweetened meat dishes. The earliest versions of mince pies were indeed a curious blend of minced meat, suet, fruits, and spices. Over the centuries, the recipe evolved, and the meat gradually made way for more sweet ingredients.
By the Victorian era, mince pies had become a quintessential part of Christmas feasts, and the recipe continued to transform. Today's incarnation typically features a luxurious mixture of dried fruits, spices, sugar, and brandy encased in a buttery pastry shell.
Symbolism of the 13 ingredients
Traditional mince pies are said to contain thirteen ingredients, representing Jesus and his twelve apostles. Each bite, therefore, carries a touch of historical and religious significance, making the act of enjoying a mince pie a unique and symbolic experience.
Classic British mince pie recipe
For the filling:
- 1 cup raisins
- 1 cup currants
- 1/2 cup sultanas
- 1/2 cup finely chopped mixed peel
- 1 medium-sized apple, grated
- Zest and juice of 1 orange
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
- 1/4 cup brandy
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- 1/4 tsp allspice
For the Pastry:
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
- 1/2 cup icing sugar
- 1 large egg, beaten
- Cold water, as needed
Prepare the filling:
In a large mixing bowl, combine all the filling ingredients. Stir well and let the mixture sit for at least an hour, allowing the flavors to meld.
Make the pastry:
In a food processor, pulse the flour, butter, and icing sugar until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the beaten egg and pulse again. Gradually add cold water, a tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes together
Chill the dough:
Wrap the pastry in cling film and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven:
Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C).
Assemble the pies:
Roll out the pastry on a floured surface and cut out rounds for the base and slightly smaller rounds for the tops. Line your greased mince pie tin with the larger rounds, spoon in the mincemeat filling, and top with the smaller rounds. Press the edges together to seal.
Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown.
Allow the pies to cool slightly before removing them from the tin. Dust with icing sugar and serve warm.