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Mincemeat is a classic Christmas ingredient of dried fruit, candied peel, spice and brandy. It is traditionally enjoyed in pies made with shortcrust pastry. The pastry can be sweet or plain and is easy to make providing you follow a few basic rules. All butter pastry yields rich results but it is more difficult to handle. A mixture of half butter and half white fat makes the pastry easier to work and gives a short texture. The key to successful pastry is cool conditions and ingredients, and the dough should be handled as little as possible.
The key to successful shortcrust pastry is to work quickly and to keep ingredients and utensils cool. Make sure you have everything prepared and, if you have hot hands, cool them down by running cold water over your wrists before rubbing in the fat.
Cut the fat and butter into small cubes to incorporate quickly into the flour. Alternatively, instead of rubbing butter and fat into flour, chill until very hard and then grate using a coarse grater. Mix and then add the water.
Resting the pastry by refrigerating for at least 30 minutes helps to reduce shrinkage during cooking. Shortcrust pastry can also be kept in the freezer for up to one month.
Uncooked pies can be frozen. Make to stage 5, but do not glaze. Freeze in the tray, remove and then store in freezer bags until ready to use. To bake from frozen, return to the tray, brush with the glaze and place in a preheated oven at 200°C, gas mark 6 for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.
To make wholemeal pastry, simply replace the plain flour with wholemeal and add a little extra water, if necessary. For a lighter texture use half plain flour and half wholemeal.
For an added nutty flavour, stir in 25g finely chopped nuts, such as pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts or almonds, into the rubbed-in pastry mixture.
A citrus pastry will complement the mincemeat. Make by adding the finely grated zest of an orange or lemon to the rubbed-in mixture and use the juice instead of water to bind the pastry.
Robertson Brandy and Hazelnut Mincemeat can be replaced with Robertson Rum and Raisin Mincemeat. Alternatively, add grated marzipan, extra brandy and cranberries to a traditional mincemeat to give it extra flavour.
Round bladed knife
12 space bun tin
8cm fluted pastry cutter
6cm fluted pastry cutter
This recipe was first published in November 2001.