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Star-Topped Mince Pies

by . Featured in NIGELLA CHRISTMAS
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Introduction

This is the way I make my mince pies, and there is no changing me or them: they are small, to be popped straight into the mouth in one go; the pastry is plain, the better to contrast with the rich, fruited filling; and they have not full casings but little stars as lids, which makes them look beautiful and taste flutteringly light.

By all means use good shop-bought mincemeat if you want, but I'm hoping you might give my new Cranberry-Studded Mincemeat a go: it tastes both rich and boozy and fresh and fruity at the same time; and it makes for a slightly different mince pie, but in a welcome rather than challenging way.

This is the way I make my mince pies, and there is no changing me or them: they are small, to be popped straight into the mouth in one go; the pastry is plain, the better to contrast with the rich, fruited filling; and they have not full casings but little stars as lids, which makes them look beautiful and taste flutteringly light.

By all means use good shop-bought mincemeat if you want, but I'm hoping you might give my new Cranberry-Studded Mincemeat a go: it tastes both rich and boozy and fresh and fruity at the same time; and it makes for a slightly different mince pie, but in a welcome rather than challenging way.

Star-Topped Mince Pies
Photo by Lis Parsons

Ingredients

Makes: 36

Metric Cups

For the Pastry

  • 240 grams plain flour
  • 60 grams vegetable shortening
  • 60 grams cold butter
  • juice of 1 orange
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • approx. 350 grams mincemeat
  • icing sugar (for dusting)

For the Cranberry Studded Mincemeat - Makes About 600ml / 2½ Cups

  • 60 millilitres ruby port
  • 75 grams soft dark brown sugar
  • 300 grams cranberries
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 75 grams currants
  • 75 grams raisins
  • 30 grams dried cranberries
  • finely grated zest and juice of 1 clementine
  • 25 millilitres brandy
  • 3 drops almond extract
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons honey

For the Pastry

  • 1⅔ cups all-purpose flour
  • 5 tablespoons vegetable shortening
  • ½ stick cold butter
  • juice of 1 orange
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • ⅔ cup mincemeat
  • confectioners' sugar (for dusting)

For the Cranberry Studded Mincemeat - Makes About 600ml / 2½ Cups

  • ¼ cup ruby port
  • ½ cup soft dark brown sugar
  • 3 cups cranberries
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ cup currants
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries
  • finely grated zest and juice of 1 clementine
  • 2 tablespoons brandy
  • 3 drops almond extract
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons honey

Method

  1. Make the mincemeat in advance. In a large pan, dissolve the sugar in the ruby port over a gentle heat. Add the cranberries and stir. Add the cinnamon, ginger and cloves, currants, raisins, dried cranberries and the zest and juice of the clementine. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 20 minutes, or until the fruit has broken down and has absorbed most of the liquid in the pan. (You may need to squish the cranberries a little with the back of a wooden spoon to incorporate them fully.) Remove from the heat and allow to cool a little. Add the brandy, almond extract, vanilla extract and honey and stir well with a wooden spoon to mash the mixture down into a paste. Spoon the mincemeat into sterilised jars and, once cool, store in the fridge for up to two weeks.
  2. Then once you are ready to make your mince pies, get out a tray of miniature tart tins, each indent 4.5cm / 2 inches in diameter, along with a 5.5cm / 2¼ inch fluted, round biscuit cutter and a 4cm / 1¾ inch star cutter.
  3. Measure the flour into a shallow bowl or dish and, with a teaspoon, dollop little mounds of vegetable shortening into the bowl, add the butter, diced small, shake to cover it, then put in the freezer for 20 minutes. This is what will make the pastry so tender and flaky later.Mix together the orange juice and salt in a separate, small bowl, cover and leave in the fridge to chill.
  4. After the 20 minutes, empty the flour and fat into the bowl of your food processor and blitz until you’ve got a pale pile of porridge-like crumbs. Pour the salted juice down the funnel, pulsing until it looks as if the dough is about to cohere; you want to stop just before it does (even if some orange juice is left). If all your juice is used up and you need more liquid, add some iced water.
  5. If you prefer to use a freestanding mixer to make the pastry, cut the fats into the flour with the flat paddle, leaving the bowl in the fridge to chill down for the 20-minute flour-and-fat-freezer session. Add liquid as above. I often find the pastry uses more liquid in the mixer than the processor.
  6. Turn the mixture out of the processor or mixing bowl onto a pastry board or work surface and, using your hands, combine to a dough. Then form into 3 discs (you’ll need to make these in 3 batches, unless you’ve got enough tart tins to make all 36 pies at once).
  7. Wrap each disc in clingfilm and put in the fridge to rest for 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 220°C/gas mark 7/425ºF.
  8. Roll out the discs, one at a time, as thinly as you can without exaggerating; in other words, you want a light pastry case, but one sturdy enough to support the dense mincemeat. This is easy-going dough, so you don’t have to pander to it: just get rolling and patch up as you need.
  9. Out of each rolled-out disc cut out circles a little wider than the indentations in the tart tins; I use a fluted cookie cutter for this. Press these circles gently into the moulds and dollop in a scant teaspoon of mincemeat.
  10. Then cut out your stars with your little star cutter – re-rolling the pastry as necessary – and place the tops lightly on the mincemeat.
  11. Put in the oven and bake for 10–15 minutes: keep an eye on them as they really don’t take long and ovens do vary.
  12. Remove from the oven, prising out the little pies straight away and letting the empty tin cool down before you start putting in the pastry for the next batch. Carry on until they’re all done.
  13. Dust over some icing sugar by pushing it through a tea strainer, and serve the pies with one of the butters from "Nigella Christmas".
  1. Make the mincemeat in advance. In a large pan, dissolve the sugar in the ruby port over a gentle heat. Add the cranberries and stir. Add the cinnamon, ginger and cloves, currants, raisins, dried cranberries and the zest and juice of the clementine. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 20 minutes, or until the fruit has broken down and has absorbed most of the liquid in the pan. (You may need to squish the cranberries a little with the back of a wooden spoon to incorporate them fully.) Remove from the heat and allow to cool a little. Add the brandy, almond extract, vanilla extract and honey and stir well with a wooden spoon to mash the mixture down into a paste. Spoon the mincemeat into sterilised jars and, once cool, store in the fridge for up to two weeks.
  2. Then once you are ready to make your mince pies, get out a tray of miniature tart tins, each indent 4.5cm / 2 inches in diameter, along with a 5.5cm / 2¼ inch fluted, round biscuit cutter and a 4cm / 1¾ inch star cutter.
  3. Measure the flour into a shallow bowl or dish and, with a teaspoon, dollop little mounds of vegetable shortening into the bowl, add the butter, diced small, shake to cover it, then put in the freezer for 20 minutes. This is what will make the pastry so tender and flaky later.Mix together the orange juice and salt in a separate, small bowl, cover and leave in the fridge to chill.
  4. After the 20 minutes, empty the flour and fat into the bowl of your food processor and blitz until you’ve got a pale pile of porridge-like crumbs. Pour the salted juice down the funnel, pulsing until it looks as if the dough is about to cohere; you want to stop just before it does (even if some orange juice is left). If all your juice is used up and you need more liquid, add some iced water.
  5. If you prefer to use a freestanding mixer to make the pastry, cut the fats into the flour with the flat paddle, leaving the bowl in the fridge to chill down for the 20-minute flour-and-fat-freezer session. Add liquid as above. I often find the pastry uses more liquid in the mixer than the processor.
  6. Turn the mixture out of the processor or mixing bowl onto a pastry board or work surface and, using your hands, combine to a dough. Then form into 3 discs (you’ll need to make these in 3 batches, unless you’ve got enough tart tins to make all 36 pies at once).
  7. Wrap each disc in clingfilm and put in the fridge to rest for 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 220°C/gas mark 7/425ºF.
  8. Roll out the discs, one at a time, as thinly as you can without exaggerating; in other words, you want a light pastry case, but one sturdy enough to support the dense mincemeat. This is easy-going dough, so you don’t have to pander to it: just get rolling and patch up as you need.
  9. Out of each rolled-out disc cut out circles a little wider than the indentations in the tart tins; I use a fluted cookie cutter for this. Press these circles gently into the moulds and dollop in a scant teaspoon of mincemeat.
  10. Then cut out your stars with your little star cutter – re-rolling the pastry as necessary – and place the tops lightly on the mincemeat.
  11. Put in the oven and bake for 10–15 minutes: keep an eye on them as they really don’t take long and ovens do vary.
  12. Remove from the oven, prising out the little pies straight away and letting the empty tin cool down before you start putting in the pastry for the next batch. Carry on until they’re all done.
  13. Dust over some confectioners' sugar by pushing it through a tea strainer, and serve the pies with one of the butters from "Nigella Christmas".

Tell us what you think

What 8 Others have said

  • Hi there, Can I substitute the vegetable shortening with butter? I am not quite sure what to buy, as we don't have Trex in ZA. Thanks, :)

    Posted by netty76 on 14th December 2011
  • Such a big hit last holiday season - not sure why I waited so long to make them other than they seemed fussy. They are well worth the effort and I ended up making 4 batches for gifts and Christmas day. Won't get away with not making them this year. Yum.

    Posted by akaz on 13th June 2014
  • My husband is mad about mine (I can't stand the stuff)...so as it is Valentine's these are dessert with bourbon ice cream. The crust is a dream to handle. The tarts came out beautifully. Good recipe for non-pie makers. I made a few filled with caramel and pecans for myself...they are very tasty.

    Posted by orville76 on 14th February 2014
  • Have been making these for a couple of years (although use shop bought mincemeat) and they always go down a treat with my kids and guests alike. Thanks Nigella.

    Posted by LadyBoromir on 31st December 2013
  • Amazing. The lost lovely light pastry that I've ever made, and, the relatively easy and quick to make cranberry mincemeat filling was delicious, really tasty, and so much better than the usual shop bought varieties. This recipe is a keeper and will now become my only mince pie recipe...can't wait to impress all my friends and relatives with them at Christmas. Thanks Nigella.

    Posted by MissScorpio on 14th December 2013
  • Milbud, I was inspired by your suggestion about using fresh cherries in the mix - WOW! - I could not be happier or prouder of my little star-topped pies! I don't think anything in a long time has given me such satisfaction as dusting a plateful of these moorish treats with a solid drift of icing sugar! It was worth sweltering through the heat of a Sydney summer to take these out of the oven looking (oh joy!) just like the picture in NIGELLA CHRISTMAS. Wooo hooooooo!

    Posted by LisainSydney on 16th December 2012
  • I tried this recipe last Christmas after carefully copying down the ingredients as you cooked it on the TV show. Must say the Glug of Port, squirt of honey & splash of vanilla made an amazing mix. My BIL who flatly refused previously to have anything to do with fruit mince pies almost emptied the container in one go - high praise indeed for the recipe. Thank you, thank you, thank you for an amazingly simple recipe that is so easy to make but tastes fantastic.

    Posted by kakapo on 10th December 2012
  • WOW, amazing flavour...couldn't get fresh cranberries in Australia, used fresh cherries, selected mix of large and small for their tartness. I also added more dried cranberries than recipe states to assist flavour. Maybe not loyal to recipe, but Nigella you have taught me confidence in cooking to take risks and just give it a go and this time it worked. So many great comments about my / your mince pies.

    Posted by Milbud on 5th December 2012
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