Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Mince Pies

What would a baking blog be without that quintessential Christmas treat: mince pies? These little beauties may not look like the most spectacular pies in the world, but the pastry is so light and buttery that it literally melts in the mouth, revealing the rich flavours of mincemeat within.

This recipe has been in my family for generations, and I think I can just about do it with my eyes closed now. Making the perfect pastry is really very simple if you just follow this guide step by step; remember not do use too much water and not to overwork the dough.

I always use shop bought mincemeat to avoid the hassle of making my own, but do feel free to make it! After experimenting with a variety of different mincemeats (my family eat a LOT of mince pies), my favourite is Tesco's Finest, although the Co-Operative mincemeat is also yummy. If you fancy something a bit boozier, than Sainsbury's Taste the Difference do an amazing one, packed with port and sherry. Avoid Robertson's however, its far too runny.

For the pastry:
10oz flour
7oz unsalted butter (plus extra for greasing)
1oz of caster sugar
For the filling:
1 Jar of mincemeat of your choice

Begin by greasing some fairy-cake tins with butter.This recipe usually makes 12-14 mince pies. Grease each hole thoroughly with the same butter that you intend to use in the pastry. Set aside.

To make the pastry. rub together the butter and flour between your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs. (Tip - shake the bowl to make any large chunks of butter come to the top, then rub them in.) Stir in the caster sugar.

Add a little water, then stir. Repeat this until the dough comes together, then use your hands to bring it together into a ball. This should take about 2 tbsp of water. You don't want the pastry to be too sticky or too crumbly, so add the water slowly.

Once you have formed the dough into a ball, wrap it in clingfilm and put in the fridge to rest for half an hour.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius (fan.) Remove the pastry from the fridge and divide into two with a sharp knife. Place one half to the side (NOT back in the fridge).

Roll out one half of the dough until it is 3-4mm thick. Again, use your judgement here; a pastry that is too thick will not cook thoroughly. Using a large fluted cutter, about the same size as the fairy-cake tin holes, cut out the bases and use them to line the fairy-cake tin.

Fill each pastry base with a generous teaspoon of mincemeat, but not so much that it spills over the edge! Wet the edges of each pastry case with a little bit of water.

Next, roll out the next batch of dough to the same thickness. Using a slightly smaller fluted cutter, cut out the lids to the pies and place them on top of each individual pie. Press down lightly at the edges. Using a sharp knife, poke two small holes in the top of each pie.

Bake in the preheated oven for 18-20 minutes, they should be a pale golden brown. The moment you remove them from the oven, sprinkle them generously with caster sugar and leave to cool in the tin.

When the mince pies are completely cool, give the tin a few sharp taps, and using a palette knife remove them from the tin.

Enjoy cold, or warm up with 10 seconds in the microwave and serve with a dollop of cream or vanilla ice-cream. Merry Christmas!

If you fancy something equally as festive but slightly different, then check out these Christmas Spice Cupcakes. 

Monday, 2 December 2013

Christmas Spice Cupcakes

Yes, I know it's only December 2nd. Here at Oxford though, things started getting Christmassy a long time ago. We celebrate "Oxmas" on the 25th November every Michaelmas. A fair amount of outrageous Christmas jumpers can be spotted around college, we all exchange secret santa gifts, drink copious amounts of mulled wine and eat a beautiful Oxmas dinner in our stunning 15th century hall. All pretty picturesque, really.

Oxmas and Christmas are nothing however, without ridiculous amounts of cake! And so, on Saturday of 7th week I journeyed home, purely to spend a day in the kitchen baking everything Christmassy imaginable. What I made this term will come soon, however for now have these Christmas Spice Cupcakes!

.I made these at Christmas time last year (hence the lack of pictures; I wasn't a blogger then!) for my sister to take to a staff do - needless to say my parents watched her drive away with them with heavy hearts.

This recipe is one of my own (not Mary's, for once!) and I was super pleased with the way it turned out, so with Christmas just around the corner, why not whip up a batch for your family and friends to enjoy?

150g butter, softened
150g soft brown sugar
150g self raising flour
3 eggs
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinammon
1/2 tsp mixed spice
40g natural yoghurt (I use Yeo Valley)
150g butter (for icing)
300g icing sugar (for icing)
120g light brown sugar (for toffee sauce)
200ml double cream (for toffee sauce)
60g unsalted butter (for toffee sauce)
1 tbsp golden syrup (for toffee sauce)

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius (170 Fan) Line a muffin tin with cupcake cases.

Beat together the sugar and the butter. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. 

Sift together the flour, cinnamon, ginger, mixed and mixed spice. Sift into the butter and egg mixture and gently fold in until all is incorporated. Fold in the natural yogurt. 

Spoon into cupcake cases until they are 2/3 full - be careful not to over fill, you don't want the mixture to bubble over the edges and burn. Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes.

Whilst the cupcakes are baking, make the toffee sauce. Heat the sugar, butter, cream and golden syrup in a medium pan over a medium heat until it is thick and dark brown colored. The sauce should be bubbling slightly but not boiling. Remove from the heat.

Next, make the icing. Beat together the butter and icing sugar. Beat in a little of the toffee sauce, but not so much that the icing becomes ready. It needs to be thick enough to pipe. 

When the cakes are golden brown and spring back to the touch, remove from the oven, transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool completely before icing. When ready to ice, spoon the butter icing into a piping bag with a star shaped nozzle and pipe in swirls on top of the cupcakes. Next, spoon the cooled toffee sauce into a piping bag, snip a small hole at the end, and drizzle over the cupcakes. 

Share with loved ones beside the Christmas tree :)

Christmas Pudding decoration and sprinkles from Lakeland.
I think its fair to say my blog has become rather cupcake dominated, I just gain immense satisfaction from making these pretty little beauties. I'll try and vary things up a little bit soon though; expect mince pies and christmassy cookies!

Oxmas/Christmas love to all x

PS These snickerdoodles are also pretty darn Christmassy, and perfect with a glass of spicy mulled wine.