My Delicious Homemade Buttery Mince Pies

Sweet pastry Mince pies

I love mince pies, I love mince pies so much. Lilly and I set a challenge this December to try all of the mince pies we could possibly get our hands on in Jersey. Shall I let you into a secret none of them match up to today’s recipe. We hope you like them just as much.

A bit of Mince Pie history

Mince pies are a peculiarly British individual pie now eaten across the English speaking world. They are traditionally served over the Christmas period. Although in America they are more likely to be made in large tart cases and eaten at Thanksgiving. It is thought the name is derived from mince meat and preserved fruit pies first bought back during the crusades. These would have been quite heavily spiced with cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Today when we make mince pies we omit the meat but most recipes contain suet. You can use the tradition beef suet or a vegetarian option if you prefer.

My Last Minute Mincemeat Recipe

You can use a good quality mince meat but you might like to use my own quite luxurious recipe. As with a lot of my recipes you can always adopt to your own tastes. You can add Drambuie instead of brandy, some freshly grated orange zest,  and fresh cranberries for example.

Mincemeat is traditionally made in advance and stored in sterilised air-tight jars but I this recipe is just as good and read to use immeadiately.
Buttery sweet pastry mince pies ready for baking

The best Mince Pie Recipe

The basic recipe is for sweet buttery sable pastry and any left overs can be used to make Christmas biscuits. You can make the pastry ahead and freeze and defrost as you require. If you want to make a more traditional cover seal the edges with a little cold water, top with pastry and snip a small hole in the top.

These crumbly, buttery mince pies are delicious made with my recipe for mincemeat.
Sable pastry Christmas cookies

Christmas Biscuits – Great for making with the kids

My Christmas biscuits or cookies are a definite family favourite. They are great if you want to make something with your children to decorate the Christmas tree. But don’t worry they are very tasty too. 

My Christmas biscuits or cookies

sable Pastry

The recipe is a variety of Sable pastry a rich egg and butter enriched recipe from France. You can use sable pastry for making tart cases, Linzer biscuits and wonderful festive mince pies. The classic central European Christmas recipe Linzer torte is made from a sable pastry. It is filled with jam and topped with a pastry lattice. The word “sable” is French for sand which you will see perfectly describes the grainy texture when you make the biscuits. The end result is a fine crumbly texture.

Sable dough

Decorating your biscuits

You may decorate your biscuits however your choose. It is great fun with my two girls as we have a rather over stocked baking cupboard and they run riot. You can purchase a wide range of decorations now in good supermarkets and speciality baking shops. Alongside old favourites such as hundreds and thousands you can buy edible glitter, gold and silver decorations and many more. You can use royal icing to decorate your finished biscuits if you have some from decorating your Christmas cake. If not you will find a recipe for a basic water icing which is perfectly suitable.

Decorated Christmas biscuits

You can find more recipes for festive biscuits and Christmas bakes here. Enjoy.

Rich buttery biscuits made from a Sable style pastry. If you want to hang your biscuits on your tree make a hole in the dough before baking. You can use a pen top or small sharp knife. Make sure you don’t make the hole to close to the edge.

Christmas Biscotti – My take on an Italian classic

Biscotti are tasty Italian biscuits and the next of my Christmas bakes. They are great as a seasonal gift and very easy to make. They are also very moreish and so you may find them hard to give away. The secret is you make a double batch. That way you will have enough for both your friends and yourself.

Classic Biscotti

The origins of biscotti

Biscotti or cantucci ( most commonly used in Tuscany ) are delicious twice-baked Italian biscuits. They are usually made with almonds. Traditionally they are served with a sweet Italian dessert wine called Vin Santo. You might also find them on the side of a cappuccino or latte. To be honest I’m very happy dipping them in nothing more than a mug of tea. We always make several batches at home, in December, as they are a wonderful handmade small gift at Christmas time.

Traditional Biscotti
Traditional Almond Biscotti biscuits

“Biscotti” is derived from medieval Latin and literally means twice baked. It is also the origin of the English word biscuit, but these are just baked once. There is a long history of double baking. Roman soldiers ate twice-baked bread. Sailor’s rations used to contain the dreaded hardtack or ship’s biscuits. These were often riddled with beetles and weevils by the end of a long voyage.

What ingredients can I use?

Biscotti were traditionally made from flour, eggs, sugar, pine nuts, and whole almonds. Today you can find biscotti with a multitude of ingredients and flavourings. Including spices, nuts, dried fruits and can be dipped in dark chocolate. For this recipe, I’ve included nuts, fruit, orange zest, and some seasonal spices. You can experiment and add anything you fancy. Why not try chopped dried apricots, mixed peel, walnuts, hazelnuts, and chestnuts. You can even flavour your biscotti with liqueurs.

However you choose to make them I’m sure you will find them addictive. Enjoy.

For a more traditional Biscotti recipe omit the spices and dried fruit. 

Linzer Biscuits – Traditional Christmas Baking

Mixed Jam Linzer biscuits
Assorted Linzer Biscuits

What are Linzer Biscuits?

A Linzertorte is a tart made using a rich buttery sable pastry. Popular at Christmas the pastry is flavoured with almond, cinnamon and lemon zest. Traditionally the pastry case is then filled with blackcurrant jam and topped with a lattice pastry top. The first recipe for Linzertorte dates back to Austrian in 1653. Linzer biscuits are made with the same sable pastry which is cut into rounds and baked.

The top biscuit often has a small cut out which allows the jam or fruit preserve to be seen when two biscuits are sandwiched together with jam in between. The finished biscuits are dusted with icing sugar. While the traditional cut out is circular, all sorts of shapes, such as hearts and stars, are also popular. The biscuit is popular across America and Europe and is also named as Empire or Belgium biscuits in the United Kingdom.

Empire Biscuits

What is Sable Pastry?

Sable pastry is a rich butter type of sweet pastry similar to classic shortbread. The recipe for shortbread, however, does not contain eggs. Sable pastry or including the version in the recipe below is perfect for Christmas biscuits which can be decorated with Royal icing and hung on your Christmas tree.

Christmas Biscuits.jpg

Start your Christmas Culinary Countdown on Stir up Sunday

Stir up Sunday

Stir up Sunday? Christmas Culinary Countdown? What is that I hear you cry? Well this Sunday is thirty days before Christmas and a week before Advent. Advent, yes the thing with the calendar! Stir up Sunday is a Victorian tradition where the family gathered together to make the Christmas pudding or plum duff. The tradition is believed to originated from families listening to the collect for the day from the Book of Common Prayer for this particular day;

 ‘ Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people;
that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works,
may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen. ’

Advent is observed in Christian churches as a time of waiting and preparing for the Nativity.  Advent is derived from the Latin for “coming”. So your pudding is bound in the Christian Christmas tradition. And you thought Advent was all about a calendar with little doors and chocolate. So this special time would seem good enough for me to be the perfect start posting my Christmas recipes.

A Christmas Countdown

I am going to post lots of recipes in the run up to Christmas. A collection of classic dishes and a few unexpected twists in case you don’t like Turkey, so that you will be able to cook up a cracker of a Christmas. In this post you will find lots of ideas for home baking this festive season.

Get your Christmas Bake On

Lets look at a couple of the iconic Christmas recipes the Christmas pudding and the fruit cake. Now you don’t have to be scared or be a baker capable of winning the Great British Bake Off to make a great Christmas pudding or cake. As you will see it is really about preparation and making in advance.

Just click on the dish name for the recipe.

Aunty Mary’s Christmas Pudding

“This recipe is from one of my culinary inspirations my Aunty Mary, a brilliant cook, it really is the best I’ve ever encountered with lots of dried fruits, citrus peel and good soaking in some good beer, and now I work for a brewery how the circle has turned. We used to spend most of the day sorting through the dried raisins and sultanas to make sure there were no small stones in the bags, then they would be left overnight in stout.”

Christmas fruit cake

“For those of you who like to be organised now is an ideal time to start to prepare your Classic Fruit Cake for the festive season and start preparing your Christmas pudding and your mincemeat. This is my go-to recipe for fruitcake, rich and flavoursome enough for a christening or wedding cake or our family Christmas Cake, it is a sufficiently sturdy bake to carry the weight of marzipan and icing and can be used in tiers.”

Sable pastry Christmas cookies
Sable pastry Christmas biscuits

Christmas Biscuits

“My Christmas biscuits or cookies are a definite family favourite. They are great if you want to make something with your children to decorate the Christmas tree. But don’t worry they are very tasty too.”

Mixed Jam Linzer biscuits
Assorted Linzer Biscuits

Linzer Biscuits

Linzer biscuits are made with sable pastry which is cut into rounds and baked. The top biscuit often has a small cut out which allows the jam or fruit preserve to be seen when two biscuits are sandwiched together with jam in between. The finished biscuits are dusted with icing sugar


Biscotti

“Biscotti or cantucci ( most commonly used in Tuscany ) are delicious twice-baked Italian biscuits. They are usually made with almonds. Traditionally they are served with a sweet Italian dessert wine called Vin Santo. You might also find them on the side of a cappuccino or latte. To be honest I’m very happy dipping them in nothing more than a mug of tea. We always make several batches at home, in December, as they are a wonderful handmade small gift at Christmas time.”

Sweet pastry mince pies

Homemade Buttery Mince Pies

“Mince pies are a peculiarly British individual pie now eaten across the English speaking world. They are traditionally served over the Christmas period. Although in America they are more likely to be made in large tart cases and eaten at Thanksgiving. It is thought the name is derived from mince meat and preserved fruit pies first bought back during the crusades. These would have been quite heavily spiced with cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. “

Apple and Bramble Crumble – be it ever so humble it’s hard to beat

Love British Food logo

Our recent family holiday in Devon was on a wonderful farm with very, very comfortable accommodation, a lovely little cottage, there were animals for the children to feed, amazing views and the best fresh eggs in the morning boiled and served with soldiers.

Freshly collected Eggs
Fresh Eggs at Lower Campscott Farmer

We the last of the summer’s strawberries with tubs of Farmer Tom’s delicious clotted cream ice cream, some wonderful Dexter beef ribeye steaks from our hosts herd at Lower Campscott farm and all the Devon cream teas daddy could ever wish for. Around the farm were some wonderful walks down through fields and woodland to the bay at Lee and a wonderful little nature walk.

 

Nature Walk

As we all went through the field with the Shetland ponies and Mummy, Lilly and Honeysuckle helped me pick a mountain of ripe, plump brambles which when we got back to Stable cottage we made into two crumbles, one for tea and one for Farmer Tony and Kathy who run such a wonderful holiday haven in North Devon.

The Ponies at Lower Campscott Farm
Shetland Ponies at Lower Campscott Farm

It is difficult to trace the origins of the crumble, the sweet golden-brown topped pudding, The Oxford Companion to Food suggests the recipe for crumble was developed in the second world war, as an alternative to pastry, using whatever fat was available. Crumbles can be made throughout the year and made with plums, rhubarb, greengages, gooseberries and most popularly apples or apples and soft fruits such as raspberries, blackberries, and brambles.

Crumble is best served hot with lashings of custard, clotted cream or ice cream.

Bramley Apple and Bramble Crumble
Bramley Apple and Bramble Crumble

Apple and Bramble Crumble

Bramley apples can discolour quickly when peeled, to prevent this from happening as you peel the apples, toss the apple in a little freshly squeezed lemon juice which slows down the oxidation and the browning. If you like nuts you can substitute fifty grams of the flour with ground almonds and add a small handful of rolled oats to the crumble mix.

500 gr Bramley Apples ( 3 to 4 medium sized Apples ), peeled and cored

200 gr Blackberries or Brambles, washed and drained

250 gr Self Raising Flour

150 gr Golden Caster Sugar

125 gr cold Jersey Butter

Freshly grated Nutmeg

Heat your oven to 350 F / 180 C / Gas Mark 4. Slice the apples into finger thick chunks and place into a medium-sized heavy-bottomed pan. Add four to five tablespoons of cold water and place onto a gentle heat covered with a lid. After a couple of minutes, the apples will start to soften and break down, take off the lid and give them a stir, add a splash more water if required. Keep stirring until the apples are breaking up but still contains good-sized chunks of whole apple, then add fifty grams of the sugar and a generous grating of nutmeg. Once the sugar is dissolved, remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Spoon the apple into a deep sided oven-proof dish and sprinkle over the blackberries or brambles and put to one side. Sift the flour into a large bowl and add the remaining sugar. Cut the butter into cubes and tip in the bowl of flour and sugar and rub it into the flour mix with your fingertips until it resembles rough breadcrumbs. You make crumble in a food processor but don’t overwork or the butter will melt, and the mix will form a paste.

Spread the crumble mix evenly over the fruit and level off, then place the dish on a baking tray and place in the oven for thirty- five to forty minutes, until the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for ten or so minutes before serving.