mince-piesThe only request for baked goods I received this Christmas was from my lovely (and very English!) mother.  It was, of course, for mince pies.  I wanted to find a recipe that produced a melt-in-my-mouth result with the inclusion of shortening – shortening really does yield a lighter-textured result.

I found a recipe in Nigella Lawson’s How to be a Domestic Goddess cookbook.  In fact there were three options. I went with the ‘star topped’ version to use the same star cutter as my Linzer cookies.

It was all quite a quick process.  Given the time needed to typically handle pastry, it all came together quite speedily (which is helpful particularly in a sub-tropical climate!).  The resulting mince pies were received very well, with literally a dozen disappearing off the plate on Christmas day in less than 5 minutes.  I think that is a good sign!

If you like mince pies, you will like the lightness and sweetness of this recipe.

{ Star Topped Mince Pies } recipe by Nigella Lawson

Makes 2 dozen finished pies

* Ingredients *
1 cup plain (all purpose) flour
45g vegetable shortening
45g cold unsalted butter
Juice of 1 small orange
½ cup mincemeat
1 egg mixed with water for glaze
Icing sugar for dusting

* Directions *
Measure the flour out into a shallow bowl or dish, and using a teaspoon, dollop in little mounds of shortening, add the butter, diced small, combine with your hands and put in the freezer for 20 minutes.  Measure out the orange juice and put in the refrigerator.
Empty out the flour and fat into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until you have a pale pile of oatmeal-like crumbs.  Add the juice down the funnel, pulsing till 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.  Turn out of the processor and, in your hands, combine to a dough.  Then form into two discs.  Wrap each in plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator to rest for 20 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 425 F or 220 C. 
Roll out the discs one at a time as thinly as you can without exaggerating.  Out of each rolled out disc cut out circles.  Press these circles gently into the moulds and dollop in a scant teaspoon of mincemeat.  Then cut out your stars and place them lightly on top of the mincemeat.  Re-roll pastry as required.
Glaze the pies before putting in the oven (I skipped this step as I wanted a lighter finish).  Bake pies for 10-12 minutes.  Cool on a rack and dust with icing sugar before serving.

Easy.  Delicious.

{ A few tips … }

1. If you do not own tart pans, substitute patty case or muffin tins.  Simply cut out a circle of pastry slightly larger than the tin whole and carefully insert.
2. Use a fluted cutter for festive edging.
3. You can use all butter if you do not wish to use vegetable shortening.  Your pastry will be slightly heavier and denser.