The humble mince pie is a Christmas staple and for good reason… they are blooming delicious. But even though they have been on the festive menu for years (traceable back to the 13th century), many people actually don’t know how to make them. Do you?
If you’re a mince pie novice then you’ve come to the right place. Our food editor has opened up her recipe book and given you access to the simplest step-by-step guide there is. Taken from the method she used to bake traditional pies when she was still in school, this recipe can be followed by everyone.
Using classic ‘mincemeat’, which consists of fruit and spices and then encased with a buttery shortcrust pastry, these treats are sure to not go to waste.
And once you’ve mastered those, keep reading. We have some fancier alternative mince pie recipes for you too.
200°C/190°C Fan/gas 6. Grease a 12-hole bun tin with butter.
Rub 100g of fat cut into small cubes into 200g plain flour gently with your fingertips, until you have crumbs.
Make sure your hands are nice and cold when you're rubbing in the fat with the flour by running very cold water over the pulse points in your wrists.
Add the water splash by splash until you get dough. The amount of water needed will depend on the type of flour and fat used, so just add a little each time. You can stir it with a spatula to start with, but as it gets wetter you'll want to get your hands in to gather the ball of pastry together.
Once you have your ball of dough, rub it around the sides and bottom of the bowl to pick up any loose bits that remain, so you end up with a clean bowl.
Made your pastry too wet? Just add a little more flour to bring it back to a dough-like consistency.
This is known as leaving your pastry to rest. You do it to try and minimise the pastry in your baking tins from shrinking once you cook it. You can simply leave it in the bowl and pop it into the fridge.
You want to get your pastry thin enough to cut out the 24 shapes you are going to need. Try and roll the pastry big enough so you can cut as many of the shapes for your mince pies out in one sitting. If you run out you'll have to screw the remaining pastry up into a ball and re-roll it. But any re-rolling isn't great for your pastry's health, so try and avoid it.
Using a large pastry cutter make 12 circles and then 12 stars using a small pastry cutter.
Add a teaspoon of mincemeat to each bottom. Then place one of the stars on top of each.
Don't be tempted to add in too much mincemeat. It might not look much but it will bubble up.
Over-fill your pies and you'll end up with mincemeat that leaks over the top of the pastry and turns into hard, burned bits on your pie tin.
Then dust with a sprinkling of sugar if you wish.
They should take around 15-20 minutes. Keep checking and take them out when they are lightly browned.
Serve once slightly cooled. Don't be tempted to eat your pies too quickly as the filling will be molten and will burn your mouth.
While you’re baking your pies do keep an eye on them. There are plenty of oven variables that can affect how your food is cooked. Through our rigorous oven lab tests we found that some models don’t evenly spread heat as you’d hope, causing uneven browning. If so, try rotating the baking tray a couple times while cooking.
Are you thinking of buying a new oven in time for the Christmas cook up? We check everything from the heat supply to how easy it is to use; read our oven reviews to ensure you get the most out of our baking.
If you don’t fancy making your own. Our experts have taste tested premium mince pies and there was one clear winner. Discover which supermarket made this year's best mince pies.
If you’ve got the hang of easy mince pies and you want to add a little something to impress your guests at Christmas dinner, why not try making mince pies with this delicious Austrian sweet pastry?
Over the years the core ingredients of the mince pie have been tested, altered and adjusted. One of these interchangeable ingredients is the pastry casing.
Typically baked with a shortcrust pastry, the mince pie as most of us know it has a slightly biscuit like, crumbly texture and is pretty sturdy. Shortcrust is the easiest to make, too – see our recipe above.
But some bakers now also use puff pastry for their pies. The main difference is the fat content (puff pastry has more fat) and how simple it is to prepare. Puff pastry requires the baker to layer butter into the pastry to allow for puffing, thus creating a lighter, flakier casing. That's why many at-home cooks tend to buy shop-bought puff pastry rather than making their own.
Are you a stickler for tradition when it comes to mince pies and other Christmas food, or do you like to mix it up a bit? Join our Christmas food conversation and have your say.
Puff pastry Christmas recipe tip – Always end up with leftover Christmas pudding? Or experts suggest crumbling it in between two circles of shop-bought puff pastry to make Christmas pudding Eccles cakes. Read our Christmas pudding reviews.
Jamie Oliver has added another option to the mix as well! Filo pastry mince pies… Using a mixture of home-made or shop bought filo and puff pastry, the British chef says they are ‘super easy’ to make. If you fancy giving them a go, check out Jamie Oliver’s perfect mince pie recipe.
We talked to our food editors to find out what their top tips were for mince pie pastry additions. Suggestions included lard in the pastry, marzipan balls and icing sugar in the flour. But our favourite was tangerine rind. This citrus twist tastes delicious and makes for a ‘zingy outer shell’.
The early mince pie was also known as a mutton pie or a Christmas pie and was filled with meat, such as lamb, beef and game, rather than the dried fruit mix they are today. The pies were bigger and oval shaped then and came about as a way of preserving the meat.
Nowadays, the classic mincemeat ingredients are a lot sweeter and include a variety of fruits such as apples, dried raisins, lemon, currants and brandy. But like all long-serving recipes, they can be open for interpretation. Here are some tasty additions to jazz up your shop bought mincemeat...
Depending on what your tastes are, adding almonds, Brazil nuts and hazelnuts will all work with your mincemeat. If you’re a real nut lover then why not add all three?
Some people find that shop bought mincemeat can be a too sweet. Try adding some orange or lemon zest to balance out the flavours.
Add some indulgence to your pies by stirring through a spoonful of mascarpone.
If you really want to experiment then try stirring in a little grated chocolate or melting it into the mincemeat.
Give your pies a little Caribbean twist with rum instead of brandy.
Patrick runs the Artisan Bakery and is one of our Which? baking experts, helping us in our quest to find the best mince pies and Christmas puddings you can buy. Here is his recipe for the ultimate mince pies. We first published it in 2011 and it's so good that one of our Which? experts has been making these mince pies every year since. She says they are a great alternative pies for those people who don't really like traditional mince pies.
You will need
Rather than make your own, Patrick says a good ‘cheat’ is to buy a good-quality ready-made and stir through a little amaretto liquor.
1. For best results use a food mixer with paddle attachment to make this topping.
2. Add all ingredients to bowl starting on lowest speed first (or the room will be engulfed by sugar dust!) and gradually increase the speed to fastest and mix for five minutes, until the mixture lightens in colour and texture.
3. Using the uncooked pastry shells, evenly apply around 400g mincemeat for the large tart or 50g to individual tarts and smooth the top.
4. Top with frangipane, smooth and sprinkle with flaked almonds and then a tablespoon of castor sugar.
5. Bake at 180C/fan oven 170C/gas mark 4 for 30-40 minutes, cool slightly and serve with a dusting of icing sugar, or with rum butter and vanilla ice cream.
To make sure everyone can enjoy their best version of a mince pie we have also tested the shop-bought gluten-free mince pies on offer in the supermarkets. Our food experts have informed us that they have improved since previous years. So, if you still don’t want to get your bake on, then take a look our gluten-free mince pie Best Buys.
What do you like to serve mince pies with?
A food writer friend suggested putting a slice of the best cheddar on top. It's like apple pie and cheese… so good. But another is with double cream whisked into soft peaks with brandy, a little sugar and vanilla.
Hot or cold mince pies?
When you serve them warm the flavour is much more pronounced and sweeter. Should you keep the foil case on when reheating? I take the mince pies out of the foil and sit them on a tray lined with non-stick baking paper before heating, as this makes the pastry extra crisp.
Is it best to freeze mince pies cooked or uncooked?
You will get the best results if you freeze puff pastry mince pies uncooked, whereas shortcrust pies can be frozen either cooked or not.
If you want your shop-bought mince pies to create a real wow factor with your guests, try some of the following ideas. Mulled wine, port, hot chocolate (family-friendly or with a splash of rum), sloe or damson gin are always well received with mince pies – as is a nice cup of refreshing Earl Grey tea. I prefer mine served with clotted cream or Cumberland rum butter – a combination of dark brown muscovado sugar, butter, rum and a hint of nutmeg.
Another of my favourites is to take 150g of double cream and lightly whip it until it’s the consistency of shaving cream. Then add two to three tablespoons of rum, whisky or cognac.
On the cold front, it’s hard to beat a scoop of soft vanilla ice cream, with the lovely black seeds from the pod visible. Also, if you wish to go the extra mile, lift the lid on your mince pie, place any of the above inside, then replace the lid and serve to an unsuspecting friend.
Always serve mince pies slightly warm and not hot – molten mincemeat burns are never appreciated.
Make sure you follow the reheating instructions on the box. Of course, you could always simply dust them with icing sugar and serve with a sprig of holly, while throwing another log on the fire and listening to Silent Night...