Sunday, 8 December 2013

Utter piefection...

The thing about marriage is that you get constant surprises along the way. And sometimes the change in pace at times like Christmas can bring these surprises to the fore.
Sometimes these are random in a positive way, such as when Mr P sent me a URL with photos of "The best Christmas nail art". Bizaare and unexpected, but cool nonetheless.
However, sometimes marriage can give you a hideous insight into the darkest parts of another person's soul. And this is what just happened on our pre-Christmas food shopping trip.
Now I don't mean to over-dramatise, but it left me shaken. And stirred.
The cause of my distress?
Mr P put a packet of mince pies in our trolley. A packet. Of pre-made mince pies. Supermarket ones. Very much not cool.
So, after vetoing the purchase, I came up with this bit of supporting evidence for why shop-bought mince pies are just not cricket.
1. Pre-made ones are invariably over-pastried and dull.
2. Home-made ones are actually really simple to make.
3. If you think it's too much effort, you can cheat with shop-bought mincemeat.
4. Or even shop-bought pastry, if you must.
5. But you can add your own special touches - brandy, rum, or a super-scrumptious marzipan top.

That's my top tip. Even committed marzipan-haters go wild for these mince pies - the baked marzipan turns almost caramel-ish. Utter piefection!
Marzipan-topped mince pies


For the pastry:
225g plain flour
pinch salt
25g caster sugar
100g margarine, butter, or a mixture of both
cold water to mix (about 2tblsp)

A jar of good quality mincemeat (unless you want to make it yourself)
A glug of brandy, mixed into the mincemeat
OR a couple of knobs of brandy butter
100g marzipan

1. Rub the fat into the flour, until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

2. Stir in the sugar.

3. Using a knife, mix with sufficient cold water to make a stiff dough.

4. Knead lightly on a floured surface, and roll out.

5. Use a frilled cutter to make the bases of your pies - you can put these directly into a muffin tray with no need to grease or line.

6. Put a generous teaspoon-full of mincemeat into each case, leaving a little room for it to expand when cooking. You can add a little blob of brandy butter on top of the mincemeat for a special treat (though probably not if you added brandy to the mincemeat!)

7. Knead the marzipan and roll out onto a surface lightly dusted with icing sugar. Use a cutter to create lids for your mince pies - I like to use a star-shaped cutter to differentiate them from standard pastry tops. Stick them to your cases with a little milk, then brush the tops with either milk or an egg wash.

8. Bake for 15-30 minutes at 190 degrees Celcius, taking care not to let the marzipan tops burn.

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