1 1/4 cups (175 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) salt
1 tablespoon (15 grams) granulated white sugar
1/2 cup (113 grams) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1 inch (2.5 cm) chunks
3 - 4 tablespoons ice cold water
1 1/4 cups (350 grams) mincemeat (homemade or store bought)
Pie Pastry: In a food processor, place the flour, salt, and sugar and process until combined. Add the cold butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs (about 15 seconds). Sprinkle about 3 tablespoons of ice water over the pastry and process just until the pastry holds together when pinched. Add a little more water, if necessary.
Turn the dough onto your work surface and gather into a ball. Divide the pastry in half, flatten each half into a disk, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 - 60 minutes, or until firm. (This will chill the butter and relax the gluten in the flour.)
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Have ready a 24 mini muffin tin (preferably non stick).
After the pastry has chilled sufficiently, take one of the disks of pastry, and place on a lightly floured surface. Roll out each round of pastry until it's about 1/8 inch thick. Using a round cookie cutter that's slightly bigger than the muffin cups, cut the pastry into 24 rounds. (To prevent the pastry from sticking to the counter and to ensure uniform thickness, keep lifting up and turning the pastry a quarter turn as you roll (always roll from the center of the pastry outwards).) Gently place the rounds into the muffin cups and top with a heaping teaspoon of mincemeat. Gather up any leftover scraps of pastry and re roll. Cut out 24 stars or other shapes using a small cookie cutter, and gently place the stars on top of the mincemeat. If desired, brush the tops of the stars with a little cream and sprinkle with granulated sugar. Bake for about 10 - 15 minutes or until the pastry has lightly browned. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack. If desired, dust the Mince Pies with powdered sugar before serving. Serve warm, at room temperature or cold. These tarts freeze very well.
Makes 24 - 2 inch (5 cm) tarts.
These cute little Mince Pies, also known as Mincemeat Tarts, are made with a crisp and buttery pie pastry and a really good mincemeat (homemade or store bought). Mince Pies have been around for centuries although not in the form we enjoy today. In the past mincemeat did, as its name implies, contain meat (beef, chicken, or fish) along with eggs. Dried fruit and spices were also added but they were only used as secondary flavors. Over time, beef suet came to replace the meat and today's mincemeat is thought of as a spicy preserve consisting of a mixture of dried and candied fruits, nuts, apples, and spices (with or without beef suet) that is heavily laced with brandy or rum.
Growing up we always had Mince Pies during the Christmas season. This English tradition has been around since the 16th century and Maura Laverty tells us in her very enjoyable book Feasting Galore - recipes & food lore from Ireland that mince pies do have some biblical references. It seems they were once made in cradle-shaped tins in memory of the Christ Child's manger and the spices added to the mincemeat were a commemoration of the gifts given by the Three Wise Men. Today we seem to have replaced the cradle shape tins with round shapes (practical reasons I'm sure as most of us do not own cradle shape tart pans) but it'is common to cut the pastry, that is placed on top of each individual tart, into a star shape.
Of course, we must talk about the mincemeat as this is the most important part of these tarts. You can either make your own mincemeat (recipe here) or you can use a really good commercially made mincemeat which I often like to doctor with a little grated apple and lemon zest. Depending on your likes and dislikes you can also add orange zest, chopped nuts, candied or dried fruits and a splash or two of brandy or rum.