For those unfamiliar with the classic British Christmas dessert, mincemeat pies are little fabled tartlets the size of peanut butter cups, commonly filled with raisins, sultanas, cranberries, and other dried fruits, all macerated and cooked in heavily-spiced brandy or port. As their name suggests, mince pies traditionally did at one point have minced beef or lamb mixed in with the dried fruits. Some versions even used suet (beef fat) or lard to bind the filling together. Thankfully, most modern iterations of mincemeat—the filling of mince pies—have done away with the “meat” part, opting instead for the agreeable boozy dried fruit filling that’s ubiquitous in England, especially around the holidays. —Yi Jun Loh
egg, whisked together with one tablespoon water (for egg wash)
In This Recipe
To make the mincemeat, chop up the larger dried fruits (like whole figs and apricots) into roughly 1/2-inch pieces. Transfer all the dried fruit into a pot, and add the candied ginger, apple, orange juice and zest, port, butter, sugar, salt, and all the spices. Bring this to a boil, then turn the heat down to a low simmer, and let it cook for 30 to 40 minutes, until nearly all the liquid has evaporated. Then, add in the brandy or cognac, and let cool to room temperature before transferring to an airtight jar or container. (The mincemeat keeps well for up to a month in the refrigerator. I like keeping them for at least a week before using it, as the flavor will deepen and develop a bit more, but it works fresh too!)
Now onto the pie dough. As per Stella Parks’ genius technique, start by mixing the flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Then, toss the cubes of butter in the flour and pinch each butter cube flat with your fingers. Add in the cold water, and quickly knead it into the butter and flour until a rough ball of dough forms. Place the dough on a well-floured flat surface, sprinkle more flour on top, and roll the dough out into a rough 10x15-inch rectangle. Fold the two shorter sides into the middle so the edges meet, then fold it in half lengthwise. If not using immediately, wrap the dough in plastic and store it in the refrigerator. (Alternatively, you can freeze the dough if you’re keeping it over many days or weeks, just make sure to defrost it in the refrigerator for 24 hours before using it.)
Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C), and ready a mini muffin tin or individual tartlet moulds to bake the mince pies in.
Take the pie dough out of the refrigerator, and roll it out until 1/8-inch (3-4mm) thick. Cut out 20-25 little discs of dough with a 3-inch ring mould (fluted if possible), and nestle each disc into the muffin tin or tartlet moulds. Then, dollop a tablespoon of mincemeat into each pie. (If your work surface isn’t quite big enough to punch out 20-25 dough discs, you can split the initial dough in half and work in batches.)
Using a star-shaped cookie cutter, punch little stars out of the dough, gathering and re-rolling it out as needed. Place these dough stars on top of the mince pies, and brush a thin layer of egg wash on top.
Bake the mince pies in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the tops are golden. When they’re done, remove from the moulds and let them cool down on a wire rack until warm to touch. Repeat the baking process until all your mince pies are baked.
Dust a flurry of icing sugar on top of the mince pies and serve on a large cookie platter. (They keep well for up to a week in an airtight container. If you’re saving them for later, pop them into the oven for 5 minutes to warm up right before serving.)