Thursday, December 16, 2010

Fruit mince pies for Jane Austen's 235th birthday

Jane Bennet: "My dearest sister, now be serious. I want to talk very seriously. Let me know every thing that I am to know, without delay. Will you tell me how long you have loved [Mr Darcy]?"

Elizabeth Bennet: "It has been coming on so gradually, that I hardly know when it began. But I believe I must date it from my first seeing his beautiful grounds at Pemberley."

Jane Austen, Ch 59, Pride and Prejudice

Jane Austen, the English author who gave us so many wonderful novels (and in turn, plots for many great movies and mini series), would have been 235 years old today. Fancy that! My favourite Jane Austen novel will forever be Pride and Prejudice, immortalised in the 1995 television miniseries by "the Beeb" starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.

During the Regency period, Jane Austen and her family may well have enjoyed fruit mince pies, just as we do today. My research reveals that the original recipe for lemon mincemeat was first put down on paper by a close friend of Jane's, one Martha Lloyd.

Accordingly, in celebration of both the anniversary of Jane Austen's birth and Christmas, I present you with a recipe for fruit mince pies from pp238-9 of the Bourke Street Bakery Cookbook. There are plenty of different recipes for fruit mince pies; however, I chose this one because of the fantastic reputation the recipes from this book have on the Web, and because the quantity of mincemeat is perfectly scaled down to just make 20 pies - usually, mincemeat recipes make several jars of it.

To make these little pies, you will need:


75g currants (I used sultanas)
75g raisins
30g mixed peel (I left this out)
2 tablespoons brandy
80ml apple cider
50g butter
75g brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon mixed spice
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
300g apples
25g almonds, roughly chopped
zest of 1/2 lemon, finely grated
juice of 1/2 lemon
caster sugar for sprinkling on top of the pies


500g butter, chilled and chopped into 1.5cm cubes
pinch of salt
260g icing sugar
80g egg yolks (~5)
665g plain flour

To make the mincemeat:

Put the currants, raisins and mixed peel into a medium bowl, pour over the brandy and cider, and combine well. Cover the bowl with cling film and allow the fruit to soak for around a week.

When you are ready to bake, peel, core and chop the apples into 5mm cubes. Set aside.

Melt the butter in a frying pan over medium heat, then add the brown sugar, mixed spice and cinnamon, stirring to combine. Add the cubed apple and cook it until just soft, but so that it retains its shape:

Remove the frypan from the heat, and stir in the alcohol-soaked fruits, the almonds, lemon zest and juice:

To make the pastry:

As there are a number of resting periods, I recommend that you start making the pastry a day before you want to bake the pies.

Leave the butter out of the fridge for around 20 minutes before starting to make the pastry so that it softens but remains cold.

Put the butter, icing sugar and salt into a food processor and pulse until pale and creamy. Add the yolks in 2 batches, pulsing after each addition to combine. Add the flour in 3 batches, pulsing after each addition until just combined.

Place the dough onto a floured work bench, and divide it into 3 equal portions. Flatten each portion into a disc, wrap it in cling film and refrigerate it for at least 2 hours or overnight. (This is vital, as this pastry is very buttery and delicate.)

Remove the chilled pastry from the fridge around 20 minutes before you want to roll it out. Roll the pastry discs individually between pieces of baking paper until they are 2-3mm thick. Place the rolled out pastry back into the fridge for 2 hours before using.

To assemble the pies:

When you are ready to bake, preheat your oven to 170 degrees Celsius. Spray 20 patty tin holes or mini tart tins (~6.5cm in diameter) with spray cooking oil or brush with butter. Use a round biscuit cutter of an appropriate size to cut out 20 bases for the tarts from the refrigerated, rolled out pastry, and a corresponding number of pastry lids. (I used the same size cutter for both - this worked better for me than using a larger cutter for the lid, as suggested by the cookbook.)

Line each of the tart tins with a round of pastry. (The Cake Mistress has the great suggestion of lining each tin with a thin strip of baking paper first so that is is easy to lift out the baked pies.) Spoon 2 1/2 teaspoons of fruit mincemeat into each tart shell:

Attach a lid of pastry to each tart using a little egg wash (lightly beaten whole egg) brushed around the edges of the base and the lids using a pastry brush. Press down gently on the edges of each lid to seal the pies. Cut a small cross in the centre of each pie to allow steam to escape, then brush the top of each pie with a little cold water, and sprinkle with caster sugar. (This makes the top of the pie crispy.)

Bake the pies in the preheated oven for 20 minutes or until golden. Allow the pies to cool in their tins for 10 minutes, then turn them out of the tins and leave them to cool on a wire rack.



The Blonde Duck said...

My mom wants to make a mincemeat pie for Christmas for the first time this year! I'm sending her your recipe.

Kayte said...

And Darcy's answer: "I cannot fix on the hour, or the look, or the words, which laid the foundation. It is too long ago. I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun." Ah, P&P, one of my favorites as well. Torn always between P&P and the witty bits in Emma. Love the little pies, so cute!

Gloria said...

Dear Cake law I love jane Austen I think I read all her books are wonderful! and these fruits mince pies look delicious!! gloria

Les rêves d'une boulangère (Brittany) said...

I love the look of your fruit mince! Yummy in that golden pastry.

Anonymous said...

what a fruity delight! i havent had a mince pie in ages! YUM

yummychunklet said...

Absolutely adore Pride & Prejudice! I fell in love with Austen's writing with this novel and watching the BBC mini-series always makes me want to learn that old English dancing. Great post and tribute!

Emma @CakeMistress said...

Mmm... Colin Firth emerging in his white shirt...

How did I miss this recipe in the Bourke St Bakery book? The fruit mince quantity is far more sensible. I ended up making +80 pies, eep!

Anonymous said...

Cute pies! Jane would love them.

Judy said...

I'm sure Jane would gobble them up! Pride and Prejudice is my favorite -- one of the books I would take with me on a desert island. When I was in Bath several years ago, there was a museum exhibit showing the costumes worn in the mini-series -- including Mr. Darcy's white shirt!

Zola the Gorgon said...

I always make my own fruit mince and peel an orange as you would a potato, very thinly then simmer this in the orange juice before blending.
This version of pastry was a first for me this Christmas but everyone raved about it so I share it here.

150g butter and 50g margarine (which doesn't have to be cold).
OR 200g butter in cold cubes
80g sugar
200g plain white flour
150g plain wholemeal flour
1 egg
pinch salt

Combine this in a processor and when thoroughly mixed, put on the radio or some music and sit comfortably whilst you pull this mixture together with clean hands, roll into little balls and press with thumbs into the tart tins. Add your mincemeat then by the same method as the bases, (roll balls and flatten) make lids. You don't need any egg to make the pastry stick but you can egg wash the tops if you wish. I decorated the edges with the point of a knife. Bake 20 mins at 200º or 180º Fan. Leave to cool in tin 5 mins, then lift out onto cooling rack. Dust with icing sugar when cooled

I find this much easier than the rolling out and cutting routine.

This pastry is also good for any tarts, not just Xmas ones.

Cakelaw said...

@ Zola - thanks for the tip about making the tart shells - it sounds easy and I will have to try it.