A great Mince pie recipe passed down through the family generations definitely holds one of the top spots in my all time xmas favourites. As far as pastry goes , then this one has to be the best i`ve ever tasted , light , buttery and very flaky but also a bit of a nightmare to work with.The pastry recipe came down from great grandmother to grandmother then to mother and now down to me.My own kids are all Mc Donalds lovers…”the shame of it” , they never cook so maybe thats where this one will all end…. a lonely finish to a wonderful creation….Plenty of time to save it though.So here we go.My twist on festive mince pies using Mrs Speddings ultimate pastry. I`m doing 3 different variations using the same ingredients , One traditional pie , one with a Caramelised Filo top ( which is guaranteed to take first prize in the xmas pie beauty contest ) and the other with fresh Cranberries for a little sweet n sour tartness.
The Pastry ingredients. ( Makes about 15-18 )
1 – Egg yolk
1 – Tbsp sugar
3 – Tbsp Water
8oz – Plain Flour
1/2 – Tsp salt
5 oz – Butter ( cubed )
Method – Beat together the Egg yolk with the sugar and water. Put the Flour , salt and butter together into a food processor / mixer or bowl and process until the texture of sand or fine crumbs is reached.Mix in the Egg yolk liquid and process until everything is combined together. Flatten out between 2 sheets of greaseproof or clingfilm and allow to rest overnight in the fridge ( or freeze ).
Remove from the fridge and flour the worksurface well.It`s probably best to cut the pastry up and work quickly with small amounts at this stage.Roll out until your desired thickness is reached.Cut the pastry into circles using a cookie cutter and put into the pre greased or non stick tins.
At this stage you can spoon in your mincemeat ( not too much as itll overflow when its baking) and then follow one of the 3 different methods for topping as detailed below.
1 , For traditional mince pies , add the filling and then cut more pastry circles for the lids, stick them together using a little beaten egg and then either glaze with more beaten egg or sprinkle with caster sugar.Bake in a medium oven round about 180 – 200 deg.
2 , For the Filo mince pies , add the mincemeat to the pastry circles in the pie tin . Get a strip of fresh filo pastry about 1″ x 12″ approx and gently and artistically allow it to fold and drape over the mincemeat on each pie. Dust with a generous sprinkling of icing sugar through a sieve and then bake in a hot oven round about 200 deg.Remove the pies once caramelised and then finish off with more festive snow like icing sugar.
3 , The third method is the sweet / sour version. Simply adding fresh cranberries to the mincemeat mixture and then baking in the oven until the berries burst.Small toppings of extra pastry in the form of strips or stars can be added pre baking for extra effect.
Here`s another variation – Pastry cases filled with mincemeat and topped with a sweet butter with Whisky and grated mandarin zests added into it.
The search for the best ever Carrot cake
When i`m in Bangkok the best place to find me each morning is usually recovering in the Marriott Bakery , Lots of good coffee and a selection of the best cream cakes and pastries ive ever sampled , all made on premises and displayed in such a way that it`s impossible just to pick one , its always a couple. My favourite though has to be the Carrot cake , moist , made daily and livened up with crushed thai pineapple and lots of grated carrot.Then topped with a sweet n sour creme fraiche to balance the sweetness of the cake.
On my return to the UK in december i decided to experiment a little and re- create my own version of the Bangkok one with a few little bits extra. I actually made 4 or 5 different versions but the one below turned out to be the best one.I added a personal touch in the form of replica baby carrots , simply made with orange coloured marzipan and parsley stalks.These are just made from rolling a small ball into the palm of the hand with your fingers then sticking the bits of parsley in.The carrot effect is made with a cocktail stick on the stalk.If you really want to go overboard and add some garden dirt then just sprinkle with a little cocoa powder like the one on the right hand side in the photo below…..they do turn out very realistic.
So on to the recipe for my ultimate carrot cake for Xmas.Best to make this one on xmas week run up then when visitors turn up theres always something to feed them up with…Hot mug of tea , a couple of mince pies and a huge slab of moist carrot cake.
Ingredients for the cake and icing.
300g Soft Light Brown Sugar
300ml Sunflower Oil
300g Plain Flour
1 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
1 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Ground Cinnamon, plus extra to decorate
½ tsp Ground Ginger
½ tsp Salt
¼ tsp Vanilla Extract
250g Carrots, grated
75g Chopped fresh pineapple flesh.
100g Shelled Walnuts, chopped.
Preheat the oven to 170°C (325°F) Gas 3.
1 . Put the sugar, eggs and oil in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle
attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) and beat until all the ingredients
are well incorporated (don’t worry if the mixture looks slightly split). Slowly
add the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, salt and
vanilla extract and continue to beat until well mixed.
2 . Stir in the grated carrots and walnuts by hand until they are all evenly
dispersed. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tins and smooth over with a
palette knife. Bake in the preheated oven for approximately 1 to 1 1/4 hours, or until golden brown and the sponge bounces back when touched.( do the old “insert skewer” test , if it comes out clean then the cake is fine)
Leave the cake to cool slightly
in the tins before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
Icing for the topping
2 tbsp Icing sugar
150g Marscapone cream cheese.
Grated rind of an orange.
Beat the icing sugar with the Marscapone and the grated orange rind , chill until firmed up and then just before serving , spread over the carrot cake and top with the baby marzipan carrots.
Enjoy the xmas calories without guilt