I am not really a Christmassy sort of person. Memories of sad Christmasses past have made me this way. So I’ve been in denial about its rapid approach over the past few weeks. I know it’s a truism to say it starts earlier and earlier, but this year, I found it almost obscene the way it started just after Halloween, but I guess the shops have to start making some money somehow. I just hate the over-hyped commercialism of it all.
But it’s time to put all the bah-humbugging aside. Ireland has had its first fall of snow and while we got off lightly here in East Clare, the festive mood it created is contagious and I have to face it, Christmas is a coming whether I like it or not, so I may as well get in the spirit. And for me that means only one thing…Christmas baking. I do enjoy that one aspect, planning what I will cook over the festive season, filling the kitchen with warm smells of cinnamon and spice.
This year I am going to try out Dan Leppard’s version of mince pies – a kind of apple and mincemeat streudel version of the traditional Christmas pie. Although the version I give here contains instructions for making the pastry, it seems a bid fiddly to me, and I shall be stocking up on shop-bought filo pastry instead, metinks.
350g plain flour, plus more for rolling
75g light soft brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
2 tsp ground ginger
275g cold unsalted butter, cubed
225ml cold milk
400g jar mincemeat
2 Bramley apples, peeled, cored and finely diced
Demerara sugar, to finish
Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and ginger in a bowl, add the butter and stir in the milk. Mix until it just comes together, then chill for 30 minutes.
Using lots of flour, roll the dough out to 1cm thick, fold it in by thirds, then roll and fold again. Repeat this sequence twice more, chilling the dough for 30 minutes at the end of each set.
Cut the block in half and roll one half to 30cm square. Cut into six equal pieces, brush lightly with water, put two teaspoons of mincemeat in the centre, along with a good pinch of apple.
Fold in two, twist the edge to form a “pasty” and place on a tray lined with baking paper.
Brush with water, cut two notches in the top of each, sprinkle with demerara and bake at 200C (180C fan-assisted)/390F/gas mark 6 for 25 minutes.
Repeat with the remaining dough.