My home-made luxury mincemeat has been ‘resting’ nicely for a month. It’s now just about ready for me to make my first batch of mince pies.
We’ve got the luxury mincemeat, so how about a bit of luxury pastry too?!
I’ve gone for a buttery shortcrust pastry flavoured with almond. The flavours work so well together – and make for the perfect Christmas treat.
Compliment them with a cup of tea or glass of mulled wine, comfy chair and real fire (sleeping dog optional). It’s what Christmas (in fact, winter in general) is all about for us.
- 180g/6⅓oz plain flour
- 70g/2½oz 'tant pour tant' (35g/1¼oz icing sugar + 35g/1¼oz ground almonds)
- pinch of salt
- 125g/4½oz very cold butter, cubed
- 1½-2tbs cold water
- A little beaten egg
- Put the flour, icing sugar, ground almonds and salt in a food processor. Pulse a couple of times to combine
- Add the butter and pulse again until you get to the fine breadcrumb stage
- Whilst still pulsing, add the ice cold water until the mixture begins to get lumpy - like dry scrambled eggs
- Empty ⅔ of the pastry on to 2 lengths of cling film layered one over the other at right angles
- Form the dough into a ball by lifting & bringing together the 4 ends of the cling film. Repeat with the remaining ⅓ of the pastry
- Chill in the fridge for ½ to 1 hour
- Once chilled, preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas mark 4
- Grease a 12-hole or two, 6-hole muffin tins
- Lightly flour your work surface, remove your larger ball of dough from the fridge, unwrap and divide it into 12 equal pieces (about 20-22g each)
- One by one, roll each piece of dough into a ½cm thick round shape. Cut into perfect circles with a cookie cutter (or upturned drinking glass if you don't have one) that's slightly wider than the hole of your muffin tin. **Rolling each pie case individually means that you don't overwork the pastry by re-rolling over & over again**
- Gently press the pastry rounds into the muffin tin holes (handy hint: use a small lump of pastry to do this if you have long fingernails!)
- Spoon mincemeat into each pastry case and press down gently to level. Don't overfill
- Get the smaller batch of dough out of the fridge and again divide into 12 equal pieces (about 11g each)
- One by one, roll each piece of dough into a ½cm thick round shape. Cut into shapes with a cookie cutter. I used a star-shaped cutter but you can make other Christmas-y shapes like holly leaves, snowflakes, fir trees and the like!
- Top each pie with the shaped pastry before brushing the tops with a little beaten egg
- Bake for 12-15 minutes
- Allow to cool in the tin completely before removing
- Put on a cooling rack or serving plate and sprinkle/dredge with icing sugar
This week, we’ve watched the first in Rick Stein’s new series, Rick Stein’s Road To Mexico. His first port of call was California where he met up with Alice Waters, owner of Chez Panisse. While there, one of her chefs was filmed making a rhubarb galette – it looked amazing. It’s no longer rhubarb season, so I’ve made a pear galette instead.
I much prefer rustic, unfussy food like this to haute cusine with all its foams, purées and the like. A galette is just the kind of rustic dessert I crave on a cold autumn evening. A circle of sweet pastry covered with in-season fruit and roughly folded in on itself, free-form.
Instead of a pear galette (or rhubarb), you could make one with stone fruits such as peaches, plums, nectarines or apricots. How about apple & pecan, fig, blueberry or cherry?
A savoury galette with autumn & winter vegetables is also a great idea; carrots, beetroot, caramelised onion… with cheeses and/or herbs – the variations are endless!
It’s such an easy, versatile dish to prepare and cook – pastry with whatever meat, veg or fruit that you have to hand.
- 320g/11oz plain flour
- 2tbsp caster sugar
- ¼tsp salt
- 115ml/4fl oz cold butter, cubed
- 4tbsp cold water
- 2 dessert pears
- 3tbsp Demerara sugar
- 2tbsp fine semolina
- 25g/1oz flaked almonds
- 2tbsp melted butter
- In a large bowl, mix together the flour, caster sugar and salt
- Using a food processor (on pulse) or hand pastry blender, cut in the cold butter until the butter is evenly distributed but still in large, visible pieces
- Add the cold water all at once
- Pulse until it begins to come together
- Empty the pastry on to 2 lengths of cling film layered one over the other at right angles
- Form the dough into a ball by lifting & bringing together the 4 ends of the cling film
- Flatten the dough into a disk inside the cling film and chill in the fridge for at ½ to 1 hour
- Once chilled, preheat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/Gas mark 6
- Core & evenly slice the pears and put them into a medium-sized mixing bowl
- Sprinkle over 2tbsp of the Demerara sugar and toss to cover the pear slices evenly
- Tear off 2 sheets of parchment paper of at least 35½2 (14"2)
- Roll the dough out between the two sheets into a 30cm (12") circle
- Slide the dough on to a baking tray
- Remove the top sheet of parchment paper and sprinkle the semolina evenly over the top of the dough
- Lay the slices of pear on to the top of the dough in a circle - leaving a 2cm/¾" gap from the edge. Make the slices slightly overlap and ensure you cover the entire surface
- Sprinkle over the remaining tablespoon of the Demerara sugar and the flaked almonds
- Fold the edge of the pastry over, making sure you overlap it on to itself as you go around
- Brush the melted butter over the crust edge
- Bake in the centre of the oven for 30-35 minutes until the top is golden brown
- Slide the parchment with the galette on to a wire rack to cool for 10-15 minutes before consuming
- Serve warm with cream or ice cream
A biscuit recipe twice in as many weeks. We’re on a roll! This week, I’ve made a batch of delicious fig rolls… nothing like those dry horrors you tend to get in the shops. The pastry is buttery, crumbly and melt in the mouth; the filling is sweet, figgy and boozy – just lovely!
Jacobs is the brand that most people in the UK associate with fig rolls. Americans have Fig Newtons and the French, Figolu.
There’s a fair amount of debate online on the subject of, “Fig rolls: slice before or after baking?”. I decided to conduct my own experiment to find out.
I’ve decided that I prefer them to be sliced before. The pastry is neater and the fig filling softly oozes using this method.
Disagree with my opinion? Have a look at my photographic proof below! The two on the left were sliced prior to cooking and the pair on the right, after.
If you’ve given industrially manufactured fig rolls a try, not liked them and have turned your back on them – try making your own. Believe me, you’ll wonder what took you so long to embrace them!
- 125g/4½oz plain flour
- 75g/2⅔oz plain wholemeal flour
- 25g/¾oz ground almonds
- ½tsp baking powder
- 2tsp caster sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 140g/5oz cold butter, diced
- 1 egg yolk
- 2tbsp milk
- 200g/7oz dried figs, stems removed, roughly chopped
- Juice of ½ a lemon
- 2tbsp dark rum
- 2tbsp water
- 2tbsp muscovado sugar
- ½tsp mixed spice
- 1 egg, beaten
- In a food processor or large mixing bowl, combine the flours, ground almonds, baking powder, caster sugar and salt in a large bowl or food processor
- Pulse/rub in the butter to make crumbs
- Mix in the egg yolk and just enough milk to bring it together into a coherent dough
- shape into a rough rectangle, wrap and chill for about ½ an hour
- In a small saucepan, bring the figs 2 tbsp water, 2tbsp dark rum, lemon juice, sugar and spice to a simmer. Cook gently for a few minutes until softened
- Remove from the heat and allow to cool
- Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas mark 4
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper
- Lightly flour a work surface and roll the pastry out to around 20cmx30cm and ½cm thick. Cut in half lengthwise to make 2 long strips
- Put a line of filling down one side of each, leaving a slight gap between it and the edge
- Brush the edge with water and fold the pastry over the top of the filling pressing down gently to seal
- Cut into 4cm lengths and arrange on the baking sheet
- Brush the tops with beaten egg before baking for 20-25 minutes until golden brown
- Allow to cool on a wire rack before eating
If, like me, you’re an avid home baker, you’ll know that there’s always another piece of kitchen kit that you really, really need in your quest for perfection. Assorted tins, bannetons, scrapers & cutters, a grignette, a peel, baking stone or steel… the list is never-ending.
I’ve been watching lots of YouTube videos to hone my dough kneading technique. I’ve noticed how effortless it looks when people handle & shape their dough using marble pastry boards; especially those really loose, wet ones like ciabatta. It’s also good for (as the name suggests) rolling pastry. That sealed it, my next bit of baking equipment is going to be one of those marble pastry boards – the larger, the better.
- Typhoon marble 40x30cm rectangular work surface protector: £16.00, Tesco
- J by Jasper Conran – white marble pastry board (42x28cm): £30.00, Debenhams
- Marble board – dark or light colour by Marbletree (60x40cm): £69.00, Notonthehighstreet
I’ve been wondering for ages what I’d choose for this week’s Cakes & Bakes recipe. You see, it’s Sourdough September and I wanted to make something more than a just a plain sourdough loaf. I’ve come up with a mushroom pasty recipe using sourdough pastry.
I only feed my sourdough starter in the summer months – our old, stone house just isn’t conducive to developing the warmth-loving wild yeasts for much of the year. When the temperature drops and the wood-burning stove needs to be sparked up, I store a small batch of starter in the freezer to revive again the following year.
This sourdough pastry recipe is very similar to plain shortcrust pastry but the taste is so much better – and it’s more buttery and flakier too.
I’m sure some Cornish people and other pasty aficionados will be up in arms with my mushroom pasty recipe. However, I’m vegetarian and a meat pasty isn’t tempting. I used Rustica mushrooms. However, you can use any kind – button, woodland, chestnut, wild… add a handful of garden peas if it takes your fancy. I used Maris Piper potatoes, but as with the mushrooms, it’s down to personal preference or what’s to hand. Also, a bit of onion, garlic and fresh thyme.
We have some 20cm/8-inch starter plates that are the perfect diameter for a pasty pastry cutter. Just roll out the pastry, place a plate on the top and cut around it with the tip of a sharp, pointy knife.
I picked up a(nother!) tip from Nadiya Hussain for making pasties. Use the tip of the self-same knife – this time, the un-sharp side of the blade – to just gently push the pastry inwards at 1cm intervals to crimp.
The recipe made 6 pasties; I cooked off half of them for immediate consumption – and put the other three into the freezer for a later date. They were truly delicious. Justin and I agree that this pastry is one of the best – if not THE best I’ve ever made – and the simple combination of flavours in the filling worked brilliantly too.
- 185g/6½oz plain flour
- 1tsp salt
- 225g/8oz very cold butter, cubed
- 225g/8oz cold sourdough starter
- a little beaten egg to glaze
- 250g/9oz potatoes, cubed
- 30g/1oz butter
- 2 medium onions, finely chopped
- 1 large clove of garlic, finely chopped
- 250g/9oz mushrooms, sliced
- sprig of thyme
- salt & ground black pepper to taste
- Sieve the flour and salt into the bowl of a food processor
- Scatter the cold, cubed butter over the top of the flour mixture and pulse a few times until the butter breaks up into small chunks
- Spread the sourdough starter over the top of the flour/butter mixture
- Pulse again until the mixture just starts to clump together a bit, but is still crumbly. The dough should feel like it will stay together if you pinch it with your fingers
- Lay out two strips of cling film at right angles to each other and empty the pastry mixture into the middle
- Bring the mixture together using the lengths of cling until it just about comes together into a ball. Quickly flatten the ball into a round, wrap and chill for an hour in the fridge
- In a medium-sized saucepan, just cover the potatoes with cold, salted water and bring to the boil for 5 minutes
- Using a colander, strain the water away
- In a large saucepan, melt the butter over a low heat
- Add the onions and garlic and sweat until they're soft but not browned
- Add the mushrooms, thyme and salt & pepper and continue to sweat until the mushrooms have softened
- Strain any liquid away (or you can reserve this to make a mushroom sauce using a dash of cream)
- Mix the potatoes into the mushrooms until well combined
- Set the mixture aside to cool
- Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas mark 4
- Divide the pastry into 6 equal pieces. Put five back into the fridge to keep cool while you make the first pasty
- Form the pastry piece into a round and roll out on a floured work surface
- Place a side plate on to the pastry and cut out a circle
- Spoon some of the cooled mushroom filling into the centre of the pastry
- Brush around the edge of the circle with water, carefully fold the pastry over into a semi-circle - keeping the filling away from the edge
- Gently press the edges of pastry together before crimping
- Repeat this process until you have used all the pastry and filling
- Put the pasties on to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and brush the tops with a little beaten egg
- Bake for 30 minutes until the tops are golden brown
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before eating
We are ‘pudding’ rather than ‘starter’ people and always have a sweet ending to our daily evening meal.
Sometimes, I’ve got to the day and haven’t had the time to make a dessert. At times like this, there are a few quick sweet dishes that can be rustled up in about half an hour. One such is jam and coconut slice which is one of Justin’s favourites from his childhood – and also great for using up pastry scraps.
Another is an apple and raisin puff pastry tart – using a sheet of ready-made puff pastry, of course.
All it takes is a couple of cooking apples – peeled, cored and chopped; a handful of raisins (pre-soaking them for an hour makes them more juicy and adds another layer of flavour – strong tea, brandy or armagnac perhaps – so recommended but not a necessity if your in a rush); a pinch of ground spice and aforementioned packet of puff pastry.
Delicious served with cream, creme fraiche or vanilla ice cream.
- 75g/2⅔oz raisins
- 2 Bramley (or other cooking) apples
- 20g/¾oz butter
- 50g/1¾oz demerara sugar
- ¼tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 packet of ready-made, ready-rolled puff pastry
- Soak the raisins in a cup of hot, strong black tea for at least an hour
- Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas mark 4
- Peel, core and rough chop the apples
- In a large saucepan, melt the butter
- Add the chopped apples, soaked raisins, sugar and ground cinnamon
- Cook over a medium heat for about 10 minutes until the apple just begins to soften
- Roll out the puff pastry and cut into two equal lengths
- Grease a 20cm/8-inch round or square baking tin and lay one of the lengths of pastry evenly into the tin allowing some overlap over the edge
- Spoon the apple and raisin mixture evenly on to the puff pastry
- Lay the other length of pastry over the top and brush with a little melted butter
- Sprinkle a tablespoon or so of golden granulated sugar over the top if desired
- Bake for 20 minutes or until the top of the puff pastry is a lovely golden brown
- Serve with vanilla ice cream or thick pouring cream
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