I feel so organised today, because I actually did something, photographed it AND blogged about it all in the same day- what is going on? Oh that’s right, I finished uni a week ago and I’m putting off doing actual housework in favour of baking, blogging and watching YouTube. And you’re lying if you say you haven’t spent all your spare time over the Christmas period doing the same thing (if you’re a fellow blogger, of course). Anyway, enough of the rambling- I am here to save your Christmas. Well, not exactly, but if you haven’t done any baking yet and you’re desperate to get some absolutely dead simple (seriously, an idiot could bake these, which I pretty much am most of the time) but delicious Christmas treats on the table, then read on…
I mentioned in my last post about how I haven’t baked my own mince pies EVER. Disappointment to the people of Britain, I know. But I am a disappointment no more, because I have actually baked some mince pies! Now, I don’t claim that I slaved in a hot kitchen for several hours to make these with my own pastry, mincemeat and the whole general shebang. I didn’t. But who seriously has the time right now? I’m already making a proper Christmas dinner with all the trimmings for me and George on Christmas Eve- I ain’t spending my whole day making mince pies for nobody.
So if you’re desperate to make some mince pies to make your instagram look super Christmassy and clichéd (just like mine) and you don’t care how you go about it, then here you go. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees (conventional oven) and get yourself two blocks of Jus Roll shortcrust pastry (you’ll probably only need one if you have a pretty shallow baking tray, but mine is a muffin tin so I needed LOADS), and keep it out of the fridge for about half an hour before you want to use it. When you’re ready, just roll it out until it’s around the thickness of a £1 coin. I messed up here, because it looked the right thickness, but once I cut it out most of the pies were far too thick! If in doubt, roll it out (more).
Grease all the little compartments (Miss Technical right here) in your baking tin with a teeny bit of butter to help the pies slide out once they’re cooked. Then cut out your circles to a slightly larger diameter than that of your tin and push each one into the tin (you’ll probably have a 12-hole tin like me). Next, you’ll need a large jar of mincemeat- around 500g should do it (I got the Luxury M&S one because- and I’m not gonna lie here- Tanya Burr bought some in one of her vlogmas videos and I wanted to feel the definition of #lifegoals like her). Spoon your mincemeat into your pastry cases (about 2 teaspoons if you’re using a shallower tin, or a heaped tablespoon if you’re using a muffin tin).
Then you need to decide what kind of lid you’re going to have- I bought a star cutter at the weekend from Lakeland to make some super cute star lids for mine. You can use one of those fancy wavy-edged round cutters, or any shape that is around the right size to sit on top of your little pies. If you’re doing a solid lid just remember to slice a hole in the top so you don’t have 12 mini mince pie explosions in your oven- funsicles. Wet the underside of your lids with a dab of water to help it stick to the pie case and gently push them onto each one, before sprinkling them with caster sugar and popping them in the oven for 15-20 minutes (I took mine out when steam started arising from my oven- a tad concerning but turns out it doesn’t always mean stuff is burnt- which was around 18 minutes in).
If you’re like me, your pies will look typically ‘home-made’ with little pouffy bits coming off them and your mincemeat having leaked everywhere, but there’s something about that rustic look that just makes them kind of adorable and typically Christmassy. As long as they taste alright, you can get away with the appearance being a bit sub-par. Give them a final sprinkle with icing sugar once they’re no longer molten and tuck in with a glass of mulled wine (or M&S Mulled Fruit tea, which is perfect for those early winter mornings when getting slightly tipsy on mulled wine is not entirely acceptable). Ta-dah!
Next up is a not-as-easy but still dead straight-forward shortbread recipe. You can’t get much more Christmassy than good old shortbread (apart from the aforementioned mince pies) and I’ve added lemon and orange zest to this classic recipe after one of my lovely pals recommended it. She was SO right, guys. Shortbread never tasted so good. I basically took Tanya Burr’s recent shortbread recipe from her blog (spoiler- shortbread recipes are pretty much identical wherever you find them) and instead of vanilla extract I added the zest of one lemon and one orange.
So you’ll need 200g softened butter (pop it from the fridge into the microwave for 20-30 seconds, or leave it out in preparation if you have an excellent memory like I don’t) and 300g plain flour initially. Preheat your oven to 150 degrees (they took far longer than suggested at 130 degrees), then get your hands lovely and caked in gooey mixture by rubbing it all together with your fingers until it becomes a breadcrumby texture (this bit is super fun if you have no one to turn the taps on for you to wash your hands, so you have to experiment with elbows and the whole thing gets quite painful). Then add 100g caster sugar and your lemon and orange zest, and work it all into a dough. I would probably recommend still adding 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract from the original recipe, because I didn’t my dough was quite difficult to stick together at first.
Once you’ve got your arm workout in for the day pushing your dough around the bowl (baking is a total workout, dontcha know- unless you have a KitchenAid *sob*) then wrap it up in cling film (or a food bag if like me you bought everything else in Morrisons apart from cling film goddammit) and pop it in the fridge for about an hour. I put this in bold because ‘about’ is the operative word here- my dough was pretty hard and started to split when I was rolling it at first, so I would suggest half an hour to get it just right for rolling. Once you work at it a bit it soon softens up. Then you get to cut your biscuits out! I used a rather crap tree cutter I got free with my food processor a couple of years ago, and my faithful star from the mince pie lids. I ended up with about 20 biscuits all in all, with a good mix of larger trees and smaller stars- pretty good if you ask me!- and a little bit of raw dough left over to nibble on. YUM.
Spread them evenly out on a couple of baking trays lined with baking parchment, and pop them into the oven for about 20 minutes, until they start to turn golden on the edges. Leave them to cool, then sprinkle them with icing sugar (ideally with one of those duster things that does it all evenly and like a snow shower, not with a clumsy heaped teaspoon like me) and they look all Christmassy and pretty- Christmas baking at its finest.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my haphazard approach to a baking post! I figured that a lot of you will be at the stage where you’re thinking ‘Christmas is in a couple of days, I’m not gonna have time to bake anything’ but all this only took me a couple of hours, which you could easily spare after a day at work. It will be so worth it when your family and friends offer you mince pies and shortbread bought from the shops, and you roll up with your tin of homebaked goodies and blow them all away. Because Christmas is all about upstaging your nearest and dearest, right? Just kidding.
Have a great Christmas everyone, see you in the New Year for some exciting changes on emmabydesign.com!