What Are the Best Tips for Making Mince Pie Pastry?

Erik J.J. Goserud

Mince pie pastry is a traditional British dish often served during the holiday season. Often called mince pie or mincemeat tarts, it consists of a buttery pastry shell encompassing a combination of beef, chicken, or fish, together termed mincemeat. Oftentimes, fruit or nuts may be added or substituted for the mincemeat. These delicious and festive appetizers may be served hot or cold with or without sugar as the perfect addition to any celebration.

Mince pie pastry is a traditional British dish often served during the holiday season.
Mince pie pastry is a traditional British dish often served during the holiday season.

As is the case with most recipes, there exists a great deal of variation between different mince pies. Regardless of the source, however, almost all recipes follow a general outline. Any modifications may of course be used to render the desired taste per chef's preferences. The traditional mince pie pastry has evolved quite a bit over the years, and contemporary mince pie is much heavier on the fruit, nut, and spice side than its original counterpart. A few common alterations include unique spice and fruit combinations and packaged versus homemade minced meat; additionally, rum or brandy is commonly used to lace the pies with a unique flavor.

The mincemeat used to make mince pie is usually a of combination of chicken, beef, and fish.
The mincemeat used to make mince pie is usually a of combination of chicken, beef, and fish.

The oven used should be between temperatures of 200 and 400 degrees Fahrenheit (93.3 and 204.4 degrees Celsius). Cooking time is dependent on pastry size, desired crispness, and exact temperature used. The time of cooking, although variable, is usually 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Simply stated, mince pie pastry is composed of a bottom, a filling, and a top. The bottom is cut to form using dough, the filling is applied, and the top is added before cooking. Almost all mince pie pastry recipes follow this form. Proper fitting of the bottom into the bun of a pastry pan is a key step to follow. Another tip is to glaze the bottom and tops with butter or egg white for a golden finish and added flavor.

Some recipes call for specific shapes of the top part of the pastry. This allows the chef to use his or her creative side in coming up with festive decorations to add to the aesthetic quality of the pastry. An example of this may be to use stars for the Fourth of July. The best way to come up with the ideal filling is through trial and error to meet particular taste preferences, although commonly used additions and substitutions in the filler are orange zest, chopped nuts, and candied or dried fruits.

Some mince pies include both nuts and fruit.
Some mince pies include both nuts and fruit.

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Discussion Comments

SarahGen

Buying frozen pastry dough is a good idea. The last time I made minced meat pie, I didn't get the dough right and it was falling apart when I was rolling it. The only downside is that the frozen type might not taste the same as the one made from scratch. But it's hard to get the dough right so maybe that's what I'll do next time. It'll save time too.

ddljohn

@ZipLine-- I think that mince pie pastry is one of the best foods in the world, along with English Christmas pudding and Christmas cake. I crave these every year during holiday season.

You should make your own mince pie pastry. It's not very difficult and you can decide which ingredients to use. Lard can easily be replaced with vegetable oil and you can adjust the other ingredients to your liking. For example, I like my mince pies with less nuts and more rum.

In the UK, they sell ready made mince pies or mince pie fillings. You have to make your own filling if you're in the US, but you can buy frozen pastry for mince pies instead of making it.

ZipLine

I had British mincemeat pie once. It looked very good, but it tasted kind of heavy. I found out then that it has mutton fat in it which is called suet. I'm still open to eating mincemeat pie, but preferably one without animal fat. I'm just not used to that.

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