Wonderfully soft, short, crumbly and buttery sweet pastry, filled with fruity fillings - as good as Mr Kipling makes!
Over the festive season, it seems to be the done thing to venture into the kitchen on a chilly day and enjoy some Christmas baking! Whether making some treats to gift to friends and loved ones, or purely to consume all by yourself whilst watching Home Alone - hey, no judgement here - baking is certainly a well known method to induce festive spirit! And I definitely did my own fair share of baking and dessert making throughout the holidays. But by far the most raved-over baked good I made was my homemade mince pies!
I’m not going to deceive you here, the classic spiced fruit filling that makes all mince pies so damn delicious, was from a jar which probably contributed to their greatness - hey, if it tastes good and it’s not broke, don’t fix it! BUT what made these mince pies so top notch above all your standard homemade mince pies, was the pastry.
A PASTRY MR KIPLING WOULD BE PROUD OF!
I promise you now, this pastry is just like those classic Mr Kipling fruit pies that us Brits grew up eating! This completely melt-in-the-mouth, light, buttery and almost fluffy pastry is a world away from the sturdier, thick shortcrust we’re all accustomed to enjoying with homemade pies, and is just ideal for these mini fruit pies!
The secret ingredient here is a mix of self raising flour as well as all purpose, which allows the pastry to puff out slightly, giving you a soft, light and slightly shortcakey pastry which is still sturdy enough to hold the filling.
This pastry works with a variety of fruit fillings! So far I have tried mince pies using a pre-made filling, homemade cherry pies, apple pies, and spiced cranberry and orange!
TIP: I would mention here that all fruit fillings for this type of mini pie should be pre-cooked and thickened, either via reducing the liquid content of the fruit by cooking over a low heat, or with the addition of cornflour. Or you can simply use a jarred filling, whatever floats your boat. A filling that contains too much liquid or is likely to produce more liquid as it bakes in the oven (I.e. uncooked fruit) will give you a soggy bottom! And nobody wants a soggy bottom!
These pies are made in a cupcake pan. I have a smaller, mini-muffin pan which I use ( see below image) which makes slightly smaller, deeper pies. I actually prefer using this pan to a standard cupcake pan; I find it makes the pies more manageable in terms of removing from the tin, as the diameter of the base it much smaller. I also find they cook more evenly. I have made these using a standard cupcake pan, though, and the results were just as good, just a little more delicate to remove!
I tend to advise against using silicone cupcake moulds for these - whilst they work fine for cupcakes, they don't seem to cook the pastry as well as a metal pan.
(Note: The lighter pan is a standard cupcake pan)
This recipe is specifically for the making and cooking of the pastry, but I have included directions for my cranberry & orange pies as an example. When it comes to the filling for your own pies, the choice is completely yours!
"Exceedingly Good" Mini Pies - Mr. Kipling Style!
Time: 1hr 45min (including chilling time)
Makes: Approx. 9 mini pies (without full lids - my pies are glaze topped or topped with small cut out pastry shapes, and baked in a mini-muffin pan)
Mini-Muffin Pan/Cupcake Pan (cupcake pans will make slightly bigger pies so yield may be slightly smaller than stated above)
Circle cutters or sharp knife
150g All purpose flour
100g Self raising flour
50g Icing sugar
160g Chilled and cubed unsalted butter
15g Chilled and cubed lard or vegetable shortening
1 Egg beaten with a dash of milk
Optional - Spiced Cranberry & Orange Filling
100g Diced apple (peeled and cored)
50g Granulated sugar
Zest of 1 orange
Juice of 1 orange 1/2 Tsp vanilla
1 1/2 Tbsp Cointreau
2 Tbsp brandy
1/2 Tsp cinnamon
Pinch of ground nutmeg
In a medium bowl, whisk together both flours and the icing sugar to combine. Add the the chilled, cubed butter and lard/shortening and use the tips of your finger to lightly rub the mixture together until you achieve a breadcrumb texture. (Notes: Lard/shortening makes the pastry just that little bit shorter, but can be replaced with butter if you don’t have lard/shortening to hand. A food processor can also be used to pulse ingredients together instead of the rubbing method; I would especially recommend this if working in a hot and humid environment, as the fats can start to melt and become greasy if using your fingers whilst in a warm environment)
Once your mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs, set aside and, in a smaller bowl, beat together one egg and a dash of milk. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the egg mixture just 1 tsp at a time, until the pastry comes together into a soft malleable dough. It is important that the egg mixture is not all added at once, and that only enough is used to bring the dough together! My dough tends to only require 2-3 tsps of mixture, however humidity and different brands of flour can effect the amount of liquid required.
Bring the dough together with your hands and tip onto a lightly floured surface, kneading just a couple of times to form a smooth ball of dough. Try not to knead the dough too much as doing so can cause shrinkage when baking and make the pastry tougher. Pat the ball into a flat disk, wrap tightly in cling film and place in the fridge for at least 45mins-1hr to chill.
FILLING: Meanwhile, if making your own, start to prepare your filling. For my cranberry and orange filling listed above, add the cranberries, apple, zest, orange juice, brandy, orange liqueur, spices and vanilla to a pan and cook over a low heat, occasionally stirring, until the cranberries begin to split and the apple is softened. Using the back of a spoon or spatula, gently press down on the mixture to break the fruit down slightly. In a small cup, mix the cornflour with a couple of tsp of water to create a thin paste. Pour into the cranberry mixture and stir until thickened to a glossy jam. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
Preheat a baking tray in the oven at 180C. Remove the pastry dough from the fridge and allow to thaw slightly on the counter for a couple of minutes. On a lightly floured surface, or on a sheet of grease proof paper, roll out the pastry to a thickness of about 3/4 of a centimetre. Use a circle cookie cutter or sharp knife to cut out circles large enough to fill a cupcake pan hole, and gently press the circles into the pan holes, making sure there are no air bubbles underneath the pastry. If the pastry overhangs too much, trim with a sharp knife or smaller cookie cutter. The offcuts of pastry can be re-rolled once more to cut out further circles. Try to avoid rolling out a third time as this can make the pastry tougher.
Spoon your filling into the mini pies, about 3/4 of the way to the top. Top your pies with pastry shapes of your choice from the offcuts (hearts or stars are never a bad idea), or alternatively you can leave your pies open and fill the top with a thick, firm-setting glaze later on! If covering with a full pastry lid, be sure to seal properly and pierce a small hole in the centre of the lid to allow moisture to escape during baking.
Place your pan on the preheated tray and bake for about 20 minutes for a mini muffin pan, or 25 minutes in a cupcake pan, in the centre of the oven until pastry is slightly risen and golden. Remove from the oven and allow pies to cool in the pan for 10 minutes to firm up. Once cooled slightly, very gently remove the pies from the pan and cool on a wire rack. Removing the pies can be a little tricky so try to be as gentle as possible. I sometimes use a small knife, teaspoon, or even a cake testing skewer to help ease the pies out. If pies are sticking to the bottom, your pastry may not be cooked through or your filling was too wet - try returning to the oven for a further 5 minutes.
To finish off, dust pies with sugar whilst still warm. If topping with a glaze instead, make this as your pies cool! Start with 125g powdered sugar and 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, and gradually add milk or water 1tsp at a time, mixing until a thick and gluey, but just-pourable, glaze is achieved. When pies have cooled, spoon the glaze into the pies and allow to set.