Once upon a time, I had a blog post schedule. Like most things with the word 'schedule' in my life, it's fallen out of existence.
This was originally meant to be two separate posts; the first about the mincemeat, the second for the pie pops to coincide with the Christmas blog hop. Except I didn't quite get around to doing that and I'm not quite sure how it happened, but it's Monday already. So here you go - one extra special giant Christmas post coming up!
I had a lot of fun joining November's Sweet Adventures Blog Hop, so I'm back on the bandwagon again for December with the theme 'Sweets for Santa', in keeping with the holiday season. Since this month I'm on holidays, I thought I'd try to get more creative (read: tackle something that takes much more time, patience and effort).
Christmas mincemeat is another one of those foods that I actively disliked as a kid. I remember I had one bite out of a mince pie once at a Christmas buffet and the crust was rock hard and dry while the filling tasted gummy and had a slimy texture. I stopped eating mince pies after that.
But the wonderful thing about discovering the world of food blogging is that stumbling across the right blog, the right blogger and the right pictures can make any food look good enough to devour through the screen. Such was the case when I first saw the Christmas mincemeat recipe here. And then when I saw this, it was only a matter of time before the combination of curiosity and challenge warranted a personal attempt at some mince pies of my own.
Mindful of my rather dismal childhood experience with mince pies, I was determined these would not turn out the same. For the crust, I fell back on a tried and true pie crust recipe that I highly recommend to anyone still looking for a good pie dough out there - this one is easy, foolproof, needs no food processor, has only 3 ingredients, and produces a crispy, flaky, buttery crust every time. This endorsement is coming from someone who took three goes to actually successfully make her own pie dough the first time (and this was with the help of a food processor), so I know what I'm talking about when I say this is an easy, foolproof pie dough recipe.
I did look at plenty of other mincemeat recipes, but in the end went with the first one I saw at Poires au Chocolat's blog. I liked that her version contained no dried/candied peel or suet, and the mixture is stewed in the oven for two hours so the resulting mincemeat is soft, moist and juicy. A quick check of the ingredients list told me that they were actually all ingredients that I would eat on its own, and there was no reason it wouldn't taste good together.
The best bit of making this mincemeat, by far, is that it scents your entire house with the unmistakable smell of Christmas. Peeling back the foil to give the mixture its obligatory stir increased gradually as the mixture rested until I found myself stirring every fifteen minutes. I decided at that point it was a good time to put it in the oven.
The credit for the idea of these pie pops goes entirely to raspberri cupcakes. While I didn't use the recipes she provided, she left good instructions as to the assembly of these pies, which can get awfully fiddly and have you muttering things like, 'patience is a virtue' underneath your breath while attempting to press together a pie firmly enough to seal it tightly but not so firm as to ruin its tree-shape. But when you pull out a tray of freshly baked Christmas tree shaped pie pops from the oven, I'd say the pain is definitely worth it.
Look who's back! I was just about to sit down to find that my cat had already stolen my chair. I know he does it on purpose.
Can you tell I'm on holiday? I took too many photos of the process so it's now a step-by-step guide.
Make sure you put the sticks (I used chopsticks cut in half because I couldn't find popsicle sticks here) about halfway up the cut dough or else it won't hold them up properly when they're baked.
Don't overfill. It would depend on the size of your tree shape, but I think about one teaspoon is average for each pie. If you put too much you'll have a painful time getting the edges to seal properly.
I did press the edges together even more after I took this photo. You can also pinch off a bit of extra pie dough and stick it into any nooks and crannies - the part where the tree curves in is particularly partial to holes.
Flaky, flaky pastry and fruity filling - these are mince pies wrapped in the shape of a Christmas tree. These were a far cry from the mince pie I had all those years ago - I truly enjoyed these, and I hope you'll give them a try this Christmas. (Any suggestions for what to do with extra mincemeat?)
Also: while I know that updates have already been spare this month, it's unfortunately going to decrease even more - I'm about to enter family-surrounded territory for a week or so. I'll try to post again before the actual day, but since that seems a highly unlikely event, for now I'll just wish everyone a very merry Christmas - I hope your day will be filled with overindulgence, cheesy Christmas songs, people you love and pies in the shape of Christmas trees!
Christmas Tree Mince Pie Pops
Mincemeat recipe adapted from Poires au Chocolat.
Idea and assembly of pies adapted from raspberri cupcakes.
Makes about a dozen pie pops
Note: I use Chez Pim's pie dough for practically everything now, including for these pie pops. If you don't have a dough you rely on or you want to try something new, I really hope you try it. Her site has wonderful step by step instructions too.
100g unsalted butter, cubed
170g sultanas (I used dried cranberries)
170g golden sultanas
175g dark brown sugar
25g whole almonds
2 tsp mixed spice (I subbed in allspice and ground ginger instead because I couldn't find mixed spice anywhere)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
3 tsp brandy
Chop the apples with peel on and throw them into a large baking dish (make sure you don't cut them too big). Add the butter. Slice up the almonds and add them to the apples and butter. Weigh out the dried fruit and sugar and measure out the spices; add these to the baking dish too. Zest the orange and lemon into the mixture and finally juice the citruses over the entire mixture. Mix well. Cover with foil and leave to rest overnight, giving it an occasional stir now and then.
After resting overnight, preheat the oven to 120C/225F. Stir the mixture one more time and put the entire tray, with the foil on, into the oven for 2 hours.
Take the mincemeat out of the oven and take off the foil. Give the mixture a good stir and leave it to cool, stirring it now and then. Once cool, add the brandy, give it a final stir, and jar. Store in the fridge.
Making the Pies
Pie dough (I used half of Chez Pim's pie dough recipe, which will give you about a dozen pie pops)
1 egg, beaten
Cover a surface liberally with flour. Roll out the pie dough to about 3mm thick. With a Christmas tree cookie cutter (or if you have excellent knife skills you can cut the shapes out yourself), stamp out as many tree shapes as you can. Gather the scraps, roll, and continue cutting until you've used up all the dough.
Put half the cut outs on a baking sheet with enough room for the sticks. Brush each tree with the eggwash and place a stick about halfway up each pie. Fill each pie pop with about a teaspoon of the mincemeat mixture, putting it on top of the stick. Press another tree cutout on top of the filling, gently but firmly sealing the edges together, using either your fingers or a fork. Repeat until all of the pies are filled. Brush again with egg and put in the fridge to rest while you preheat your oven.
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Bake the pie pops for about 25 minutes or until the top is golden. Take out and cool on a wire rack. The pies are best consumed on the day they're made, but it'll keep for a few days in an airtight container.