For the last couple of years my sister has made this recipe and it is delicious. I thought that since it was snowing so heavily outside and we were not planning on going anywhere all afternoon on Sunday I would indulge and try to make the mince pies. (The trick however was that once I made them I couldn't eat anymore than one wee mince pie! I kind of broke that and had 3... with custard!- see above!)
I really should have rolled my pastry thinner as the pie's pastry was too thick.... next time.
Recipe: Star-topped mince pies
1-2/3 cups all-purpose flour
5 tablespoons vegetable shortening, such as Crisco
½ stick (4 tablespoons) cold butter
Juice of 1 orange
Pinch of salt
Approximately 2/3 cup mincemeat
Confectioners' sugar for dusting
1. Get out your 12-hole mini-muffin pans along with a 2¼-inch fluted, round cookie cutter and a 1¾-inch star cutter.
2. Measure the flour into a shallow bowl or dish and, with a teaspoon, dollop little mounds of vegetable shortening into the bowl. Add the butter, diced small, shake to cover it, then put in the freezer for 20 minutes. This is what will make the pastry so tender and flaky later.
3. Mix together the orange juice and salt in a separate small bowl, cover and leave in the refrigerator to chill.
4. After the 20-minute pause, empty the flour and fat into the bowl of your food processor and blitz until you've got a pale pile of cakelike crumbs. Pour the salted juice down the funnel, pulsing until it looks as if the dough is about to cohere; you want to stop just before it does (even if some orange juice is left). If all your juice is used up and you need more liquid, add some iced water.
5. If you prefer to use a freestanding mixer to make the pastry, cut the fats into the flour with the paddle, leaving the bowl in the refrigerator to chill down for the 20-minute flour-and-fat-freezer session. Add liquid as above. I often find the pastry uses more liquid in the mixer than the processor.
6. Turn the mixture out of the processor or mixing bowl onto a pastry board or work surface and, using your hands, combine to a dough. Then form into 3 disks (you'll need to make these in 3 batches, unless you've got enough mini-muffin pans to make all 36 pies at once).
7. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator to rest for 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
8. Roll out the disks, one at a time, as thinly as you can without exaggerating. In other words, you want a light pastry case, but one sturdy enough to support the dense mincemeat. This is an easy-going dough, so you don't have to pander to it; just get rolling and patch up as you need.
9. Out of each rolled-out disk, cut out circles a little wider than the indentations in the tart tins. I use a fluted cookie cutter for this. Press these circles gently into the molds and dollop in a scant teaspoon of mincemeat.
10. Next, cut out your stars with your little star cutter - re-rolling the pastry as necessary - and place the tops lightly on the mincemeat.
11. Put in the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes. Keep an eye on them, as they really don't take long and ovens do vary.
12. Remove from the oven, prying out the little pies right away and letting the empty tin cool down before you start putting in the pastry for the next batch. Carry on until they're all done.
13. Dust over some confectioners' sugar by pushing it through a tea strainer, and serve the pies with one of the butters.
MAKE-AHEAD TIP: Make the mince pies up to 1 week ahead and leave to cool. Store in an airtight container layered between sheets of parchment paper. Pop into a warm oven for 3-4 minutes before serving, dusted with confectioners' sugar.
FREEZE-AHEAD TIP: Make and pack the pies as above and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight on a cooling rack and reheat as above.