Jane Bennet: "My dearest sister, now be serious. I want to talk very seriously. Let me know every thing that I am to know, without delay. Will you tell me how long you have loved [Mr Darcy]?"
Elizabeth Bennet: "It has been coming on so gradually, that I hardly know when it began. But I believe I must date it from my first seeing his beautiful grounds at Pemberley."
During the Regency period, Jane Austen and her family may well have enjoyed fruit mince pies, just as we do today. My research reveals that the original recipe for lemon mincemeat was first put down on paper by a close friend of Jane's, one Martha Lloyd.
Accordingly, in celebration of both the anniversary of Jane Austen's birth and Christmas, I present you with a recipe for fruit mince pies from pp238-9 of the Bourke Street Bakery Cookbook. There are plenty of different recipes for fruit mince pies; however, I chose this one because of the fantastic reputation the recipes from this book have on the Web, and because the quantity of mincemeat is perfectly scaled down to just make 20 pies - usually, mincemeat recipes make several jars of it.
To make these little pies, you will need:
75g currants (I used sultanas)
30g mixed peel (I left this out)
2 tablespoons brandy
80ml apple cider
75g brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon mixed spice
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
25g almonds, roughly chopped
zest of 1/2 lemon, finely grated
juice of 1/2 lemon
caster sugar for sprinkling on top of the pies
500g butter, chilled and chopped into 1.5cm cubes
pinch of salt
260g icing sugar
80g egg yolks (~5)
665g plain flour
To make the mincemeat:
Put the currants, raisins and mixed peel into a medium bowl, pour over the brandy and cider, and combine well. Cover the bowl with cling film and allow the fruit to soak for around a week.
When you are ready to bake, peel, core and chop the apples into 5mm cubes. Set aside.
Melt the butter in a frying pan over medium heat, then add the brown sugar, mixed spice and cinnamon, stirring to combine. Add the cubed apple and cook it until just soft, but so that it retains its shape:
Remove the frypan from the heat, and stir in the alcohol-soaked fruits, the almonds, lemon zest and juice:
To make the pastry:
As there are a number of resting periods, I recommend that you start making the pastry a day before you want to bake the pies.
Leave the butter out of the fridge for around 20 minutes before starting to make the pastry so that it softens but remains cold.
Put the butter, icing sugar and salt into a food processor and pulse until pale and creamy. Add the yolks in 2 batches, pulsing after each addition to combine. Add the flour in 3 batches, pulsing after each addition until just combined.
Place the dough onto a floured work bench, and divide it into 3 equal portions. Flatten each portion into a disc, wrap it in cling film and refrigerate it for at least 2 hours or overnight. (This is vital, as this pastry is very buttery and delicate.)
Remove the chilled pastry from the fridge around 20 minutes before you want to roll it out. Roll the pastry discs individually between pieces of baking paper until they are 2-3mm thick. Place the rolled out pastry back into the fridge for 2 hours before using.
To assemble the pies:
When you are ready to bake, preheat your oven to 170 degrees Celsius. Spray 20 patty tin holes or mini tart tins (~6.5cm in diameter) with spray cooking oil or brush with butter. Use a round biscuit cutter of an appropriate size to cut out 20 bases for the tarts from the refrigerated, rolled out pastry, and a corresponding number of pastry lids. (I used the same size cutter for both - this worked better for me than using a larger cutter for the lid, as suggested by the cookbook.)
Line each of the tart tins with a round of pastry. (The Cake Mistress has the great suggestion of lining each tin with a thin strip of baking paper first so that is is easy to lift out the baked pies.) Spoon 2 1/2 teaspoons of fruit mincemeat into each tart shell:
Attach a lid of pastry to each tart using a little egg wash (lightly beaten whole egg) brushed around the edges of the base and the lids using a pastry brush. Press down gently on the edges of each lid to seal the pies. Cut a small cross in the centre of each pie to allow steam to escape, then brush the top of each pie with a little cold water, and sprinkle with caster sugar. (This makes the top of the pie crispy.)
Bake the pies in the preheated oven for 20 minutes or until golden. Allow the pies to cool in their tins for 10 minutes, then turn them out of the tins and leave them to cool on a wire rack.