Butter, sugar, pastry. I am surrounded by these things at the moment. Oh, and chocolate and wrapping paper and ribbon... lots of ribbon. And family and coffee, fresh flowers and the sound of my boys playing. Cards and bunting (yes, I finally finished the bunting I started making last year), candy canes and tinsel. And cake and cake and cake, and cookies and shortbread and Christmas rocky road and snow capped brownies ... please send help (and broccoli).
Star-Topped Mince Pies
From Nigella Lawson's Nigella Christmas
Makes 36 small pies
For the Pastry:
240g plain flour
120g unsalted butter (cold)
Juice of 1 orange
a pinch of salt
For the Mincemeat:
30g soft dark brown sugar
1 small cooking apple, grated
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 orange (zest and juice)
1 tablespoon brandy
a couple of drops almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon honey
1 sprinkling of icing sugar (for dusting)
Make the Mincemeat:
In a large pan, dissolve the sugar in the port over a gentle heat. Add the apple, cinnamon, ginger and cloves, currants, raisins and the zest and juice of the orange. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 20 minutes, or until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Remove from the heat and allow to cool a little. Add the brandy, almond extract, vanilla extract and honey and stir well with a wooden spoon to mash the mixture down into a paste. Leave it to cool if you are using it straight away or you can spoon it into sterilised jars and, once cool, store in the fridge for up to two weeks.
Make the Pastry:
Measure the flour into a shallow bowl or dish and then using a box grater, grate the butter over the flour and put it in the freezer for 20 minutes. This is what will make the pastry so tender and flaky later.
Mix together the orange juice and salt in a separate, small bowl, cover and leave in the fridge to chill.
After the 20 minutes, empty the flour and butter into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until you have a pale pile of porridge-like crumbs. Pour the salted juice down the funnel, pulsing until it looks as if the dough is about to come together; 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.
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 discs (you’ll need to make these in 3 batches, unless you’ve got enough tart tins to make all 36 pies at once).Wrap each disc in clingfilm and put in the fridge to rest for 20 minutes.
Make the Mince Pies:
Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C.
Lightly grease a tray of miniature tart tins, each indent 4.5cm in diameter. You'll also need a 5.5cm fluted, round biscuit cutter and a 4cm star cutter.