Monday, December 24, 2012

Mince Pies, UK Style

Last week, L's school invited parents to come for a "stay and play" session. I went and the main activity we did was making mince pies. The teachers had already whipped up some dough, so L and I only had to roll it out and cut out a circle for the pie shell. They had mince filling from one of the local grocery stores, so we spooned some in. Everyone was supposed to pick a shape for the top of their pies. L chose a triangle. The teacher cut a triangle shape out of leftover dough and put it on top of the pie. Once all the tops were on, the tray went to the oven. Later on, we had yummy mince pies! It was so easy we decided to try it at home.

Getting mince from the store was no problem (though I suppose it's a bit of a cheat for all you purists out there). Making the crust was a challenge. Usually crusts are buttery and crunchy and yummy, like the tastiest of pie crusts. My wife found a recipe here. You can tell its authentic because the ingredients are in grams and the oven temperatures are in Celsius (which would be a problem back in the States, but not here). She and the children forged on while I took a nap.  I'll let A take over the narration:

J and L were enthusiastic helpers. They demanded proper aprons, of course, and then wielded their wooden spoons with gusto--occasionally spreading flour far and wide. 

Dough Boy J

After mixing the dough we patted it into the muffin tins. This was surprisingly time consuming. The kids poked and patted the dough a few times in the pan, but it was a grownup job to pat everything up the sides. L fetched her cookie cutters and was eager to begin "making shapes."

L ready to make shapes

J and L each scooped the mince pie filling (raisins, apples, cinnamon, etc.) into the pies.

J gives a thumbs' up

Too cute not to post

The recipe next said to pat out rounds of dough and put them on top of the pies. L flourished her round cookie cutter and used it to cut several circles of dough. Then, unfortunately, The Great Mince Pie Meltdown of 2012 happened and L fell to the floor screaming and writhing with outrage about my lack of proper dough handling technique. I'm not exactly sure what my crime was, but I believe that I may have stretched one of the circles into an oval. L retired from mince pie making in protest.

J is the lone helper still standing.  Mince pies are shaped and ready to bake.

The pies smelled wonderful while they were baking. We waited patiently and were rewarded with the misshapen yet delicious results.

L is unclear about how they came out, or maybe she's just blurry

By this point I (Daddy) was awake again and got to enjoy a mince pie fresh from the oven. It was very yummy warm and went well with a cuppa tea. And we have plenty of leftovers for the coming days, so we can enjoy them again and again! Too bad the kids aren't interested in actually eating them. Their loss!

Another piece of English mince pie tradition is that a pie was made in the shape of a manger and used in the Nativity scene for the Christ child. At Christmas dinner, the pie would be eaten. The Puritans in 17th century England forbid the baking of mince pies since they considered the pies "idolatrie in crust." Protestant iconoclasm extended even to food back then! For a big helping of mince pie history and lore, listen to this podcast at Catholic Under the Hood.

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