There are still nine days till Christmas and I am preemptively festively plump. I’ve drunk cocktails and sprained my ankle and danced on it anyway already. The tree is up, wrapping paper has been purchased, and still it does not feel like the season, because none of these things, in this city, are part of the traditions.
It’ll be almost time for the real festivities when I catch the train home, listening to “Driving Home for Christmas”, carrying a suitcase containing far more pairs of shoes than are at all necessary.
It’ll feel like December when I get the chance to sneak-peek at the presents.
It’ll be Christmas when I’m at home, sat in front of the fire with one of my mum’s boozy mince pies, watching Miracle on 34th Street yet again.
The best mince pie I’ve ever had remains a mystery to me – it was eaten during the sweltering part of summer 2012 in a test kitchen, where I was part of a team sampling dozens of Christmas puddings and mince pies. It was tough work. The one I loved was flaky, and buttery, and had just the right amount of booze and…I have no idea who made it. It will forever remain a mystery to me.
So rather than go around every supermarket trying to find it, I thought this year I’d break with tradition just a little bit. I put my own twist on it to make a festive variation that keeps in with one of 2013’s biggest baking trends, the hybrid dessert. Bottom half mince pie, Viennese whirl top, 100% delicious.
375g sweet shortcrust pastry
650g mince meat
175g chilled margarine
175g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1) Preheat oven to 170C. Roll out the pastry on a well-floured surface to about 3mm thick, and cut out rounds 3″ in diameter. Line a 12 hole shallow bun tin with the rounds, using another piece of pastry to push them down into the holes. Spoon in about one and a half heaped teaspoons of mince meat.
2) Cream together the margarine and sugar until light, and whisk together the flour and baking powder using a fork. Stir the flour into the margarine mixture, and transfer to a piping bag fitted with a small star nozzle.
3) Pipe the mixture in a swirl on the top of the mince pies, and bake for around 20 minutes, until golden. (Between batches, keep the Viennese mixture in the fridge.) Transfer the pies to a rack to cool, and clean any escaped liquid off immediately (to save on stubborn washing up later!). Dust with icing sugar to serve (a little bit of icing sugar really rounds off the flavours, particularly if your filling is boozy).
I’m not the only one who decided to switch things up this year…