Thursday, 23 August 2012

Keep Calm and Keep Counting...

It might seem very early to be posting about mince pies and indeed it is - even for a Christmas fanatic like me. However, there is method in my madness. I like to test out recipes a few times to perfect them before making them for other people. The twitchy, perfectionist gene makes it difficult to feel at ease with handing over goodies without being perfectly happy with them. Particularly as I feel that when I bake, I put lots of effort and care and attention into what I do, so it can be hard to put it on a plate for it to be judged. Judged it must be though, if it is to be tweaked to perfection.

The other reason why making some Christmas goodies early is because if you choose what you bake wisely, you can bake in a leisurely fashion and freeze things ready for your culinary rainy day. Or, you could order them from me...  ;-)

I can't ever remember making mince pies myself. It has always been a family affair. I used to make them occasionally with my mum, as part of a childhood baking routine which also involved rock buns, butterfly cakes and the occasional strawberry flan. My real memories of baking tend to revolve around my Nan though. My Nan was a good teacher, and if I'm honest, the central most influential figure in my love of baking.

As soon as I could hold a wooden spoon in my hand and stir ingredients in a big baking bowl, I was scooped up on to the counter top and my baking days began. My Nan also had a fetching assortment of 1960s Doris Day styles aprons which I would dress up in and I would write my own 'recipes' in her handwritten recipe book. Although not necessarily in the right order - "eat it, beat it and bake it' was one of my immortal lines!

My Nan would deviate from tradition with her mince pies by making flaky pastry rather than shortcrust pastry. This made the pies lighter than usual. I used to watch her make the pastry by hand, endlessly folding the pastry into thirds and dotting each third with shortening. She would roll the pastry out neither too thick nor thin and it would be my job to use a fluted cutter to stamp out the frilly edged circles and press each one into the cups of the bun trays. Together, we'd drop spoonfuls of mincemeat into each pastry filled cup and press a frilly edged hat on to each one. My Nan would tell me to 'dibble dabble' them an egg-wash glaze and  into the oven they'd go. It's a tradition I'm looking forward to carrying on with little ones one day...

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