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For the Love of Mince Pies

Someone tell me why mince pies aren't as big a thing here as they are in the UK.  They're delicious  handheld (the wee versions I've always seen in England are anyway), and did I mention delicious?  As I said, though, they're not really a thing here in the US so much, though I have heard they can be found in the northeast.  Too bad I live nowhere near the northeast.  Therefore, I have two choices.  I can pay $10 for a box of six at World Market, or I can make them myself for Thanksgiving.  Guess which one I chose. :-)

Okay, so to start, I used Alton Brown's mincemeat pie recipe...with some variations.  First of all, I used bacon fat instead of beef suet 1) because I'm southern and 2) because that's what I have.  Second of all, I had to make the crust gluten-free, so I got creative.  More on that later.

So here's the initial ingredient lineup...with a few missing things.  I actually forgot to take a picture of everything first, so my apples, among a few other items, were already gone when I remembered to take a picture.

The filling mix couldn't be easier to do.  You basically throw everything into your food processor and let 'er rip.  Take note, everything together will more than likely completely fill your processor unless you have a really big one.  Then, once it's all mixed up, it just needs to sit in the fridge for a few days.

Note: I have had "luxury"mince pies with booze in the filling.  I don't love it; the flavor is a bit strong, so I used apple cider instead of liquor.

Three Day Later..

Okay, now that our filling has had a chance to soak for a good long while, it's time to make the pastry.  This is where things got interesting.  Like I said, I had to make it gluten free, so I used gluten free flour. I also used almond meal instead of cornmeal because I like it and because I had it on hand.  I read once that you can add a lot of flavor to pie/pastry crust by using almond meal for half the flour, so I kind of did.  I actually ended up using about 8 ounces almond meal to about 6 ounces GF flour.  I am also pretty innovative (see: Lazy) I buzzed that with the sugar - I think I want to use brown sugar next time - to get it integrated first.  Above is a before and after picture.

That is a lot of butter.  Then again, this is a shortcrust type of pastry dough.  Anyhoo, I let my butter sit in the freezer for a few minutes before adding it to the flour mixture just to be sure it was really good and cold.  Again, here is a before and after picture.  This is the point where I kind of wonder how I could have done things differently to make my crust turn out differently.  I looked at a different Alton Brown recipe, one for pocket pies found here, and he does his shortcrust dough very differently here.  I think I could have forgone the water at first as well and just mixed everything up with a bit of cider to begin with, as my dough ended up being very wet and sticky.

See?  Definitely should have left the water out. :-(  I added a bit more flour to dry it out a bit, but it still ended up being sticky.

Okay, chill the dough for about 30 minutes...check!  During that time, I oiled the sides and bottom of the cups to prevent sticking.  This is where I had to get creative as well.  I decided to par-bake the shells before adding the filling, so I had to make them the right shape, but my fingers weren't up to the task...for a really stupid nails are too long.  So I tried using the top of my food processor blade covered with plastic wrap.  The plastic wrap kept on getting stuck to the dough and pulling.  -.-  Then I tried a skinny highball glass I have, which I dipped in GF flour to make it not stick.  That worked the best, but it wasn't ideal.  I have a silicone cupcake pan I should have/could have used as well...maybe next time.  At least I'm always willing to learn.

And into the oven at 400 degrees for ten minutes just to firm up the crust.

What happened?!  My shells puffed up like puff pastry!  I think using the food processor aerated the mixture, which made it puff up in the oven.  Hmmmm, something interesting to keep in mind.  I may have discovered a way to make easy GF puff pastry!  More experimentation to follow...

I stuffed the pastry cups as full as I could, pressing the puffiness back down, and put the pies back in for another 20 minutes.

Tadaa!  All brown and slightly crispy.  What's that?  They don't look all perfect and uniform.  That's okay, they're rustic!  The crust, despite all the surprises is slightly sweet and crumbly.

So how did they turn out overall?  Well, I liked them, my dad liked them, and Mike's brother Pete ate some for dessert last night and for breakfast, so I think that's a win!  I also have more filling left to make more later. :-)  Finally!  I can bring a little more of England into my life here in TN.  That's something to be thankful for!

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