Mincemeat Tartlets, Update

Wed, Dec 23 • 0

So here’s what I ended up doing from my last entry, trying to come up with mincemeat pies that would better survive the shipping process, since the shortbread I used was really just too fragile.

I next tried my standard pie crust recipe, which ended up quite flaky and delicious, but was still way, way too fragile.

I finally settled on a pocket pie crust recipe as described on Alton Brown’s Good Eats show. This all-shortening dough recipe is incredibly easy to work with. Unlike other pie doughs, you want to build up the gluten in it, which makes it more durable, capable of standing up to — well — carrying a pie in your pocket. So rolling the dough out, and then rerolling it and re-re-rolling it, to use up all of the remnants to make more pies won’t hurt it a bit. (Try doing that with a regular pie dough.) Granted, it’s quite a long way from the shortbread little cups with stars in it, as described in Nigella’s television show, but these are much more practical. Of course, the proof will be in the pudding. I mailed off several packages today with a couple of these pies inside. We’ll see how well they hold up.

In addition, the way you cook the dough is very versatile. You can bake it, like I did, or pan fry the pies in a little butter (like a pot-sticker), or you can deep fat fry them. And apparently the dough works equally well for sweet or savory fillings, though I personally think the addition of a little sugar to the mix might go a long way to improving the crust, as well as perhaps adding a little more browning in the oven.

And I have a few more distant friends and relatives who I plan on sending some belated Christmas cheer to, so I’ll be making at least one more batch. This time, though, I intend on making smaller, more bite-sized pies than the ones described in the recipe. And I might even try deep frying them. We’ll see how they turn out.

If you’d like to watch the episode where the recipe is demonstrated, it’s been uploaded to Youtube and is in 2 parts — below.

Part 1 : A Pie in Every Pocket , Good Eats, S09E12

Part 2 : A Pie in Every Pocket , Good Eats, S09E12

Mincemeat Tartlets

Thu, Dec 17 • 0

I saw a version of this recipe on Nigella Lawson’s Nigella’s Christmas Kitchen and thought I’d make them and send them off, far and wide, to distant relatives for the holidays. In the end, though, they’re really just too fragile for shipping, so only my local loved-ones will get these from me, but  I may make little turnovers using more traditional pie crust, filled with the “mincemeat,” which I hope will end up being a bit more durable. I may update this entry after I’ve made a batch.

First, the “mincemeat,” which I put in quotes because it’s really not. It’s more like a spicy, boozy cranberry/orange chutney. Mincemeat, traditionally, has some in common with this mixture, like raisins and currents and booze, but it also usually has lard in it. This one  is, as advertised, a much lighter version.

2½ oz brown sugar
2fl oz ruby port
1 tablespoon molasses
12oz fresh cranberries (1 package)
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
2½ oz raisins
2½ oz dried cherries
1 oz dried cranberries
1 navel orange, zest & juice
1fl oz brandy
few drops almond extract
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons honey

In a medium saucepan, melt the brown sugar in the port wine over low heat. Stir in the cranberries. Add all of the spices, the dried fruit, and the zest and juice from the orange, and bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 20 minutes. The pectin in the cranberries will quickly thicken the sauce. Stir occasionally and cook until all of the fresh cranberries have popped — which might need a little coaxing by pressing them against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon. Once everything has broken down, remove from the heat, and let it cool down a little before adding the rest of the ingredients. (If the mixture is too hot, you’ll evaporate all the alcohol in the extracts and the brandy, along with all of their flavor, too.) Stir the mixture until everything is pretty much broken down into a chunky jam. From there, you can store the mixture in your refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

So while I was amassing the ingredients for all of this, I was completely shocked at the price of whole cloves. The store I was shopping in wanted $11 for a 1.25 ounce jar. With all of the dried fruit, extract, and booze in this recipe, it’s definitely something you’ll want to save for the holidays. I ended up buying enough to make 3 batches, and I think I easily spent $60 on the ingredients.

Nigella’s program showed her using this mincemeat in little tartlets she made using small muffin trays, lining each with a layer of shortbread dough, and topping each with a shortbread star. I tried following her recipe from both the television show and the web (which were identical), but the quantities given were given in metric. I believe I converted them correctly into standard measurements. Her recipe called for equal parts butter and vegetable shortening, along with flour, a dash of salt, and fresh orange juice. I deviated slightly, by also including the zest of the orange as well. In the end, the results were awful, and I don’t think I can blame the zest. The cooked dough was way too dry and crumbly, to the point that I couldn’t even swallow it.

I searched on the net for a standard shortbread recipe, and came up with this decent one.

1 cup butter, softened (2 sticks)
½ cup confectioner’s sugar
2 cups flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder

Cream the butter and sugar together in a mixing bowl. Add the flour and the baking powder and mix until it forms a ball. Wrap in plastic and form it into a disk and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, enough time to preheat your oven to 350°. Roll it out to a thickness of a ¼ inch, and cut 2 inch circles. Line each cup of a mini-muffin pan with the circles, and fill each cup with a spoonful of the cranberry mincemeat. Top with some of the leftover shortbread — you could do as Nigella did and cut little stars, but I didn’t have a star-shaped cookie cutter, so I just cut little strips of shortbread, 4 strips to a tartlet, and made little latticework, just like you might do with a pie. Put these in the middle of the preheated oven, and cook for 12-15 minutes, or until the shortbread starts to turn golden brown.

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