The essence of Christmas
I have been craving mince-pies since some point in mid-November. I adore them and for years have proclaimed them to be the essence of Christmas. It must be all those seasonal aromas of nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger and clove.
I’ve been searching for a Paleo mince pie recipe since that same point in mid-November. Paleo bloggers you have failed me. Since mince-pies are an incredibly British affair, and the big Paleo blogs are an incredibly American affair, this week I waved the white flag and surrendered my search. Instead I decided to work on a refined sugar free and gluten free version (my non-negotiable blog principles) and make it as as simply processed as possible using the best sourced ingredients. The recipe I have ended up with is a far cry from the big branded gluten free pies which are incredibly high in processed sugar, additives and unpronounceables.
I was pleasantly surprised that these pastries worked so well – I was expecting to be perfecting my pastry throughout 2013 and only just make it in time for next December. This is either beginners luck or maybe that week learning how to cook with gluten pastry at Ashburton earlier this year was perfect preparation.
I had some helpful tips for suitable pastries on twitter (thank you especially to a follower who emailed me a recipe), but the recipes I have ended up with are a combo of all the research I did. I was tempted by various combinations of Doves gluten free plain white flour (a pre-blend of various flours), ground almonds, chestnut flour, gram flour, eggs and added orange zest. I settled on two versions to try; The first with Doves + gram flour and the second with chestnut flour added in too. I found pastry number 1 easier to work with. However I preferred the taste of pastry 2 since chestnut flour is naturally sweet it lends itself rather well without having to add additional sugar.
A few notes on the ingredients;
- In my research I discovered that gram flour subbed at around 10% of total flour volume helps with the texture of the gluten free flour. My pastry worked so I reckon I’ve proved this.
- The Chestnut flour pastry gave a darker pastry, but tasted sweeter.
- I used liquid stevia to sweeten the pastry but if you were making a savoury tart leave this out.
- Butter: Use the real stuff, much better for you than a low-fat margarine blend of poor oils and additives. I used Kerrygold which is a supermarket Irish butter made from grass-fed cows milk.
- Mincemeat: If cooking was my full time job I would have made my own.. However life was just too short this week and I settled on Meridian Organic Mince Pie Filling which has a brilliantly clean ingredients list. No added refined sugar, just fruits and their concentrates (though obviously it is still high in sugar, but real fruit sugar). I also added half a grated Bramley apple to my second batch. This helped the expensive mincemeat go a little further and pepped up the taste and texture.
Ingredients (makes 12-14)
- Pastry 1: 175g Doves Gluten Free Plain White Flour (rice, potato, tapioca, maize, buckwheat), 25g gram (chick pea) flour.
- Pastry 2: 125g Doves gluten free plain white flour, 50g Italian chestnut flour, 25g gram flour
- 100g grass-fed butter
- 75g water
- 1/4 tsp liquid stevia
- 200g mincemeat (see above)
- Optional 1/2 grated Bramley apple
- Optional egg yolk and coconut palm sugar to finish
- Sieve the flours into a mixing bowl, take the butter (which you will have removed from the fridge 10 mins earlier) and grate into the flour mix. Using your fingers crumb the flours and butter together until the butter is mixed in.
- Add the stevia to the water and pour that into the flour+butter bit by bit in case you don’t need it all. Bring the pastry together by swirling your fingers around the mixture in the bowl in one direction, it will eventually form a ball (in the meantime don’t be tempted to squeeze the mix into a ball). Wrap the dough in clingfilm and leave in the fridge to rest for 30 mins.
- When ready to roll, pre-heat the oven to 170 degrees C (fan). Dust a board and rolling pin with flour, and roll out your pastry. Some advise to roll the pastry inbetween baking parchment sheets. Since there is no gluten in the flour it may crumble slightly (fail) but as there is no gluten in the flour to overwork it is quite OK to roll it a number of times (win). I managed to cut 2 pie bases from each roll, before having to re-roll. Use a pastry cutter to cut out the large circle and place them in the tart tin. Since the pastry is rather savoury the thinner you get it the better
- Mix the mincemeat with the grated apple then fill each pie with a tsp of the mix.
- Cut out a small start out of the pasty using a start cutter (or use a knife like I did which was fiddly and took ages) and place on each pie. Brush egg yolk over each pie and a very light dusting of coconut palm sugar (less than a tsp overall).
- Bake in the oven for 20 mins, remove, leave cool in the tins for 5 mins, then transfer to a cooling rack.