The thing about home baking is that it should be a joy. My favourite times are spent in my kitchen – pinny on (Cath Kidston, a treasured present from my friend Taralara), oven on, flour everywhere, radio playing, people popping in and out for a chat or a quick taste – it’s my therapy. I’d go mad without it. Someone once told me that you should never bake when you’re miserable – nothing goes right – cakes don’t rise, things don’t taste right… it’s because the baking picks up on your mood, and I completely believe that’s true.
On Sunday afternoon, I turned on my oven, turned up the radio and spent a very happy hour making puff pastry mince pies. In this post here, I go through the process of making rough puff pastry in a bit more depth, but if you want to buy ready made, chilled puff pastry, that’s fine too. At this time of year, it’s sensible to keep a couple of rolls of it in the fridge for when the mince pie urge strikes (oh and by the way, if you have some mince pie haters, try spiced apple (chopped Bramley apples, bit of cinnamon, maybe the odd sultana or dried cranberry if they’re that way inclined).
So if you’re going to make rough puff, you’ll need:
350g plain flour
250g cold butter, chopped into small squares
150ml iced water
Oh and don’t forget a jar of mincemeat and an egg for eggy wash
Keeping everything cold, place the flour and salt into a large bowl and add in the chopped butter. With cold fingertips, rub the butter into the flour – you don’t need to be too precise here, just flutter it together.
Add in the cold water and bring it together into a dough. Flour the work surface and the rolling pin, then squish the dough into a rough rectangle, then roll it out, keeping the rectangle shape. Fold the top third of the pastry down, then the bottom third up over the top.
Now give it one turn, just 90 degrees, and do it again… roll it out into a rectangle, flap the top third down and the bottom third up – see how you’re making flaky buttery layers?
Do that two or three times (or more if you can be bothered) then pop it into the fridge to chill for 20 minutes or so, letting it relax is quite important.
Now you can roll it out and cut out your pastry bottoms (use the cutter that’s slightly bigger all round than the hole in your baking tin), pop a generous teaspoon of mincemeat into each one, then cut out smaller circles for the lids. Brush around with some beaten egg (nab a spare child for this – my lot love being the Eggy Wash Department) and pop on the lids, then brush the tops with beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar (cinnamon sugar is lovely). Bake for about 20 minutes at gas 6/200 degrees until golden.
They’re not perfect: they layers are uneven and they’re a bit wonky, but you can buy them if you want perfect ones, and these are flaky and buttery and rich, and made with love. What more could you possibly want?