BAKING MINCE PIES FOR CHRISTMAS

Hands up, who likes readymade mince pies from the supermarket? You do? Come on guys you’re seriously missing out. The problem with shop bought pies is the pastry. It’s overly sweet, stodgy and always ends up a sticky mass attached to the roof of my mouth. You see, I like my pastry a little more biscuity in texture, with a little less sugar. You should be able to eat more than a couple without feeling nauseous, and you just can’t do that with the shop bought ones. They’re too rich. Half is already too much and that’s just not right, and they are completely devoid of colour. Each identical to the next in their sad little tinfoil moulds. I could go on but I’ll stop right there with the ranting. After all it’s the festive season and I don’t want to be mistaken for a Scrooge. Instead, thanks to these easy instructions you’ll be able to bake some truly remarkable Mince Pies. 


The quantity of mincemeat you end up with is impressive (enough for around 35 pies)…good for big families, Mince pies enthusiasts or freezing! Last Christmas, Alessia wanted to give only handmade gifts to her family members and the Mince pie tray was a hit especially with our Italian relatives who had never tried this traditional English pastry/dessert/pudding before.
The pies keep really well at room temperature for 3 to 4 days (that is if they last that long...)


Here’s the deal...

for the pastry:
(this is enough for 18-20 pies)
70g white flour 
70 gr whole meal flour
70 gr almond flour
50 g oat meal
1 egg
¼ tsp salt
1/3 glass ice cold water
4 tbsp sunflower oil
4 tbsp brown sugar

for the mince meat:

4 Tbsp black strap molasses
150 ml sweet sherry
250 g raisins
100 g dried figs
100 g medjool dates
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp mixed spice
1 mandarin, zest first & then juice
a few drops of almond extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp honey
about 80 gr toasted almonds, roughly chopped
sunflower oil for brushing
icing sugar for dusting

(Print the recipe here)

Mix the flour, salt, oat meal, and sugar and mix.
Add the oil. Mix with a mixer or with your hands to obtain fine crumbs.
Then add the egg, mix and add ice cold water little by little, mixing constantly and stopping as soon as the dough is moist enough to form a ball.
Place it 15 minutes in the freezer or 30 minutes in the fridge.
Meanwhile in a large pan, dissolve the molasses in the sherry over a gentle heat. Then add the dried fruits, spices, zest and  juice of the mandarin and almond extract. Bring to a simmer and cook gently for about 15 minutes until all of the liquid has been absorbed stirring occasionally. You may need to add more cherry if it is absorbed quickly.
Add vanilla extracts, honey and the nuts. Stir well to combine everything and leave the mixture to cool in a bowl. When the mixture is cool, preheat the oven to 200 C and oil & flour your muffin tins.
Roll out half of the pastry to a thickness of 2mm (leave the other piece in the fridge). Cut out circles of about 9 or 10 cm diameter and tops of about 7 cm diameter, you may have to re roll the pastry and may get a few more. Push the larger circles into the muffin tins and fill each pastry case with a dessertspoonful of the mixture. Brush the edges of the pastry base with a little oil and then top with the smaller circles. Push the edges together to seal. Make a little slit in the top of each with a sharp knife and brush with a little olive oil (or egg wash) and bake for about 20 minutes, until the tops are golden brown and puffy. Keep an eye on them they cook quickly.

Leave to cool for a few minutes then take them out of the tin. Leave the tin to cool down completely before rolling out your next batch.


Dust with icing sugar just before serving. You can serve hot, warm or room temperature with a mug of tea, ice cream or a glass of Amaretto or Vin Santo di Malvasia on the side….



Hope you are having the happiest of Christmas with your family and friends.
Until next time.

HEXATRAYS: OUR FIRST OFFICIAL PRODUCT

Preparing for Christmas and at the same time the arrival of a new baby is absolutely not for the faint hearted. We’ve been so busy but we’re not complaining. And just to add to the madness we’ve also been designing, making and finishing these little beauties…



I nearly forgot about photo shoots using Alessia’s new homemade light box, pretty festive packing and final shipping. 

These serving trays are inspired by our love of geometrical shapes and repetitive patterns. A simple hexagon combined with complex, natural grain structures we think is an interesting harmony. 


I think they are rustic enough for the modern hipster home without giving away the true origin of the raw material, pallets. I chuckle when I see people buying new wood from the DIY shop only to take it home and beat it up to make it appear distressed and aged. Personally I get more satisfaction from breathing new life into something already old and discarded. After all that’s the main focus of our project.

The process is simple too. First I select some suitable boards which will make up the base. I clean them up by planing the two faces and edges, then glue edge to edge forming a blank panel. Then I cut the six sides. To get them all precisely the same length I have a jig with a fence set at 60 degrees to my table saw blade which I can then clamp a stop block to. Before gluing I cut rebates on each piece individually on the table saw, and when the hexagon is formed there is a nice recess to accept the base. Once the sides have been glued up I use it as a template to trace my shape on to the panel. I cut it out on the table saw, staying outside the line then I use a hand plane to get a perfect fit (hopefully).

Once that is glued in place it’s time for sanding and finishing. I sand up to 180grit, and use a combination of wood stains, boiled linseed oil and kitchen worktop oil. 

I love my little workshop but with limited tools and space I completely underestimated how much work is involved in batching out a quality product. On a daily basis I’m coming up with new ideas to increase workflow. All good fun.

Alessia has been using my tray (the prototype, the first one I made few months ago when we were not even sure if such project would ever see the light) in different rooms of the house and for different uses. It first served her as a tray for coffee and cakes in our kitchen. 

It  was then displayed in the living room as a pretty complement to our coffee table (purely for aesthetic). 

And now she uses it in the bedroom to store her glasses, mobile phone and knick-knacks all together on the top of our headboard.


Our hexagonal tray comes in 3 different sizes (28-32-38 cm/11-12.5-15 inches) and 3 finishes (natural, teak and walnut).


They are officially for sale so if you want one shoot us an email at writetohandmadetoast@yahoo.com to enquiry about shipment, delivery time and prices etc.

Until next time.
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