Mince pie pastry is a traditional British dish often served during the holiday season. Often called mince pie or mincemeat tarts, it consists of a buttery pastry shell encompassing a combination of beef, chicken, or fish, together termed mincemeat. Oftentimes, fruit or nuts may be added or substituted for the mincemeat. These delicious and festive appetizers may be served hot or cold with or without sugar as the perfect addition to any celebration.
As is the case with most recipes, there exists a great deal of variation between different mince pies. Regardless of the source, however, almost all recipes follow a general outline. Any modifications may of course be used to render the desired taste per chef's preferences. The traditional mince pie pastry has evolved quite a bit over the years, and contemporary mince pie is much heavier on the fruit, nut, and spice side than its original counterpart. A few common alterations include unique spice and fruit combinations and packaged versus homemade minced meat; additionally, rum or brandy is commonly used to lace the pies with a unique flavor.
The oven used should be between temperatures of 200 and 400 degrees Fahrenheit (93.3 and 204.4 degrees Celsius). Cooking time is dependent on pastry size, desired crispness, and exact temperature used. The time of cooking, although variable, is usually 20 minutes or until golden brown.
Simply stated, mince pie pastry is composed of a bottom, a filling, and a top. The bottom is cut to form using dough, the filling is applied, and the top is added before cooking. Almost all mince pie pastry recipes follow this form. Proper fitting of the bottom into the bun of a pastry pan is a key step to follow. Another tip is to glaze the bottom and tops with butter or egg white for a golden finish and added flavor.
Some recipes call for specific shapes of the top part of the pastry. This allows the chef to use his or her creative side in coming up with festive decorations to add to the aesthetic quality of the pastry. An example of this may be to use stars for the Fourth of July. The best way to come up with the ideal filling is through trial and error to meet particular taste preferences, although commonly used additions and substitutions in the filler are orange zest, chopped nuts, and candied or dried fruits.