Christmas baking - Mince Pies

Last year it was gingerbread biscuits. This year, I decided to tackle another Christmas classic - mince pies.

I have friends who think mince pies are disgusting - and maybe that's how you feel too - but for me, nothing says 'Christmas' more than a hot parcel of pastry and spiced fruits. However, mid-way through December I realised that I hadn't eaten any at all this year (well, apart from leftovers in January). Something had to change!

Making your own mince pies leaves a lot of room for variation. Make your own pastry, your own mincemeat... leave out the raisins if you like, add a shot of brandy... I'd never made them before but I'm a definite convert. I made my own pastry (using a 'brown sugar' recipe from an old magazine) but used shop-bought mincemeat and added orange zest, apple, cranberries and some nuts to put my own twist on it.

Have you made mince pies before? What's your recipe like?

Mince Pies (makes 12) 
250g shop-bought shortcrust pastry 
175g plain flour
37g (ish) brown sugar
30g lard, diced
30g butter, diced
1 small egg yolk

1/2 411g jar of good quality mincemeat
1/2 apple, grated
handful dried cranberries
zest of one orange
25g macademia nuts, chopped

1. Make the pastry by mixing the flour and brown sugar together. Rub in the butter and lard until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk and a few teaspoons of water until the mixture comes together. Kneed lightly with your hands until smooth, then roll into a ball, wrap in cling film and refrigerate for half an hour.

2. Heat the oven to 180 degrees (fan). Mix the mincemeat with the grated apple, orange zest, nuts and cranberries.

3. Take the pastry out of the fridge and roll out until it is the thickness of a £1 coin. Taking a round cutter, cut out 12 circles and place into a bun tin. Spoon about 1 teaspoon of mincemeat mixture into each round, being careful not to overfill the cases as the mincemeat will expand.

4. Use the pastry offcuts to cut out stars or hearts. Top the cases with these shapes, brush with milk and sprinkle with demerera sugar. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes until golden. Leave to cool slightly before eating.