Kouign Amann

I had heard about these Breton pastries several years ago, but they looked so unassuming and complicated to make I confess I put the thought of them to the back of my mind. Then A’s brother picked up a selection of goodies from Dominique Ansel including their infamous DKA. After tasting that I was absolutely sold.

This pastry packs a serious taste-bomb that only the luxuriant use of butter, sugar and flour can bring about.

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In fact, let’s ignore the flour because it is merely a vehicle for packing in as much butter and sugar as possible after all. Kouign Amann might not be photogenic, but they are deeeelicious.

The problem was that then the craving for more set in. I sadly don’t have a surfeit of French patisseries round here (read: none) so if I was going to get delicious buttery sugary pastries it was going to have to be done at home.

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I looked at a couple of recipes for reference. First, Paul Hollywood‘s version, as seen on GBBO. Then, Christophe Felder’s method in his baking bible, Patisserie. Finally I had a look at David Lebovitz’s post (from waaaay back in 2005! How time flies…)

The Paul Hollywood and Christophe Felder recipes used similar proportions of flour to butter, yeast and liquid, but the Felder version used an incredible 300g sugar compared with Hollywood’s more modest 100g. David Lebovitz’s recipe used considerably less butter at more of a 2:1 ratio of flour:butter compared with the almost 1:1 ratios of the Hollywood and Felder recipes.

In the end, I went with the Felder recipe. There were a lot of French food blogs that had tried it, with glowing feedback, plus he is a French pastry chef so he must know his stuff, right?

For the most part, the techniques are familiar and if you’ve made puff pastry from scratch it’s mostly the same process. However, there were points at which I felt uncertain about whether it was going to work out. For example, my laminated dough started to peel apart in layers when I was shaping it for the tin, and I only used up around a quarter of the sugar. Into the oven they went, and I watched their rise, suspicious, certain it would only end in catastrophe, and with me scraping caramel off the sides of the oven.

The first crisp, delicate pastry-shattering mouthful dispelled all doubts.

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I think that they rank as one of the most delicious baked goods I have ever made. Really not photogenic at all, but so, so tasty.

Kouign Amann

Somewhat adapted from the Christophe Felder recipe in his book, Patisserie

  • 275g plain flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp dried yeast
  • 200g butter + 10g butter
  • 165g water
  • 75-100g caster sugar

Put the flour in a mixing bowl, and add the salt and yeast.

Melt 10g butter and allow to cool. Add the melted butter and water to the mixing bowl and knead for 2-3 minutes until a smooth elastic dough is formed. Pat into a square, wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for 1 hour.

Put the remaining butter inside a folded square of baking paper and flatten with a rolling pin until you have a square of butter around 3-4mm thick.

After 1 hour has elapsed, roll the chilled dough into a rectangle the same width as the butter square, but twice as long. Place the butter square in the middle and wrap the pastry around it, pinching to seal the edges so no butter is visible.

Turn 90˚ and roll out into a rectangle. Fold into three like a letter. Turn 90˚ again, roll out again and fold. Cover with clingfilm and chill for another hour.

Take the dough out, and sprinkle all over with caster sugar. Roll out again sprinkle with sugar, and fold. Turn, sprinkle with sugar, roll out again, and sprinkle with sugar and fold.

Now roll the pastry out until it is around 4mm thick and cut into 12 equal sized squares. Dust each square liberally with sugar, and pinch the edges together into the middle. Place the kouign amann in a muffin tray, cover with clingfilm, and leave to prove for around 45 mins – 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 180˚C and bake the kouign amann for around 20-25 minutes, cover with foil if they look like they are starting to catch. Turn out immediately upside down onto a cooling rack or they will stick in the tin. Tuck in while they are fresh but don’t burn your tongue!

 

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Keeping it Classic with Sausage Rolls

I’m settling into that soporific period that is the period between Christmas and New Year.

There is a carpet of shed pine needles scattered around the living room. Christmas cards cluster in every available space. The chocolate and biscuit boxes have been torn through and mostly eaten (just the horrible ones left, looking at you, the pink Roses/Quality Street).

Most of all, I’m looking forward to settling down for a week ahead of Christmas TV, plenty of gluttony and hibernating under my duvet for more hours than could be possible. It’s also the perfect time of year to make puff pastry – that time consuming process of attempting to disguise as many packets of butter into flour as possible. It’s probably thanks to a fortunate combination of general seasonal greed, cold kitchen and free time.

Whatever they say on TV/in cookery books, I don’t think anything rivals sausage rolls made with proper homemade puff pastry.

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I love the process of rolling out the butter and flour, folding over the course of the day, and turning something craggy and impossible-looking into smooth, beautiful sheets, that magically rise to form crisp pillows of delicious pastry.

Nowadays I use the Ottolenghi rough puff pastry recipe, which uses less butter than many other classic puff pastry recipes, but still produces a really fabulous lamination. It is also one of the only ones where I’ve managed to bake it with NO butter leakage at all.

Right, off to watch some more Christmas TV and pop a few more of these in my mouth. Happy New Year all!

Classic Sausage Rolls 

  • 500g puff pastry
  • 500g sausagemeat (I usually buy it pre-seasoned and add a little extra ground pepper)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 220ºC.

Roll out the pastry to the thickness of a £1 coin. Lay the sausagemeat in a line down the pastry, maybe two depending on the shape of your rolled out pastry.

Wrap the pastry around the sausagemeat to form a roll. Brush a little beaten egg on the edge and trim the excess pastry away with a sharp knife. Seal by pressing the tines of a fork firmly along the edge.

Cut the pastry roll into 1 inch long pieces, and lay on a baking tray, well spaced apart. Stab the top of each sausage roll twice with the fork, then brush the tops with beaten egg. Place the tray into the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 200˚C.

Bake for around 25 minutes until golden and puffed up. Leave on the tray for a few minutes, then transfer onto a cooling rack. Best eaten warm out of the oven but you can eat them cold, or pop them back in for a few minutes to reheat them the next day.

I’ve posted about other variations that you can peruse here:

Pork and Mustard Sausage Rolls

Chorizo and Pepper Sausage Rolls

 

 

Merry Christmas!

Hello folks!

I’ve been a bit remiss with blogging in the run up to Christmas as a dodgy oven does not a good bake maketh. So I’ve actually not had the chance to do any baking until now, with these mince pies whipped up in my parents oven.

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It’s the same recipe from last year, some sweet shortcrust pastry, and a jar of mincemeat that I’ve doctored with extra cranberries, chopped apple, raisins and a shake of speculoos spices.

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Unfortunately, whilst taking these photos, the dome of my cake stand, which was sitting on the sofa, fell onto the carpet and smashed into smithereens. It’s a lovely new cake stand with dome from M&S that I had been saving for that special occasion to take photos with, so really quite gutted!

At any rate, despite my longish break from baking, these mince pies turned out pretty well. I think I rolled out the pastry a little too thick for some of them, although that does mean a nice sturdy pie with a good pastry to filling ratio for those that prefer their pastry!

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The mincemeat is much less sweet than normal, which I really like, and packed full of fruity flavours. Although it’s unlikely I’ll be making my own mincemeat in the future, I do like the idea of throwing in some extras to make the supermarket stuff a little more special.

Hope everybody is enjoying spending a little bit of quality time at home with friends and family, and see you in the New Year! Roll on 2016!

Autumn Comforts and Apple Pie

It’s such a luxury having the time to gently potter away, and fritter away the hours doing a bit of relaxing cooking. Not the kind that involves furiously thinking about how to use up the fridge odds and ends into something vaguely edible in fifteen minutes, but the kind of lovely slow stirring, stewing and baking that only a slow day at home can give.

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With autumn well underway, it’s time for comforting foods. I roasted up a batch of tomatoes for a roasted tomato soup based on Sophie Dahl’s recipe. It smelled delicious in the oven, but the tomatoes could have done with a bit more flavour. I’ve got my eye on another tomato soup recipe with the addition of sundried tomatoes and pesto.

DSC_1013Then the glories of sticky toffee pudding, which I have blogged about previously last year.

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Thanks to a massive bounty of windfall apples, I’ve also been baking multiple apple crumbles, and with the last of the lot, also decided to bake an apple pie. I adore the Hawksmoor sticky toffee pudding recipe, so was keen to try out the apple pie recipe too, which also sounded delicious.

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The pie had an unusual pastry recipe with 120g of sugar, and double cream instead of eggs used to bind the mixture together. It was more akin to a cookie dough on being handled, and on baking, was soft, slightly cakey, and the overall effect was a little like eating an apple cake. Possibly not my go-to recipe for apple pie in the future, but very tasty all the same.

Now that we’re coming towards the end of October, I’m starting to get little excited thoughts that Christmas really isn’t so far away. I love the idea of making the flat as cosy as possible, and with this, need to resist the temptation of all those delicious-smelling Anthropologie candles  – when they are packaged up so prettily, how is a girl to say no?

Nutella and Clotted Cream Tart

I confess I’ve been quite distracted lately. Oh the stresses of a house move! Piles of cookbooks, scattered on the carpet, and a disconcerting realisation of just how much bakeware I own. Driving hours down motorways, finding a parking spot in a maze of “permit-holder only” streets. Knowing I won’t be getting my own until reams of paperwork have been filled, signed and stamped.

This is one of the last things I baked before the move.

A sheet of vanilla-scented shortcrust pastry, forgotten in the freezer. A jar of nutella, sneaky spoonfuls taken out. Clotted cream, left behind from scone-making. Toasted hazelnuts, waiting in a glass jar.

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Let’s say this was a success story in the use of leftover ingredients again.

The tart is a riff on a bakewell tart, but nutella takes the place of jam, and I’ve made a vanilla scented sponge using clotted cream in the place of butter. Fact: clotted cream is a fab butter substitute, and no softening required! Next time I think I would add ground hazelnuts to the cake batter for even more hazelnutty flavour, and drizzle some melted chocolate over the top.

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Nutella and Clotted Cream Tart

  • shortcrust pastry to line 25cm tart tin
  • 2 tbsp nutella
  • 120g clotted cream
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 125g self raising flour
  • hazelnuts, to decorate

Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Line the tart tin with shortcrust pastry and bake for around 20 minutes until lightly coloured. Spread the base of the tart with nutella and set to one side.

Beat the clotted cream, sugar, eggs, vanilla and flour together into a smooth batter. Spoon over the nutella and smooth the surface. Decorate the top with hazelnuts. Bake for 25 minutes or until the top is springy. Leave to cool and serve warm or cold.

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Lots of goodbyes this week and adieus to friends, family, faithful running routes, local cats and the garden! I’ll be back.

Pork and Mustard Sausage Rolls

I’ve posted about sausage rolls and rough puff before. A good puff pastry elevates a sausage roll from a greasy café staple, to a minature gastronomic heaven.

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Rough puff is the easiest way to get that – quicker and less complicated than the traditional version, with flaky layer that fall apart messily on eating. Emma from Poires au Chocolat has written a comprehensive tutorial on it, which beautifully explains the whole process from start to finish.

I ran out of plain flour – so went with strong flour instead, and as my stores of butter were looking deplete, I halved it, to see what would happen.

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It actually turned out really well. The sausage rolls puffed beautifully in the oven, and you could still see layers of clearly defined pastry. The photo above doesn’t adequately showcase how well they rose, they looked like little pastry pillows stuffed full of tasty filling.

Although the reduction in butter meant the pastry wasn’t quite as flaky or tender, it was also less overtly buttery, which made it an even better pairing for the delicate herby flavours of the seasoning, and the pork sausagemeat itself.

Though the pastry makes a fair few sausage rolls, be aware they disappear very fast. A splodge of tomato ketchup, and away you go.

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A lot of people feel the need to lighten their diets and practice a little abstinence throughout the month of January. I’m afraid I’m not very good at doing either, so I’ll probably be making up another batch of these. Delicious!

Pork and Mustard Sausage Rolls

For the rough puff pastry:

  • 250g strong white flour
  • 125g unsalted butter, cold and cut into chunks
  • pinch of salt
  • 150ml ice cold water

For the filling:

  • 8 Cumberland/Lincolnshire sausages
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped finely
  • Wholegrain mustard
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

Make the pastry first. Tip the flour into a bowl and add the chunks of cold butter. Rub in roughly, so there are lots of little chunks of butter still remaining. Then throw in the pinch of salt, and tip in enough water to bring the whole mixture together into a shaggy dough. You may need a bit less water.

Wrap the dough in clingfilm and pop into the fridge to rest for 30 minutes. Then take it out, and roll it out into a long rectangle. Fold this in three, like a letter, turn 90˚ and roll out into a long rectangle again. Fold into three again, then wrap and return to the fridge once more for another 30 minute rest.

After the 30 minutes has elapsed, take the pastry out, and roll it out into a rectangle once again, and fold. Turn 90˚ and fold once again. Return to the fridge for another rest. Repeat the process a third and final time, then the pastry is ready to use.

Now you’re ready to make sausage rolls. Preheat the oven to 200˚C. Prepare a large baking tin with raised sides.

Squeeze the sausages out of their skins, and mix thoroughly with the chopped garlic.

Roll the pastry out to the thickness of a £1 coin. Trim into a long rectangle. Brush a layer of wholegrain mustard down the centre of the long rectangle, then lay on the sausagemeat in a line down the centre of the pastry. Wrap the pastry around the mustard and sausagemeat to form a roll, and seal the edges together. Trim off any excess.

Flip the sausage roll over so the seam faces downwards, then slice with a sharp knife into 1 inch long pieces. Lay each roll on the baking tray with some space between each to allow for spreading.

Brush the tops of the sausage rolls with beaten egg, then stab the top of each roll with a fork. Pop into the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Transfer onto a cooling rack and eat warm or cold.

The Best of 2014

I have epic Quality Street withdrawal symptoms. This consists of my eyes honing in on anything purple and plastic, and poking around hopefully around all the cupboards in case I hid some chocolates in one of them. My pockets rustle with empty foil wrappers.

Last year, I wrote a recap post. There’s been so much baking in 2014 I knew I’d do it again. I’ve really stretched myself in so many ways, trying difficult techniques, and a heck a lot of French patisserie. So here we go!

The year started off with setting myself the challenge of conquering River Café’s infamous chocolate nemesis. What a way to start January.

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Buoyed from my first challenge, I finally braved the italian meringue method of macaron-making. With Pierre Hermé’s book, there was no stopping me! I baked and baked and baked, and my family pleaded with me that they were all mightily sick of macarons.

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On a similarly Parisian theme, I had to bake fresh fruit tartlets, and these strawberry beauties had me sold.

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Then even more French patisserie with the Gateau L’Opera

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Perhaps a change from French indulgence. This summery red, white and blue cheesecake was absolutely delicious, and required no baking at all. Less of a French theme going on, unless you just count the colours.

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Many birthdays followed, requiring the obligatory inclusion of chocolate cake. Never put birthday candles on this cake in 30˚C heat – it melteth….

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Then time for something savoury with these chorizo sausage rolls which were the BEE’S KNEES and sure to get another outing in the future!
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And then, come Christmas, bringing in the festivity with these gorgeous mince pies. I couldn’t stop making these over and over again.

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For 2015, there’s a few things I’d like to get to grips with.

Red velvet cake has always been a tricky one with me, so I’d love to find a recipe I was 100% happy with. Then in the savoury department, perhaps I’ll finally get round to making a pie that doesn’t contain apple! Pork pie anyone? Then perhaps more experimentation with yeast – brioche, and maybe a homemade Panettone next Christmas!

Let’s see what happens :).

Happy New Year! 

Christmas is Coming…

It’s Christmas Eve! Yay!

I’ve finally summoned my festive spirit out of the dark hole it’s been hiding in, and the kitchen smells gloriously of baking pastry, and wintery spices. The tree is up and sparkling, I’m belting out Frozen on repeat, and there’s golden glitter nail polish on standby if I remember to put it on.

I baked up a batch of pork and mustard sausage rolls.

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They weren’t quite as good as the chorizo and pepper sausage rolls I made earlier in the year, but they were still very moreish, and I ate more than my fair share! All I did was spread a thin layer of wholegrain mustard against the pastry, then adding the sausagemeat and rolling it up. They definitely make a great change from the sweeter snacks that lying about in abundance this time of year.

Then, I baked another batch of scrummy mince pies, and liberally dusted them with icing sugar.

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I’m in the process of defrosting my last piece of the Gateau L’Opera which will be served up tomorrow as dessert, all that remains is to pipe on a suitably jolly message over the top, and sprinkle it liberally with gold glitter.

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Hope everybody else is getting their festive bake on (or helping eat it all). I’ll be making the most of the holiday season this year – with my baking cupboard bulging as ever, what other delights will be coming out of the kitchen I wonder?

Maybe some more of these gruyère and smoked bacon straws?

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To all my blog readers, wishing you all a very Merry Christmas! 

Gruyère and Smoked Bacon Straws

Crispy and crunchy, with salty smoky bacony goodness running through the centre, and a generous punch of gruyère cheese. It’s perfect fodder for the party season.

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You can wield them like a wand, have a minature duel, stick them out of your mouth like walrus tusks, or just gobble them down in several bites. If you try not to lick your lips, it’s well nigh impossible!

Make them long or short, or fat or thin…no matter, because they all taste scrummy :). Indeed, the tight button on my jeans can attest to how terrifyingly moreish these are! I was going to add some wholegrain mustard to some of the straws but I didn’t bother in the end. I still think it would be a great addition – for super posh cheese straws!
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If you don’t have any puff pastry lying about handily, I’ve included a recipe for quick rough puff pastry underneath that doesn’t take too long. Of course, you can completely skip this step and just buy it in the supermarket!

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I’m starting to wish I was more organised, and did all my Christmas shopping in November! John Lewis, usually so reliable, failed to deliver and various online parcels are still pending. In-store, everything has flown off the shelves, so I might have, ahem, to throw in some last minute substitutions.

Gruyère and Smoked Bacon Straws 

Makes around 9 straws

  • 110g unsalted butter, cold
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 130g plain flour
  • 50ml water, cold
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • large handful grated gruyère cheese
  • thin strips of streaky dry-cured bacon or pancetta

Cut the butter into small cubes. Tip the flour and salt into a bowl, and rub the butter in roughly until half rubbed in, with plenty of small lumps of butter. Tip the water into the bowl, and bring together with a table knife into a rough looking ball of dough. Wrap this in clingfilm and pop into the fridge to rest for 30 minutes.

Once chilled, take out the pastry ball, and roll out into a long rectangle, three times longer than wide. Fold into three like a letter, and wrap again. Chill for another 30 minutes. Once chilled, take the pastry out, turn it 90˚, roll it out into a rectangle and fold again. Repeat this step until you have done 3-5 folds in total.

Preheat the oven to 200˚C.

Now roll out the puff pastry to the thickness of a £1 coin and baste with beaten egg. Sprinkle over with grated cheese. Gently press this into the pastry to make sure it sticks. Then turn the sheet of pastry over, baste the other side with beaten egg, and sprinkle over a layer of grated cheese on that side too. Cut the pastry into strips. Lay over a slice of bacon and roll the pastry strip up into a straw. Place on a baking tray. Then repeat this with all the other strips of pastry.

Bake the cheese straws for 25-30 minutes until golden and the bacon is crisp at the edges.

Festive Mince Pies

YAY, it’s December!

Christmas is round the corner, festive stuff fills the shops, et cetera. Time for me to get my baking jig on and fill the house with calorific edible goodies, like mince pies.

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Oooh the humble mince pie. It sounds so gross. Like it’s full of gristle, and ground up bits of meat that nobody wanted to eat whole.

Good thing it’s not (at least, not the modern day mince pie). For those unfamiliar with them, they’re sweetly sticky, spiced, and packed full of glossy dried fruit. Then there’s all that pastry too!

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Gosh I’m on such a pastry kick these days. I think it’s because I went a bit crazy a few weeks ago and made loads, and now I feel guilty about how full the freezer is with pastry, and there’s no space for the frozen vegetables to go.

To be honest, I don’t see the point of making my own mincemeat. I only ever use up a little bit each year, and homemade stuff seems to taste the same to me, only a lot more boozy. So with these mince pies, it was a quick scurry to Waitrose, and plucking the last remaining jar triumphantly off the baking shelf.

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Actually, when I think about it, with ready made mincemeat and pastry, mince pies are as about as simple to make as jam tarts, but you get about triple the amount of domestic goddess points. How great is that?

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The first lot of photos turned out luridly yellow thanks to the lack of actual daylight at 5pm. Of course, I was hardly only going to make one batch of mince pies, so I took another set of snaps during the daytime, which turned out a lot better!

Mince Pies

Makes 12

  • 300g shortcrust pastry
  • 1 jar of mincemeat

Preheat the oven to 180˚C. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry. Cut out larger circles from it, and use them to line a 12 hole muffin tin. Prick the base of each pastry case with fork. Into each case, coax in a spoonful of mincemeat.

With the remaining pastry, cut out smaller circles or stars, or other shapes, to use as lids for your pies. Dab a little water around the edge of each pastry case so the pastry lids stick down nicely. Pop your pies into the oven for 15-20 minutes until they are golden and the mincemeat is bubbling.

Leave the pies to cool in the tin for a few minutes, then unmould and set onto a cooling rack to cool down completely. You can dust them with icing sugar at this point if you like too.

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Next year I might even make my own mincemeat – I’ve tried a suet-free version before, but now I’ve got plenty of the stuff leftover from sticky toffee puddings, so why not go all out?