This is the final pie for the month of October. Clearly, we are no longer in October. I chose sanity over pie, which is why this is late. Sanity is overrated, I know. Forgive me?
I had a bit of a hard time with this one from the beginning. The first challenge was to think of a pie that was just a bit different, something that wouldn’t bore me while dreaming it up. I also wanted to make something that reminded me of Christmas and had a nostalgic feeling. Then, with Kevin and Jill coming from England to visit, it occurred to me: mincemeat pie. Every Christmas, they send us a care package with things quintessentially British. Last year, along with orange marmalade, tea, and Cadbury Dairy Milk, we received a box of mini mincemeat pies. I had been hesitant to try such a thing before because they have the word “meat” in them. (Traditionally, they are made with beef suet. Hence, the “meat”.) I was pleasantly surprised when I bit into the muffin-sized pie. Spiced, dried fruit spilled out as I dug into a thick, rich crust. Slightly rehydrated by some booze, the fruit was moist and tangy. Out of the six pies in the box, I may have eaten four of them. And no, I didn’t eat all four the same night. I only ate three.
Once I had decided which pie I was going to make, I needed to figure out how to go about making it. Many of the recipes I found either called for beef suet, (eww) or store bought jars of mincemeat filling. No way was I going to buy a jar of mincemeat filling.
So what I ultimately decided was to put together my favorite dried fruits and see what worked. Fortunately, all the fruits I chose liked getting boozy and juicy together. And then it happened. I got overconfident. I thought, Pshhhh, I don’t need no stinkin’ recipe. I can make pie better than John Boehner can run the House! So I spooned all the Christmas goodness into the pie crust, laid the second crust, and popped it in the oven. The smell! Y’all, it was heavenly. My house was perfumed by the smell of spiced cider or mulled wine. I half expected carolers to show up at my door in authentic Victorian garb. I was so excited to sit down to a piece of my own mincemeat pie. There was only one problem. I couldn’t sit down to a piece. The moment I cut into the pie, everything fell apart. Crust crumbled everywhere. The fruit made me chase it around the plate with my fork. That took me down a peg. On the plus side, though, it was absolutely delicious. All I needed was a method of containment. Hand pies!
This method perfectly contains the filling and remains intact while eating it. The turbinado sugar adds a little crunch, while the cinnamon whipped cream helps cut the sweetness. Something to keep in mind when choosing your fruit: balance is key. If too many of your choices are sweet, your pie will be cloyingly sweet. Using tangy cranberries, tart apples, and acidic lemon will brighten up the sweet figs, currants, and dates.
Mincemeat hand pies
2/3 cup diced dried apricots
2/3 cup dried cranberries
2/3 cup diced dried figs
1/3 cup dried currants
1/3 cup dried dates
1 apple, peeled and diced*
1/4 packed light brown sugar
Juice and zest from 1 lemon
1/2 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of coarse salt
1/4 cup brandy
Turbinado sugar for sprinkling
*I used gala because it’s what I had on hand, but you can use your favorite baking apple. I suggest something on the more tart side.
“Don’t they look like little jewels?” she said in her best Connecticut accent.
Combine all ingredients, except for turbinado sugar. Place in an air tight container for 2 hours to 3 days. If you’re leaving your filling to sit for more than a couple of hours, place in the refrigerator. The longer the mixture sits, the spicier and juicier the fruit gets.
Prepare your favorite pie dough. I used this recipe, which is the same one I used for my apple pie. Roll out dough to about 1/4 inch thickness and divide. (I got five hand pies out of one pie dough recipe.) Form each piece into a ball and roll out to a 1/4 inch circle.
Using a slotted spoon, place about two spoonfuls of filling in the middle of the circle. Don’t place the filling too close to the edges or it will spill out when you fold your dough. Be careful not to overfill, or you’ll rip the dough.
Cut a small slit in the top of the pie for venting. Spray your baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Once you’ve placed your pies on the baking sheet, brush pies with egg wash, (add a bit of water to one egg and lightly beat) and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Allow pies to cool for about 10 minutes before serving. Serve with cinnamon whipped cream.
Cinnamon whipped cream
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 Tbsp sugar
1/8 tsp cinnamon, or to taste
Combine ingredients. Beat on high until stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes.