Bake Club: Mincemeat Tarts

The first thing everyone asks when they hear the word ‘mincemeat’ is does it have meat in it? Kinda…

Kids growing up in the UK and Canada (maybe other British Commonwealth Countries… I don’t know for sure) ate mincemeat tarts around Christmas. In the old timey days of yore, these pies allegedly had beef or pork in them. I don’t think it was ground chuck, I think it was suet. If that is the case, the formula really hasn’t changed. Mincemeat is a mixture of fruit, candied peel, spices, rum or brandy if you are lucky and suet. Suet is hard fat of beef, pork or mutton. Don’t say ewww. If you are not vegetarian you likely eat bacon fat, butter, schmaltz, lard, honestly the list goes on. Suet is just another animal fat.

I thought about making the mincemeat from scratch. The work involved turned me off. Suet is a special order butcher item around here. The cooking of the fruit is more than I am interested in when I can buy the most delicious jar of mincemeat in the baking aisle at Sobey’s. In my experience, E.D Smith makes the best and they have been doing it since 1878. I think they know what they are doing.

My great grandma would use mincemeat and add apple sauce and a splash of brandy or rum to the jar so it would go farther and make it not as strong. Mincemeat can be a strong spicy flavour. I like it, but it can be a bit much for others. When I say strong – I don’t mean chili hot, I mean cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and nutmeg. Mixed with the stewed fruit, I think it is delicious!

I used my grandmother’s pie crust recipe from her butter tarts. I cut 24 ’rounds’ (still don’t have a circle cutter) and 24 tiny rounds for the top crust. I used a pipping tip for that.

Snugged them into muffin tins.

and used a 1 1/2″ cookie scoop to evenly fill the shells. I had about a 1/4 cup left over. I will use this in a pumpkin loaf or muffin recipe this week.

I popped on the cute little tops and baked them at 400F for 16 minutes.

My house smells amazing.

I only used half the pie crust recipe. I may make pumpkin tarts or maybe more mincemeat tarts in the future depending if the hubs eats them all before Christmas gift giving. I wrapped the pie dough well and placed in a ziplock bag for the freezer. I squared it off for tarts. If I was making pie crust I would have shaped it into a circle for easier rolling. When I go to use this in the future (before six months) I will thaw overnight in the fridge.

You can absolutely use premade tart shells for the easiest tarts on the planet. You do you. There is something special for me when I am using a recipe my little gram used. I like the connection to her.

Happy baking and stay healthy friends!

Bake Club: Pie Crust

Canadian Thanksgiving has past. It was delicious. I didn’t have my parents over this year because of the pandemic. We wanted to still share food. We each make things that taste good and like to contribute to the larger meal. My mom made our family’s traditional style cabbage rolls, I love these. They are a hybrid of Ukrainian and German. Not sour, stuffed with rice and bacon, topped with a sweetish tomato sauce and cloves. I traded two pumpkin pies.

Making pies is typically my super power but somehow this year the crust turned out terrible. I know why but it was still terrible. At least the filling was excellent. I thought I would write out the recipe and share it with you. Only this one will talk about the mistakes and why it went so wrong so future us will do better.

This is the only pie crust I ever make. It is made with butter and when I follow the rules it is tender and flakey.

Double Butter Pie Crust

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 cup butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes – I use salted butter
  • 1 cup  ice water, or more as needed

That is it. Simple but complicated. You can half it to make a single crust. This recipe can make a covered pie or two open pies. Things you need:

  • 2 9″ pie plates. Not deep dish – regular pie plates
  • Pie weights. You can buy special pie weights or use dried beans, lentils or rice.

I keep my butter in the freezer and put it in the fridge the night before. I cut it up into cubes when it is cold and store it in the fridge until I need it. Cold it important, especially if you have hot hands. Fill a two cup measure with ice. Add one cup of cold water to the ice and let it chill for a few minutes.

Whisk together the flour and salt in a large bowl.

Add the cubed butter. Working quickly you need to rub the butter into the flour. I toss the butter in the flour to coat it first then I rub it in with my thumb and first two fingers. You can use a pastry cutter if you like but like but I like to feel the mixture. If you like a flakey crust you want to have larger bits of butter. If you want only a tender crust, rub it until it looks like sand.

I turn the crumbles on to a board or counter. Make a well in the centre and add water a few tablespoons at a time while folding the dough together. You don’t want your dough to be sticky nor do you want it dry. As you kneed it together it will form a ball. Too dry and you get cracks, to wet and it sticks to your fingers. You can add water or flour as needed. (no pun intended). The perfect consistency is when you squeeze it and it holds together (even when the bowl still looks like crumbs).

Form the dough into a ball. Cut in half and fold it onto iself a few times. This is how you get the layers of a flakey crust like the ones you see on Crisco commercials. Then pat into a circle. This is important. It helps the gluten strands develop and it is easier to roll out a circle. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap or an air tight container and chill at least 30 minutes.

I will often make the dough in the morning or the night before. I pull them out of the fridge, unwrap and place on a floured surface. I bang on it with my rolling pie. This loosens up the crust making it easier to roll out.

When I roll the dough, I start in the centre and roll forward once, lift the dough and make a quarter turn and repeat the process. This does a couple of things. It ensures I get a round crust, the crust does not stick to the surface and I can control the size and thickness better.

I keep checking the diameter with the pie plate. I want at least two inches larger than the plate. Then I fold it in half and centre it in the plate and unfold it. I gently hold the sides and I fit it into the plate being carful not to tear the sides. If you do – just pinch together.

Fold the edges under itself. This gives a thicker crust edge and allows for a pretty crimp. You can do whatever you like, I use my two fingers and thumb to create the zigzag pattern. My grandma used a fork for the crimp. Do what every you like best.

Now you fill it. If it will be a custard filling, like pumpkin, you will need to blind bake it.

Blind Bake:

Dock the pie with a fork (poke holes all over it) and bush on an egg wash. This prevents the crust from absorbing the custard filling.

Take a piece of parchment and cover the bottom of the pie. Ensure it is long enough to cover the sides. Fill with dried beans or pie weights. DO NOT MISS THIS STEP. I couldn’t find my pie weights so baked without. BIG MISTAKE. The crust folded on itself and shrank. I couldn’t bake it fully because it was melting into itself. It was a disaster.

Bake at 350F for 30 – 45 minutes. Shorter if you need to bake the filling in the pie, longer if you are putting a cooked filling in the finished pie shell.

The crust should be lightly brown and not translucent. (like mine was because I didn’t use pie weights.)

I have no idea what I was thinking but I will never make that mistake again. At least the crust tasted good – although it was a little under done. Don’t do that either.

Double Crust:

Place the bottom crust in the centre of the pie plate. Unfold it.

Add filling.

Place to the top crust over the filling. Fold the top crust under the bottom crust. Then crimp. Crimping here keeps the pie filling from spilling out. it isn’t just decorative. Cut a pie vent in the centre of the pie to let steam escape. Otherwise it will explode in your oven and that is just sad for everyone, especially the person who cleans the oven.

Brush with egg wash for a golden crust, milk for a pale crust.

Bake at 450F for 15 – 30 minutes and then drop the heat to 350F for about 45 minutes. Bake until golden brown.

Stay safe and healthy everyone!