It is now getting perilously close to Christmas, this week for me is going to be full of the madness of finding and decorating a tree, starting my gift shopping, going to a couple of Christmas parties and trying to wrap up work for the year, in other words this is going to be a stressful week. As an antidote to this I am planning on spending as many evenings as possible wrapped in a blanket on the couch watching Christmas movies and eating nice things, I started this balm for the soul over the weekend with red wine, cheese and Fred Clause followed by a rousing dose of Die Hard and I am planning on moving on to mince pies, more red wine and possibly Elf this evening.
A good mince pie should be full of flavour, ideally a bit sticky from syrupy juices that have bubbled up over the crust during baking, it should be golden brown, crisp and very moreish.
I have had a few dodgy experiences with bought Gluten Free mince pies in the past, one exploded in a cloud of sweet dust as soon as I bit in to it and I spent the next ten minutes choking on icing sugar and crumbled pastry, this was not pleasant. I am sure things have improved but to be honest I like my own so much that I am not going to spend ridiculous money on GF mice pies just to see if they are any good.
The pies I make use a pastry that is a version of the pastry I make for quiche and savoury tarts as I find it stands up well to a rich fruit filling. This basic recipe is embellished with sugar, orange zest and juice and a sprinkling of cinnamon sugar to give it a seasonal flavour.
12 ounces Doves Farm Gluten Free plain flour
1 &1/2 teaspoons Xanthan Gum
¼ teaspoon of salt
2 tablespoons of caster sugar
3 ounces of butter, chilled
3 ounces of lard, chilled
Zest and juice of one large orange
1 egg beaten for egg wash
1 tablespoon caster sugar mixed with a ½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon for sprinkling
- • In a bowl stir together the flour, sugar, xanthan gum, salt and orange zest
• Grate or cut in the chilled butter and lard.
• Rub in the fats with your fingers until you have a fine breadcrumb consistency
• Make a well in the centre and add enough of the orange juice to make a nice firm dough, if you don’t get enough juice from your orange you can add a bit of water.
• Wrap the dough in cling film and allow to chill in the fridge for at least a half hour.
• While the dough is chilling pre heat the oven to Gas 6, 200, 400f
• Butter your baking sheet, I use a bun tray as I like a deep filled mince pie but use whatever mould you like.
• Remove the dough from the fridge and place on a floured surface, roll it out to a thickness of about ¼- ½ cm.
• Using a pastry cutter or a giant wine glass, cut the pastry to fit your baking tray.
• To top the pie you could use another circle of pastry to make a completely closed in pie, you could use a star cutter or any other shape you like or you could cut your pastry in to strips and create a lattice work effect on the pie.
• Fill each pie with about a teaspoon and a half of mincemeat and brush the edges and the top of the pie with the egg-wash.
• Sprinkle the surface of the pie with the cinnamon sugar mix and pop the trays in the oven. This amount of pastry made 2 trays of 12 pies and I swapped shelves halfway through the baking to ensure even cooking.
• Bake for 15 – 20 minutes, keep an eye on them towards the end of the baking time as they can go from pale gold to charred in a matter of minutes.
These pies freeze really well, just defrost and heat in a warm oven and they should crisp up nicely. Enjoy on their own, with a good dollop of whipped cream, or brandy butter but definitely enjoy them with good company and as much festive cheer as you can muster.
I am also going to drop a few hints here for an easy Gluten Free Christmas if you are cooking for yourself or GF friends and family.
- • Be wary of cross contamination. Don’t use the same serving spoons for gluten free and regular dishes. Be conscious in your kitchen to cook gluten free dishes separately and clean all your cooking tools carefully before cooking GF food. Tinfoil is your friend, cover all dishes once cooked so that errant crumbs or dustings of flour don’t fall in. Clearly identify GF containing foods for gluten free guests so they know what to avoid.
• If you are cooking bread stuffing with your turkey try cooking it separately instead of in the bird. You can wrap the bread stuffing tinfoil and cook in the oven, check with our google overlords for instructions. Or you could use GF bread crumbs for your stuffing to make life even easier
• Most vegetable dishes will be naturally Gluten Free but make sure that whatever you are adding to the veggies is also gluten free.
• Check your stock cubes, there are plenty of GF stock-cubes available for making gravy. Thicken your gravy with GF flour or GF cornflour instead of regular flour.
• Check, double check and then check again the ingredients on any pre- packaged food you purchase from frozen roast potatoes to the glaze for your ham to cranberry sauce and all the relishes and if they contain gluten serve them separately and let your GF guest know.
• If you are deep frying anything please do not use the same oil for GF and non GF food, this will cause contamination.
• Check your butter for gluten containing crumbs before adding to your mashed potatoes.
• If you want to make an old fashioned sherry trifle try the Gluten Free Madeira Cake from Aldi instead of trifle sponges, it tastes good and I feel, although I haven’t tried it, that it could work well.
• Ask your GF guest for advice, let them know that you are taking their needs in to consideration and that they aren’t putting you out. Don’t freak out, there are a lot of resources out there to guide you on your gluten- free way and gluten free products are easily available online and in most grocery stores.
• Relax, do your best, that is all anyone can ask of you, if what you can manage is turkey, ham, mashed potatoes and a vegetable side that are all definitely gluten free and safe to eat, served with good company and festive cheer then I think your GF guest will be happy to forgo any GF containing dishes that you have on the table.
- Have a very Merry Christmas and a lovely holiday season!