Crisp, buttery, and crumbly shortcrust pastry, encasing rich and fruity mincemeat. These little pies are peak Christmas – totally delicious, really easy to make, and with a simple gluten-free option.
Despite the lack of visitors this Christmas, we still seem to manage to be churning out mince pies at an alarming rate considering how many of us there are to eat them. But as a treat you can only really enjoy for a few weeks of the year, and one of the fool-proof ways to maintain festive spirit during a locked-down Christmas, they are basically a staple at the moment.
I posted my orange and whiskey mincemeat recipe last week, and while many would tell you that mincemeat requires a few weeks to mature, this stuff is delicious eaten straight away. In other words, you have not left it too late if you want to go down the fully homemade route, but if you’re time-limited, energy-limited or have a few jars of mincemeat languishing in the cupboard, this blog should assist you in making the most delicious, delicate vegan pastry to house whatever you’re scooping out of the jar.
How to make the perfect vegan mince pies
Pastry is notoriously temperamental. It’s taken me years to find a method that works every time, but this pastry is light, crisp and melts in the mouth. The benefit of this is that it’s delicious, the downside is that you can quite easily sink 3 or 4 of these in a very short space of time and still feel like you fancy one more.
Shortcrust pastry is essentially a mix of flour, fat and water. For a gluten-free version I suggest a mixture of gram flour and buckwheat flour – it’s a little more crumbly to work with but you can patch it up easily if you need, and the resulting flavour is lovely.
The key to really good pastry is to ensure that the fat and water are very cold when you’re making the dough. Whatever fat you use should be fridge cold, and just before I start making the pastry, I fill a small bowl or glass with cold water and pop in an ice cube.
A note on the fat – I use Naturli Vegan Block, which is an amazing vegan butter substitute. You can buy it from Sainsbury’s and Waitrose in the UK and some health food shops. Otherwise, unless you are able to get another butter substitute with a very high or 100% fat content, I would use half vegan spread or margarine, and half coconut oil or vegetable shortening. Spread has the buttery flavour but quite a high water content, whereas coconut oil or shortening has a consistency more similar to butter, so the combination should give you good results.
The easiest method is to use a food processor. Measure the flour into the bowl and add the fat, chopped into small pieces. Pulse until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Because this is for a sweet treat I add a tablespoon of sugar, and to bring out the citrus flavour in the mincemeat, I like to add the zest from half an orange. Pulse again a few times until the zest is evenly distributed, then drizzle over a few tablespoons of ice cold water and whizz until the dough starts to come together.
If you don’t have a food processor, then rub the flour and fat together with your fingertips until it looks like breadcrumbs. Using only your fingertips (rather than palms) will keep the mixture as cool as possible. Then mix in the orange zest and sugar with a spoon, then the water, and finally bring together with your hands.
The amount of water you need will depend on the absorbency of your flour, and if your fat is too warm it’ll seem like you need much less water that you actually do. At the point where your dough starts to form a ball (see the bottom left-hand picture above), then scoop it out of the bowl and bring it together into a ball with your hands. Wrap in cling-film and rest in the fridge for half an hour – this is important to let the pastry cool down after handling, and for the gluten to relax before rolling.
Turn on the oven to pre-heat, and lightly grease a cupcake tray – you can use a shallow or deep tray, whatever you have. Lightly flour your work surface and split the pastry, reserving about a third for the lids, which you can keep in the fridge until you need it. Roll out the remaining two-thirds until it’s about 3–4mm thick, and using a circular cookie cutter slightly larger than the diameter of the holes in your baking tray, cut out as many discs as you can, and press into your tray. Bring the scraps of dough together and roll out again, then cut out the remaining number of discs you need.
Fill the pastry with your mincemeat – I use about a level tablespoon per pie, but this will depend on the size and depth of the holes in your tray. You want the mincemeat to be level, and not heaped, otherwise it’s liable to bubble over the edges of your pastry. Roll out the remaining third of your pastry and cut out some stars, or slightly smaller circles, to cover your pies. Dab a little water around the edges of the pastry cases before placing the lid on top and pressing gently to seal them. If you have circular lids, ensure you make a couple of slits in the top of the pies for the steam to escape.
Bake for 25–30 mins until golden brown. Leave to cool in the tin for 5–10 minutes until you can remove them from the tin and transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. Or eat them while still warm which is ideal. Dust with a little icing sugar and douse in vegan brandy butter for the ultimate Christmas treat.
Please let me know if you give these a try! You can comment below or tag me on Instagram or Twitter @greedybearbakes.
I’d also like to say a big thank you to everyone who has visited my blog this year, whether you’ve subscribed, commented, cooked anything, or just had a cursory browse. There will be more to come in the new year (and possibly still to come this year if time allows), but in the meantime, I hope you and your loved ones have a very merry Christmas!
Perfect Vegan Mince Pies (GF option)
Crisp, buttery, and crumbly shortcrust pastry, encasing rich and fruity mincemeat.
Vegan, Gluten-free Option, Soya-free, Nut-free
- 300g (approx.) mincemeat (see my orange and whiskey mincemeat for a recipe!)
- 180g plain flour (OR 90g gram flour and 90g buckwheat flour for GF option)
- 90g fridge cold vegan butter (or 45g vegan spread and 45g coconut oil / vegetable shortening)
- 1 tbsp caster sugar
- ½ orange, zest only (optional)
- 3–4 tbsp water plus an ice cube
- Add an ice cube to a cup of water. Add 180g flour to a food processer (or large mixing bowl), and add 90g fat in small chunks. Pulse until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs (or rub together with your fingertips), then add 1 tbsp caster sugar and the zest of half an orange (if using) and pulse a couple of times (or mix with a spoon) until the zest is evenly distributed.
- Drizzle over 3 tbsp iced water and whizz (mix with a spoon) until the dough starts to come together. If it doesn’t start to form a dough or feels a little dry, add a little more water, but no more than 1 tbsp. Scoop the dough out and form into a ball with your hands. Cover with cling film and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Pre-heat the oven to 180C fan and lightly grease a 12 hole cupcake tray. Remove the dough from the fridge and tear off about a third for the lids. Keep this in the fridge while you roll out the remaining two thirds to 3–4mm thick. Using a cookie cutter slightly larger than the holes of your baking tray, cut out 12 discs, reforming the dough and rolling out again until you have as many as you need (ideally you should only need to re-roll the dough once). Press the discs into the holes in your baking tray, and spoon about a level tablespoon of mixture into each one. The mincemeat should be level and not come over the top of the pastry.
- Take the remaining third of dough out of the fridge and roll out to a similar thickness as the bases. Using a star shaped cutter, or a circular cutter the same size as the holes of your tray, cut out 12 lids. Dab a little water around the edge of each pie, then press the lid gently to seal. If you’re using circular lids, make sure you make a couple of slits in the center of each pie so the steam can escape.
- Bake in the oven for 25–30 minutes until the pastry is golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 5–10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. These can be eaten while warm, or stored in an airtight container at room temperature for a few days.