The first time I saw a frangipane mince pie, I fell a little bit in love.
To put this in context, I’m not much of a mince pie eater. If you read this blog regularly you’ll know that I’d take chocolate, caramel or creamy desserts over boozy dried fruit any day of the week: an indifference to festive desserts that extends to both Christmas pudding and cake. If a mince pie is all that’s on offer, I’ll probably end up eating it (top removed, filled with copious amounts of brandy butter then replaced) and I do enjoy the ritual of baking them at this time of year, but getting excited about a recipe? It doesn’t tend to happen.
Until I discovered the frangipane mince pie.
Frangipane is one of my all-time favourite things, both to make and to eat. I love how simple it is to cream together, the soft sweetness once baked and its delicate, almost crunchy golden crust. It’s moist and light, delicious in Bakewell tart and paired with other juicy fruits, can be made with chocolate and almost any nut in addition to almonds. It might even, I told myself, make mince pie eating a more enjoyable experience.
I appreciate that a lot of people reading this post will be major mince pie fans and loath to tamper with what they consider to be a classic. But please give these a try, for me. I took a batch to a party on the weekend and mince pie lovers and haters alike fell in love with them and were asking for the recipe. There’s something both more delicate and more indulgent about these tiny tarts topped with almond cream: a perfect balance of pastry, fruit and cake.
I also understand that there will be people unconvinced, the hardcore haters who simply can’t bring themselves to try a mincemeat-filled pie. The solution is simple: create options. For every batch of pies, fill the majority with mincemeat then make a few with your favourite jam or a spoonful of stewed fruit. The friend who hosted the party this weekend is a die-hard chocoholic so I created her very own version using homemade hazelnut paste and a chocolate truffle which, when eaten warm, created an utterly seductive melting middle (see photo at the bottom of this post). Mince pie it was not. Delicious it absolutely was.
With a couple of days to go until Christmas, you may well already be reaching mince pie saturation. So why not try something new, whether it’s made with the last scrapings of traditional homemade mincemeat, some winter preserves, a spoonful of nut butter or a slab of chocolate? As long as you swaddle it in a lovely layer of frangipane, it’s going to be good.
Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday, filled with equal quantities of family, food and love.
If you decide to mix up the ingredients in your pies, make sure to mark the tops so you can tell them apart. I used cocoa nibs on the chocolate version: dried fruits or other nuts would also work well.
For the pastry
150g plain white flour
25g ground almonds
60g golden caster sugar
70g cold unsalted butter, cubed
1 large free range egg, beaten
zest of half a small orange
For the frangipane
125g unsalted butter, softened & cubed
125g ground almonds
125g golden caster sugar
25g plain white flour
1 large free range egg
1 tbsp amaretto (optional)
For the filling
200g mincemeat (I used Delia Smith’s cranberry mincemeat this year which works well with the orange pastry)
(or substitute good quality jam, nut butter, lightly stewed fruit, Nutella etc)
handful flaked almonds
icing sugar, to dust
To make the pastry, stir together the flour, ground almonds, salt and sugar in a medium bowl. Lightly rub in the butter with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk and mix gently until a homogenous dough forms. Form into a ball, flatten slightly and rest in the fridge for one hour.
Lightly grease two 12 hole tart tins (you’ll only use half of the holes in the second tray). Remove the pastry from the fridge and roll out to a thickness of about 2mm on a lightly floured surface. Using a cutter slightly bigger than your tart tin holes, cut out about 18 circles of pastry. Use to line the tins, pressing into the hole then pricking the base a couple of times with a fork. Place in the fridge while you make the frangipane.
To make the frangipane, beat the butter until soft and smooth. This is easiest to do in a stand mixer but you can use a wooden spoon if you’re feeling strong or in need of a pre-Christmas workout. Add the sugar and ground almonds, beating to combine to a smooth paste, followed by the flour, egg and amaretto, if using. Spoon into a piping bag.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Remove the pastry cases from the fridge and fill each with one teaspoon of mincemeat (or jam, nut butter etc) then pipe over about one tablespoon of frangipane, making sure the mincemeat is completely covered. Scatter a few flaked almonds over each then bake for about 25 minutes until the pastry is crisp and the frangipane golden.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tins for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Shower with icing sugar and serve.
Other posts you might like: