Thursday 2 December 2021

Tiny Mincemeat Turnovers

Many years ago, wanting to serve mincemeat as one flavour among many on a Christmas dessert table, I decided to make tiny turnovers. They needed to be small enough to be one of several treats on a sampler plate. The turnovers, which offered a small portion of mincemeat wrapped in flaky pastry, with granulated sugar on top to provide a little extra sweetness and crunch, were a big hit. They weren't the prettiest thing on the table but proportion of mincemeat to pastry was just right.  I still get requests for them every year and they remain a Christmas baking staple at my house.

Every good turnover begins with pastry.  When you buy a turnover at a bakery it will most likely be made with puff pastry but since my turnovers were going to be tiny, I thought that puff pastry's volume would overwhelm the filling.  I opted instead to make a simple lard pastry; the one I've used to make countless pies over the years. 

I'm giving you the quantities needed to make enough pastry for a single pie crust or about a dozen tiny turnovers.  The recipe is easily doubled.  I find, though, that if you want to make more than double this recipe, it's best to make a second batch. I can't explain why this is, but experience has taught me not to question good results.

To make the pastry, you'll need:
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3/8 teaspoon of salt 
  • 1/2  cup lard. well chilled
  • 2 Tablespoons very cold water
  • 1 egg white + 1/2 teaspoon of cold water in a separate small bowl
  • granulated white sugar

Stir the flour and salt together until well combined.  Cut the lard into the flour.  I tend to leave the lard in fairly large pieces—about the size of a kidney bean—because it’s always better to leave it too large than to break it down too small.  A light hand will result in a flakier crust.

Stir the water into the flour and lard mixture just until the ingredients are moistened and start to hold together.  Gently form the dough into a rough ball.

Wrap the pastry in plastic wrap, or put it in a small enough container that there's not a lot of airspace around it, then seal the container with a lid. Refrigerate the dough for at least an hour. (I usually make the pastry one day and then roll it out the next.)

After the pastry has rested in the fridge, return it to the counter and allow it to warm for a few minutes.

Place the dough on a piece of waxed paper at least 12 inches square.  Gently press it into a thick disk and cover it with a second piece of waxed paper.  

Rolling out from the center towards the edges and rotating a quarter turn after each roll, roll the pastry until it's a uniform thickness and large enough to have reached, and perhaps slightly exceeded, the factory cut edges of the waxed paper.  

Gently remove the top sheet of waxed paper. If you're going to be using the scraps to roll the pastry out a second time, set the paper aside.

Use a round cookie cutter to cut rounds of pastry, cutting them as closely together as you can. (I use a 3-inch diameter biscuit cutter.) You should dip the cookie cutter in flour before cutting the dough, and again whenever the pastry starts to stick to it. 

Gently remove the pastry from around the rounds you've cut, leaving only the rounds on the waxed paper.  Lightly press the pieces of pastry you've removed together, using only as much pressure as is required to get the pieces to stick to one another. If you end up with a smooth ball of dough, you've pressed too much.  Set this pastry aside.

Spoon a scant teaspoon-full of mincemeat into the center of each cut round of pastry.  

Using a brush or your fingertip, apply water around the outside edge of each round before folding it in half, making a sort of half moon shape. Gently press the edges together to seal them.

Transfer the turnovers to a parchment lined baking sheet. Discard the bottom sheet of waxed paper.

Use a fork to beat the egg white and water together until it's frothy, then brush a little of the egg white mixture over the top of each turnover. Sprinkle some sugar over the egg white. You don't want a thick layer of sugar but you do want most of the upper surface of the turnovers to be lightly covered with it.

Place the scraps of pastry you removed from the first rolling onto a fresh sheet of waxed paper.  Cover the pastry with the top sheet of waxed paper you set aside and repeat the rolling, cutting, filling, and topping process again.

When you've made as many turnovers as you need, place them in a 400F oven and immediately turn the oven down to 350F.  Let them bake until they're lightly browned. I can't tell you exactly how long that'll take because it will depend upon the size of turnovers you've made and the quantity of mincemeat you've filled them with. I find that mine take about 30 minutes to bake.

I store my tiny turnovers in the same way I would store cookies: layered in a tin with a round of wax paper between each layer. They can be frozen, but thawing them will soften the sugar on the outside.  You may want to return them to the oven for just long enough to allow them to re-crisp.

No comments: