14 Tips To Create Gourmet Mince Pies For The Festive Season

You know it's time to deck the halls with boughs of holly when the waft of freshly baked mince pies is in the air. Mincemeat isn't meaty (although a long time ago they were), but a sweet, spiced, fruity filling. Traditionally baked in shortcrust pastry cases, taking a bite of a hot mince pie is like a seasonal hug of nostalgia from childhood. Served in every British home at least over the Christmas period, they are brought out at parties, for family treats, and for visiting friends, family, and neighbors over the holidays. 

It's a superstition in England to stir homemade mincemeat clockwise for luck rather than in the opposite direction. If you're making mince pies with little bakers, then they might enjoy the tradition of making a wish, too. These incredible culinary symbols of Christmas deserve to be celebrated. And what better way than with some must-try tips to create gourmet mince pies for the festive season?

1. Use puff pastry

You can make so many perfect pies without shortcrust, and mince pies are in that mix. Give these sweet treats a light, flaky texture by using puff pastry instead. Cut circles into the rolled-out dough. Add mincemeat in the center, not touching the edges. Add another dough circle on top and seal with water. Sprinkle sugar on top and make cuts so the steam escapes. If you don't want as much pastry, add the bottom circles to a cake tin with the filling. Top with a star-shaped piece of dough. Brush beaten egg on top and sprinkle on demerara sugar. 

Another cool idea is to cut squares of puff pastry and mark out a circle in the middle with a knife. Add mincemeat to the circle and brush the rest of the pastry with egg. This border rises, keeping the filling inside. Finish with chopped nuts and a dusting of icing sugar. Turn a puff pastry square into a star by cutting from each corner toward the center. Don't cut all the way so that you can add a spoonful of mincemeat in the middle. Fold the pastry up from each cut corner to meet at the top, leaving half of each of the sides still flat. The effect will be to cover some of the filling but not all of it. Glaze with egg, bake, and powder with icing sugar. 

2. Make chocolatey pies

If you can't indulge over the festive holidays, then heck — when can you? Give traditional mince pies a chocolatey upgrade and turn them into a decadent sweet snack. Whether you're making your own mincemeat from scratch or opting for jarred, stir white chocolate chips in along with dried cranberries. As the pies bake, the dairy deliciousness melts and the fruit promises a seasonal tangy taste. You can use any type of chocolate chip and in terms of quantity, try four times as much mincemeat to choccy in terms of weight. What a great recipe to make with little ones over the holidays.

If you're proud of homemade mincemeat that's fruity and spiced in all the right places, then add the chocolate flavor to the pastry instead. Shortcrust pastry is easy to make by rubbing flour and little cubes of cold butter together to create a crumble, and then mixing it into a dough with cold water. Mixing cocoa powder in with the flour is such a brilliant idea, and you don't need any chocolate chips either. You could also create a nutty dough by combining the crumbles of shortcrust with chopped hazelnuts. Mix in an egg to enrich the dough and orange zest for a citrus blast. The chocolate part is genius. Simply stir Nutella or whatever chocolate nut spread you have in your cupboard into mincemeat. 

3. Create decorative pastry tops

While there are a lot of ingredients that go into making mincemeat, mince pies aren't the height of high-end baking. One of the best tips to create gourmet mince pies for the festive season is to make them look fancy. And the way to do this is to get a little creative with the pastry. You know that you can create a star pastry top rather than cover the whole pie. This looks pretty and you get to see the filling inside, too. What about alternating the design by creating star cutouts, and adding these cutouts to the top of a full pastry top to create a relief effect? Add cranberries to the mincemeat so that the filling you can see with a star pastry top looks even more festive with ruby-red fruit. 

Embrace Christmas with festive cutouts for your mince pie tops. Snowflakes look incredible, as do a few little stars covering each pie, and holly-shaped pastry leaves with dough berries. If you're not that artistic, then seek out some seasonal cutters. One of the most beautiful designs has to be a lattice pastry effect. If you don't have a specialist cutter for this, you could crisscross thin strips across the top. It's fun designing a variety of decorative pastry lids, so let your imagination go with it. 

4. Give pies a cheesy creaminess

You can get your head around the idea of a mince pie and a cheeseboard being close together, right? So, stay with this and imagine transporting the creaminess of cheese into a mince pie recipe. After spooning mincemeat into a pastry case, add a little piece of brie on top and toasted walnuts. If you brush with milk or egg, this helps brown the top. The French cheese pairs incredibly well with sweet-tasting ingredients, like honey, and as it melts it creates a divine topping. 

Another tip is to add cream cheese to a homemade shortcrust pastry mix with sugar and egg added, plus baking powder. This gives the pastry a softer texture and makes it a bigger feature of mince pies. For a sharper, cheesier flavor, add a mature cheddar cheese to the pastry. Add grated cheese to flour and butter to create shortcrust crumbles, and enrich with sugar and egg. This tangy cheese crust is perfect with mincemeat made with the addition of apples and cider. What about adding sweetened cream cheese on top of your mincemeat, under a pastry case lid? Or maybe you like the idea of serving a spoonful on top of a hot mince pie. 

5. Top with marzipan

If you make your own Christmas cake, then you probably follow tradition and use marzipan. The sweet almond taste epitomizes the holidays, and it's a perfect ingredient to give mince pies a luxury essence. Don't just make homemade mince pies, though. Follow an easy marzipan recipe, too. All you need is almond meal, confectioners' sugar, and an egg white. Now to the mince pie tips. Brit TV chef, Mary Berry adds a few shreds of marzipan on top of the mincemeat filling so that it browns and becomes one with each pie. Cut shapes such as marzipan stars or Christmas trees for a neater, more decorative impression. For a punchier taste, use brandy marzipan. If you want to elevate the pies to a restaurant level, swirls of orange icing over the marzipan are going to give you that. 

Another incredible tip that has to be tried because it's beyond amazing, is to mix marzipan bits into the mincemeat. Can you even imagine how good that's going to taste? Watch people's faces as they bite into a pie and react because of the distinct flavor. Throw dried apricots into the filling mix as they pair pretty well with almond-tasting ingredients. You can also add marzipan at the bottom of the pastry case before spooning on the filling, so it creates a tasty base under the fruity mincemeat. Elevate the taste by making shortcrust pastry with ground almonds. 

6. Bake with a boozy twist

One absolute no-brainer of tips to create gourmet mince pies for the festive season is to give them a boozy flavor. Think about how a sauce is elevated by red wine or a Christmas pudding that's set alight is spectacular. If you want your homemade mince pies to become a standout sweet bite over the holidays, then enrich the filling with alcohol. Pour brandy into mincemeat, and take the notes even further with orange zest. This is a great way to upgrade jarred mincemeat and make it taste homemade.  Since orange is an often-used ingredient in recipe ideas to elevate mince pies, why not go one step further and give the filling a boozy Cointreau lift? Remember, you can serve the pies hot out of the oven with a glass of something strong or sweet on the side. 

You can buy mincemeat that's infused with alcohol as well. Look out for upmarket jars such as a port mincemeat. You can't get more festive than port. You might want to enjoy a glass with a port mince pie and maybe a Stilton cracker on the side which is the traditional accompaniment to this Christmas tipple. 

7. Cover with a crumble topping

There aren't many people who don't adore a crumble topping. You can add it to savory dishes to create a crunchy top. And it's part of culinary tradition with desserts such as apple crumble served with custard. Taking this idea and combining it with mince pies is a win-win. You've got the traditional pastry case still, the fruity filling, and a crumbly top that is buttery and light. As you're making shortcrust pastry, save some of the flour and butter rubbed together bits. This is what crumble is. You usually sprinkle the crumbles on top and add sugar. 

For a gourmet version, add mixed spice along with orange zest to the crumble to enhance the festive flavors of the mincemeat. Add sugar and orange zest if you prefer, and if you load on the crumbles then you get a more substantial topping. It also covers the mincemeat so that it won't dry out or be seen. Alternatively, you could add just a few crumbles so that the mincemeat filling is one show. 

8. Use phyllo pastry

Add phyllo pastry to any dish, literally, and you've got an instant gourmet dish. Shortcrust pastry is great, but it doesn't have the same fancy appeal as phyllo. The delicate sheets give mince pies an upmarket, lighter appeal that's still gloriously luxurious. Remember, whenever you're layering these pastry sheets on top of each other, you need to brush them with melted butter. And never let them dry out or they won't taste as good and become brittle, too. Create a double layer of phyllo in rectangular shapes and add a line of mincemeat in the middle. Fold over to create a roll, and brush the top with melted butter to seal. Festive mince rolls are way more glam-looking than mince pies. Make shorter rolls with long pieces of phyllo, without layering, rolling up from the short end. 

What about adding two squares of phyllo in a mince pie tin and adding a swirl of puff pastry with mincemeat rolled up in it in the base for a double pastry upgrade whammy? Overlap three squares of phyllo in a muffin tin, buttering between them. Angle them so the corners jut out in different directions. Spoon in the mincemeat. Gather the pastry to cover the filling and create a textured top. Brush with melted butter and bake to crispy perfection. Of course, you can always make a large phyllo pastry mince pie and cut it into squares. 

9. Sweeten with icing

If you've never tasted an iced mince pie, then of all the tips to try, this is the one to go for. It gives pies a gorgeous snowy-topped look which looks amazing on a festive table. There's nothing quite like biting into the soft, sugary icing to the richness of the mincemeat, and the buttery pastry. Don't fill the pastry cases to the top so that the icing is level and sits in place. Use whatever icing you like, but for a gourmet twist, you could make it with brandy. Mix the alcohol and some water with fondant icing sugar and vanilla paste. Wait until the pies have cooled before icing otherwise it'll run off and won't set.  

Royal icing is easy to make as an alternative to fondant icing. Or simply mix icing sugar and water so you have a paste-like consistency. Cover cooled pies completely and decorate with dried cranberries. Since citrus ingredients often enhance other flavors, and your filling is made from fruit, why not give the icing a refreshing taste by using lemon juice instead of water to make the icing? You can also use clementine juice which gives the icing a festive note. 

10. Add frangipane

Turning mince pies into frangipane cake-like beauties undoubtedly gives them an elevated status. The almond taste and creamy, custardy texture are a taste match with the richness of the fruity, spiced filling. And while they are luxurious, they are still light. This could be one of the tips to create gourmet mince pies for the festive season that you love the most. 

Spoon the mincemeat into shortcrust pastry cases. Top with frangipane made from butter, flour, and caster sugar, with eggs, ground almonds, and almond extract. Add slithers of almonds on top and a citrus glaze made from juice and jelly. All you need to do now is bake and enjoy fresh out of the oven. You can also make the frangipane topping without any flour. Instead of adding toppings, place a cardboard shape on top of each mince pie and dust icing sugar over the top through a sieve. Remove the cutout and the absence of the powdery sugar will reveal the design. 

11. Bake a share and tear mince pie

Making a large mince pie to share is a visually appealing way to give this sweet dish gourmet status. Decorate with snowflake pastry cutouts scattered across the top. Another idea is to roll out a large circle of puff pastry and add the filling with lengths of marzipan, followed by another pastry circle. Keeping a small circular area intact in the middle, make cuts from that to the edge of the larger circle to create segments. Twist these sections round and brush with beaten egg on the top. Bake and dust the star-like sharing pie with icing sugar. 

Add filling to pastry circles, create cups, and add them to a round tin. They will stick together, side by side, to create a large pie. When baked and presented at a gathering, everyone can grab one of the mini pies and break it off. Continue the theme and serve it with a pull-apart Christmas tree bread. Or roll puff pastry up into swirls with mincemeat, like a Danish pastry. Top with icing, flakes of almonds, and dried cherries. Make smaller rolls and arrange them in a festive design, like a Christmas tree, and bake to make a tear and share mince pie creation.

12. Bake meringue toppers

A classic dessert favorite that looks incredible is a lemon meringue pie. The egg white peaks look like magical snowy mountains, giving pies an eye-catching top. For the festive season, create gourmet mince pies by topping them with meringue. You only need caster sugar and egg whites to make the meringue, and a lot of elbow grease if you're whisking by hand. Once you see those white peaks add them to half-baked mince pies in a pastry case and bake them in the oven. You can pipe the topping on, but to get the snow drift effect, add a dollop on top and sculpt the shapes with a flat-bladed knife. 

Add a pinch of salt to give the meringue a flavor enhancement. And make sure that they set and start to turn a little browned on top if they stick up high. Create different meringue designs to make a snow-like pie-scape for the holidays. 

13. Mix shortbread cases

Elevate the sweetness of mince pies and add a delicious crumbly, melt-in-the-mouth quality by swapping out shortcrust for shortbread pastry. Combine plain flour and cubes of unsalted butter with golden caster sugar and an egg. When you mix the dough, it should be quite soft, but if you want it to be more so, then add a small amount of milk. A good tip is to brush the underside of the pastry lid with beaten egg so that it sticks to the filling, as well as on top so that it browns nicely. You can handle the dough pretty easily, so much so that you can push it into tin holes with your fingers rather than rolling it out. Because this pastry is so wonderful, you might want a thicker crust than you usually would. 

Change up the pies by turning them into shortbread pastry squares and cooking them like a tray bake. Make the dough flavorful by adding ground cinnamon and ground cloves, with vanilla extract. Or use a larger bun tray and cover the top completely with shortbread pastry so the filling is completely encased. The smooth pies look sophisticated this way rather than rustic.

14. Serve with luxurious brandy butter

Have you worked out which spectacular mince pies you're going to make? The tips to create gourmet mince pies for the festive season don't end there. One way in which you can elevate even the most basic store-bought pies is by serving them with an indulgent spoonful of brandy butter. There are some amazing flavored butters you have to make, and brandy butter is up there for the holidays. With so much culinary effort to create festive feasts at this time of year, it's understandable if you buy this creamy condiment, especially if you opt for an upmarket brand.

However, you can easily make it yourself. Beat equal amounts of sugar with butter and then add brandy. Don't overwhip or you'll ruin the consistency. Add the liquor slowly, too, or the butter might split. For a smooth and silky texture, use icing sugar. Add a bowlful of brandy butter next to a tower of mince pies.