Desmond 1

For many years, I’ve had a quiet obsession with riciarelli, which I first came across, flavoured with orange flower water, in Betty’s tea rooms in York. Betty’s only seem to sell these wee macaroon-y treats in Spring for some reason, so I had to persuade Tom (who does not need much persuading where baking is concerned) to try his hand at them. He soon devised a delicious version, which I always enjoy. A few weeks ago he had the genius idea of combining his riciarelli with that perennial festive favourite – the mince pie. He feels – as do I – that pastry can sometimes dominate your average mince pie. What’s brilliant about these riciarelli pies is that excess pastry is replaced by moist nutty deliciousness, the fragrant flavour of which beautifully complements the rich, festive mincemeat. He’s made several batches of these pies to test and improve the recipe, experimenting with both hazelnuts and almonds. Their sample tasters have included the UPS delivery man (“gorgeously chewy”), next door neighbour Brenda (“fab – 10/10”) and neighbours Niall and Mairi (“delicious and well balanced”). Everyone seems to prefer the almond version and I may be biased (as an ardent fan of both nut-based treats and Tom’s cooking) but I honestly think they are the best mince pies I’ve ever tasted. So chewy! So orangey! So almond-y! Anyway, we thought you might like to test my wild assertion, so the recipe is below.

We are hunkering down this weekend while some serious weather rages. This latest batch of pies were cooked up in the midst of the torrential rain and gale force winds of “Storm Desmond”, so Tom’s named the recipe after him.

Desmond 2

Desmond’s Mince Pies
recipe by Tom Barr

Ingredients:
(makes 24 pies)

Orange Ricciarelli
2 egg whites
1 teaspoon lemon juice
200g / 7oz icing sugar
200g / 7oz ground almonds
grated peel of 1 orange
1/8 teaspoon orange blossom water
60g / 2oz Flaked almonds (toasted)

Sweet shortcrust pastry
280g / 10oz plain flour
140g / 5oz cold salted butter (cut into small cubes)
4 level tablespoons golden caster sugar
2 egg yolks
2-3 tablespoons cold water

454g / 1lb good quality mincemeat (shop bought or home made)

Method:
1) Separate the whites from 2 eggs, setting the yolks aside to make the pastry.

2) Add the lemon juice to the egg whites then whisk until they form stiff peaks. Gently fold in the ground almonds and icing sugar then add the grated orange peel and orange blossom water. Place in a covered bowl and transfer to the fridge for 2-3hrs.

3) Put the flour into a large bowl and add the butter. Rub together with your fingertips until the mix resembles fine breadcrumbs. If, like me (Tom) you have hot hands, use a food processor to rub in the butter.

4) Add the sugar, then the egg yolks and mix using a cutlery knife (or food processor). Add enough cold water to bring the dough together then gather into a ball and knead briefly until smooth.

5) Divide the dough into two equal balls, flatten them into two discs, wrap each in grease-proof paper and transfer to the fridge to chill for 1hr.

6) Lightly grease two 12-hole shallow non-stick bun tins.

7) Remove the pastry from the fridge and let it stand at room temperature for 5 minutes.

8) Roll out the pastry discs on a lightly floured work surface until 3mm thick, then cut into 8cm / 3in circles using a ring-cutter.

9) Gently press the 8cm pastry circles into the greased bun tins and lightly prick the bottom of each with a fork. Return to the fridge for 20 mins whilst you prepare the ricciarelli topping.

10) Lightly toast the almond flakes in a dry, hot heavy-based pan for 2-3mins over a medium-high heat until golden and fragrant. Set aside and leave to cool.

11) Set the oven to 190°C / 170°C fan / 370°F / gas mark 5.

12) Remove the ricciarelli mix from the fridge and roll into two 15cm / 6in logs on a work surface lightly dusted with icing sugar. Cut each log into 12 equal rounds.

13) Lightly dust one side of each round with icing sugar, then gently press the moist side into the toasted almonds. Gently press with the end of a rolling pin until each round is wide enough to cover the top of each pie.

14) Remove the prepared pastry cases from the fridge and place a level tablespoon of mincemeat into each. Top each pie with a ricciarelli round, with the almond coated side face up.

15) Bake in the pre-heated oven for 22-25 mins until crisp and golden. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 10mins. Transfer to a cooling rack and dust with icing sugar. They can be stored in an airtight tin for up to 3 days.

You’ll find more of Tom’s recipes in our new book, Buachaille: at home in the Highlands which will be available very soon.

76 thoughts on “Desmond’s mince pies

  1. I know it’s late to comment, the holiday season being over, but I just have to say how delicious these little pies were. (Found a decent mincemeat in the British food section of a local grocery store before Christmas.) Lovely with tea on a wintry day in Oregon — I’ll definitely make them again! (but I call them “Tom’s Pies”) Thank you, thank you,Tom!

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  2. Oh my goodness, I’ve just eaten 3 of these in a row. Quite simply the best thing I’ve ever eaten. Amazing. I used the M and S orange, fig and hazelnut mincemeat, it’s very good indeed. Thank you for this recipe, I love it.

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  3. Greetings from Canada, awaiting the rest of family waking. Thank you so much for this, my husband and I love Mince tarts all year round but sometimes they are hard to find here. These look so tasty, much better than store bought, when the Christmas festivities are over I shall be making these.

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  4. These are absolutely delicious! Thank you Kate and Tom for sharing the recipe – I think they’ll become a Christmas regular for this almond loving family. Merry Christmas to you both!

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  5. Just sitting here with a freshly baked Desmond mince pie with a little dribble of custard plum pudding sauce on the side, and a wee dram of Islay. I have finished gifts of baffles, the wonderful signature mittens and fingerless mitts from your gorgeous wool and am working on a pair of peerie floore mitts for myself. Thanks for the multi-faceted experience. Please pass my respectful kudos to Tom. I will be making more mince pies before Christmas night!

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  6. Have just made a batch – not as neat and tidy as Tom’s but delicious- especially with a scoop of ice cream and a spoonful of Bailey’s over it!

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  7. Hello Kate and Tom,

    Revamped your Desmond’s to use chestnut flour for the base and hazelnuts for the top, with homemade mincemeat. ABFAB! Many thanks for this recipe.

    Good Yule to you all,

    Isabelle

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  8. Have you ever had Eccles? Little currant pies we bought in a bakery in York near a little open square. I would love to have the recipe.

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  9. Wonderful! This has solved my yearly baking selection for our scottish christmas dinner with my Edin’ in-laws. Now we need a pattern out of your yarn to match the tarts.

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  10. We have just about survived Desmond – I hope you have too. These pies will be just the thing to cheer us up after a morning retrieving bins/plants/garden chairs/contents of bins from various places in the garden.

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  11. Kate, have you ever tried medieval mince pies? Still with the fruit, booze and spices (although not exactly the same), but also with mince pork. Sounds odd, but tastes incredible. I keep meaning to try and find the recipe again!

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  12. My husband may balk at me messing about with the mince pies…..so I won’t tell him that is what they are :) until after he tastes them. I have to see if I can find blossom water. (Thank you to the vanilla or almond sub suggestion.) I really look forward to the book…I have not yet peeked at the e version.

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  13. Wow made these yesterday,cranberry heavy mincemeat with coconut oil instead of suet and cardomum in pastry.Thank you Tom for this fabulous recipe

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  14. I love baking and right now I’m into miniature pies and cakes. I’ll give this one a go, if I can find orange blossom water. They look delicious. Thank you

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  15. The wee pies look delicious. I’m going to have to play with the pastry bit as I’m coeliac but the idea of almond and orange is enticing even in the heat of the Australian Christmas. Perfect. Merry Christmas to you and thanks heaps for the recipe.

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  16. These look scumptious, I love mince pies but try not to eat them until a few days before Christmas to give my waistline a fighting chance! However I may well try these out soon – just so I’ve got them right by the time the family arrives! I have a failsafe recipe for home made mincemeat that I would be happy to share with people if they are interested? It’s not so sweet as the shop bought kind as you can control the amount of sugar used and add extras such as almonds and cranberries if you want.

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  17. They look and sound delicious! Since my mincemeat question has been answered, I’m wondering what orange blossom water and golden caster sugar are in USA terms?

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    1. Orange blossom water is usually found in gourmet shops/sections in the US. Similar to rose water but made with orange blossoms.
      Icing sugar is labeled confectioners sugar/powdered sugar in the US.
      Caster sugar is labeled granulated sugar in the US.
      Golden caster sugar is labeled light brown sugar in the US.
      Although the lovely mincemeat mixture Tom uses is a fruit/nut mix, the brandied version readily available in most US grocery stores will taste yummy as well. (Or maybe apple pie filling, or peach?)

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  18. Crosse & Blackwell and Nonesuch do both make mincemeat, and it is quite readily available in any large American grocery store. Just ask the store manager.

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  19. Storm Desmond still blasting through Kinsale, Ireland. Good knitting weather until I can get out to buy these ingredients. Looks wonderful. Thank you.

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  20. These look amazing – I shall have to find time for some baking. Our favourite mince pies are the frangipane mince pies from Nigella’s Domestic Goddess book. Also deliciously almondy! Yum! Festive treats!

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  21. My husband walked in while I was reading and drooling, then he proceeded to ask if I was going to give it a go…I love cooking but I’m a bit worried mine won’t look like the picture. s Tom going to be writing a Cook Book to go with our knitting, after all, mega knitter’s need serious fuel? What I’d love to find is a fool proof Fruitcake map. I’m the only one that love it and I want to make just a small batch for me. Real is much better than the store ones! Let’s see you and Tom could call the combined effort “From Stitches to Stoves”…I’ll be waiting…now off to make the list so I can give this a go! Happy Weekend and a Pat for Bruce!

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  22. These sound marvelous, and I may try them with a gluten-free flour mix. I think Crosse & Blackwell or Nonesuch still make the filling – looks like one can even get it via Amazon, tho’ I’ve seen it in Seattle area markets over the years. Would the American version of a bun tin be a muffin tin, or something else?

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  23. Thank you for sharing Tom’s recipe, they look delicious, mind you I’m not sure Desmond deserves something so wonderful named after him as he’s been so horrible!
    I envy you Kate I wish I had a man who loved to bake! :)

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  24. Many thanks to both of you. They look gorgeous !I read the recipe from top to bottom to be sure… and I have a question : 1/8 teaspoon orange blossom water… is it tantamount to just 2 or 3 drops ? ( sorry to bother you !)
    Have a nice week-end

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  25. Oh my! These look delicious. I will definitely be trying these out. My husband and I cannot get enough of a decent mince pie. I really object to Christmas goods hitting the shelves right after Halloween (and sometimes earlier) but I make an exception for mince pies. Thanks for sharing.

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  26. These look delicious, Kate and Tom! I’m wondering about the orange blossom water though. I’m quite certain I won’t be able to find that locally. Do you think it would be okay to leave it out?

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  27. I’d like to second the above poster asking for more explanation of what is in your mincemeat. I’m from the US (midwest) and I had to look it up on Wikipedia. I’m fairly certain I can’t buy it in stores; can you suggest a recipe similar to what Tom used? The pies look delicious.

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  28. My father is the only one in my family who will touch mincemeat (and does not mind this dubious distinction, as he says it leaves more pie for him)…this recipe looks like it might win some new fans, though. Thanks for sharing it!

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  29. These look fab! My question is the same as that of bluelustrecat: what do you mean by “mincemeat?” Here in the States, what is sold as Mincemeat is usually actually a fruit mix that used to be called Mock-Mince. Thanks.

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  30. These look fantastic! What a wonderful twist on the regular mince pie. My mincemeat is ready, so on this grey and cool Ontario morning I shall be making a batch. Thank you!

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  31. Will be trying my hand at baking these…
    I have a wee grandson named Desmond. He ‘s a sweet boy- not so much a raging storm yet . Cheers from my home in Canada!

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