On Friday night, I had the pleasure of attending Bread Ahead‘s mince pie masterclass, courtesy of my friend Felicity. Bread Ahead is a bakery and school set up by Matt Jones (founder of Flour Power), situated in the heart of Borough Market, London. Together with co-owner Justin Gellatly (former Head Baker at St John’s Bakery) and seasoned baking tutor Aidan Chapman (‘Bread Guru’ at River Cottage, as seen on Channel 4), they aim to create a centre of excellence for real artisan baking.
Bread Ahead has a bread stall in Borough Market and they opened their bakery school in February 2014, offering a wide range of baking experiences for the beginner to the expert baker. Classes include everything from An Introduction To Sourdough to a Patisserie Workshop, Nordic Baking to Gluten Free Baking.
When I arrived on Friday night, I was warmly greeted and offered tea or coffee while I waited for the rest of the class to arrive. Our working area was all set up and soon we were all standing at our stations with our aprons on, ready to bake.
Our tutors for the night were Aiden Chapman and Louise Gellatly (Justin’s wife) who talked us through each step of the process. Aiden began by explaining how they make their mincemeat. As it takes a good amount of time, we were using a batch they had made earlier.
The recipe they use for mince pies is Justin’s mother’s recipe which has been passed down through the generations. It includes the mincemeat which they have been ‘feeding’ with booze for months. If you want to try out this recipe but you don’t have time to make the mincemeat, you can of course use shop-bought, either straight from the jar or you can customise it yourself, adding more of what you like. If you are using your own or shop bought, jump straight to the pastry part of the recipe.
For the mincemeat
500g cooking apples
500g dark brown sugar
zest & juice of 4 lemons
zest & juice of 4 oranges
125g nibbed or flaked almonds
3tbsp ground mixed spice
2tbsp ground cinnamon
2tsp grated nutmeg
50ml dark rum
For the pie crust
375g strong plain bread flour, plus extra for dusting
225g cold unsalted butter, cubed, plus extra for greasing
150g caster sugar
1 whole egg
1 egg yolk
1 egg, beaten, to glaze
2tbsp demerara sugar
First make the mincemeat (or you can of course buy some!). Peel and core the cooking apples and chop them into small dice, then put them into a very large bowl, big enough to fit all the ingredients in. Add all the ingredients (except the brandy and rum) into the bowl and mix together. Cover then leave overnight in a cool place (not the fridge).
Preheat the oven to 120°C/100°C Fan/250°F/Gas ½.
Place the mincemeat mixture into a large, deep roasting tray. Cover with foil and put into the oven for about 1 hour, stirring every 20 minutes. Once baked, take out of the oven and cool for about 30 minutes. Stir in the brandy and rum and place in sterilised jars.
Next make the pie crust. Put the flour, butter and caster sugar into a large mixing bowl and mix together with your fingers as you would when making a crumble. When the mixture resembles breadcrumbs, add the egg and egg yolk and slowly mix in.
Bring the dough together with your hands, then when its silky and smooth, flatten a little, wrap in clingfilm (plastic wrap) or greaseproof paper and place in the fridge for 3-4 hours or overnight. (As we were in a class ours were only in the fridge for about 30 minutes).
Once properly chilled, butter and flour a 12-hole deep muffin tray. Take the pastry out of the fridge and let it soften for about 1½ hours, then roll it out on a floured surface to 5-6mm thick. (As our pastry was only in the fridge for about 30 minutes, we rolled ours straight away).
Using a 10cm cutter, cut out 12 circles for the base of the pies, re-rolling when necessary. Re-roll the pastry again, then using a 7cm cutter, cut out 12 circles for the tops. (This pastry was surprisingly pliable and robust).
Line the holes in the muffin tray with the larger circles of pastry, making sure there is about 1-2mm of overhang.
Grab some of the mincemeat mixture, enough to form a ball about the size of a golf ball, roll it between your hands then place into each pastry case.
Place the smaller circles of pastry on top of each pastry case and push down around the mincemeat mixture and tuck them in.
Fold the extra overhang over the top circle of pastry and brush the top of each pie with eggwash.
Sprinkle with demerara sugar and leave to rest in the oven for 2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 160°C/140°C Fan/320°F/Gas 3 and bake the pies for about 40 minutes, until golden brown.
Once out of the oven, leave them in the tin for about 5 minutes, then take them out carefully, releasing them all the way round first with a small palette or cutlery knife. Place on a wire rack to cool, although they are best served warm straight away or cooled and re-warmed later. They store well in an airtight container for about 2 weeks.
We all left the class with a box packed full of 12 mince pies and one frangipane and mincemeat tart. As I sat on the tube on my way home, my lap being warmed by the hot mince pies inside the box, the smell of pastry and Christmas spices filled the carriage. I couldn’t wait to get home so I could tuck in.
The mince pies were still warm when I got home so I added a dollop of extra thick cream and curled up on the sofa to savour it.
I must admit, I’m not normally a huge fan of mince pies but these really were delicious. The pastry was sweet, crunchy and beautifully crumbly and the filling was sticky, fruity and full of Christmas spice.
I really enjoyed this class and I would love to try out a couple of their other classes. If you would like attend one of Bread Ahead’s courses and workshops, click here to see the list of what they offer. Or you can contact them on firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.