I think there are two things I manage to do every December: blog about cookies and collect for Salvation Army’s little red bucket. I don’t know that I’ll collect for the Salvation Army this year, but I will be blogging about cookies. In a big way! Now through Christmas, I’m going to be posting “recipes’ of holiday cookies from bloggers, librarians and authors. “Recipes” because I’ll be posting recipes for making cookies from scratch, how to make a better cookie from a mix or refrigerator dough or where to find a special cookie at a certain bakery. And, they’re ‘holiday’ cookies, not Christmas cookies. It’s all about the joy of the cookie and special memories brought together as the winter weather slows us down, the year winds down and cookies and a beverage are just the thing!
My sister and I will be doing our annual cookies and cocktails next weekend! I think we’ll be sipping grasshoppers as we make things like oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, peppermint bark candy and I’m not sure what else. I just know it will be lots and lots of sisterly fun!
I’m still collecting cookie posts, but I really think you’ll enjoy the one’s I’ve collected like this first one from Malaika Rose Stanley. Malaika is a Children’s writer, author of Skin Deep, Spike and Ali Enson, Miss Bubble’s Troubles and more. She’s currently a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at London College of Fashion. She shares here about one of her favorite Christmas books and a recipe for Mince Pies. I remember Mince Pies from when I was a little girl! My dad liked them and they probably reminded him of his mom who was from London.
~From Malaika Rose Stanley
One of the earliest stories about Christmas that I remember reading is The Story of Holly and Ivy by Rumer Godden, first published in 1958 – although it has been reprinted many times since and was adapted as an animated film called The Wish That Changed Everything in 1991 It probably says quite a lot about me that my other childhood favourites include Heidi by Johanna Spyri and The Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. As a children’s author, my current tastes are for stories altogether edgier but even today, The Story of Holly and Ivy still evokes the magic of Christmas with a charming and nostalgic story about a lonely orphan, a doll without an owner and a woman with a Christmas tree and no one to enjoy it.
And for me, nothing evokes the taste of Christmas more than Mince Pies. These are small, individual shortcrust pastry cases filled with mincemeat. These days, the filling contains no meat and is actually made from minced fruit: raisins, currants, cherries, sultanas, apricots, candied citrus peel, apples, walnuts or almonds, mixed spices and sometimes a splash of brandy or rum.
Ready-made pies are available in the USA as well as the UK and even though many families bake home-made pies, the filling still usually comes out of a jar!
Mince pies have been part of British Christmas celebrations since the 17th century when the pies contained shredded meat or suet made from beef or mutton fat, as well as fruit. European crusaders returned from the Middle East with spices – cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves – which were added to Christmas pies to represent the three gifts given to the Christ child.
Traditions and Superstitions
- On Christmas Eve, children leave out a mince pie and a glass of milk for Santa Claus
- The mincemeat mixture should only be stirred in a clockwise direction to avoid bad luck
- Make a wish while eating the first mince pie of the festive season – and always eat them in silence
- Eat a mince pie on each of the 12 days of Christmas, ending with Epiphany on 6th January to bring good luck for the New Year
- To avoid bad luck, never refuse the offer of a mince pie or cut them with a knife
- A star on the top of the mince pies represents the Christmas star that led the Magi and Shepherds to Bethlehem
- ‘Mince pies’ is London cockney rhyming slang expression for ‘eyes’ – but although I live in London, I have never heard anyone use it
Recipe for Malaika’s Really Easy Mince Pies
225g (8 ounces) cold butter, diced
350g 12 ounces) plain flour
100g (3½ ounces) sugar
280g (10 ounces) mincemeat
1. To make the pastry, rub the butter into the flour until it resembles bread crumbs. Mix in the sugar and a pinch of salt. Combine the pastry into a ball – don’t add liquid – and knead it briefly. The dough should be firm to the touch. It can be used immediately or chilled in the fridge for later.
2. Preheat the oven to 200° C, 392° F or gas mark 6. Line 18 holes of two 12-hole bun tins by pressing small walnut-sized balls of pastry into each hole. If desired, mix a few drops of brandy or rum into the mincemeat and spoon the mixture into the pastry cases.
3. Take slightly smaller balls of pastry than before and pat them out between your hands to make round lids, big enough to cover the pies. Top the pies with their lids, pressing the edges gently together to seal. The pies can be store in the freezer for up to a month or baked immediately.
4. Brush the tops of the pies with the beaten egg. Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown. Leave to cool in the baking tin for 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack. They can be stored for up to 5 days in an airtight container.
Lightly dust with icing sugar or serve hot with ice cream, cream or custard – the traditional British sort, of course.