Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Santa-standard baking!

Recipe: Festive mince pies & apricot bakewell tarts!

Time taken: About an hour

Ingredients: A jar of mincemeat, a jar of apricot jam, 400g plain flour, 320g butter, 180g caster sugar, 3 eggs, 40g ground almonds

Hi readers,

This is when all the good stuff kicks off! It’s almost Christmasssssssss! Suddenly, we’re not saving all the food and drink anymore… we can freely hammer the kitchen and get bloody hammered!

I’m a little festive today. Literally, brimming with Christmas cheer! I’m perhaps on par, festive spirit-wise, with Buddy in Elf. And I’ve drunk a LOT of coffee. Plus, we went on a family outing this morning to see the new Hobbit film at the cinema… and it’s immense! Literally, it’s over two hours long and a good 50% of that time is made up of proper Middle Earth battle action!

Men with swords + elves with arrows + dwarves with axes = Orc massacre!! It’s a big blockbuster and definitely well matched to my excitement levels today. We even went 3D!  If you can make it to the cinema to see one more film this year: I thoroughly recommend the Hobbit.

Now I’m home and I’ve launched the Christmas playlist oncemore. You have to, really. Garland, Crosby, Rea… all the Christmas classics have been blasting this Christmas Eve. And me and the Mother Bear having been baking up a festive storm in the kitchen! We’ve been baking mince pies and apricot bakewell tarts (apricot as this is the only flavour of jam that my Mother Bear approves of) to feed to the men over Christmas! And OF COURSE they’re for us too. In fact, did we save the guys many? Any? Hmm…

Sooooo, I’m sharing the magic with you! To bake up your very own mince pies and bakewell tarts (fit for Father Christmas to taste tonight when he’s doing his rounds!) here’s what you do…

1. Heat your oven to 200˚C. Grease a 12-hole bun tin with a little butter. Crack open your Baileys!

2. Measure 375g flour and 260g butter into a large mixing bowl, and rub together with your fingertips until the mix resembles fine breadcrumbs.

3. Add 125g of sugar and 1 egg, and stir it up!

4. When it all starts to come together, use your hands to work the dough into a ball and then tip it out onto a lightly floured surface.

5. Roll the pastry out until it’s a few millimetres thick and then use a large round cutter (or, if you can't find it, a pint glass) to cut out 12 large pastry circles. Press these into each slot of your bun tin.

6. Next, fill 6 of these pastry cases with a teaspoon of mincemeat in each. Use a small round cutter to cut out 6 small circles from your remaining pastry. Pop these over your mincemeat-filled cases, and use your fingertips to press the lids down at the edges, so no mincemeat can bubble out when they are in the oven.

ChefBeHere Top Tip: I take a sharp knife now and score a couple of lines in the top of each lid. I think this is done so that some of the heat can get out of them in the oven. (???) It’s just a tradition, really.

7. Crack an egg into a mug and use a fork to beat it up into a yolky mix. Take a pastry brush and dip it into this mix, then brush over the top of your 6 mince pies. This is to glaze them and make them turn golden when they bake.

8. Clean your mixing bowl and measure into it: 55g butter, 55g sugar, 40g ground almonds and a tablespoon of flour. Crack an egg into the bowl and stir it all up! This is the frangipane mix for your bakewells.

9. Spread a little apricot jam in the bottom of your 6 empty pastry cases then  spoon frangipane over the top of this until the case is full. If you have any pastry left you might want to arrange it over the top in strips or festive shapes (like Christmas trees or holly leaves). Or you can sprinkle flaked almonds over the top, if you have any to hand. Or just leave them as they are.

10. Safely transport into the oven to bake for about 20 minutes. They should all turn golden on top and your bakewells might rise (although ours didn't much) and then they’re ready to come out! Leave your lovely pastries on the side to cool in their tin for half an hour, then transfer onto a plate. Dust with icing sugar (so they look like they’ve been out in the snow) and serve them up!

ChefBeHere Top Tip: Remember to save Father Christmas the bestest, biggest mince pie for when he visits tonight. This is of vital importance.
And here’s me and the Mother Bear’s baking while cooling

I’m quite proud of us, really! I’m literally shaking today with caffeine and Christmas excitement and my mum’s had a loooot of jobs she’s been working through this morning (really, it’s mad, she’s driven her Mr into work, been out Christmas food shopping, cleaned the house from top to bottom, worn the dog out on a big walk, given the bird’s cage a festive spruce, welcomed next door’s new born baby to the world… she’s a woman on a mission this Christmas Eve!) but we both got it together for some solid mother-daughter baking time today.
Fast forward a couple of decades... and we're still larking around together!

And, god, we did a good job! Our pastries taste like THE BOMB. Unbelievably, eating one of these mince pies just now, I realised it’s only my second one of the whole Christmas! And the first one was sadly shop bought (and eaten in sub-zero temperatures in an outdoor marquee following the CU Carol Service at uni… I could barely feel my lips at the time) so this was a far merrier mince pie experience! They taste incredible! Just pure butter and stodge and Christmas spirit. I love it!

So PLEASE go warm their hearts and treat your family. Bake them up a batch of Christmassy pies and tarts to munch over the next few days. They will love you more when you do. And OBVIOUSLY you can’t be leaving any shop bought fodder out for Father Christmas later! He’s going to be so busy tonight he needs the real deal! A proper homemade mince pie, please!

Readers, I wish you the best of luck in the kitchen baking up a storm. And here’s wishing you a very merry Christmas Day tomorrow! Have a warm, wonderful time with your family.

Take care this Christmas,



  1. I had the pleasure of tasting a seasonal apricot bakewell :-) chefbehere and i have to say it was festively outstanding. Merry Christmas for all the readers of Hayleys blog and a prosperous new year !! X

    1. Thank you very much Rachelmum! You have fun eating up the last of our pastries :D xx