Mince pie

An old-fashioned favourite, packed with fruit and spices

If ever there’s a time for eschewing modern innovations and basking instead in old traditions, it’s Christmas: essentially one great big festival of rose-hued nostalgia. With mince pies, though, the traditional approach can sometimes be taken a little too far.

Until the 19th century, the primary component of mince pies was, well, mince: ground or finely chopped meat, paired with spices and fruit. A delicious combination, undoubtedly, but one with fairly niche appeal among today’s Christmas revellers.

Bread Ahead is this year taking an old-fashioned approach to this time-honoured Christmas treat, but not one that involves a visit to the butcher. “It’s a proper, rustic looking thing,” says Matt Jones of his head baker Justin’s mince pies at Bread Ahead. We say Justin’s, but they’re really his mother’s. “He makes them to his mum’s recipe.”

Enormous, buttery bowler hats
They’re beefy, but only in the metaphorical sense of the word—enormous, buttery bowler hats of shortcrust pastry atop a dark, fragrantly rich well of currants and citrus rind.

“The citrus fruits are from Turnips,” says Matt. Oranges and lemons are reduced to bright streaks, then blended with nutmeg, dried fruit and brandy—a very generous quantity. Not that this stopped us adding Ivy House brandy butter from Neal’s Yard Dairy after we’d heated the pie. “If you get to the stall just after 10, they’ll still be warm,” Matt advises: Justin makes them between nine and 10 each morning.

Matt likes his on its own, with a cuppa—and indeed, the pastry is buttery enough and the mincemeat juicy enough for this pie to stand up without any indulgent accompaniments. Still: it is Christmas time. There’s no need to be afraid of too much luxury—and there’s nothing like liquor-enriched, calorie-laced accompaniments to spread a smile of joy.