What can I do with mincemeat apart from make mince pies?
Tom, New Forest
If you’re going to stray from the mince pie, Tom, you need to do so with conviction – you want a bake with its own identity. Luckily, mincemeat is a versatile thing, so you have options. “You should look at it like a condiment,” says Sarah Lemanski, co-owner and creative director of Nova Bakehouse in Leeds, “and use it in any place you would jam.”
This approach, she says, has the bonus of (possibly) convincing any mince-pie sceptics. “A lot of people either love or hate the intensity of all that mincemeat,” Lemanski says, “but distributing it through something else completely changes its profile.” Topping her nice list is babka (layer the mincemeat into the sweet dough before braiding) and a mincemeat bread-and-butter pudding, while Shaheen Peerbhai, chef/owner of London boulangerie and patisserie Miel Bakery, stays on brand with brioche: “Mix in 15-18% of the dough’s weight in mincemeat.”
Lemanski then heads farther off-piste with thoughts of giving the classic summer pudding a winter makeover, although that’s something she’s yet to try. Instead of filling the old-fashioned pud with the usual berry suspects, she envisions mincemeat bulked out with nuts and seasonal fruits, such as chopped apples.
Cakes are also good companions to mincemeat. “Take a good, moist bundt recipe, put the mix in the tin, add a layer of mincemeat, then a thick layer of crumble,” Peerbhai says. For the crumble, she uses equal parts flour and demerara sugar and 40% butter. Alternatively, try a gateau Basque, putting a layer of mincemeat on the base, then custard on top. “It will take away some of the [mincemeat’s] intensity,” Lemanski says.
For ultimate Christmas vibes, Lemanski swirls mincemeat through brownie batters. As well as giving that boozy kick, it also makes for a more fudgy texture, especially, she says, “if you blitz the mincemeat a little”. For a standard 9cm x 13cm sheet pan, use 150g mincemeat (although Lemanski admits to “pushing for more”), incorporate some into the batter, then splodge the rest on top. “You want to make sure that every single brownie square gets a bit of the mincemeat.”
Just like leftover Christmas pudding, mincemeat and ice-cream is a killer combo. For a cool yule (sorry), Peerbhai infuses cream and milk with mincemeat for her creme anglaise base; strain the mix before churning, then put the raisins and co back in later. “It’s really important to use a thermometer to make creme anglaise,” she warns. “You need to make sure it reaches 83C – one degree lower, and your ice-cream won’t be as thick, creamy or unctuous.”
For any purists standing firm, consider mixing up your mince-pie pastry, Lemanski suggests. “Keep it sweet shortcrust, but maybe incorporate some additional spices, ground nuts or a small proportion of wholemeal flour for character. . Christmas is, of course, a time for copious chocolate, so some ground cacao nibs seems an eminently sensible idea, too. “Try Pump Street’s, which have this fruity, almost boozy profile. It will really elevate your mince pies.”
• Do you have a culinary dilemma? Email firstname.lastname@example.org