- To make the pastry, add the flour, sugar, butter and zest to a food processor and blitz until it forms fine crumbs. With the motor running, pour in the egg so that the mixture starts to clump together – if it seems too dry, add 1-2 tsp cold water to help it bind.
- Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead briefly to form a smooth ball. Wrap the dough in cling film and chill for at least 30 minutes to firm up (the pastry can be chilled for up to 3 days before use, or frozen for up to 1 month, defrost fully before using).
- Meanwhile, make the mincemeat. Peel and grate the apples into a large bowl, add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Cover and chill for 30 minutes (if making ahead, transfer to sterilised jars and store in the fridge for up to 3 months – this makes a larger batch than you will need for this recipe, so can be used throughout Christmas for traditional mince pies and other recipes).
- When ready to bake, roll out the chilled pastry on a lightly floured work surface to the thickness of a £1 coin. Stamp out 36 rounds (re-rolling the trimmings if needed) with a 4cm fluted pastry cutter and press into the holes of a mini tart tin (you may need to cook in batches).
- Add a teaspoon of the mincemeat filling to each case then chill the tray(s) for 20 minutes to allow the pastry to firm up again.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/Fan 160°C/Gas 4. Bake the pies for 10-15 minutes or until the pastry is crisp and golden. Allow to cool for a few minutes in the tin before transferring to a wire rack to cool (these can be stored for up to 5 days in an airtight container).
- To make the brandy cream topping, whisk the double cream, brandy and icing sugar together in a large bowl until just starting to thicken. Gently fold in the mascarpone until smooth and transfer to a piping bag, chill in the fridge until ready to serve (can be made up to 1 day ahead).
- To serve, pipe a swirl of the brandy cream onto each pie and finish with a grating of fresh nutmeg or sprinkle of ground cinnamon.
Tips: The pastry and mincemeat recipes are easier to make in large batches, so you may have more than you need but they can both be kept in the fridge or freezer and used in other recipes. To make things even easier during the hectic party season, use a jar of good quality mincemeat instead.