Lighter mince pies – you can enjoy a festive mince pie even if you are trying to cut down on the sweet stuff as these ones have no added sugar, are lower in calories and vegan too! Post sponsored by Splenda.
Mince pies are one of my absolute favourite festive foods; I dread to think how many of them I get through over the festive period! (I actually had my first mince pie of the year in July, at a Christmas in July event!). For me it wouldn’t be Christmas without them, but they are quite high in sugar and fat, and therefore calories; so I’ve come up with this lighter version that cuts down on the sugar and fat whilst still being delicious!
The reason it is possible to cut down on the sugar is due to Splenda – I used it both in the mincemeat filling and in the sweet shortcrust pastry. As well as swapping out the usual sugar for Splenda, I cut down on calories by bulking out the mincemeat with apple, replacing the suet with reduced fat vegetable suet, cutting down the amount of alcohol a little (not out completely – don’t worry!) and replacing the butter in the pastry with a lower fat spread. I used a vegan spread, and because I used vegetable suet in the mincemeat these lighter mince pies also happen to be totally vegan as well as lower calorie – bonus!
Last week I attended a workshop with nutritionist Helen Bond and Splenda to learn all about sugar. Did you know that sweetness is the only flavour that we are born craving? That means that to fight sugar cravings you are literally having to fight against your biology – tough stuff.
We learned about the difference between ‘natural’ and ‘free’ sugars – natural sugars are ones that are intrinsic to the structure of something; so an apple contains sugar, but it is naturally occurring and the apple wouldn’t be an apple without it. ‘Free’ sugars are added sugars, such as the sugar in a cake or a can of Coke. These lighter mince pies contain natural sugars in the form of dried fruits, but have no free/added sugar (except in the dusting of icing sugar that I gave them for photographic purposes – obviously that is optional).
The daily recommended allowance of free sugar is just 30g, about 7tsp; however only 13% of adults meet that recommendation, with the average British adult consuming 60g free sugar every day – double the allowance. An excess of sugar is not just bad because it is so high in calories, but it can also cause tooth decay and lead to type 2 diabetes and obesity; so cutting down on the amount that you consume is clearly a smart move.
I am definitely not the kind of person to go all out and cut out all sugars from my diet, but cutting down a little bit certainly wouldn’t do any harm. Swapping sugar for a low calorie sweetener such as Splenda makes it easy to reduce your sugar intake while still being able to have some sweet treats. The granulated version is heat stable up to 232°C so is perfect for using in place of sugar in recipes, meaning that you can still enjoy your favourite bakes while being a little healthier too.
Lighter Mince Pies
- 85 g (3oz) currants
- 85 g (3oz) raisins
- 85 g (3oz) sultanas
- 85 g (3oz) dried figs chopped
- 50 g (1.75oz) candied mixed peel
- 60 g (2oz) reduced fat vegetable suet
- 3 Tbsp Splenda granulated
- 25 g (1oz) almonds chopped
- 1 small bramley apple (about 200g prepared weight) peeled, cored and finely diced
- 1 tsp mixed spice
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground ginger
- pinch ground cloves
- finely grated zest and juice of 1 large orange
- drop of water as needed
- 3 Tbsp rum or brandy
- 300 g (2 + 1/2 cups) plain (all-purpose) flour
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 160 g (2/3 cup) vegan spread (I used Violife), cold (or cold unsalted butter)
- 2 Tbsp Splenda granulated
- 1-2 Tbsp ice water
To make the mincemeat, place all of the ingredients apart from your choice of alcohol into a pan over a low heat. Cook at a gentle simmer, stirring regularly, for 10 minutes; add a drop of water if the mixture seems too dry.
Remove from the heat and leave to cool until just warm then stir in the alcohol. Cover and refrigerate until needed.
Place the flour and salt in a large bowl and add the spread. rub in with your fingertips until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the Splenda then gradually add ice water, a drop at a time, until the pastry comes together into a ball. Wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for an hour.
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6. Roll the pastry out thinly on a lightly floured surface and use a 9cm round cutter to cut out 12 circles of pastry.
Press the rounds of pastry into a 12 hole muffin tin, they won't come all the way to the top of the cavity. Fill each one with a spoonful of the mincemeat (you won't need all of the mincemeat).
Re-roll the pastry scraps and cut out 12 star shapes. Place a star on top of each pie then bake for 20-25 minutes until pale golden.
Leave the pies to cool in the tin for five minutes then carefully turn them out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
This post is sponsored by Splenda. Thank you for supporting the brands that allow me to continue doing what I love – playing with food and making a mess of my kitchen.