We had the first snowfall of the year on Tuesday, but snowflakes began falling Monday night. It would be nice to have some photos of the little winter wonderland the white blanket created, but sadly, and as West Coast weather goes, it was quick to fade as a heavy cloud of rain brewed above and quickly washed away the beauty which everyone kept commenting on. And which also caused numerous problems as last year, as if snow is once again something so unknown and mysterious to each and everyone of us.
But it sure feels that way with the amount of excitement building, especially this close to Christmas and with everyone in such a good mood. It's the possibility of a White Christmas.
It was good timing for the island to be encompassed by the comforting, wintry, weather. My sister arrived last weekend, and with the entire family home, it was the perfect family picture. (However, none were taken as I battled the last week of school - and teachers trying to fit last minute projects in - while my sister and her boyfriend fit as many Vancouver activities into their week together here as they could.)
I had a sense of déjà vu as I started writing this post out in my head, almost as if I'd pictured writing each sentence, each comparison to my entranced state from falling white specks, a million times with every snowflake that fell each year. As if every snowfall was a new experience.
Each time, as I again imagine the whitened fields and snow tiered trees, I also picture the road to my best friends house awash in white. It's the postcard image of winter, a long road, which often isn't plowed after heavy snowfalls, with rows of evergreen trees weighed down heavily and lined neatly alongside the road. Her house, sitting amidst a large field, often has at least 1 foot of snow when my house has only 1 or 2 centimeters.
I remember one year, it must have been my first year if high school, when the snow fell just as the festivities for Christmas began: the Christmas Craft Fair. Usually we spent the entire day wandering the craft tables and helping out with or parents shopping by exclaiming,
"Ooh! Look at this!"
Or, "Can I get this...?"
However, this year as we entered the gymnasium lined with tables and ornamental figurines on display to sell, little snowflakes drifted slowly down. It then became our duty to check frequently on the levels of rising whiteness outside, until that memorable moment came. After forgetting our patrol outside for sometime, minds filled with laughter and excitement from the cake walk and other festive treats inside, we finally returned outside to find more than a foot of soft, powdery snow.
It was then that we headed for the small embankment off the side of the school, where we were usually forced to steered clear from in fear of angered school teachers who would exclaim the low level of safety we risked by stepping one foot on the muddy, steep, and above all, crumbling, hill. Despite a road, with a cement fence, built just on top of the hill.
In nothing more than sweaters, and some of us in light shoes suited for dryer weather, we slid down the hill on our backs and stomachs, delighting in the thrill as the run became icier and faster with each person's turn. We were un-deterred by the cold, and warmed by the happiness of tumbling down a fast track made of snow and ice, surrounded by determined snowflakes and an island awash in winter paradise, we were unscathed by bumps and bruises by the slide down, and instead remained entirely exhilarated whether we felt the wet and cold or not.
I made mince pies today, a Christmas family tradition which we make every year for our annual Christmas Eve party. However, as mum baked a batch of the regular mince pies, I was motivated to try my hands at gluten-free pastry, and these indulgent little sweets.
It was definitely more time consuming, the pastry had to be played with and encouraged into form, and peeling it from the wax paper after rolling was one of the hardest parts. I wanted those little little pies though, so I kept going, repeating the cutting and peeling and placing process until I had twelve uncooked pastry pies sitting in a muffin tin, and were ready to be baked.
Traditional Gluten-Free Mince Pies
Print recipe here.
The buttery pastry is almost melt in your mouth delicious, and with the sweet n' spicy flavours of the mincemeat these are truly a Christmas delicacy.
Makes approximately 16 mince pies.
400 g gluten-free flour mix (I don't recommend using coconut flour in this mix, as it will just soak up all the moisture and leave the pies dry and crumbly.)
1 tsp salt
200 g chilled butter
I recommend cubing the measured amount of butter needed and placing it in the freezer for 10 minutes or so, to make sure it is extra cold when added to the flour. The trick is cold ingredients!
approximately 16 tbsp mincemeat
milk for brushing
Preheat the oven to 415°F and start by greasing a muffin tin with butter, and sprinkling with a bit of gluten-free flour mix.
In a food processor, combine the flour mix and salt. Pulse once, quickly.
Add in the butter and blend until the dough begins to form together into a large ball. If this does not occur, it may be due to the conditions of the air in your kitchen, pour a tiny amount of water in and pulse again.
Using two pieces of parchment paper for this next part, remove the dough from the processor and divide into two halves. Place one half on one piece of the parchment and layer the other piece of parchment paper on top. Roll out the dough through the paper until its approximately 0.5 cm thick.
Remove the top layer of parchment paper and cut out enough large circles with a cookie cutter. You may need to repeat the process of rolling and cutting a few times to fill the muffin tray. The cut outs should come up the sides of the muffin cups.
It may be easier to use slightly wet hands to peel the dough from the parchment paper to avoid it sticking to your hands, but it should not be wet.
With a tablespoon, scoop mincemeat into each pie so that a small amount sits in the centre of the cut dough.
With the other half of the dough, roll it out again as before, however, use a smaller sized circular cookie cutter to shape the lid of the mince pies. Place the smaller pieces atop the mincemeat and bottom so that the edges reach the side of the muffin cup.
When all are filled, use a fork to score all the way around the sides of the pies, and score once in the centre.
Pour a small amount of milk into a bowl, and using a little cooking brush, paint the tops of the pies with milk.
Place in the centre of the oven and bake for 20 minutes. The tops of the pies should be golden brown from the milk coating.
Labels: baking, butter, Christmas, gluten-free, holidays, mince, mincemeat, pastry, pies, snow, spice, winter