Anthony Kumnick only started baking two years ago, but in that short time he has perfected his recipe for Christmas mince pies. The former farmer and butcher claims the secret to a great tasting fruit mince pie is to look no further than neighbouring farms.
In his compact Great Western Granary bakery in the Grampians, Kumnick lifts 20 kilograms of wheat into a small, benchtop flour mill. The grain was grown on a friend's biodynamic farm 40 minutes to the north. The wholemeal flour is mixed with eggs from a neighbouring farm and butter from a boutique dairy to make the dough for the crust.
This is filled with dried fruit grown near the Murray River, soaked in brandy from a nearby winery, mixed with suet from the local butcher and finished with citrus zest from Kumnick's neighbour's trees.
"The only thing not Australian is the spice," he says.
At a time of the year when supermarkets are flooded with machine-made fruit mince tarts imported from the UK (Coles) and New Zealand (Woolworths and Aldi), Kumnick is baking just 2000 little pies, all made by hand.
He sees himself as part of a "fraternity" of small independent bakers, including RedBeard in Trentham, who are creating a loose network and sharing ideas, methods and techniques in what has traditionally been an industry of jealously guarded secrets.
They embrace the local and reject the use of commodity ingredients, especially imported product. The result for the consumer is a selection of extremely high quality mince pies to celebrate the festive season.
Kumnick also bakes bread and pastries such as coffee scrolls flavoured with native spice cinnamon myrtle. He doesn't sell the bread himself, preferring to wholesale to surrounding general stores.
"More and more the general store is becoming the lifeblood of country towns," he says. "People, especially after COVID, are realising that community and keeping the local economy going is essential for everyone. It's about people working together."
Great Western Granary fruit mince pies are available from viccountrymarket.com.au, $18.45 for six.
More cracking local mince pies for Christmas
"These are mince pies made with love," says chef Tracey Lister, whose Brunswick cooking school has pivoted to a production kitchen. Here she bakes exquisite mince pies filled with fruit, candied peel and glace cherries soaked in brandy and English breakfast tea. Acclaimed chef turned lawyer Emma MacKay is moonlighting on pastry duties.
$16 for six, brunswickkitchen.com.au
Every Christmas, for over a quarter of a century, baker Phillippa Grogan has been producing consistently good mince pies. "Freshly ground spice is essential," she says. "That way the spice retains the essential oils and you don't risk getting spice cut with nut shells and the like." Her secret six-spice mix includes cinnamon and cardamom giving an aromatic punch to the organic fruit and house-made candied orange peel cupped in a rich, buttery shortcrust pastry. Available at various speciality food stores and Phillippa's bakeries in Melbourne.
$17.90 for six, phillippas.com.au
In an old woodfired Scotch oven, baker John Reid bakes large mince pies filled with sun muscats, sultanas and currants grown in an organic vineyard near Swan Hill. This fruit is soaked in brandy for six months and spooned into dough shells made with flour milled from rosella wheat, a heritage variety once popular for cakes and biscuits, and mixed with Lard Ass cultured butter from the Bellarine Peninsula.
$18 for four, redbeardbakery.com.au
Beautiful golden pies made with wholegrain sable pastry that has a lovely nutty aroma. They're filled with organic Australian fruit and dotted with candied cumquats soaked in mead, fermented using honey from the owner's farm. Baked by former Tivoli Road head chef Charlie Duffy, you can pick them up from Small Batch Cellar Door, a coffee roaster and providore down a cobbled lane in North Melbourne.
$24 for six, smallbatch.com.au