Like the Cream Egg at Easter, mince pies only rear their fruity little heads once a year. The tastier cousin of Christmas Pudding (the worst of all festive creations), they come in all shapes and sizes and by tradition we eat them for approximately one month and then happily forget about them until the next Christmas.
Either by force or by choice we eat and sometimes enjoy them, normally by adding healthy dollops of cream or brandy butter. But with so much choice out there, which do we choose?
To help answer this critical Christmas question I enlisted the help of 6 BrandPie mince pie experts, each picked for their impeccable palates and superior Christmas expertise.
Four categories were chosen to judge the Mince Pies on:
- First impression: When you look at the pie does it promise a mouthful of 'Christmas'. Does it look like it's just come out of Mum's oven or is it sad and uninspiring?
- Pastry: light and buttery? Heavy and cloying? Soggy Bottom? Is the crust nicely browned but not burnt? Is it just right? It's personal after all.
- Pie filling rich, sweet, a full bounty of yummyness? Or just a thin disappointing layer of gloop?
- Overall impression: Do you want another one? Or would you rather eat reindeer droppings?
We then chose 5 different mince pies to be put through their pie paces.
- Tesco crumbly short crust pastry mince pies
- Heston’s Waitrose spiced short crust mince pies
- Fortnum and Mason’s Three King’s Mince Pie Medley
- Kipling deep filled mince pies
- Waitrose all butter mince pies
None of the tasters knew where these pies had come from. The only judgements they could make were through their eyes and taste buds. They wrote down their comments and scores and from that we have taken an overall average to determine the winner.
The results are as follows:
Tesco crumbly short crust pastry mince pies, arguably an absolute steal at £0.89. The first impression round threw up some low scores. Extra points were given for sprinklings of sugar and buttery pastry but overall our tasters found it underwhelming. For pastry and filling the scores were nothing but average, our tasters found it to be a bit hard and only one they “would eat it if there was no other choice”. Another taster commented “It looks as mean as a King without a present for baby Jesus”, so this pie won’t wow any Christmas guests, maybe it should be kept on standby for any unexpected carol singers.
Next up was Heston’s offering - the disruptor of mince pies and food as we know it. Naturally it looked nothing like a mince pie, classic Heston. It was a spongey creation with a tangerine dusting on top. There’s a place for Tangerines and it’s in the fruit bowl, not on the top of a non-mince pie. Our tasters didn’t even classify this as a pie, it’s a cake. There’s no pastry which means no thick edges to use as a holding device for your Christmas treat. The funny spicy aftertaste and lack of any resemblance of a mince pie made one of our tasters quite frankly furious. At £3.50 it’s slightly pricier than its Tesco competitor, it may look suave and sophisticated but our tasters agree it just doesn’t taste like Christmas.
Now, surely Fortnum & Mason would combine tradition with a high class tasting experience? The pies are covered in gold, which really gives the wow factor, they even contain Frankincense. Maybe these pies will be fit for a king. Or is the lack of myrrh a huge oversight that will let them down in the long run? Firstly, these pies are huge. There’s nothing bite size about them. One poorly angled bite and you could end up with crumbs or even worse filling all over Granny’s cream carpet. On top of that Fortnum’s are as mean as a packet of Walker’s crisps - half full. We don’t want to eat air Fortnums, we want to eat delicious filling. It all went down hill for this pie, post the gold dusting. There was so much soggy pastry you could “pave the streets with it” and the £13.95 price tag was nothing more than daylight robbery, an emergency purchase at best.
The next pie, the Mr Kipling, took our tasters back to their childhood, decorated in Holly and Ivy it exuded fun and tradition. Yummy, light crumbly pastry with a large dose of filling, is this the mince pie we have all been looking for? Sure, some of our tasters were underwhelmed, it was a predictable pie – a nice balance of flavours and crust, it was nothing special. But for some this is all they had wanted, placed in “the premier league of pies”, leaving the majority of our tasters wanting more, at £1.50 they can have as many as they like.
Our final mince pie was from Waitrose. Good old Waitrose, everything just tastes better from there, right? Wrong. First and foremost, it stank of booze and there were no decorations to be seen, only a plain, boring, perfectly produced pie. Boring. We concluded that this was the Ford Mondeo of mince pies, biting into this mince pie is the equivalent of getting coal in your stocking.
It seems that fancier pies and larger price tags result in poor quality and a pie trying to be something its not. Mince pies should be exactly what we expect them to be. Crusty crumbly vessels of Christmas goodness. The scores on the doors say it all, whilst not the most glamorous of choices Mr.K knows how to make a great mince pie.