The Taste Test: Mince Pies
The festive quest for that elusive Perfect Pie is on. ED TAN and his team tell us what’s worth putting on our Christmas Llists, and what’s ho-ho-NO.
Faced with a lack of work and motivation, as well as the ever-growing Christmas excitement, I turned my attention to making sure that I made the best of the Cambridge Christmas, i.e.: extreme levels of mince pie eating. Needless to say, with all the choice available, the problems begin; the good mince pie is an elusive creature, especially when it’s skulking under a liberal quantity of cream.
And so, armed with a large carton of milk, some hungry friends and a load of mince pies , we went taste testing to find out which pies are top. We rounded up six different mince pies from Sainsbury’s, M&S and The Co-Op. The feeling of guilt as I walked around town with a bag full of pies was the only thing that stopped me from trying to go to Waitrose or Tesco’s (so apologies if you feel shunned, but one man can only buy so many pies.)
Leaning Tower of Pies. Ahh…
Marks and Spencers, Classic All Butter Mince Pies, £1.99 for 6
We picked one at random to start with, settling on M&S’ offerings – the only mince pies they had for sale in the store at all. Light and crumbly, the all-butter pastry provided a brilliant partner to the mincemeat within – and wasn’t too sweet, despite our original predictions, nor too dry.
Overall Score: 8.5/10
Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference, Brandy Rich Mince Pies, £2.50 for 6
Tacky, and shit
Despite being a fair bit larger than M&S, the actual appearance of these pies wasn’t too comforting, and looked pretty tacky. Still, nothing was as overpowering as the first bite of the pie, which overwhelmed us with the smell of brandy. Despite the added alcohol, the pastry was dry. Combined with the sticky and stodgy mincemeat, it was a poor combination.
Lots of milk was lost in the eating of this pie, and we mourned its loss.
Sainsbury’s: we tasted the difference, and the difference was clear. The pie’s shit. We’d recommend getting any other mince pie, and then just using brandy cream instead.
Overall Score: 4.5/10
Co-Op, Deep Filled Mince Pies, £1.30 for 6
A Premium Pie?
The underdog in the competition, the Co-Op mince pies proved to be surprisingly tasty and good-looking (probably helped by the dusting of sugar on top). Despite this, though, the dry pastry saw the mince pie self-implode, and the tasty mincemeat could never cancel out such devastation.
Still, bearing in mind its cheaper price and the fact that such a premium type of pie was available, The Co-Op performed fairly impressively.
Overall Score: 5/10
Sainsbury’s, Brandy Buttercream Mince Pies, £2 for 6
Now this was a novel experience: a mince pie with brandy buttercream already on top?!
My most eager companion had dived in before we’d even finished scoring the previous sample. Having hit the fourth mince pie by now, though, we were largely reduced to short sentences. So in summary: “Buttercream good. Good mincemeat. Pastry bad. Chewy.”
Didn’t stop earlier said eager friend from saying this though: “The cream comes off very easily if you squeeze the bottom.” We think she was talking about mince pies…
Overall Score: 5.5/10
Sainsbury’s, SO Organic All Butter Mince Pies, £2.25 for 4
A Posher Pie
The first thing we noticed about these pies was the weight and size, which were significantly larger/heavier than previous ones. The all-butter pastry ended up being the equivalent of a posh shortbread coffin for fairly common mincemeat. One could even complain that it was actually a bit too buttery and sweet.
Despite pastry issues, the sheer size of the pies and their pretty damn good taste netted them a decent score.
Overall Score: 7/10
Sainsbury’s, Bakery Mince Pies, £1 for 4
A late addition to our pie line up, they were described as “pretty standard,” with no big complaints or misgivings. One neighbour ate 18 of them in one weekend, so it’s probably fair to say they’re good.
If you’re a stickler for your moist pastry, these would be a good bet: they’re “fresh” (in comparison to the others), and also relatively cheap.
Overall Score: 6/10
The M&S pies were a clear winner, delivering on taste and appearance in comparison to many of the others, especially the overpriced Sainsbury’s TTD Brandy Rich pies, which were just a disappointment. Having said that, if you love the smell and taste of brandy above a good mince pie you’ll probably be satisfied, if not overjoyed.
In terms of value for money, go for the Sainsbury Bakery mince pies, which are also on offer at the moment with 2 for £2.
Either way: happy eating, and Merry Christmas!