CHRISTMAS preparations are getting earlier every year, so here we are in November ready to crown the 2019 Top 8 mince pies.
No matter how many we sample, there’s no denying the huge difference between pies by bakers freshly made every few days, and those mass produced.
The additives and types of fats needed for long shelf life results in a heavy style of pastry. We rejected many of them while compiling our final list.
They do improve with heating, but make sure this is done in the oven or in front of the fire. Microwaves for pastry are, in the words of Strictly’s Craig Revel Horwood “a disaster dahling”.
Mince pies can easily be made at home. You can make shortcrust pastry quickly in a blender, ine tins, and fill with your own or bought mincemeat, but really, if you haven’t made mincemeat by now, you may as well buy it.
Add a teaspoon of orange liqueur, brandy, port or whiskey to it and keep for a few days to make it your own.
Bought flaky of puff pastry is delicious and can be cut into triangles before filling.
For extra deliciousness, add slices of apple to the fruit. Dust with icing sugar flavoured with cinnamon, or a little granulated sugar.
Prepare days ahead and keep cool for finishing in the oven for a Christmas Day brunch treat with coffee.
ABC €1.50 (box of 12 €16)
Thickly drenched in icing sugar, these pies were tops with tasters. Tasty, light pastry, filled to the brim with juicy fruit, including apple.
Delicious and good value, especially in what has become its iconic triangular box.
For €3 you can have a treat of a warmed up pie with cream or brandy butter at the stall in Cork’s English Market.
Hassetts Bakery €1.50 each €7 for box of five
Available in an attractive gift box, the light, slightly flaky pastry, has a sugary sheen finish and is flavoursome too.
A fairly flat style of pie, and none the worse for that, there’s nothing mean about them and they are good value. Plump fruit fills the case nicely.
In Carrigaline shop, Douglas and Blackpool shopping centres and English Market stall,Cork.
The Cinnamon Cottage €2.95 each
Attractive, sugar crafted gold stars top a delicious ground almond and biscuit layer on top of plump fruit with just the right amount of top quality festive mixed peel.
The pastry case is particularly light and tasty.
A satisfying, comfort pie which could be shared. From the Rochestown bakery/deli, Cork.
Heavens Cakes €2 each
Topped with crumble, this has plenty of plump fruit underneath, including decent slices of apple, and a little warm spicing for a home cooked feel. The pastry case is light and tasty.
Lishh €6.50 for 6
Though established in 2012 this outlet was new to us this year.
These flat-style pies have lots of nicely crumbly pastry, top and bottom, and an unspicy filling which most tasters liked.
From Dosco Industrial Estate, South Douglas Road, Cork.
Lidl 39c each, five for €1.50
For the price, these fare well with tasty enough pastry enclosing a decent amount of fruit. Best warmed up.
Foods of Athenry Starry Mince Pies €5
Four pies in a box are vegan friendly, dairy, gluten and wheat free. Nicely crumbly pastry is made from rice, potato, tapioca and buckwheat flours, and margarine is the fat.
The result is not as dry tasting as wheat-free flours often are, and a decent amount of filling offsets it nicely.
Apple purée, grated fresh carrot, dates, cherries, almonds and walnuts provide texture and juiciness with the dried fruit. A good result.
Aldi specially selected Black Forest crumble €2.69
Six pies to a box have a nice Morello cherry (not glacé) addition to dried fruit and apple purée with a little kirsch liqueur which give the fruit a richness. Unusually, the tasty pastry has added chocolate.
The finish is a dusting of dark chocolate and ground oats. For those who fancy Black Forest gateau flavours in another form.