Top 8 mince pies: We tried them all so you don't have to

Top 8 mince pies: We tried them all so you don't have to

Picture: iStock 

IN past years, I have met intrepid mince pie watchers who travel using this listing to test mince pies for themselves — often an excuse to get out with a friend. This year, they may not be able to travel far, but many bakeries will deliver to you, or offer a click-and-collect service.

Before deciding where to shop, use this page to help make your selection. However, I suggest you try all of our Top 8. We tasted far more (and still probably missed quite a few as they had not been produced in time for our testing), but if they made the Top 8, they were very good.

This year, continuing our support of Irish-made products, we had plenty of choice. Not many large-chain mince pies were made in Ireland, but we did find one. The best of the imports found its place here too.

Over the next few weeks you will find great mince pies in markets and delis (many prefer not to produce before December), so keep them in mind too.

While some producers end up in our Top 8 from year to year, we do change tasters who as usual sample blind.

The new tasters found the task interesting but challenging.

Mince pies have fat in the pastry and lots of sugars in the filling, so try to stick to one as a treat, and enjoy it to the full.

Diva Boutique Bakery 

€3 each €15 for 6

Outstanding inhouse flaky pastry was the common remark with filling agreed as one of the most interesting of samples. Fruit has added sparkling apple juice, brandy, almonds, caramelised apple, cinnamon, ginger and clove – delicious in contrast to the tasty pastry. Not a traditional pie, but all the better for it. From Diva Ballinspittle, Urru Bandon, NeighbourFood Timoleague. Pre-order online divaboutiquebakery.com

Score: 9

The Roughty Foodie 

€1.50 each €7 for 6

A good size for smaller appetites, this has deliciously buttery pastry in good balance with flavoursome, traditional, tangy fruity filling. Made in West Cork. Available at the English Market, Cork.

Score: 8.5

ABC Bakery 

€1.50 each €8.50 for 6 

“Looks seasonally gorgeous” was one taster’s remark of this generous pie. The pastry is nicely soft and encloses a generous amount of deliciously juicy fruit which has some small apple chunks. Low-level spiciness doesn’t overpower the good bite of vibrant fruit. Ratio of pastry to fruit is ideal. Good value and could be shared. Available at the English Market, Cork, and selected Dunnes Stores with ABC stands.

Score: 8.75

Daisy Cottage Farm 

€5.50 per box

In boxes of 6 each, tasters were impressed with the gluten-free as well as regular shortcrust. Also in (12) mini sized (pictured). Good, soft, tasty pastry has a generous amount of juicy, traditional filling. Topped with almond pastry. Good value. This bakery was established by Lorraine Aspill in 2003 Kiltegan Co Wicklow. In speciality shops countrywide, Bradleys Cork, online at daisycottagefarm.ie.

Score: 8.25

Heaven’s Cakes

 €1.90 each €21 for 13

With delicious apple chunks, subtle spicing and juicy vine fruits, these have a tasty crumble topping. The pastry case has a lovely vanilla type flavour. Available at the English Market, Cork, and Sealy’s Lane, Bandon.

Score: 8.5

Hassetts Bakery 

€7 box of 5

“Looks homemade” is a remark repeated on tasting sheets. Quite flat in shape, yet packing in a decent amount of densely flavoured fruit in natural, tasty pastry. Good value. Available in Cork: Carrigaline, Blackpool and Douglas Court Shopping centres, English Market, speciality shops.

Score: 8.25

Dunnes Stores Simply Better All Butter 

€4.99

Six mince pies in a box have generous, juicy sultanas, raisins, currants, apple purée, glacé cherries, grated carrot, almonds, hazelnuts. The spicing is mild with depth added by Irish stout and brandy. The pastry with 32% butter is a little dry. One of the top supermarket samples we tasted. Made in Galway.

Score: 7

Iceland Luxury All Butter 

€2.50

In a box of six, with 35% currants, sultanas, raisins, apple purée, orange oil, mixed spice, cloves, the surprise flavour in this mixture is yuzu juice. Originating in China, it is related to the mandarin orange but has a sharper flavour, and along with orange and lemon peel may have given it its interesting and vibrant edge. The pastry was not quite homemade in texture, but a good enough foil for the filling. Made in Britain.

Score: 7

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