They may be high in calories and far too rich for our sedentary lifestyles, but it wouldn’t be Christmas without mince pies. Here are Roz Crowley’s top choices for your festive feast.
This year I took for granted that past winners would deliver great ones, and, while covering some old ground, I found some terrific new additions to the listing, many of them in attractive presentation boxes to use as gifts.
Some of the taste team liked a lot of fruit, some much less, but all were fussy about the texture and taste of the fruit and the pastry that encased it. Those that made the final eight deserved their spot.
We know that as usual we may have missed quite a few, and regret not getting to all the markets around the country and to other food shops and bakeries.
We can, of course, make our own pies from scratch, with pastry easily made in a blender, pulsing until the ingredients come together. Chill it for an hour then roll gently and press into tins. If that’s all too fiddly, make a large one and cut into slices. Decorate with the new Dark Chocolate Apple Crisp Thins from Lismore Food Company.
There is plenty of good, readymade pastry too. See our December 30 survey for how to use it with leftovers. In the meantime, share or have one pie at a time, and have a healthy and happy Christmas.
Ali’s Kitchen €2.25 each
This café at Rory Gallagher Place, Cork does plenty of takeaway goodies and coffee. These crumble-topped pies (see main image) have luscious mincemeat with apple, orange, lemon, vanilla and star anise flavours melding with smooth brandy. The firm pastry has a buttery flavour and is perfectly textured. The whole lot is topped with a contrasting crunchy, brown sugar crumble. All agreed on this as their favourite. A rare 10 from the team.
Cinnamon Cottage €3.50 each
One of the most adventurous of the selection, these deep pies have a relatively low amount of fruit to allow for a delicious, deep layer/topping of tasty frangipane sponge. These were a relief to some of the tasters who like less fruit — they enthused about the sponge part contrasting well with the fruit flavours. Delicious! From Rochestown, Cork.
ABC bakery €1.30 each; box of 12 €15
This stall is a terrific asset to the English Market and this year’s pies are consistent with the high quality of its offerings. Deep, generously filled pies have tasty pastry with a choice of toppings. The rolled out pastry, priced above, has a crumble topping alternative (€1.50 each €18 for 12). Tasters liked the rolled out more. Easily the best presentation boxes for a wonderful, family gift.
Hassetts Bakery €1.20 each €6.50 box of six
Quite flat with a moderate amount of filling, these pleased both sides of the fruit camp as the pastry was flavoursome and the filling not too strong. The attractive white handled-box makes a reasonably priced gift. From Carrigaline and English Market.
Nibbles €6 per box
Six Luxury Mince Crumbles made in Millstreet are boxed attractively with a green ribbon to finish. Inside the pies have a nice, buttery pastry with quite little fruit, and none the worse for that, topped with a wholesome oatmeal crumble. One taster, while she found the topping a little dry, thought she would serve them for breakfast on 25th. From The Roughty, English Market, Cork.
Avoca €7.95 box of six
Good, traditional pies have firm pastry and a moderate amount of mincemeat flavoured with brandy and kept juicy with the addition of apple. Added texture from almonds amounted to a good all round result. Available in Avoca shops.
Aldi Specially Selected €2.99
Six almond mince tarts are quite flat and tidy and easy to manage with no crumbs or spilling out of filling. Topped with tasty flaked almonds, one taster suggested she would serve these at a party to avoid using plates. Good for those who don’t want a lot of fruit, and ideal for a lower calorie treat (though still 192 calories).
Marks & Spencer Made without Wheat €3.80
Christmas is difficult for coeliacs so I found these to test. As usual non-wheat flours such as rice and maize flours and tapioca, rice and potato starches give a slightly dry, gritty texture, but heated and served with a little cream or brandy butter they improve. For non-coeliacs we liked the Ultimate All-butter Mince Pies (four for €6), also by M&S. These scored 7.25.
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