The first (and most likely last) time this year we'll see a gluten free mince pie on this blog! Udi's Gluten Free have stormed the UK from across the pond (USA) with their range of Gluten free foods to help those suffering from Coeliac disease, gluten sensitivities or for people who generally want to cut gluten from their diet for a healthier lifestyle. Udi's were kind enough to send me some of their mince pies to see how they compare to their gluten filled brothers. It's going to be a tough challenge!
We have a newbie to the blog here today. Riverford! Famous for their wide range of organic groceries and delivering them around the country to thousands of happy people while winning numerous awards for the quality of their produce. They made the claim that their mince pies were the UK's best on twitter recently and after a friendly challenge was proposed by yours truly, they jumped at it and have sent me a box of their finest for us to review. I admire their confidence. Lets see how it does.
Now this is going to be complicated. We have two varieties in this one box of mince pies. 3 of them are almond topped and 3 are walnut topped. Yes, I know it would have been easier to just have just reviewed 6 of their their standard mince pies, but when they're bought for you, I cannot really complain! On closer inspection of the ingredients, the only difference is the topping on each mince pie, one walnut and other almond. Therefore, this review will proceed as normal, but we'll take into account the different toppings on each. Make sense? Lets go.
This was another mince pie that was hard for me to get my hands on with a store not being either where I live or where I work. Fortunately, a avid reader of the blog (my mother), was heading into London where she was kind enough to pick up a couple of these in one of the many stores dotted around the capital. A deeper mince pie than last year, but has that improved it?
In the town where I work, there are 3 Costa coffee stores. All within a 2 minute walk from each other. Most recently, there has been a Costa Coffee stall that has appeared, again, well within a 2 minute walk from each others. So, when I decided to start reviewing coffee shop mince pies, Costa had to be the first choice because they were everywhere I turned. Lets see how their mince pie tart does this year.
It's here. The one that has made headlines by coming top in Which? Magazines blind taste test of mince pies of 2013. Aldi was always on our "to do" list, but unfortunately they do not have a store near my home or my place of work or along the 40 mile commute in between the two, so it has taken longer than usual to get hold of these. However, here they are. Ready for us to find out whether they really are that good.
There is a Poundland store near where I work and I sometimes venture in there to pick up the odd bargain. I noticed they have a whole isle dedicated to various foods, but I had never seen these mince pies on display. It was not until a friend visited a different Poundland store and picked up some of these and brought them to my attention. I know what you're thinking already, but lets remove any preconceptions and review these fairly!
I have to be honest. I have never been to a Harvey Nichols store. In fact, I thought Harvey Nichols just sold curtains and blinds! I don't know why I thought this, but for some strange reason, this is what my mind associates with Harvey Nichols. So, I was quite shocked when a colleague brought these into the office to sample. I was even more shocked to find out how much they cost and that Harvey Nichols is quite a posh store! You'll have to read on to find out more.
Now, this isn't strictly a mince pie, it is most certainly a doughnut. But since we have heard a lot about this, we thought we had to give it a try and see what all the fuss was about in our first unofficial review!
Sainsbury's have always made a decent regular mince pie. As you can see, we didn't hate it. It's about time we gave their luxury (or as my Canadian colleague says, deluxe) mince pies a taste to see whether they can improve on their base recipe.
We've been reviewing the posh mince pies and those that come recommended recently; time to get back to the core mince pies from the now household name that is Lidl. We've skipped over their regular mince pies and gone straight for the luxury. I think we've developed a bit of a taste for the rich! Let's hope these can satisfy that craving.
After spending the past 2 years being told that Costco mince pies are really nice and not one of those people being able to get me some, a quick tweet and facebook post brought out a colleague at work who had membership and was heading to the members only store that same day. With my order placed within moments of her response the excitement was settling in. I had them delivered and without any further delay - lets get reviewing!
BHS - A great department store with plenty to things to buy like clothes, shoes, bags and mince pies? Yes, BHS have a cafe who are now selling mince pies! This revelation was stumbled upon via BHS' twitter account. We swiftly made our way to a local BHS cafe to pick up some of these little giants. Can these deep filled mince pies measure up and break into to the well established clique formed by the supermarkets?
Last year you were all treated to the review of a puff pastry mince pie from Harrods' in-store bakery. They were good, but we didn't get to try their standard, boxed mince pies. This year, I am pleased to say I braved the Saturday morning tourist and Christmas shopper traffic and squeezed into one of the busiest stores I have been to in a long time. Not being a regular Harrods shopper, I had no idea where I was going and with some general directions given to me by staff, I eventually emerged (20 mins later) with a box of these alcohol-free mince pies. I'm not sure whether there were other types of mince pies around, but due to the sheer number of people I had to negotiate around, I picked the first thing that said mince pies, paid and left.
Here at the Administration, we tend to overlook the mini mince pies as generally being mostly pastry and never really being that great or noteworthy. That is until some are thrust in your direction. They cannot be overlooked in those circumstances! We decided to dust off the crumbs from the larger mince pies, print out new score sheets and take a very small bite out of these mini mince pies to see whether anything has changed.
When I got the news that we might be able to get our hands on some Costco mince pies, I cannot say I wasn't a little excited. However, when you rely upon someone who takes mince pies for granted, you end up with Walkers Glenfiddich 8 Luxury Mincemeat Tarts! We shall make every effort to get hold of a Costco mince pie this year, but in the meantime, there is no reason to let these go to waste. Let's welcome this unexpected newcomer to the blog.
Okay, I promise this is the last box of mince pies from Waitrose! I picked these up simply because they said these mince pies are organic. It seemed interesting, I won't lie. Do organic mince pies taste any different? Anything special? Lets find out.
Returning to fight for the top spot on the Administration’s leader board is the controversial is-it-or-isn’t-it-a-mince pie from the man who was clearly never told not to play with his food as a child, Heston Blumenthal. While this debate rages on within the Administration, once these turned up, silence fell, as we were all eager to sink our teeth into one.
Yes, that's right mincers, the (non-existent) revenue generated from reviewing mince pies has resulted in the Administration being able to splash out on some very posh mince pies for your viewing pleasure. We braved the gale force winds and torrential rain and arrived at the doors of the most well decorated supermarket in the country. You know you have walked into an upper class world when their staff are better dressed than you are. With the worry of being thrown out for wearing trainers, jeans and a rain jacket, I quickly found the mince pies and left. Let's see if you really do get better quality when you spend more.
Remember that imaginary hierarchy I spoke about back in the Co-Op review? Well, I'm going to assume Waitrose were at the top of your list too! Waitrose have many different types of mince pies available, from the budget "essentials" range to the organic mince pies (yes, organic - review coming!). In fact, I counted 6 different types, all under the Waitrose name. Lets see how their standard mince pies fair on the blog first.
an honorary member of the administration it was vital that I had a
benchmark to compare these mince pies when producing an overall score.
So… according to the master administrator, Greggs (at time of writing)
are the leader of the race, so I had to partake in a little taste test
of my own to provide comparison.
Last year Greggs was second only to Heston Blumenthal's spiced shortcrust mince pies. It was a tough decision, but the originality of Heston's trumped the traditional mince pie. Can Greggs return to the mince pie game this year and triumph with the traditional mince pie done well? Have they changed the recipe? Design? Price? Lets find out...
We seem to be getting through the big supermarket mince pies rather quickly this year. Our next stop on the mince pie express is Tesco. My most accessible Tesco is one of their express stores, but it is not these stores (shockingly) that have started stocking mince pies. At the time of writing this, I could only find their mince pies in the larger branches. Not sure why this the case, but lets hope my drive to their larger branch was actually worth it.
Iceland. Supposedly where mum's go. Can't say I've ever seen my mum in Iceland. The store was, however, local to my university accommodation and was the source of my cheap morning chocolate cheerios. Last year's mince pie entry was definitely something to *not* talk about. Let's hope I'm not reaching for the sick bag this year.
I don't know about everyone else, but i've been noticing that Morissons have been trying to pass themselves off as a, sort of, market. I get the impression they are trying to make you feel like you are buying from a "stall" as if you were out in a local farmers market? To me, this is failing as it's just a giant supermarket with various counters and isles. I like the smell of a farmers market, all the different fresh smells; and sticking the fish counter right by the entrance of most of your stores is a lovely stench. However, I digress, lets see if their mince pies are "market stall" quality.
Marks and Spencer mince pies are a firm favourite of the blog. Whenever I have a craving for a good mince pie around this time of year, M&S are on hand to ensure that my needs are fulfilled. Last year saw their inconsistency loose them a few marks. Lets hope this year is different.
If you were to list supermarkets / stores in order of prestige, most people's list would be remarkably similar. However, The Co-Op is often the store that's missed from that list entirely. In fact, on my list, I really wouldn't know where to place it. Maybe this is a good thing, I won't have any expectations from it and treat it as the humble mince pie that it is. Lets see how this one does.
Mr Kipling have long been a British baking powerhouse, producing a whole variety of cakes and pies since 1967. Everybody knows the name and what they do. Their mince pies were very much below average last year. Lets hope they read my blog and made some improvements this year.
Right, the first pie to touch my lips this year is a Christmas by Sainsbury's Deep Mince Pie. One would expect the first pie after 10 months, regardless of quality, to taste extraordinary; a feeling akin to a mother seeing her newly born baby for the first time! Okay, maybe that's a bit too far, but I was definitely looking forward to sinking my teeth into this one. Lets see how it did.
Yes, that's right my little Mincers, the Mince Pie Administration is back. I hope you have had a great year so far, and enjoyed the UK's glorious summer. However, that pie shaped hole in your heart is about to be stuffed once more as this years hunt for the best mince pie has begun.
As the various supermarkets and brands start rolling out their pies, we will be on hand to let you know whether its worth it. By starting in October, this gives us just under 3 months to track down our winner. This year, we are going to be scoring the pies slightly differently. Last year, I was simply comparing them to other mince pies and slotting them in to various positions on the leader board where I sought fit. This year, we want to be a little fairer, so we will be scoring each mince pie out of 100 points. Here is how the points will break down.
10 points - Presentation
10 points - Nutritional content & Price
35 points - Pastry
35 points - Mincemeat
10 points - Satisfaction level
Each mince pie will be tasted by a panel of at least 3 people (including me) and an average score will be taken. This will hopefully allow the various aspects of the pie to shine through even if other parts of the pie are not that great. The pastry and mincemeat are by far the most important and so will gain the most number of points. After all, we don't want a wonderfully looking mince pie that's really healthy to be at the top of the leader board when it's pastry and mincemeat are rubbish. Right? Those that have the Great British Bake Off bug will have to keep their mince pies to themselves as, like last year, we will only be reviewing the mass produced pies that everyone can have.
In addition, we've gone all high-tech and now have a twitterand facebook account! Follow us at @TheMincePieBlog or on facebook for the news on when the latest review drops and general mince pie related gossip! (twitter would not allow me to use "Admin" in our name as they think they are the only administration.. pff) Are you ready? ... lets begin.