pie club

...mince pie mayhem

 

Pie Club 2013

It's A Knockout

It's all change for Pie Club this year. We've ramped up the excitement by going for a straight knockout format - so there's 8 first round ties, followed by the quarter finals, semis and then the Grand Final. Check out the very scientific, and perfectly seeded tournament draw.

The sixteen finalists have been selected by applying a comprehensive formula, based on variables including but not limited to: historic performance, number of previous appearances, and likely availability.

Think Pie Club was already too frenzied? Think again. Bring on the pies!


Grand Final - M&S Classic vs Lidl Luxury
25th Dec 2013
So here we are for a Christmas Day final. Soz if you were hanging on for us before you put the pies out for Father Christmas, but the writing was on the wall all some weeks ago if truth be told. Thanks to Simon Wilson for facilitating a format change to speed things up a bit it didnt really work, but that was hardly his fault, was it?

So, a Pie Club first sees Germans v Jews in the final. With no clues to be gleaned from history, its anyones guess which way this one will go.

Merry Christmas.
 Veteran  Wunderkind
Veteran Wunderkind
M&S Classic Lidl Luxury
Winner in 2005 and 2006 and runner up as recently as 2011. A legend in pie circles. Relatively inexperienced, finishing eight points off the pie offs on its only previous showing in 2011.
Match Report
First Bites
Weve properly run out of stuff to say about the Classic. Not that thats a bad thing, you understand. Theyre just so bloody consistent. So, once more for them as havent been paying attention for the last umpteen years: cracking pastry short and very much all butter as advertised. Then you get a first hit of that almost cocky teetotal tang. But Lidls first bite has stood it in good stead throughout this years competition. The Germans havent been shy with the butter and the firm, crisp lid is a masterpiece of engineering.

MSC 0, LIDL 1

Second Bites
Lidl piles on the pressure, throwing a warming tipple into the fray and backing it up with a splendidly varied chew that includes walnuts and almonds among some carefully selected vine fruits. MSC doesnt hold back on the variation either, with candied peel and glace cherry both playing starring roles against that well-judged backdrop of spices.

MSC 1, LIDL 1

Final Bites
It doesnt get much closer than this, if truth be told. Lidl has everything you would expect from a Pie Club champion top class pastry, a genuinely luxury interior and the sort of festive glow you dont generally associate with what is essentially a bargain brand. And despite being the designated driver of the pair, Classic remains excellent company the crust is as good as its ever been and the innards are heads, shoulders, knees and toes above its red box brethren. This is so hard we almost need a coin toss to settle it.

To booze or not to booze that is the question.

MSC 1, LIDL 2

So Lidl nick it to surprise all concerned. A brilliant performance from MSC just wasnt quite enough to stop the trophy going back to Germany for the first time in Pie Club history.
And the winner is: Lidl Luxury

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Semi Final - Lidl Luxury vs M&S Ultimate
23rd Dec 2013
It feels like a strange thing to be writing, but the second semi final sees Lidl Luxury line up against Marks & Spencers Ultimate. Taken at face value, its a contest that screams mismatch. But Lidl are here on merit - with both Morrisons Signature and holders Asda Extra Special left in their unlikely wake, Ultimate will have to show marked improvement having almost suffered the ignominy of a first round defeat by the Co-op.
 Unaufhaltsam?  Shortarse
Unaufhaltsam? Shortarse
Lidl Luxury M&S Ultimate
I've been trying to think which of his countrymen he most resembles, but I can't think of any Germans that favour pies. We've grumbled enough, haven't we? Not very big or tidy. Artisanal, if you like. Which we don't.
Match Report
First Bites
Given that this is being played out over three bites, its a cautious start for little Ultimate. First contact is pleasing but the after-crunch is a disconcertingly flaky one which undermines the initial foray into the filling. Lidls pastry work, on the other hand, has been the biggest surprise of the tournament so far. Theres a good butter undertone and the contrast between the crisp, well-sugared lid and the soft but short exterior walls is a genuine delight.

LIDL 1, MSU 0

Second Bites
Lidls middle has a bit of everything. Nuts are plentiful, apple chunks and candied peel provide acidity and zest as a counter to background spicework, and brandy and orange work in tandem to underpin the entire do with a tangy, mellow warmth. Not that Ultimate is behind the door when it comes to alcoholic influence, mind. The brandy duo of kirsch and Armagnac ensures the select band of fruity high-rollers are kept well refreshed, while the unusual pairing of almond and cherry lends a distinctly Bakewell undertone.

LIDL 1, MSU 1

Final Bites
Lidl keeps going to the end. The brandy doesnt carry a fancy name but nor it doesnt moonlight as a paintstripper during the off-season. The fruits dont have celebrity status either, but they provide bite and flavour and valuable support for the main players of walnut and cherry. And that pastry has been a revelation. By contrast, and almost literally,Ultimate has nothing left to give. The final morsel is a pie in microcosm - the undeniably high class filling reduced to little more than a smear; the tell-tale layers of controversially flaky pastry laid bare by deconstruction; and the overwhelming sense of disappointment that this what it has come down to.

LIDL 2, MSU 1

Experts will no doubt debate the validity of this outcome for seconds on end, but the writing has been on the wall since Ultimate stumbled through what should have been a gimme of a first round draw. Take nothing away from Lidl, though. They deserve their place at this years top table, and their circuitous route to the final will ensure they fear no pie. M&S Classic awaits.
And the winner is: Lidl Luxury

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Semi Final - M&S Classic vs M&S Luxury
23rd Dec 2013
2005/06 winner M&S Classic faces 2004 champion M&S Luxury in the first Magic & Sparkle derby since Collection pipped Classic in the 2011 Grand Final. Classic has been imperious throughout this seasons renewal, earning a semi final berth with an impressive success against last years runner-up Sainsburys TTD. Luxury, meanwhile, was unconvincing against Asda before improving in the quarters to see off a plucky Sainsburys Deep. Classic has had the edge over their store rivals down the years but history wont count for anything at this stage of the competition.

Were back to the traditional best of three bites from hereon in.

After all, this is the Pie Offs.
 Tee-total  Boozer
Tee-total Boozer
M&S Classic M&S Luxury
The slit is still winding up the purists but thats really been the only change in years. Otherwise, this is very much a pie from the old school. Interesting that the Classics approach to ventilation should give folk the hump when this fella can turn up looking like a stab victim. A big star and more holes than a bowling ball.
Match Report
First Bites
Classic employs the same opening gambit to which it has been faithful for years. The pastrys short, butter sweetness lingers for a second or two before allowing the inner flavours to emerge, all orange tang and subtle spicing fronted up by bold clove. Luxury strikes back gamely as its pastry finally finds its feet to meet Classics butter hit head on before bringing a still-muted boozy warmth from the middle.

MSC 1, MSL 0

Second Bites
Luxury piles on the pressure with a filling that offers plenty of variation and quality despite being a touch low on quantity. Theres a pleasingly high nut content (allergies notwithstanding, obviously) that works well with some zingy candied peel to bring contrast to the chew. If Classics inner sanctum was your bog standard red box tackle, this contest would be over. But its not, is it?

MSC 2, MSL 0

Final Bites
Luxury doesnt know what to do. Though this has been their best performance of the competition by some way, its also been their stiffest test. Theyve not done much wrong - the outer casing has gone some way towards recapturing former glories and the filling has brought Christmas to our mouths. But Classics butter, orange and clove combination works magic on a filling that is unsurpassed in red box circles, and it really is all over.

MSC 3, MSL 0

Hardly a surprising outcome given such contrasting performances in the first two rounds. Despite plying us with alcohol and finding form at the right time, Luxury had no reply to Classics consistency and greater sense of identity.
And the winner is: M&S Classic

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Quarter Final - Asda Extra Special vs Lidl Luxury
22nd Dec 2013
The last of our quarter finals sees surprise package Lidl up against reigning Pie Club champions Asda Extra Special. Asda strolled through their Round of 16 tie against a mediocre Tesco Deep Fill, while Lidl made light of their lack of top flight experience to send Morrisons Signature crashing out at the first flight. Todays clash represents another big test for the German raiders, but they showed enough in Round One to suggest there could be further heartbreak for Yorkshires bakers.
 The Champ  On the march
The Champ On the march
Asda Extra Special Lidl Luxury
Simple but effective with an unconvincing motif. Suffering ever so slightly from an untimely overbake. Not dissimilar to the opposition distinguishable by a healthier colour, some neat cogging and a superior star.
Match Report
Lidl gets off to a flyer, opening with a short and sweet snap of lid and following up with some understated butter and a mellow boozy warmth. AES is shaken by Lidls confident start and struggles to get on terms. The Asda bake has more butter but less crunch and the Germans variation of texture has them ahead after the opening bites. Innards are evenly matched, with both pies boasting a fine array of nuts and auxiliary fruits alongside some mid-sized currants and sultanas. Lidls brandy kick is more immediate against a gentle spice backdrop, while AES leads with low key cinnamon and ginger before bringing the warmth of port and brandy mid-chew. While its a clever ploy, its slightly undermined by the pies tendency towards oversweetness. Were talking very fine margins here - if time wasnt getting on, this tie may well have gone to extra pies - but Lidls better balance and their pastry work on the day sees them spring another surprise.
And the winner is: Lidl, then. Who knew?

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Quarter Final - M&S Classic vs Sainsburys Taste the Difference
22nd Dec 2013
For many years, these two were performing at opposite ends of the pie spectrum. As recently as 2010, the pair was separated by a massive 21 points in the final standings. Then, in 2011, there was a shift in power. STTD finished a single point behind MSC, missing the Pie Offs on Pie Factor by the narrowest of margins in the closest finish in Pie Club history. Last year saw the unthinkable as STTD bridged a two-point gap regular season gap to beat MSC in the semis before finding it all too much against Asda ES at the big dance.

Make no mistake - this one matters.
 Pie Club legend  Anglo-Scottish collaboration
Pie Club legend Anglo-Scottish collaboration
M&S Classic Sainsburys Taste the Difference
Neat and tidy and very self-assured, wearing the now-familiar slit as its sole distinguishing mark. Pale to the extreme, with single central airhole and anti-clockwise cogging. Brutal.
Match Report
The Scottish influence at play here gives STTD a definite edge in terms of stature, and the challenging opening bite isnt without reward. This pastry has echoes of the M&S Connoisseur of a few years ago and, while it falls some way short of hitting those dizzy heights, the quickfire combination of crisp and yield remains an effective one.
While STTD took years of tweaking to hit its stride, MSCs pastry boffins hit upon their winning formula some time ago, and its to their credit that their tinkering has been restricted to ventilation. As ever, Magic & Sparkle make good on their all-butter promise and remain deliciously short without compromising the architectural values required to make it through a busy festive campaign intact.
On the inside, STTD has travelled a long way in just a few small steps. Drop by painstaking drop, the fig roll desolation of old became gradually more palatable until those customers who carry out the much-vaunted taste-testing at HQ were able to chew and swallow in the same sitting. Its still an acquired taste, mind, but we like its boozy, grown-up feel.
MSC, as one might expect, takes a more traditional approach, and the more prevalent ooze serves to allow its constituent parts more room for expression. There are cherries and nuts and big vine fruits and candied peel and a big hit of clove that shouldnt work nearly as well as it does. This is a pie that knows is business and, while STTD might work for self-congratulatory beardy types, the MSC can please a crowd on every level.
And the winner is: Good work from the STTD team, but the Classics renaissance continues apace.

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Quarter Final - Sainsburys Deep vs M&S Luxury
21st Dec 2013
The second of todays quarter finals sees another over-achieving red boxer line up for a tilt at the Magic & Sparkle windmill. Sainsburys Deep made light of first round seepage to knock out 2012 semi-finalist Tesco Finest and, with M&S Luxury making heavy weather of seeing off Mr bloody Kipling, the underdogs will fancy their chances of an unlikely place in the last four.
 Prole  Bourgeois
Prole Bourgeois
Sainsburys Deep M&S Luxury
They had blight issues in the last round but theyve turned out a flawless representative for this one. May have over-compensated for big match nerves by going big on ventilation
Match Report
First contact with the underdog screams rudimentary until the filling joins in to lend some citrus cheek to proceedings. MSLs opening is understandably tentative given earlier travails, and the pastry remains unconvincing. Theres butter and a bit of crunch, but the authoritative introduction weve come to expect just isnt quite here.
With orange oil very much in the vanguard, Sainsbury follows up with a subtle spice palette that relies on caraway and clove to bring Christmas. MSL hits back with an improved showing from its core - a two-pronged booze attack carries the fight, but glace cherry and orange peel work hard with cinnamon to sprinkle some stardust over the two-banks-of-four vine fruits.

A pleasing performance from another out-of-depth red boxer, then, but quality and experience at this level can make all the difference.
And the winner is: Luxury makes it two from two on the day for the M&S behemoth, with Pie Club legend The Classic still to come.

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Quarter Final - Morrisons Deep Filled vs M&S Ultimate
21st Dec 2013
The first of todays two quarter finals (were in a rush now!) sees one of the first rounds surprise packages up against many peoples pre-tournament favourite. Morrisons red box pie succeeded where their Signature entry failed, negotiating safe passage to the last eight at the expense of a booze-assisted Aldi. M&S Ultimate, meanwhile, were taken right to the wire by the Co-op in this years only all luxury affair to date. Will Magic and Sparkles Armagnac and kirsch succeed where Aldis house treble failed?
 Robin a living?  BOOOOO!
Robin a living? BOOOOO!
Morrisons Deep Filled M&S Ultimate
Hes been around the block a few times but this represents the biggest day of this journeypies career by some considerable distance. Diminutive and unkempt with an inexplicable self-assurance that has left many seasoned observers cold during the last two campaigns.
Match Report
MSU gets the tie underway and almost puts it to bed with a single bite. Were a bit begrudging, if truth be told, but its all here. The pastry is out on its own, at least in terms of individuality, mixing rough puff stylings with the kind of bite more associated with a shorter crust. Shot through with buckets of butter, its a pleasing vehicle for the (albeit meagre) luxury that lies within.
Despite having a decent touch for a big pie, Moz struggles a bit with structural integrity and theres a minor mishap that will need a hoover later; theres no suggestion of butter and not nearly enough resistance to allow anticipation to properly build. Inside, though, apple, orange and candied peel work hard to lift a varied but tee-total chew, and juicy vine fruits push themselves to be more than just raisins and sultanas.
However, while it may have turned into a bit of an oik in recent times, MSU nonetheless retains a touch of class, and that ability to soak big name currants and cherries in high end French liquor makes it a difficult pie to beat, even on an off day. Good effort, Morrisons, but it was never really going to happen, was it?
And the winner is: MSU. Far from their imperious best, but still plenty strong enough to see off what is really just a fair-to-middling red boxer.

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Round 1 - Sainsburys Taste the Difference vs Co-op Deep Filled
20th Dec 2013
Finally! The last match of the opening round is upon us. And yes, we know we should really have had time to play out four groups of four on a home and away basis.

Not surprisingly, given that the nearest store is about three and a half miles south east of Calais, Netto have been forced to withdraw from this years Pie Club. Rather than just handing a bye to last years surprise finalists Sainsburys Taste the Difference, weve taken one for the team and pitted them against regular wooden spoon contenders The Co-op instead.

I just gave an involuntary shiver.
 Has tha' nowt moist?  What lies beneath
Has tha' nowt moist? What lies beneath
Sainsburys Taste the Difference Co-op Deep Filled
Rugged and lantern-jawed with broad shoulders and a pale, sub-golden hue. The Sainsbury/Walker coalition endures. First impressions suggest changes in the Co-op bakery havent stretched beyond the fancy dan range. The familiar chunky cogging and rubbish star prompt harrowing flashbacks and the early onset of heartburn.
Match Report
Co-op opens up with a flurry of clag as the lid crumbles early doors and cedes control to the thickest walls in festive pastry. Its an arduous opening bite, with respite a seemingly impossible dream until the very last stages of rumination. Did we make it as far as fruit there? Who can really say? STTDs Walkers-sponsored opening gambit is faultless by comparison as the biscuit crunch of a well-rendered lid heralds a base both sweetened by butter and softened by booze.
The respective innards are a study in contrasting styles, with STTD sticking to their uniquely dry guns while the Co-op showcases the uniform brown sludge favoured by many low rent red boxers. Co-op have had a stab at bringing Christmas to their bleak internal landscape, with orange and cinnamon doing their bit and clove sticking its head round the door for a brief all the best before presumably nipping off sharpish to an altogether better party. STTD have once again applied alcohol to proceedings before eradicating all bar the very last remnants of moisture from the chew. Spicing is well-balanced and spirits past still offer some comfort, but youre still left wondering if Sainsburys arent missing a pretty obvious trick somewhere along the way.
And the winner is: STTD through comfortably, then, though youd have to question whether theres enough about them to make it beyond the last eight.

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Round 1 - Asda Extra Special vs Tesco
18th Dec 2013
Pru Leiths Asda Extra Specials start their first title defence since 2003 with what looks to be shoo-in against the Tesco second string. Can the Blue and Whites red boxer really avenge the semi-final defeat suffered by its Finest counterpart during last years Pie Offs?
 Pru of the Pudding  Really, Tesco?
Pru of the Pudding Really, Tesco?
Asda Extra Special Tesco
Easy on the eye, with high walls supporting an impressive, sugar-laden dome of a lid. If were being picky, the snowflake motif is a touch on the abstract side. Inny lid akin to perennial red box deposit-losers like Asda, with a star that appears to have been rendered in 1:1 scale and then torched. Wed be lying if we pretended we havent prejudged a bit.
Match Report
Cloy dominates Tescos early salvo, with any box-front suggestion of butter met with widespread scepticism. Asda Spesh fares infinitely better on the pastry front as early suspicions of over-sweetness are allayed by the timely arrival of a well-balanced, buttery afterchew. Fillings are probably evenly matched in terms of spoon size, but AESs more grandiose housing leads to more of a chasm than one might ideally like. However, though Tesco is crammed to albeit more modest rafters, theres only really the merest hint of citrus to break up the uniform brown monotony. AESs currants and sultanas arent as chunky as you might expect from a prestige range entrant, but theres no shortage of fruit and nut variety and the booze is masterful and reassuring without shouting down the understated spicing and subtle orange tang. Its not even as close as it sounds really.
And the winner is: Asda Extra Special eases through comfortably against vastly inferior opposition.

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Round 1 - Lidl Luxury vs Morrisons Signature
12th Dec 2013
Moving on at quite a pace, all things considered, today sees Morrisons Signature affair squaring up to whatever it is that passes for luxury at Lidl. The Signature equivalent has been the competitions nearly pie in recent years having been pipped at the post for a place in the Pie Offs in each of the last four seasons. Lidl, on the other hand, must have qualified for Pie Club 2013 on a wildcard, having posted an upper-middling finish on their sole appearance to date in 2011. Still, the Germans look up for it, if nothing else.
 Sausage muncher  Sheep botherer
Sausage muncher Sheep botherer
Lidl Luxury Morrisons Signature
Broad and handsome with a starry twinkle of a motif and a single, central airhole surrounded by a borderline clumsy awning-style cogging. On first glance, you could be forgiven for thinking these two were baked in the same batch. However, closer inspection reveals this fellow to have eschewed the cogging. Welcome to the aesthetic high ground.
Match Report
Mozs verve through the early exchanges suggests this is a pie desperate to right the wrongs of recent history. A short, butter-infused lid gives way to a soft pastry underbelly before the promised port and brandy ushers you into an inner sanctum unusually awash with apple chunks Deutschland is going to have its work cut out here if it really is to be űber alles.
Nonetheless, Lidl hits back with a stunning opening bite, leading in with a lid crunch indebted in equal measure to the craft of the baker and the carpet of sugar crystal. Once through the crisp roof, the filling throws some shapes of its own, sending in a gently effective brandy/orange combo to keep the raisins and sultanas merry and plump.
Moz hits back with another mouthful, showcasing some fat fruits of its own and throwing candied peel and cinnamon into the action in an attempt to wrest back the advantage. But Lidl is calm and calculating under pressure, warming with booze and surprising with walnut before unleashing late glace cherry flair to administer the coup de grace on its long-suffering Yorkshire rival.
And the winner is: Its Lidl. More disappointment for Morrisons, who will do well to come back from the latest in a long line of recent setbacks.

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Round 1 - Co-op Truly Irresistible vs M&S Ultimate
10th Dec 2013
First of all, if youre still making the effort to follow events here at Pie Club in spite of the occasionally-start-but-mostly-stop nature of this years event, thanks very much. For those perhaps in need of a recap, we eat pies and ridicule the rubbish ones before lauding the victors to the heavens. Its quite an exciting to-do from time to time, too. Anyway, today we pit M&Ss self-appointed champion-of-champions the Ultimate against the Co-ops sceptic-friendly Truly Irresistible. Once were done here, well do our best to return with more pies in a day or two. Ta.
 Crazy Gang  Culture Club
Crazy Gang Culture Club
Co-op Truly Irresistible M&S Ultimate
Maintaining a time-honoured lack of appeal, with the pale demeanour, painstaking cogging and three-pronged holly motif of previous years all still very much intact. All egg wash twinkle and sugar crystal, with a demeanour that suggests it was lovingly constructed before being moonwalked around the kitchen on the heel of the chefs size tens.
Match Report
First of all, this must be the biggest size mismatch in the competition. No more for Magic & Sparkle the statuesque elegance of 2008s Connoisseur, or the brutal, pork pie majesty of 2010s Collection. Theyve only gone all handcrafty on us before kicking a couple of pies out of the team and slapping a suitably artisanal price tag on their entry. Were not especially impressed, to tell the truth.
Ultimate kicks things off and delivers that characteristic all-butter attack via the unfamiliar medium of a borderline puff pastry. The Co-op struggles to compete at first, its significantly thicker outer casing bringing a butter rush of its own before inevitable cloy kicks it to curtail all the good work.
Its on the inside where it counts, though. The Co-ops pleasingly deep fill offers up a fine array of festive favourites, with ginger and almond making themselves heard above some chunky vine fruits, and clove playing its part amid a well-judged backwash of citrus and brandy.
Without the depth of previous years, Ultimate struggles to hit back, with the much-trumpeted Armagnac/Kirsch combo looking round desperately for some fruit to soak.
Its hard to watch, really. How on earth did it come to this? The pride of the M&S fleet losing a first round tie to the Co-op?
And the winner is: Well not quite, actually. M&S Ultimate sneaks through by the narrowest of margins, but its hard to see any reliving of past glories on this showing.

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Round 1 - Sainsbury's vs Tesco Finest
27th Nov 2013
Round One reaches its midpoint as last seasons semi-finalists Tesco Finest face what would seem to be a straightforward task against perennial mid-tablers Sainsburys. Mind you, Tesco has turned its attention to such flavours as Chocolate & Hazelnut and Rhubarb & Stem Ginger in response to falling sales of their traditional mincemeat pies, so perhaps they know something we dont.

Unlikely, I know.
 Dainsbury's Seep Fill  Dark days indeed...
Dainsbury's Seep Fill Dark days indeed...
Sainsbury's Tesco Finest
Neat and tidy with trademark dual holly/berry motif on top and unsightly seepage blemish at the bottom. Broad of shoulder, with a generous dose of sugar doing its best to mask an all-new exploding star adornment.
Match Report
Bad vibes early doors from the Finest, who looks the part but set alarm bells ringing with his feather weight and hollow demeanour. First bites confirm initial suspicions, with filling only located after a frantic search of the cavernous interior. Something terrible appears to have happened. By contrast, Sainsburys red box underdog feels sturdy to the touch, though further investigation suggests this might be as much to do with the thick pastry walls as with anything of substance at its heart. Still, the fruits in here are plump enough and theres enough festive spicing through the orange-led slick to remind you that the goose is getting fat. Tesco, meanwhile, is finding it all a bit heavy going. The sweet, crisp pastry is far superior, with the added bonus of high-end alcohol lifting the buttery notes to giddy new heights; but this isnt Pastry Club, and the 2012 semi-finalist is giving us precious little else to get our teeth into. Sainsburys, perhaps sensing theyre onto a good thing, just keep plugging away. The crust is pleasant enough and just about the right side of cloy, while the chew has enough zing and variation to hold interest without engendering excitement.

Its a proper battle of attrition, this.
And the winner is: A bad day at the office for Tesco, then, as a functional, workmanlike showing from Sainsburys sees them spring a shock.

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Round 1 - Mr Kipling vs M&S Luxury
19th Nov 2013
Tie 3 of this increasingly protracted opening round pits 2004 winner and Pie-Off regular M&S Luxury against Mr Kipling, whose improved showing last season lifted his festive offering onto the very fringe of doldrums upper echelons. All leaps and bounds aside, however, theres very little to suggest this match-up might be a close-run affair.

Nonetheless, convention does demand that we go through the motions.
 Ruddy hard?  Bite or blight?
Ruddy hard? Bite or blight?
Mr Kipling M&S Luxury
Festive re-vamps at Kipling HQ only appear to have got as far as the front cover, where the reindeers services have been dispensed with along with all other suggestions of frivolity. Kipling is back and this time its serious. Box-front boasts of a new recipe havent extended to design, though last terms splayed star motifery comes over with a little more refinement and the seepage blight that undermined an otherwise solid campaign has been rectified.
Match Report
The Kipling underdog gets us underway as a familiar cloy threatens to put its inimitable stamp on proceedings early doors. But this is different. Not ace, but definitely different. The blandness of latter years has diminished and, though the walls remain thick, the intrepid chewer is able to emerge unscathed at the other side. Luxury starts slowly, as if rocked by this unexpectedly bold opening. The usual all-butter attack has been blunted and the crust lacks the shortness of previous campaigns. Luxury attempts to recover some equilibrium by plying us with booze but even that ruse flounders as port and brandy do little to lift a drier-than-expected gathering of designer fruits. Kipling offers moisture and bulk but falls short on flavour and quality, with stalky crack given too much prominence amid some run-of-the-mill festive spicing. Class tells in the end, then, but this is a far from convincing performance against historically inferior opposition.
And the winner is: M&S Luxury grinds it out.

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Round 1 - Aldi Specially Selected vs Morrisons Deep Filled
13th Nov 2013
Regular enthusiasts will note that were not moving at quite the pace we usually do. Weve less pies to get through, see, and we dont want to be announcing a winner before folk have even so much as wondered where they put the decorations. Nonetheless, today sees the second first round tie of Pie Club 2013, pitting ner do-wells Aldi Specially Selected against Morrisons perennial mid-table red boxers.

Very much one for the pie-hards, then.
 Germany  Yorkshire
Germany Yorkshire
Aldi Specially Selected Morrisons Deep Filled
Very pale, with a snowflake motif that does little to engender warmth as it peers through its three-pie viewing pane. Morrisons send out the same pie that finished fourth last at Pie Club 2007. Confidence behind their Signature offering must be high.
Match Report
Theres not much to separate these two on first impressions. In terms of stature, theyre very much shoulder-to-shoulder and, while Moz is slightly less pallid, Aldi pairs gentle cogging with a passable snowflake motif to cock a snook at Mozs traditional tree/crimp combo. Inside is where the SS really shines, though. Literally. This is possibly the closest approximation of a far-fetched box-front crumbshot ever rendered in pie. The colours are vividly distinct, with red cherry and white nut set starkly against black and brown vine fruits, all glistening in an oozy, boozy wash. Moz is much more understated in his demeanour, rocking a time-honoured, murky uniformity and not really giving a monkeys about aesthetics and perception. Looks arent everything, of course this IS Pie Club, after all and, on the palate, its a close contest. Pastry is nigh-on identical, with Aldi slightly edging it with their sugar work and an, albeit miserly, injection of butter. Inside, Moz offers a far more interesting chew that appearances promise, throwing in some candied peel and the occasional lump of apple as orange zings insistently in the background. The SS chew isnt bad either, with the variation in constituent parts as evident to the bite as it is to the eye. Unfortunately for Aldi, the whole affair is dominated by punishing, cheap brandy overtones - I like a touch of festive warmth as much as the next wino but, on this occasion at least, boozers are most definitely losers.
And the winner is: Morrisons Deep Filled takes it for the tee-totallers.

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Round 1 - Asda vs M&S Classic
7th Nov 2013
Welcome, then, to a new-look Pie Club, where two contrasting favourites of old go head-to-head in this inaugural round of 16 clash.
 Asda  M&S Classic
Asda M&S Classic
Asda M&S Classic
Small and squat, with an 'inny' star lid and a quaintly homemade demeanour. Endearing, perhaps, but certainly not a looker. All gently golden hues and generous sugar crystals, with uncharacteristic base seepage the only blemish - unless you're still taking issue with the slit lid. Which we're not.
Match Report
Almost unblemished by the ravages of time, two-time winner M&S Classic is all good looks and confident swagger, and its difficult to envisage pluck alone being enough to see its traditionally inferior red box rival springing a surprise. Undeterred by preconception, Asda piles in like a Yorkie having a crack at a Rottweiler, its relentlessly tangy orange assault only slightly stymied by cloy from a rudimentary pastry casing. The Classic is far too experienced a campaigner to fall foul of one-trick-pony citrus bluster, quickly rocking Asda back on its heels with a sharp snap of sweet, buttery pastry before bringing the contest to a swift conclusion with a plentiful chew through clove-tinged fruit and peel. I dont think anyone was expecting any prolonged cut and thrust here, were they?
And the winner is: M&S Classic by some considerable distance.

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