...mince pie mayhem
Mince pie tastings are usually conducted professionally, by an uninspired panel, trotting out bone dry statistics that feed the need of opinion factory magazines, and other fettered institutions.
Wouldn't you rather enjoy a rogue one?
Pie Club's return as inexorable as an English football crisis or a paternal Star Wars melodrama, should bring fire to the belly of Christmas scrutineers everywhere.
The sixteen finalists in our tournament draw 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.
Someone warn the internet, the maelstrom of mixed fruit starts here!
|Semi Final - Marks & Spencer Classic vs Tesco Finest - 12th Dec 2016
Twas the week before Christmas and all through the house, no pies were for sharing to even my spouse. Yes, panic buying has hit hard and I am down to one pack of each remaining contestant. I was aware that festive shoppers made full use of my invaluable advice, but didn’t expect shelves to clear before I’d even finished the semis. Perhaps they are going on the strength of pronouncements by News Corp, GMTV or the Manchester Guardian, who knows? All I know is that if you see the pies you want, buy them.
Buy them all.
|M&S Classic Box – cloves model’s own||Tesco Finest with big chew?|
|Marks & Spencer Classic||Tesco Finest|
|MSC seemed to be hitting their stride in the quarter final with Iceland, who don’t have an issue with panic buying it seems, as their shelves remain laden with affordable quality mincemeat treats (no one getting carried away by Good Housekeeping’s verdict then). But they can be susceptible to ugliness – with a misshapen starry airhole always a worry.||TescoFin have seen off some powerful pastry this term, with Lidl a particular scalp of renown. However, their pedigree is that of an also-ran, never having grasped the trophy; but they are not strangers to the latter stages of this once great institution, having now featured in the semi finals in four of the last seven years.|
Beauty and the beast sit beplated and eager to please. MSC, lucky to have provided a neatly starred lid, kiss my teeth with the demeanour of a Nice biscuit on the turn –softening but clinging to sweetness.
TescoFin dispense with crisp ideals to favour a tainted cake stance, guiding the nibble to its buttery yield. Interesting start already from two very differently angled competitors.
Fully bitten MSC cannot stop bringing the joy, their spicing has utterly excelled itself and the lower notes from cloves allow the brown sugared treacle to permeate lemon fizz in a way it ought not to. TescoFin has a few tricks of its own to fetch out, and an almond overbite extrapolates the chew, stretching a void dutifully filled by the vine mix boasting no short measure of port and brandy.
My pie stocks suddenly feel woefully short, as this contest will have to resort to Extra Pies, for the first time in 2016. Cue chin scratching montage over mounting pile of empty foil cases…
|And the winner is: MSC have found yet another gear, having already stepped up their output in the quarters. Easy on the clutch there Marks, you have to keep this up for another week!|
|Quarter Final - Tesco Finest vs Lidl Luxury - 8th Dec 2016
As news of Greg Lake’s sad demise fills our hearts with a particular kind of Christmas sorrow, we must strengthen our resolve to stick to our beliefs. Whether we share Mr Lake’s belief in Father Christmas or not, we should all believe in the power of mince pies to bring people together. United against Mr Kipling (see @PieClubPC’s twitter stream #winteriscoming) or drawn together to share our thoughts on Heston Blumenthal’s twisted ‘lemony’ creation. Love them or hate them, Heston’s crumble-topped spice mountains are certainly something.
Obviously, they don’t conform to this competition’s specifications, or those of most humans, so I am not able to give them a run out here.
More regular stars of the ‘scene’ complete the quarter-finals today, Tesco Finest and Lidl Luxury. Two well-matched pies I reckon. Let’s see who makes the semis…
|Tesco's Little Green Men have landed||Lidl Luxury mit tannenbaum|
|Tesco Finest||Lidl Luxury|
|Despite being competitive in many of our mince pie years, Tesco Finest have never won this competition, or even made it to a grand final. Many pastry pundits thought 2012 was going to be their year, as they topped the league table and were drawn against Asda in the semis. However, as I’m sure you will all remember, Pru Leith’s Extra Special one of 2012 was a beast and Tesco were left to wonder what might have been.||Unchanged for quite a few years, Lidl took the title in 2013 but found it hard to live up to the hype the following year, before bouncing back to finish runner up in last year’s grand final. They made us wait with erratic delivery schedules, and are still hard to come by for some country folk, so before setting out to join the big queues, perhaps wait and see how this tie goes.|
I should mention that the policy of having a further two tasters continues today, and is working well I feel, as they are keeping this secretive organisation honest.
Still the scariest alien face on any pie, I manage to go in, eyes closed, to be rewarded with a pastry edge of professional smoothness and shortbread aftertaste. Lidl’s confident star motif is mirrored by their adept baking to provide the shorter of the two bites, and marginally sweeter. The tasters found cause for concern in the lack of rigidity from Lidl as no doubt they are not as used to handling such delicate confections.
Taking a large bite across “the pleasing array of air holes” uncovers Tesco’s secret treasure. Almost a feeling that each plump fruit and miniature nib of nut has been placed carefully to allow the full cross section of textures and spiced juice in every chomp. Lidl need to step up.
You needn’t have worried that the German imports would give up without a fight! Gluhwein essences leak through their retort, both in the spice mix and the grown up tipple finish. Debate rages and chairs are launched, figuratively. Craft versus strength, anyone?
|And the winner is: Tesco Finest have seen off the last remaining European pies. I do hope this web event isn’t heading towards Brexit Island.|