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Pie Club 2017

It's still a knockout, in at least one sense

Never before has the pursuit of pastry distraction felt so important. With little to cheer in a stormy world of bullish nonsense, we can steady the ship and import joy to your desperate dockside (no offence meant).

Join us for the internet equivalent of drawing the curtains, popping on the Bagpuss boxset and settling down with a nice cup of tea. You are in a safe place here. The pies, however, had better watch out, Father Christmas is coming for you!

Sixteen pies start the season with high hopes (see our tournament draw), but only one will prevail. Ready the annals, 2017's dream is about to come true...

Round 1 - Waitrose Chocolate & Ginger vs Sainsbury's Taste The Difference - 20th Nov 2017
We are all a little too proud of ourselves at Pie Club this year. Having let Heston join in our seasonal fun, we didn’t stop there, oh no. You will note a lack of cardboard outer and a very new steer for our dinner table delighters with a second debutant from Waitrose – the Chocolate & Ginger four.
If anyone is beginning to believe that this fine institution may have jumped into bed with the aspirational John Lewis grocery arm, fear not, they are a convenient ally in a year of experimentation. Their more imaginative offerings arrived in store long before the evil geniuses at Lidl and Aldi had put the finishing touches atop their wild gin, gingerbread, florentine and salted caramel chimeras.
Waitrose Choc & Ginger – a star is born Sainsbury’s TTD – now with added girders
Waitrose Choc & Ginger – a star is born Sainsbury’s TTD – now with added girders
Waitrose Chocolate & Ginger Sainsbury's Taste The Difference
It’s a few years since a plastic bag of pies popped up on our tasting table. Due to the diminutive nature of these dusky dainties, the clear sleeve can both expose and protect in equal measure. The packet carries a nursery slope of tobogganists, which may paint an image of the intended recipient of such base treats, or may be intended to remind the audience that Christmas is a time for obvious pleasures and innocent fun. The ‘Two Ronnies’ principle, if you will. Sainsbury’s have been throwing their premium pies at us since the internet was in nappies with little success. Their latest monster, gurning from within a familiar gold and purple livery has opted for a double star lid. Brave to allow a potential escape route for their traditionally sturdy mincemeat mix. Clearly, much time and effort has gone into the new bead-curtain themed sleeve, although you can make your own mind up about what kind of establishments would be most likely to make use of such a sultry doorway obscurer.
Match Report
Taking only the very brown pastry in, at last an answer is given to the question “What would chocolate be like if you added flour, for some reason?” I can tell you that it is most pleasant. Hot chocolate crust gives way to a velvet underground fade out. Can’t wait for my massive mouth attack. I’ll stop now.
As spiky a bite as the pointed top suggests, this is a Caledonian masterclass in shortbread moulding. Snap off the rim to discover butter unabashed, but don’t expect granny to thank you.
The buzz felt from amid a fuller chomp of WaitChocGing is difficult to control. From the gentle choc-ginger-orange melee rises a enveloping cloud of solid cocoa heaven. Cloud nine for Dawn French and, I have no doubt, anyone else with even a glimmer of humanity left within their frantic consciousness.
Oh, are you still here STTD? Bless them for trying, and in many ways succeeding, to elongate this tie, but their orthodox inner presents little to sway opinion. There is a particularly lengthy chew ahead for those committed enough to fracture the stony walls, and the rewarding citrus peel elevates the steeped currant flavouring. You could do worse, in fairness.
And the winner is: Waitrose Chocolate & Ginger may have redefined Christmas 2017. Let’s pray they don’t run out, literally and figuratively.

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Round 1 - Heston's Lemon Twist vs Tesco Finest - 16th Nov 2017
With all the crushing horror of the world today, from Christmas adverts involving nightmarish visions beneath infant beds, or potty mouthed carrot lotharios, to those bakers seeking to divide society by replacing religious idols with mechanically recovered pig meat, it must now be time for some love. With inclusiveness the watchword, Pie Club have rubber stamped the first non-trad entrant into these great halls. Heston’s lemony debutants were born without pastry lids, but that’s ok. We are happy to judge their crumble top. Who knows, 2018 may see boxes of iced, frangipane or our old frenemy the ecclefechan have starting berths. Nothing should be off our table. Even rough puff.
The change starts here and now.
Heston’s Lemon Twist – for children in need Tesco Finest – too scary for kids
Heston’s Lemon Twist – for children in need Tesco Finest – too scary for kids
Heston's Lemon Twist Tesco Finest
Waitrose have upped their game with this arty silver sleeve. Why have a tired old crumbshot when a lemon wearing holly can be sketched, out for a boat ride? Granted some purists may enjoy a glimpse into their future, and to predict the expected enjoyment, but now again it’s fun to live dangerously. The danger theme continues when the black inner is unsheathed. These titanic beasts have heft and the kind of knobbles that would make a hobnob blush. Safety goggles required. For the umpteenth year in a row, Tesco have stuck with the three-eyed extra-terrestrial pie. Last year’s box makes a welcome return displaying the most imaginatively hewn crumbshot. Pie top left seems to have been zapped in half by an errant ray gun bolt. Friendly fire no doubt.
Match Report
Heston’s edges provide a safe haven for cinnamon society. It takes real momentum to crack the walls, but once the spiced brickwork shatters expect a punch of sweetness on the palate.
Tesco’s ET brings me back down to earth with an orthodox butter bite and the softness that aids human jawbones.
Here comes the lemon! Combined with the stiff tart floor, the effect engenders a youthful haze of sherbert lemon sweets, particularly if one gave way early and crunch accompanied fizz. The mincemeat is present but merely informs the physical side of proceedings leaving the citrus overlord to drive home its acidic finish.
Tesco are no mugs and don’t try to accentuate one aspect of their soul, but allow all their seasonal attributes to flow together in a rousing concert of rich sultana, spiked apple and nutty drop ins. Marking a pleasant change, this contest offers stark contrast between an all-powerful yellow presence and a characterful version of ‘Christmas Plan A’. Whatever happens, I urge you to play this tie at home as I’m sure opinion will be polarized. You may even discover something new about your relationship with lemons.
And the winner is: Tesco Finest. Holding their nerve in the face of such a persuasive tart. A bold effort, Heston, but you will have to add another string to this bow in 2018.

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