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...mince pie mayhem

 

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...

Grand Final - Waitrose Chocolate & Ginger vs M&S Luxury - 19th Dec 2017
It’s fair to say that we have never enjoyed a year in pies such as this. With the human race now 18 months into its nihilistic experiment to prove Charles Darwin wrong, finding sanctuary in mincemeat seemed all that we could offer to the weary and peckish.
Where there is life, there is hope, and nowhere in shortcrust will you find more vitality and drive than in these Grand Finalists.
It is difficult to overstate the importance of Waitrose Chocolate and Ginger’s run to the final in an increasingly insular society, unwilling to face the fear of the new with courage and an empty stomach.
What we can be certain of today is that there will be no losers. Christmas has found new layers of pleasure in an ever-growing range of pie and tart masterpieces, with yet unimagined delights still to come, perhaps in time to see out this decade of bewildering bakery change.
Standing up for the old order, M&S Luxury can be forgiven for an air of superiority, having seen so many pretenders come and go over the years, but has this chocolatey challenger got a genuine claim to the throne? Cersei Lannister versus Ned Stark’s b*stard son; if that doesn’t step too heavily on the toes of our sister website www.gameofscones.org.uk.
Waitrose Choc - a new power in the galaxy? M&S Luxury - about to take the stage
Waitrose Choc - a new power in the galaxy? M&S Luxury - about to take the stage
Waitrose Chocolate & Ginger M&S Luxury
Even within a season, the development continues, as a new cardboard sleeve now constricts the famous foursome. To be fair, it is simply an approximation of the plastic wrapper, perhaps reimagined to allow rabid shoppers to stack ten boxes at a time without fear of a chronic stack fatigue. We all know gold is shorthand for quality, right? Clearly the designers at M&S’ dedicated mince pie pack studio don’t want to challenge your preconceptions. Top of the range gear? Bosh! Gold everywhere. Job done. At least the craftsmen chiselling the star motif put a decent shift in.
Match Report
Easily mistaken for another pie’s plinth, Waitrose is happy to get amongst the lips. The gentle break of their tarty side gives a nibble of sweet crusty cocoa, and if uninitiated, you might expect the treat to begin and end there.
Having seen Waitrose arrive unclothed, M&S Luxury drag their feet in disrobing, but once the foil slips off there’s no doubt that they have brought their A game. Wrinkled and angular of wall, the fashionable old school look creates an expectation of sound butter business, which is easily fulfilled by the proto-chew; the citrus note chimes later.
There will be a groundswell of puritans that struggle with how closely Waitrose sail to the brownie wind, particularly with a hearty mouthful, but it doesn’t take long to spot the difference when a rock of ginger sparks into life. The warmth, surrounded by dried fruit tip this over onto a Yuletide path, or at least a path that should be taken, to see where it leads (it leads into flavour country).
Slamming right back into sharp focus, M&S Luxury draws power from its clementine heart and slings out spikey tang and brandy soaked cherry afters. No one can claim this pie is anything but authentic all-out Christmas glitz. But will it be enough to silence the dark horse once and for all?
To check our working, a small number of adjudicators from without this organisation were introduced to both finalists, and we are glad to say that each opinion matched our own…


So, that’s it for another year. Before we pronounce though, eternal thanks must go to the family of Pie Club who suffer in every conceivable way from the over-indulgence, literally and figuratively, to the web runner Simon Wilson, who just doesn’t have the heart to cancel us (currently), and to everyone who has given part of their lunchtime to read, support or berate us. God bless you, have an informed Christmas, and we hope to see you all in 2018.
And the winner is: Waitrose Chocolate & Ginger have come from nowhere. They have opened the door to an inclusive future, and have justified their place in our annals.

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Semi Final - M&S Classic vs M&S Luxury - 14th Dec 2017
Reasons to be cheerful for M&S today. With both the semi-finalists coming from their hallowed Food Hall they are guaranteed a team in the showpiece final. It hasn’t been much fun being team Magic & Sparkle this season as they stumbled from one crisis to another. They’ve been responsible for Paddington learning some new swear words, they have admitted that some of their hand picked cherries were harvested by sentient fruit-drones and now an unfortunate shadow in the knitted image of Mrs Claus’ pantaloons give her the appearance of ‘dressing to the left’.
Some of that may turn out to be untrue, but even so, the fact that we can even decide to make it up suggests that an upturn is needed. This very civil war may be just that shot in the arm.
M&S Classic - Hey, that's my wife! M&S Luxury - about to get started?
M&S Classic - Hey, that's my wife! M&S Luxury - about to get started?
M&S Classic M&S Luxury
This box contains a more tanned variety of pastry, unlike any of the many thousand already bitten, and while this promotes a stronger image, historically M&S Classic have made elegance their watchword. Audrey Hepburn with a tan, then. It has been remiss of me to make no reference previously to the one green panel on the box side being mistletoe; making a playful flap from which to introduce mince pies into any gathering. Lots to see atop this luxury line. Two disparate stars share the space, but little in common. This pastry Odd Couple comprises the neat and tidy Felix star gripping onto the scruffier, though better crafted Oscar star. Bless M&S for their homage to Neil Simon’s finest hour. The golden box provides its own awards ceremony backdrop, but will that be prescient?
Match Report
Neither of the pies look their best, with the near burnt Classic lining up beside a Luxury unusually shedding a vine escapee.
Classic lead us off with standard fayre. Their darkened rim hasn’t impacted on the sweet crumble top, luckily. Luxury can’t wait to bury any notions of ‘standard’, pinging out their zesty crumb to wonderful effect. A surprise every time, even though it shouldn’t be by now.
Richly spiced treacle guts (coincidentally a pet name I have been given) spill forth from Classic’s shortcrust outer eliciting a nod of recognition from weary tastebuds, glad to be on home turf at last. There has never been a pie like the Classic, it has the perfect texture, spices and volume to do a solid job on anyone’s Christmas table. The full bites coming from its stablemate may be operating on an entirely different plane. To list clementine third in the list of players on the box front is either modesty beyond belief or hallmarks of a management afraid to flag up the influence of normally one of the smallest cornerstones of a festive food stop. The cocktails concocted from citrus-cherry-brandy and friends make for a constantly changing tour round the top shelf of any respectable, if fruity, mixologist.
This decision is more heart versus heart; head has no place here this Christmas.
And the winner is: M&S Luxury have lured this judge out for the night and no doubt he is going home on the clementine express. Morning regrets incoming…

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