...mince pie mayhem
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...
|Quarter Final - Iceland Luxury vs Tesco Finest - 7th Dec 2017
Iceland, as traditional underdogs of the baking scene, have suffered from some tough draws through the years. And, they won’t thank us for saying this, backed the wrong horse with Peter Andre getting the nod as spokesman ahead of Craig David. However, they have easily taken the award for 2017’s best Christmas advert with the fabulously creepy ‘Luxury Gilded Turkey’. They even advertise their mince pies in a different version within the game-changing campaign.
Tesco won’t care though. As the biggest producer never to have taken the title, these early rounds are nothing but an inconvenient delay in their quest for yuletide revenge against the posh lads from Marks. How far can their little green men go this year?
|Iceland Luxury – Not Frozen Food||Tesco Finest – Can anything hold them?|
|Iceland Luxury||Tesco Finest|
|Sporting this year’s must have, the star duo motif, Iceland continue the luxury feel by sitting in a golden sleeve within a sophisticated midnight jazz club crumbshot. Confident enough to use ‘Luxury’ as a one word description of their contents, we need to scan the side panels to glean further titbits of info, but even then, little more than a Tweet* awaits.||Having been edged in the semi by M&S Classic, there was no earthly reason to change their look and feel. Now proudly the only entrant to insist that alien faces make great Christmas memories, the sheer terror engendered on their introduction in 2014 has ebbed away to be replaced by a sense of nostalgic relief.|
Getting into the drift of what passes for icing sugar dumped upon Iceland’s starry upper, a well-browned lip provides crisp butter reward.
In response, Tesco’s dull biscuit taint has a comforting yield and the faintest pinch of fruity undertone, but may still need to make up ground from within.
Under Iceland’s dazzling lid is a wonderland of neatly spiked fruit hanging within a jammy landscaped orchard. There is joy to be had here.
Tesco’s own playground for the palate seems paltry in this new light. The investment in Courvoisier was perhaps a gamble, and the welcome addition of nuts presents a solid team, on paper. The punch is sadly absent though, particularly notable as the episodic crunch is navigated carefully, a hiatus in which we could expect to be thrilled by the depth of tang or the rich festive cheer of spiced currants.
Clearly, our expectations of a hiatus with punch have not been met. Not yet anyway, but the wait for a taxi after the Pie Club Christmas party on Black-Eye Friday should see to that.
Anyway, I think the last semi-finalist can be announced.
*By the way...if you want to be alerted the moment our semis appear, follow @PieClubPC on that Twitter
|And the winner is: Iceland Luxury have achieved greatness. A semi-final berth for a frozen food merchant seemed unthinkable only a few years ago. Fairytale stuff.|
|Quarter Final - Marks & Spencer Classic vs Waitrose All Butter - 5th Dec 2017
The defending champion returns to action today, nearly a month after their first round triumph. Much has changed in the intervening weeks, particularly our attitude to confection innovation. Can M&S turn the style back on in a tournament that has openly embraced the weird and wonderful? Waitrose lurk, under the radar and the bed, hoping to surprise and delight in a manner inversely proportionate to the success of the John Lewis Monster.
As an aside, it now seems a stroke of real genius that the ‘Moz’ branded merchandise was made of insanely biodegradable cotton to avoid choking the landfill sites that he will be hiding under in 2018. Or have I imagined that?
|M&S Classic - classy lady?||Waitrose All Butter - all man?|
|Marks & Spencer Classic||Waitrose All Butter|
|Pie Club has contacted M&S for the background story to their intriguing sleeve. Amongst the many matters to be addressed, we hoped to learn more about the red granite work surface, the domino influence and the apparent nibble – akin to our own first bite regime. Going bare atop, the starry airhole is a brave move which gives a deep insight into the machinations beneath.||Unlike some companies that farm out their pie baking to The Highlands, Waitrose keep it hush hush on the box. The time-served tang from the box along with genuine shortbread credentials spell Walkers from beyond the wall. Hopefully, 2018 will be a year to address the monotone nature of their Waitrose1 livery.|
Crunch for crunch, Waitrose definitely have the edge in constructing a solid defensive outer. Their sparky crust inhales plenty of the fruity fug sitting within an unopened packet, affording more than simple biscuit notes. M&S may be a touch sweeter to deal with, but the engineering is not their strong point.
As attention turns to fuller portions, M&S begin to work through the gears. Sliding spices between clashing waves of stiffened sultanas and thick peel chunks, a spectacular burst of mulled splashes extinguish any fire of regret.
Taking greater girth of Waitrose proves only to continue the earlier tang theme, as their hearty inner has become so heavily infused that the peel, vine fruit and almond offer little distraction from the brandied pulp route.
M&S haven’t put this to bed yet, but Waitrose will need to showcase their range of ingredients to get back into the tie. Flash us a cherry at least guys.
|And the winner is: M&S Classic are not the stellar performer of 2016, but have edged into the semis. The sign of a true champion?|