...mince pie mayhem
For too long, this great institution shunned the seemingly imperfect or non-conformists among the mince pie population and we must therefore shoulder at least part of the blame for the decline of civilised society to this unusually low ebb.
Ushering in a new era for inclusivity and tolerance, our doors have been thrown open to the tart, the iced, the crumble top and even an Ecclefechan. Eight normals will compete to represent tradition in a grand final against the champion of the crazy eight. See tournament draw.
Liverpool's famous Game Theorist, Holly Johnson, will have his furious 1980s hypothesis tested by the Two Tribes of Pie Club 2018, and he will have his answer.
|Semi Final - Heston’s Sour Cherry vs Sainsbury’s Ecclefechan - 17th Dec 2018
There can be no doubting the quality on show from the crazy half of our Two Tribes knockout. We may find that the simple, Neanderthal mince pies are slowly displaced by this evolution taking place across our bakery shelves, or the Cradle of Life as I refer to them.
It is also a harder competition to judge, as the infinite varieties play to personal taste, in a polarizing way that few standard versions manage. Luckily, we’ve never steered you wrong, but I’m sure that you can imagine the damage a half-hearted bunch of industry professionals could wreak when faced with such an open ended Christmas question.
Anyway, eyes down, Pie Club 2018 is about to have its first finalist…
|Heston Sour - stranger things exist||Ecclefechan – the beast from beyond the wall|
|Heston’s Sour Cherry||Sainsbury’s Ecclefechan|
|The bobbly brown discs are really nothing to look at, and could be dubbed ‘teddy bear poo’ by a more infantile website. As a six, with the cartoony sleeve, they feel like something original. An adventure, if you will, and that’s a gift in itself.||These bruisers come without pretentions, without fanfare and obviously without motif atop. The current Taste The Difference livery is starting to look tired, and the foursome crumbshot is uninspired, particularly when placed next to a viewing pane, rendering it redundant. A deliberate ambush perhaps.|
Heston’s crunchy sides open with their usual finesse. Shovelling cocoa clusters our way with only the faintest whiff of sour cherry in the background.
Ecclefechan give up their nibble with some reluctance. The stiff walls hold firm before releasing their butter crackle to a palate grateful for such shortbread nostalgia.
On the deep bite, Heston goes long. The mash needs an age to break down the crumble’s lumpen charms, meaning the fruit gets a fair go at crafting their cherry and vine combinations. Don’t be afraid of the vodka within, it doesn’t influence the rich mincemeat half as much as the kirsch, but it provides a novel adult undertow. Truly original thinking.
Showing Heston a thing or two about lengthy chews, Ecclefechan has managed to evaporate all unnecessary moisture. Which can be daunting at first but when its buttery nuts introduce the bite, you cannot staunch the flow of juices desperate to mingle with the rich body of tart. Bring your own mush, sassenachs!
With no chinks in either’s armour, the beaten pie today will have every right to feel aggrieved. But a decision must be made between the Black Forest marriage to sultanas or a mouth-watering Highland fling.
|And the winner is: Sainsbury’s Ecclefechan. Utterly astonishing performance to knock out Heston’s masterpiece. Butter trumps chocolate. Today.|
|Quarter Final - Heston Sour Cherry vs Aldi Sloe Gin - 14th Dec 2018
The last example of this year’s Black Forest movement are fighting to keep their cherries relevant today. They must see off the perennially popular gin slinger from Aldi, a gateway pastry in many respects to the worlds of tart, lattice work and morning drinking. The last semi final spot awaits, and the chance to visit Ecclefechan country, where the almonds are already being sharpened to a point.
Whichever delicious treat makes it to the grand final from this wild side of the draw will have done it the hard way.
|Heston Sour – works hard, plays hard||Aldi Sloe Gin – pleasure disembowelled|
|Heston Sour Cherry||Aldi Sloe Gin|
|Nipping in before the Brexit gates slam, these tipsy lads are made in Holland, using palm oil and cherry bakewell vodka. So, quite the political animal. Neatly circular of bottom and each with a lopsided lump or two atop, we must be careful to remain grown up here.||Similarly hewn to a broad puck base, the glossy lattice presents a more uniform branding before the flaked almonds scatter to form a myriad of dots and dashes. Each one looks like a coded message, perhaps along the lines of ‘eat me, I’m probably one of your five a day’ or ‘alcoholic nuts operate in this area’.|
No foil on show today, just naked confection. See the Readers’ Pies page for that reference. Once you’ve finished your tea.
Popping off a crusty edge from Heston shares little with the experience of a normal mince pie. Infused sourness elevates the chocolate chew before a lengthy fruit slap lands.
Aldi Sloe ready their own fruit slap, but don’t let it inform the rim on a minor nibble, leaving more traditional butter to lay the groundwork for the steeped vine onslaught yet to begin.
What may have been mistaken for weird bubblegum nostalgia in Heston’s round one tie, I now see as a playfully perfumed curd sparking the kind of merriment we used to enjoy at office parties, before austerity stole our futures. Maybe this pie is the turning point, showing us a brighter tomorrow with its chewy purple heart, irregular crumble topping and mouth watering finish.
Grounding that flight of fancy, Aldi Sloe shows no sign of being put off its stride and slides out a gin soaked mincemeat between the crisp smacks of pastry. While the tang may have over-promised from such strong previous performances, at least the cranberries come together to leave a lasting memory.
|And the winner is: Heston Sour Cherry. This perky little fella may annoy some, but the twisted pleasure has piqued my interest. Vodka beat gin, it seems.|