It’s the return of the Head To Head today and as it is December it’d be criminal not to do mince pies!
There aren’t any rules, standard or luxury doesn’t really matter, but preferably not deep filled – just so there’s a fairer base line for the amount of filling.
I’ve recruited three little elves in the forms of my husband, mum and dad and we’re going to be judging the pies on the way they look, the structural integrity (are they strong enough that I don’t have to shove the whole thing in my gob in one bite?) and the flavours of both the pastry and the mincemeat (do I even want to shove the whole thing in my gob?) I decided to set the bar with the winner of The Good Housekeeping mince pie of the year..
Iceland Luxury Mince Pies
(£1.50 for 6)
I was shocked a retailer whose sole selling point is frozen food won arguably the most important Christmas food accolade but there you go! They are part of the “Luxury” range but I was impressed that they cost near enough the same or even cheaper than other supermarket standard range mince pies.
Look: They look the part and a lot higher end than you might expect from little old Iceland, if these were out at a Christmas party I’d never have guessed!
Structure: They’re pretty much perfect! This is despite being underneath a ton of frozen pizzas in the boot of my car. I could’ve eaten them anywhere – easily a two bite pie and the remaining half held its shape and filling nicely.
Pastry: Incredible. Beautifully crumbly with a delicious sweet buttery flavour. The nicest shop bought pastry I’ve ever eaten.
Mincemeat: Good. There was plenty of it – I actually wouldn’t have been disappointed with this amount had they been “deep filled” pies. Thick, sweet and juicy with an abundance of fruits, it was just lacking for me and the husband helper in the mixed spice department with none to taste whatsoever.
The 1T household would’ve liked more spice (but that’s just us being picky), mum and dad have already stocked up on enough to last until January “unexpected Christmas visitors” share included.
Mr Kipling Deep Filled Mince Pies
(£1.50 for 6)
The first challenger is the man with the plan when it comes to baked goods in the UK, good old Mr.Kipling. These are deep filled but it was that or ice topped unfortunately and no-one wants those…
Look: Well, he tried.
Structure: He didn’t try. Look closely and you’ll see 1/4 of my trim is missing – this was the least damaged too and the box had its own seat in the car on the way home from the shop and everything! There was as much broken pastry in the box as there was left on one or two of the pies.
Pastry: Disappointing. Coming so soon after the Iceland mince pies it was pathetic in comparison. Thick and crumbly but weirdly brittle, it was bloody hard to eat in one piece and had a much firmer texture to chew. It was like eating the shortcake biscuit from a biscuit barrel straight after an authentic Scottish all butter shortbread. It might be alright alone but it’s not even worthy of being called an imitation.
Mincemeat: Sweet. And not in a fruity juicy way. It’s all sugar baby and the poor attempt at deep filled was thin and boring. The one positive was I finally tasted the mixed spiced I’d been waiting for but I wish I hadn’t had to stomach the contents of the sugar bowl to do so.
We didn’t actually think they were that bad until we tried another Iceland pie. Probably fine if they’re all you’ve got but there are much nicer available.
Sainsburys Taste The Difference All Butter Mince Pies
(£2.50 for 6)
Sainsburys contender is from the Taste The Difference Range, thanks to being the only one the Sainsburys I was in actually had in stock. Never mind – no rules remember!
They were the first to seal the mince pies inside a plastic bag inside the box, some might say a waste of packaging but I liked it, I was actually wondering how they stay “fresh” inside just a cardboard box anyway.
Look: They had an identical holly leaf stamped on top as the Mr. Kipling but a sprinkling of sugar manages to make it look a bit nicer. I like them, sometimes less is more you know!
Structure: Worryingly good. The pies are sitting very snugly in their little foil cups and after a fight on my part they emerged completely unscathed. I hoped that didn’t mean they’d be as hard as a rock to eat too.
Pastry: Eh. It does have a slightly buttery flavour but it’s nothing particularly special or anything I’d choose again. It wasn’t rock hard but it didn’t have that wonderful crumble either, instead it was much firmer. Not quite as hard as a biscuit but it was heading that way.
Mincemeat: Where is it? I’m joking but for £2.50 I expect at least half of the pie to be filled! What was there was O.K. It was extremely thick past the point of gloopy and more like a sludge. Fighting to shine was a lovely fruity mincemeat flavour but it was completely drowned out by the burn of sugar.
Maybe we expected too much thanks to the price but none of us were impressed with these.
Lidl Snowy Lodge Luxury Mince Pies
(£1.25 for 6)
So the Lidl mince pies are another “luxury pie” but they’re the only mince pie my Lidl sell and at that price I suspect they’re the only mince pie Lidl sell full stop. Bonus points for the price! It’s also the only mince pie that’s had an emphasis on alcohol so far..
Crumbly, all butter shortcrust pastry cases generously deep filled with lightly spiced mincemeat laced with Courvoisier Vs Cognac and finished with a sprinkling of sugar.
Look: Boring. But I suppose I’ll sacrifice fancy decorations when they’re half the price of similar mince pies.
Structure: Look for yourself! They were all perfect in the box but had a weirdly solid pastry case.
Pastry: Middle of the road for me, despite appearances it was actually quite soft and ended up crumbling quite nicely. The sugar sprinkled on top are granules though which added a little crunchiness that was unneeded – both the texture and taste. It does have a lovely sweet buttery flavour though.
Mincemeat: We’re a mixed bag over here. Personally I loved it. There wasn’t quite as much as promised but what was there was thick, juicy, full of flavour and oh so boozey. Husband helper prefers his food sweet and his alcohol in his glass so he wasn’t very keen and mum and dad helpers both agreed with me (I knew they would, they’ve got alcohol in them..)
The pastry just stops this being my favourite. One for the grown ups.
Co-Op Irresistible All Butter Luxury Mince Pies
(£2 for 6)
Co-Ops mince pies are from the higher end range again as this was the only mince pie sold in the whole, large, store. I don’t know what’s going on in my area, maybe they think we’re all posh.. I assure you, we ain’t!
Look: Wrong. Whether its the burnt looking pastry edges, the granules of sugar lobbed on top or the holly just off centre, there was something not quite right about these. On the other hand you could probably get away with pretending your kids made them!
Structure: Awful. 3 of the 4 of us had real issues with eating our mince pies. Husband helper shoved his down in one and a quarter bites so him and his big gob were O.K but the rest of us struggled. Mum helpers entire lid came off before she’d even taken a bite, dad helper ended up giving half of his to the dogs and I ate my pastry and mincemeat in separate 5p sized pieces.
Pastry: I sense a theme here.. Not great. Although there was more sugar left inside the box than on my pie it was all I could taste with only a hint, if that, of the buttery flavour I’ve become accustomed to with these “all butter pastries”. On top of all this the pastry was hard, it crumbled but not in the good way and if you were lucky enough to not have it break apart in your hands you ended up with a thick almost crisp feel in the mouth.
Mincemeat: Can I have some please? All of our mince pies were only half filled, well except for my mums but she can’t be sure, where the lid fell off we couldn’t really tell how much empty space there was. What I did have was overly sweet again and crunchy. There are walnuts and almonds inside but it wasn’t these I could feel, it was raw fruits – mainly apple – perfectly tasty normally but not what I want in my mince pie.
If I were to give it a rating it’d probably be a 4. That’s me being generous too.
Keep your eyes peeled for Part 2!