Johannesburg - Mince pies, that Christmas treat of sweet fruit mince and pastry, are on the shelves of every supermarket, but which to pick?
Our readers need guidance. That’s why every year we hold a blind tasting, and pick the top three.
On our judging panel this year were:
* e.tv news anchor and author Jenna-Leigh February;
*executive chef from Tsogo Sun, James Khoza,
* a pastry chef extraordinaire; Minette Smith, who has worked in top hotel kitchens like The Saxon and Mosaic;
* and cake icing expert and teacher Noel Fordred.
There were six fruit mince pies for the panel to taste. The packaging was removed so judges were not aware of which brand they were judging. Then they were slightly warmed.
The panel was asked to rate them according to appearance, ratio of pastry to filling, taste and value for money.
The judges took to the task with enthusiasm and each pie was carefully assessed. In the end, the Pick n Pay pies came out tops. The pies from Game Stores were the runners-up, while the Woolworths pies came in third place.
1 PICK N PAY
Deep Filled Fruit Mince Pies, R19.99 for 6
James: Very good value for money. It could have a bit more spice for my taste.
Noel: The ratio of pastry to filling was good and it’s very good value for money.
Jenna-Leigh: Pastry was a bit crumbly, but it was a lovely pie. I would happily eat another.
Minette: A very tasty, homely pie.
2 GAME STORES
Foodco Fruit Mince Pies, R24.90 for 6
James: It tasted far better than I expected it to. Good value for money – I would definitely buy it.
Noel: It is a well-balanced pie with a good aroma of spice.
Jenna-Leigh: Wonderful aroma. Sadly, the lid detached from the base, but I enjoyed the flavour.
Minette: Although the pastry was a little thick, it had a good taste and a nice spicy aroma.
Fruit Mince Pies, R27.95 for 6 (currently on special for R23.95)
James: Not enough of a spice flavour comes through, but the pastry’s good.
Noel: Very nice-looking pie but the taste didn’t live up to my expectations.
Jenna-Leigh: Filling not bad, but I couldn’t eat more than one.
Minette: Lovely neat pie but the filling tasted a bit overcooked.
Limited Edition Fruit Mince Pies, R29.99 for 6
James: Nice aroma of spice, but the pastry is too thick for the amount of filling.
Noel: A bit under-baked and pale but a good spicy filling.
Jenna-Leigh: Pastry too crumbly but a lovely spicy smell.
Minette: Rustic-looking pie with the pastry too thick.
FOOD LOVER’S MARKET
Fruit Mince Pies, R17.99 for 6
James: Not a good balance between pastry and filling, but good value for money.
Noel: Not enough spice in the filling and, although the pastry was thick, it did have a buttery aroma.
Jenna-Leigh: Pastry overwhelms the filling. Not pleasant to eat.
Minette: Filling has a strong citrus flavour and the pastry tastes under-baked.
Freshline Fruit Mince Pies, R28.99 for 6
James: It had a strange aftertaste and it’s not good value for money.
Noel: Not enough sugar on the outside and the filling has quite an acidic aftertaste.
Jenna-Leigh: The filling was generous, but it had an annoying aftertaste.
Minette: Strangely it tasted like there was chutney in the filling – a bit unpleasant to eat.
DON’T WANT TO BUY? MAKE ANGELA DAY’S MINCE PIES
Makes 18 pies
Fruit mince filling
1 jar fruit mincemeat
125ml dried cranberries
80ml nibbed almonds
juice and finely grated rind of 1 orange
750ml plain flour
pinch of salt
250g butter, cut into small pieces
grated zest of 1 lemon
180ml icing sugar
2 eggs yolks
30-50ml ice-cold water
beaten egg for glazing
FRUIT MINCEMEAT: Spoon the fruit mincemeat into a small saucepan. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to the boil. Simmer for a few minutes. Set aside.
PASTRY: Combine the flour, salt, butter, lemon zest and icing sugar in a food processor, then whizz to form crumbs.
Add the egg yolks and cold water, then pulse to form a dough. Do not over-mix. Add a little extra water if necessary.
Wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for 20-30 minutes.
Roll out pastry to about 5mm thickness and cut out 18 discs to fit your patty pans.
Place a heaped teaspoon of mincemeat in each pastry case, but don’t overfill.
Roll out the remaining dough and cut out 18 rounds as lids. Moisten edges with water then place the lids on the pies.
To finish, brush the pies with beaten egg.
Bake at 180°C for 12-15 minutes or until the mince pies are a light golden brown.
Remove from oven and sift over some castor sugar if desired.
Cool in the tins for 5 minutes, then remove and cool on a rack.