The great 2013 mince pie taste test

By Angela Day Time of article published Dec 2, 2013

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Johannesburg - Mince pies, that Christmas treat of sweet fruit and pastry, are on the shelves of every supermarket, but which to pick?

That’s why every year we hold a blind tasting, and pick the top three.

On our panel this year were Nancy Kinyua, a pastry lecturer at the HTA School of Culinary Art in Randburg, Puleng Mash-Spies, the controversial contestant on Come Dine with Me South Africa, her sister Jessica Diamond, a make-up artist and aspiring actress, and expert baker Maatje Vollmer, who gives regular baking classes at the Angela Day Kitchen.

There were eight fruit mince pies for the panel to taste. It was a blind tasting so no one knew where each pie came from.

The pies were served slightly warmed, and the panel was asked to rate them according to appearance, ratio of pastry to filling, taste and value for money.

The panel took to their task with great enthusiasm and each pie was carefully assessed.

At the end the Woolworths pies won.

In a very close second place were the pies from Game Stores, which has started making mince pies for the first time.

In third place were the pies from Spar.

 

FIRST

Woolworths Fruit mince pies, R24.95 for 6

Nancy: It is beautifully baked and has a good amount of filling.

Puleng: Pastry nice and crisp.

Jessica: Perfect ratio of filling to pastry and it tastes great.

Maatje: Lovely spice flavour in the filling and good value for money.

 

SECOND

Game Stores, Foodco Christmas fruit mince pies R18.99 for 6

Nancy: Well browned and crisp to the taste, good value.

Puleng: Crisp pastry, very sweet and good value for money.

Jessica: The look is not too neat but pastry is crisp.

Maatje: Ratio of pastry to filling is good. A well priced pie.

 

THIRD

Spar Freshline fruit mince pies R25.99 for 6

Nancy: Good appearance, awesome flavour.

Puleng: Well balanced and good value for money.

Jessica: Pastry looks well baked and it tastes as good as it looks.

Maatje: Pastry thick but crisp and filling has a good flavour.

 

Checkers limited edition classic style fruit mince pies. R29.99 for 6

Nancy: The look is not appetising.

Puleng: The pie is very dry.

Jessica: Looks under-baked.

Maatje: Pastry not crisp but the flavour is not bad.

 

Pick n Pay deep filled mince pies R30 for 6

Nancy: Too much castor sugar on the top.

Puleng: Does not come out of foil casing easily.

Jessica: I love the sugar on top but the filling is a bit dry.

Maatje: It has a good shape and colour.

 

Pineslopes Spar in-store bakery fruit mince pies R23.99 for 4

Nancy: Pastry very thick for the amount of filling.

Puleng: It’s far too big and very expensive.

Jessica: Filling is nice and moist.

Maatje: Good shape and colour but not good value for money.

 

Pick n Pay Cresta in-store bakery fruit mince pies R17 for 6

Nancy: Pastry looks over-baked.

Puleng: The pastry is too brown and the filling too dry.

Jessica: The filling is too sweet and dry and the pies look very small.

Maatje: Ratio of filling to pastry not good and the filling is dry.

 

Checkers Cresta in-store bakery fruit mince pies R19.99 for 6

Nancy: They are well baked with crisp pastry, and they are good value for money.

Puleng: Good-tasting attractive pie.

Jessica: Generous amount of filling with a nice spicy taste.

Maatje: Good ratio of filling to pastry and good value for money.

 

Why not make your own?

ANGELA DAY’S MINCE PIES

Makes 12

180g butter

180g thick cream cheese

375ml cake flour

pinch of salt

jar of fruit mincemeat

lightly beaten egg for glazing

castor sugar

Cream the butter and cheese together until soft.

Carefully add the flour and salt and mix to a stiff dough.

Wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for 15 minutes.

Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface to 5mm thickness and cut out 12 rounds to fit the base of patty pans.

Gather up any scraps, roll out again and cut out slightly smaller rounds for the tops.

Spoon 15-20ml of the mincemeat into the pastry cases and dampen the edges with a little water. Top with pastry rounds and prick lids with a fork.

Lightly brush with beaten egg.

Bake at 180°C for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and sprinkle generously with castor sugar.

 

Make these special almond mince pies

Makes 36

PASTRY

500ml flour

60ml castor sugar

150g butter, cubed

1 egg, beaten

Ice water to mix

FILLING

400g jar of fruit mince

ALMOND TOPPING

150g butter

150g castor sugar

2 eggs

200g ground almonds

60ml flour

5ml almond extract

glace icing to decorate

PASTRY: Put the flour, castor sugar and butter into a food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

While pulsing the machine, add the egg and enough ice water to form a dough. Take care not to over mix.

Knead the dough lightly on a floured surface until smooth. Wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Roll out the dough on a floured surface and cut out 8-10cm discs to line your patty pans.

Put spoonfuls of fruit mince mixture into the pastry and spread with the almond topping.

Bake at 180°C for 20-30 minutes until golden brown. Remove and cool.

Drizzle with glace icing.

ALMOND TOPPING: Put the butter and sugar into a processor and cream until well blended. Add the eggs and mix well.

Add the almonds, flour and almond extract and pulse to combine.

Spread spoonfuls on top of the fruit mince mixture. - The Star

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