Some claim that Mince Pies are somewhat marmite; I'll never understand this. Just when you thought a full christmas dinner with copious amounts of mulled wine had you sedated into an oblivion, a small fruity pastry with dashings of brandy sauce comes along and truly hits the spot. A perfect end to the annual festive dinner.
Not all of us have the time or will power to build our own mince pies. While many say that one could easily purchase and compile the relevant components with a greater scope for customisation for less, we saw fit to cater for the typical customer instead. So what exactly is available to the discerned prebuilt pie buyer?
This review will put three brands of mince pie to the test, from entry level through to all out taste-bud performance. Moreover, we will be putting two popular brandy sauces to the test with the intention of finding the best mince pie dessert solution.
Time for a table of products...
| Mince Pies ||TESCO ||MR KIPLING ||M&S LUXURY ALL BUTTER|
|Contains Alcohol ||No||No||Yes - Brandy, Port|
|Pastry Type ||Conventional||Conventional||All Butter Short Crust|
|Calories / Pie ||245||256||110|
|Current Price ||£1||£1.50||£2.99|
What we have here are two similar (albeit branded vs non branded) mince pies pitched alongside the finest offerings from Marks & Spencer. Clearly the M&S product is more expensive but how much better can it be?
Lets find out.
A Closer Look
Tesco Mince Pies
Depending on the current in-store offers, this pack of six will cost you anwhere between £1 and £1.50.
The mince pies themselves are large enough for the hungier than average bear. Our samples arrived without any damage although star shaped template used for the top of each pie seems to have malformed some of them; nothing like some politically correct pastries.
Mr Kipling Mince Pies
Known for their "exceedingly good cakes", we were intrigued to find out how Mr Kipling's mince pies faired against its generic store branded stable mate.
The pies themselves are very similarly sized with a near identical pastry. The story of imperfect samples continue with two of the six suffering from cracks/holes on the top. Aesthetically not so good, Mr Kipling.
M&S All Butter Mini Mince Pies
Finally we have the range topping guns from Marks & Spencers. Known for their focus on quality we had high expectations for these festive delights...
...and thus far we have not been disappointed. These mini mince pies arrived without so much as a single imperfection. The samples themselves looked considerably more appetising although their size definitely made them seem as though they lacked substance.
As we all know, Mince Pies aren't for staring but for eating. With this in mind, let the testing begin!
The Filling Test
A number of weeks ago, a friend of mine bought a mince pie from a popular high street pasty shop only to find that his purchased lacked ANY filling. This gave me an idea for a test; how much filling do manufacturers really use in their pastries? Lets find out
Pictured above: Top Left Tesco, Top Right Kipling, Bottom M&S
Our tests found the Tesco Mince Pie containing the greatest amount of filling, although all others contained a respectable amount in proportion to their sizes. However during the process of cutting the pies open, we realised that this was also a very good pastry test too.
The Tesco Mince Pie may have stayed intact while it was sliced in half but in some ways this was not quite the result we had in mind. This particular sample was a little too solid (and dry) for a dessert pie. Meanwhile the Mr Kipling and M&S products' pastries were moist enough to crumble as they were sliced.
Even for a Technology Writer, this was too methodical for my liking. Let's serve up these pies and find out which one tastes better.
The final phase of our testing involved tasting all three brands with two different brandy sauces from Tesco and Marks & Spencer.
The Tesco mince pie was of surprisingly good quality on the whole. While the pastry was a little too thick and drier than necessary, the contents were enjoyable. This was made MILES better with the addition of Brandy Sauce, which compensated for the sample's lack of alcohol. Tesco's own brandy sauce was near spot on however M&S's mixture tasted considerably richer.
On the whole, its hard to complain about Tesco's sub £1.50 christmas dessert. Those who aren't overly particular about subtle taste differences will find this to be an excellent Bang per Buck choice.
Despite being a branded product, we were a little disappointed to find that it was hardly any better than Tesco's own brand. That said, the pastry was marginally superior in texture but sadly it lost out again in the filling department. Much like Tesco's product, you will most certainly want to include brandy sauce with your purchase to compensate for the cheaper filling.
All in all not a bad job.
The Marks & Spencer Mini Mince Pies do not offer value for money in any way. On the other hand any dessert connoisour will notice a remarkable difference between these and the former two brands. Not only was the all butter pastry more "complete", the filling offered a greater blend of flavours thanks to the hints of port and brandy.
Finally the use of Brandy Sauce made the Marks & Spencer product simply miles ahead of the competition. The way we see it, you will be filling the final inches of belly real estate with these treats; why oh why would you want to compromise? After all, Christmas only comes along once a year.
So to summarise, if Value For Money goodness is your intention, opt for Tesco's own brand. If you are after anything superior then it is the Marks & Spencer Mince Pie range, end of.
Special mentions go out to our sample Brandy Sauces from Tesco and M&S. You cannot go wrong with either.
Wishing you all a Merry Christmas from Overclock3D! You can discuss all about your festive plans in the forums.