The Annual Mince Pie Search
Even though my family doesn’t celebrate Christmas I have always loved the associated food – dark, fruity Christmas cake, rich and wonderfully alcoholic Christmas pudding and my all time favourite Fruit mince pies. With middle eastern origins, they started as a savory, small rectangular shaped pie made with a spiced mutton, fruit and suet filling. From medieval times they were a popular feature at Christmas feasts in England, the rectangular shape being associated with the manger of Jesus. Later the shape changed and the meat was dropped.
Most of my circle are not fans of the mince pie. Sadly.
So a few years ago, when I discovered that a couple of close friends shared the same love, we started a yearly search for the best mince pie of the season. And we take this search very seriously. We eat as many pies as we can find, often delivering little packages to each other when we think we have found a winner and traveling way out of our way in search of the best combination of pastry and mince filling. I found last year’s winner in Melbourne at Burch and Purchese sweet studio. Next year I am seriously considering a trip to London to sample a pie from Gail’s Bakery, their Instagram picture is so tempting.
If you are looking for a legitimate excuse to eat at least a pie a day for the month, you can join our club next year. Here are our rules and judging criteria –
- One can only start eating possible candidates from December 1 and game is over on Christmas Day.
- The winning pie has to be tasted and agreed on by all those in the club.
- A winner would have the best combo of crisp, buttery and ever so slightly sweetened pastry with a not too jammy, brandy plumped dried fruit filling.
This year the calories gained in the name of research will be worth the 7 day juice fast that will begin on December 26. Weeks ago, I made my own batch of fruit mince which was then sitting in my fridge, waiting for a humidity-free day to make pastry. I was excited that my pies, when made, would enter the competition.
Now, with only days to go before Christmas, I am almost at the point of not being able to look at another mince pie! Last week I tried to have a few days break so I could get a little excited about making my own. The problem was every time I left my house, I found another one to try. And when my fellow researchers dropped over a batch from Brickfields in Chippendale, you could pretty much tell just from looking at them that they would be very hard to beat.
I finally (after years of procrastinating) baked my own mince pies. After looking at loads of different recipes, I decided to use the dough from Lorraine Godsmark’s magnificent sugared Rhubarb pie.
So here’s what I think (in no particular order). I’d love to hear from you if you agree or if you disagree…nothing quite like a fiesty mince pie debate to get the appetite going.
Phillipa’s Bakery – a pretty good pie. Beautiful crumbly short pastry but the filling is too jammy for my taste. These are Lisa’s favourites although she thinks they could’ve doubled the filling in each pie. A little scant for her liking!
Cook and Baker – for me the best filling of all. Yum! A variety of dried fruit , nicely spiced and not too jammy. Also nice pastry, just a bit too cakey (if I’m being picky).
Flour & Stone – beautiful filling but pastry too flaky for my taste. I really do prefer a shorter pastry in a pie.
Brickfields – my favourite this year. The right pastry, fabulous filling, best combo of both.
Katering – a really lovely pastry but I would have preferred a little more of the filling.
Black Star Pastry – the shortest and most delicious pastry of all but we all thought a bit dark and slightly overcooked. Outstanding filling with the perfect consistency.
Organic Republic bakery – one of the best pastries I tried, crisp, short and not too sweet but the filling was on the mushy side (I love to see the fruit!)
Bowen Island Bakery – lovely, rustic sugar-sprinkled pies with great flavour but I found the pastry a little too soft. Lisa, on the other hand, loved this one.
And a few more that I tried and will have to try again next year…Bake Bar, Luxe, Baker’s Delight, Wellington Cake Shop, French Twist in New Farm Brisbane, Simmone Logue and Bourke St Bakery. And a few more on my list that I just didn’t get to, like Lorraine’s Patisserie and Brasserie Bread.
And these are mine. They look extremely rustic. But even though they don’t win on looks, I am quite impressed with how they taste. And they will be my favourite next year when my mince-pie-skills have time to be honed. And maybe they will be my number one!
SOME OF OUR FAVOURITE CONTENDERS: