These mince pies are a Waitrose exclusive, created for the store by Heston Blumenthal. Last year his inspired orange Christmas pudding sold out of every branch, and people were fighting for them on Ebay for silly amounts of money. The Christmas pudding contained a whole orange, and was decorated in orange slices too – much like the one Aldi has brought out this year...
These new mince pies were much easier to find with shelf loads of the things all around Waitrose, they were on the end of aisles, by the tills, in the Christmas section and also in the cake section! I think they were expecting a horde of people descending and had prepared early. Sadly I noticed a lot of the boxes had sell by dates for November, which means they wouldn’t even last until the event. Having said that the ones we purchased were devoured within a couple of days being bought, but it is best to keep an eye on the dates in case you were planning to put them in the store cupboard.
The mince pies come in quite a plain black box, which does look quite classy, but also very minimalistic and not that seasonal. This year’s unique selling point is that the mince pies smell of Christmas. This is a bit of an odd concept, but I suppose we would expect no less from Mr Blumenthal who is famed for playing with the senses. In effect there are six pies in the box, which you heat in the oven for ten minutes and then sprinkle with a sachet of pine sugar, also included.
The pies are also non-traditional in the sense that they are square in shape and have a puff pastry top. This met with mild disapproval from the taste testers, and Spectre said they were the ‘wrong sort of pies’ as he prefers the classic concept. Having said this they warmed up nicely and gave off sweet appetising and fragrant aromas in the oven. Once out, and just before serving, I opened the sachet of pine sugar. Oh my, it has an amazingly strong smell. It could clear your nose! It does indeed encapsulate the essence of a Christmas tree, but I’m afraid I associate that fragrance with bath foam more than food. It has strong pine tones, with eucalyptus and was almost menthol in its nature. The smell was enough for a couple of the taste testers to quit before they had begun, as they protested “don’t put any of that on mine”. I’m not a big menthol fan, so I tasted a little of the sugar on its own, and it had a surprisingly mild flavour. It was a delicate, fragrant taste, with a strong sweetness from the sugar overpowering any off putting elements. I sprinkled the sugar on, and the pies looked very pretty, almost as if they were snow coated.
Next the taste test. I can confirm by this point despite the shocking smell from the sugar it had no noticeable flavour other than the obvious sweetness you’d expect. This was more than a bit surprising, but was a relief to those who were put off. The mince meat filling had a good taste to it, with rich dark flavours, and an aftertaste of lemon which balanced them out really well. I felt the mince meat was lacking moisture somehow, it is not that it was dry, its more that regular mince pies are a little wetter and that was what I was expecting. The pastry base was quite nice, but a little firm and difficult to bite, or cut with a spoon (we were being posh) but the puff pastry top was buttery and pleasant. I felt that the pies were a nice novelty and were perfectly enjoyable. It was fun to give them a try as they were quite different to others on the market, but I’m afraid taste testers felt they broke the rules of tradition a little too much. Worth trying as they are quite unique, but if I’m totally honest I won’t be rushing out for a second box.