Who bakes the tastiest mince pies in South Africa?
Three top pastry chefs and a sweet-toothed connoisseur nibble their way through seven types of mince pies from major retailers in a quest to find South Africa's best
• Danielle Postma, pastry chef and owner of Moemas restaurant and bakery in Parktown North, Johannesburg.
• Kelvin Joel, managing director and co-owner of the Johannesburg Culinary and Pastry School.
• Dhiraj Leela, head pastry chef at the Sandton Sun.
• Keith Tamkei, art director at Sunday Times Lifestyle and mince pie aficionado.
THE TASTE TEST
The tasting was blind, in other words the pies were numbered and presented on plates with no telltale packaging. Judges rated each mince pie on visual appeal, texture, taste, quality of pastry, generosity of filling and general deliciousness.
First place: Food Lover's Market
This mince pie hit all the right traditional notes, from the sugar-dusted star on top to the buttery, "shortbready" pastry and tart, spicy filling, but the judges felt the filling could have been more generous to compensate for the thickness of the pastry.
Price:R32.99 for six.
Second place: Woolworths
Judges liked the "cute", convenient size of the mini pies, their golden appearance and the light, flaky texture of the pastry. A hint of orange zest in the filling got a big thumbs up, but they felt the filling could have been more moist.
Price: R36.95 for nine mini pies.
Third place: Checkers
Judges liked the look of the golden-brown shortcrust pastry but were divided as to whether it was "nice and crunchy" or too thick. The filling was felt to be a bit meagre and too "jammy", but the inclusion of candied citrus peel was praised.
Price: R19.99 for six.
King Pie (available at selected supermarkets)
These pies are bought frozen and baked at home - those tested had been baked the day before but still tasted fresh. Judges liked the "homemade" look of them and the flavour of the filling, but weren't sure about the pastry (more puff than shortcrust), although it might appeal to those who prefer their pies less sweet.
Price: One for R4.90; four for R18; six for R26.
Pick n Pay
The pies were judged to have a good colour and the pastry was "nicely crumbly" but in general felt to be a bit thick. And although the judges enjoyed the jam-like texture of the filling, they agreed that it could have done with a bit more flavour.
Price: R24.95 for six.
An over-abundant topping of icing sugar was thought to have made these pies "too powdery", with a pastry that would be "better suited to shortbread" and the filling was felt to be a bit bland, although there was a decent ratio of filling to pastry.
Price: R29.99 for six.
Fresh Earth Gluten-Free Mince Pies (available at selected supermarkets)
The judges liked the filling but were slightly baffled by the "cornflour" taste of the pastry - until they later discovered this was a wheat-free alternative. They agreed that it is almost impossible to replicate the taste and texture of wheat-flour pastry using gluten-free substitutes, but if you are gluten-intolerant at least you can still have your pies and eat them.
Price: R44 for six.