The divisive festive treat is making its way into bakeries now (and some have been on supermarket shelves for months). We survey a selection of the best local Christmas mince pies to please everyone from diehard traditionalists to the staunchest of sceptics.
For some, the Christmas mince pie is a
For others, it’s a box of festive frights that stays hidden in the pantry, until they inevitably go off sometime mid-June.
Throughout this extensive tasting process, in which the Viva team trialled some of the best varieties from local bakeries, there has been a consistent split between mince-pie lovers and loathers. Almost every informal group survey has seen snackers celebrate and revile the treats. It’s very rare that anyone falls, blase, in the middle.
However, not all mince pies are made equal, or even remotely similar, according to some of these indulgences. A few did manage to persuade those initially uninterested in our festive tasting — quite the Christmas miracle.
So, whether you’re looking for a mince pie so cartoonish it tastes like biting into a raisin or seeking a cookie-ish take that’s barely recognisable as the English treat, we’ve got a pie to suit your palette. Meri Kirihimete!
The pies from Wild Wheat are made using an original recipe from head baker and founder Andrew Fearnside. The recipe was inspired by the baker’s mum, “who would make her own fruit mince from scratch every Christmas, in a thin-crust short pastry — also made from scratch”.
The fruit mince is deeply complex, made up of dried prunes, sultanas, cranberries, raisins, figs, apples, banana and chocolate. This mix is left to soak for weeks in rum, spices and brandy. The tops of the pies are left open and adorned with a pastry star. They’re finished with an extra dusting of icing sugar — and the bakers recommend serving with another helping to beat the Auckland humidity.
Along with the pies, Wild Wheat is stocking a rum-soaked fruit-filled German Stollen, a fruit-filled and chocolate-sprinkled panettone and gingery Finnish-style piparkakut (similar to a biscuit). If you’re also looking for a foodie gift that pleads less of a strict allegiance to festive flavours, there are also a few bags of cookies, including coconut macaroons, Anzac biscuits, chocolate oat cookies and Italian biscotti. For a bit of lunchtime cheer, the bakery is also serving up an especially festive savoury pie, with chicken, bacon and cranberry wrapped in a bechamel sauce.
“This is ALL about the mince. It kicks off with a bright, almost citrusy top note that descends into a rich, mellow sweetness.” — Kim Knight
“A decent size; nothing better than seeing a large mince pie on the plate. The filling was delicious and full of flavour but I’d have liked a thicker pastry (which, admittedly, is usually the opposite problem). I wanted the pastry to be a little more robust.” — Anna Sargeant
“I love the visual of these pies. The expanse of jammy mince makes them look more luxurious and I imagine them resting comfortably in the centre of the table after Christmas lunch. That larger helping of mince makes these better suited to mince-pie fans, but even the sceptic has to admit these are particularly stunning.” — Madeleine Crutchley
Price: $2.90 each, or $16 for six.
Where to get them: Available across Wild Wheat stores in Mt Eden, Mt Albert, Howick, Belmont, Birkenhead and Ascot Road,Māngere. There are also limited stocks at some supermarkets and speciality stores.
Herne Bay Food Store
The Herne Bay Food Store is a cosy cafe and deli that operates some big hours, serving up morning coffees and hearty evening meals. The pies on offer this season are dark and deeply sweet, with a biscuity star resting atop the mince.
You’ll have to get in quick to snatch these pies up though — the Food Store’s Instagram reports the risk of the “Christmas wobblies from too much Mariah”.
“I love a hearty crust-to-mince ratio and these mini pies deliver. The deep flavours of both pie components make me want to shut all the doors, blast the air conditioner and cosy up in a fluffy winter coat.” — Madeleine Crutchley
“Rich, sweet mince; dense, bready pastry. This is a date scone at the wrong party.” — Kim Knight
Price: $15 for a box of eight.
Where to get them: 212 Jervois Rd, Herne Bay.
The point of difference with OTT Patisserie’s pies, says owner and patissier Chris Ott, is the crunchy almond topping. Chris says he learned to make the festive treats in 1999 during time spent in London at a high-end chocolate and petit-four company. The homemade fruit mince is left to soak for at least three months. Last year, the patisserie crafted more than 20,000 pies in the Birkenhead site and sent them as far as Christchurch.
There are also other offerings among the collection of Christmas treats at OTT Patisserie. The range of treats includes almond tuille cookies, cinnamon star cookies, German Stollen, gingerbread cookies, vanilla crescent and logs of marzipan (sold by the kilogram).
“The mince is a little sugary but the petiteness of this pie is perfectly suited to ‘just one more mouthful’ Christmas cravings.” — Kim Knight
“The almond topping combined with a dusting of icing sugar makes these pies sweeter than your usual creation, and I don’t think it’s needed on a mince pie. But if you’ve got a sweet tooth, and prefer more sweetness and less tang, these might be for you. The bite-sized pies mean you won’t want to stop at just one.” — Stephanie Holmes
“Firm pastry with plenty of crunch, which led to a delicious filling. The perfect ratio of pastry to mince, as well as a hard versus soft texture. The almonds on top were a nice touch.” — Anna Sargeant
Price: A box of eight small mince pies or four large ones are both $16. One small pie is $2.50 and one big pie is $5.
Where to get them: 2 Birkenhead Avenue, Birkenhead. You can also order online at Ottpatisserie.co.nz.
There are three flavours of mini mince pies on offer at Daily Bread this year, as the bakers play with some alternatively Christmassy notes.
The brand-new sour cherry variety sees the summer fruit mixed with rum-soaked sultanas and candied citrus peel. The strawberry, which debuted last year, is paired with apricot for an especially zingy combination. Finally, the more traditional tarts, which are only available at Farro Fresh, mix apple, raisins and rum. All of the different mince flavours are encompassed by the same pastry, spiced with a subtle but complementary cinnamon and rye.
They’re not the only Christmas-themed offering. The bakery is also housing the hefty and well-buttered Christmas Stollen, made from a recipe by Patrick Welzenbach (which itself was passed on by his grandfather).
“First, a disclosure: These are the only mince pies I have historically liked. I am not a raisin person, or a fruit one. What this tells you about these mince pies is that they’re delicious precisely because they’re really neither of these things, their contents a sweet and tangy comingle of not terribly mincey mince, all exquisitely executed in a pastry casing that’s spiced, soft and structurally sound.” — Julia Gessler
“The cinnamon and rye short pastry is crumbly in a good way and melts in your mouth, and isn’t as full-on buttery as some of the others we’ve tried. The sour cherry filling is mouth-wateringly tart. I could eat a whole pack of these in one sitting. I won’t. But I could.” — Stephanie Holmes
“I love how crisp and fragile the pastry is, as it crumbles into a sugary and sweet dust to complement the lush and fruity filling of the pie. It reminds me of a sugar cookie. They are an ideal size too — perfect for morning tea.” — Madeleine Crutchley
Price: Nine pies for $22.
Where to get them: Available across Daily Bread locations in Pt Chev, Ponsonby, Belmont, Britomart, Newmarket and Federal St. You can also find some pies at Farro, or order online at Dailybread.co.nz.
Sabato’s head chef Kate Flay is aware of the controversy surrounding the fruit mince pie but remains to challenge those not yet converted.
“If I’m told that someone doesn’t like a Christmas mince pie, I just assume it is because they haven’t tasted ours.”
The pastry, a yellowy and crumbly take, is described as being a closely guarded family secret. A brandy-soaked fruit filling is more of a sharp punctuation in these pies, with the punchy taste cutting through the light and deeply buttery pastry.
The pies also come in a gluten-free variety, topped with star and tree shapes to clearly distinguish them from the classic pies. They’re made with gluten-free flour that’s created in-house and baked at an adjusted temperature to better suit the mixture.
“Christmas mince pies aren’t my first port of call when it comes to a Christmas sweet treat, but I’ve offered to chime in here with Sabato’s teeny mince pies. For a small pie, your fingers are doing a lot of work here dealing with the flaky short-crust pastry and icing sugar, so to avoid the mess, just shove it down your gob in one fell swoop. As for the flavour, the short-crust is really buttery and tasty. The fruit mince is okay, but a very small distribution means you get a lingering short-crust taste over the mince, which is ideal for people who aren’t traditionally mince pie lovers.” — Dan Ahwa
“Due to the low ratio of mince, it mostly feels like I’m eating a biscuit (which is a nice surprise for a mince-pie pessimist). For posterity, I also sampled the gluten-free variety. The pastry is slightly more crumbly, but they have an even stronger buttery note. I almost prefer them to the more floury pies!” — Madeleine Crutchley
“While I’m not huge on Christmas mince pies (usually because the gluten-free versions always seem to taste slightly stale to me) Sabato’s take includes a delightfully crumbly crust, both buttery and moreish. The moist fruit mince filling — comprising sultanas, apples and currants — is spiced well and not overly sweet. These were so delicious. In fact, I had to eat two to double-check check my tasting notes were accurate. I’d happily take a couple of packs of these along to my family Christmas to gift to my coeliac cousin and gluten-intolerant aunt. Five stars! — Ashleigh Cometti
Price: A six-pack of pies is $15.90 (add a dollar for the gluten-free option).
Where to get them: 57 Normanby Rd, Mt Eden. You can also order online at Sabato.co.nz.
This four-pack of pies is made in Nelson Tasman and is available on most supermarket shelves across Tāmaki Makaurau, making it a more accessible option.
We sampled the berry flavour to see what a non-traditionalist take on the pies might look like. They also come in traditional and caramel flavourings. If you’re less of a fan of mince pies, biscotti also features in the Christmas range from Zesti — those are double-baked and filled with merry dried fruits.
“These are not mince pies at all — they taste more like old-school English jam tarts. Jammy and sweet, with not a hint of festive spice. If you’re a traditionalist, avoid these. If you don’t like classic mince pies, these could be the sweet treat you’ve been looking for.” — Stephanie Holmes
“These pies have a super nostalgic scent — they make me think of lunchbox shrewsberry biscuits. The taste isn’t too far off either, with the sweet filling just packing a little more tang. I also love the flowery imprint on the bottom (a little extra fun that’s very welcome).” — Madeleine Crutchley
Price: $5.70 for 4 pies.
Where to get them: Most supermarkets and food stores will stock these mince pies.
Bread & Butter
The Bread & Butter pies boast a crisp and attractive pastry, which encases a mix of organic fruits, brandy, port and dark rum, with a biscuit-sized star placed on top. They’re one of the most photogenic treats in our tasting, with the precisely designed pie heavily sprinkled with icing sugar.
The bakery is also well stocked for other Christmas treats, from a DIY gingerbread house kit to well-speckled fruit cake and amaretti.
“As a Christmas mince-pie hater, this might be the one to convert me. The pastry is doing the heavy lifting here, and thankfully there’s a high pastry-to-fruit ratio; it’s baked to perfection, beautifully buttery and how sweet is the icing sugar-dusted star on top? The filling is brandy and dark rum-laced organic fruit, including dates, apricots, and juicy, boozy raisins. Would eat again.” — Johanna Thornton
“I loved the camera-ready, visual precision of this pie — perfect for those Christmas lunches where the tablescaping is as important as the food (crucially, it also tasted great).” — Kim Knight
Price: $20.50 for six.
Where to get them: On pre-order at 3/34 Westmoreland St West, Grey Lynn. You can also order online at Breadandbutter.nz (and you might be able to pick some up at the Parnell or Grey Lynn farmers markets).
These mince pies are nestled in the cafe cabinet at Scratch, the inner-city cafe that feeds and caffeinates plenty of NZ’s journalists (with the establishment near a few legacy media offices).
The mince is prepared months in advance, soaked in “heaps of brandy, fruit juice, citrus zest and vanilla pods” according to the bakers. It’s a shared effort too, with the whole team getting involved in the construction of the shells and stars, glazing and icing sugar dusting.
“A good mince-to-pastry ratio but the mince was a bit dry and very sultana-dominant. Good pastry though — a dark brown without being burnt, and not too crumbly.” — Stephanie Holmes
“I imagine this pie, which is more sturdy, would stand up well to dunking in hot drinks. It’s a nice addition to a hot drink, better suited for a coffee date than a living room indulgence. I can imagine journalists gobbling these at their cafe meetings.” — Madeleine Crutchley
Price: $25 for nine pies.
Where to get them: 5 Graham St, Auckland CBD.