Cronut King of New York Puts British Mince Pies to the Test
Mince pies are among the most British of seasonal treats, sweet concoctions filled with fruit that is often laced with alcohol then seasoned with cinnamon and other spices.
So what does French-born chef Dominique Ansel make of them? He's achieved worldwide fame as the inventor of the Cronut, a buttery doughnut-croissant that draws long lines at his bakeries in New York, Tokyo, and now London.
He's a fan! So much so that he's trying to develop his own version.
He agreed to submit to our annual blind Bloomberg Mince Pie Taste Test and devour eight pies for us bought from a range of British grocery stores, lunch, and coffee shops.
(Well, mostly blind. Ansel was able to spot the Harrods entry. "I wonder where this one is from," he said, laughing. "There is an H on it.")
The results were surprising. His favorite was a nontraditional pie developed by chef Heston Blumenthal for Waitrose, an upscale U.K. grocer. The pie has a layer of lemon curd topped with a butter crumble, rather than the normal pastry lid.
And posh Harrods was beaten out by a pie from Co-Op, a member-owned grocery-store chain.
Here are his picks, in descending order:
Heston From Waitrose Spiced Shortcrust with Lemon Twist, 75 pence (93 cents)/pie
"It's a really good one. I like the layer of citrus, which brings you freshness with the spices, and the extra little crumble added on top. That changes the textures and adds something. I know it's not a traditional one but it has a nice flavor, not too sweet. It is very original." 8/10
Co-Op Irresistible All Butter, 33.3 pence/pie
"It's nicely decorated but the shell is pretty thick. It's very boozy, very strong. The pastry is very crumbly so it is easy to eat. I like the gooey-ness of the filling. And it is very moist." 7.5/10
Harrods Classic With Brandy, £1.49/pie
"There's a nice smell of spices. I like this one. This is one of my favorites because the texture is nice, the filling is moist and the shell is thin. It tastes good, with a flavor of alcohol, which is not too strong." 7/10
Lidl Snowy Lodge Luxury, 25 pence/pie
"It's pretty, with a nice little star on top. It looks puffy and rich, but there's a big air gap (between the filling and the pastry lid.) It's quite sweet, but it is OK. The pastry is good." 5/10
"The pie is quite big, and the crust on top is really big. It tastes quite sweet. I wish it had more spice. The texture is nice. It needs more of the marination of the fruit in alcohol." 4.5/10
Waitrose All Butter, 28 pence/pie
"This one looks rich and generous, but once again there is a very big air gap. It tastes a bit fermented. It's too sweet, but it is something you can eat easily. It is very classic." 4.5/10
"It looks a little bit under-filled. The pastry shell is quite thick. It's a little bit sweet with a good flavor of spices, a little bit of alcohol, not too strong. I don’t mind this one." 4.5/10
Iceland Luxury, 25 pence/pie
"The texture looks a little bit chewy. It doesn’t smell too much of spices. It is too sweet for me. It tastes a bit like artificial flavors. But it is not that bad." 4/10