After the success of last year’s Hidden Orange Christmas Pudding Waitrose hopes to repeat the success with Heston’s Pine-scented Mince Pies.

Whenever I make the hour-long round trip to my local Waitrose, their stock of Heston-branded products is usually rotten (nicely matching their online customer service). At least that’s my excuse for being one of those idiots who paid way too much on eBay to get their hands on the first batch of these.

Product: Heston from Waitrose Puff Pastry Mince Pies

Price: £3.29­­ for 6

Availability: Initially Poor. Now Very Good

 

THE PRODUCT

Unlike last year’s Hidden Orange Christmas Pudding these come in a flimsy cardboard box and floppy plastic tray that feel very cheap and nasty. The fabled pine scented sugar is presented separately, in a disappointing anonymous white packet. You sprinkle it on yourself after baking the pies.

The Heston “twist” this time round is making the pies square, and replacing the traditional shortcrust pastry with puff.

The instructions say to bake Heston’s Waitrose mince pies at 180º for 20 – 25 minutes, which sounds just long enough drive every last drop of moisture out of them. They’d probably also be so hot that the first bite would melt your face off like the baddie at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark.

We opted for 10 minutes at a much lower temperature – just enough to warm them through. You could probably just use a microwave.

 

VERDICT

Here’s the problem: a tiny, round blob of filling in the centre of a square mince pie means all 4 corners (and your first bites) are nothing but hot, empty pastry.

Once you do get to the filling it is very good though. Intense fruity, tangy richness lifted by the rosewater and lemon.

The pine sugar really does strongly smell of pine. Probably not all that different to the Pine Sherbet Fountain they used to serve at the Fat Duck (You can re-create the experience by dabbing a dried vanilla stalk into the packet).

We haven’t had a real tree for years, so for me the smells of Christmas are the mulled wine aromas of orange, clove and cinnamon. This pine sugar brings freshness – but we have to agree with some critics that it’s that 80’s-era toilet cleaner kind of freshness.

More like Christmassey Eccles cakes than actual mince pies, at least until the final two bites of empty puff pastry. We found the best way to deal with the sugar and excess pastry was to whip the pine sugar into some double cream and treat the whole enterprise like a warm dessert.

Excellent filling, but gimmicky pine sugar and some fundamental design flaws.