Christmas Eve: 3.13 pm
The back door of the Sanctuary burst open. Ads exploded in, bringing with him a blast of icy air, the rattle of bags and the clumping of boxes. He deposited everything on the kitchen table then strolled curiously over to where I was inhabiting the Chef Area.
Ads (curiously): “What have you got THERE?”
He peered into my pan of rustic mandarin and apple diced mincemeat.
Me (guarded): “Mince-pie filler.”
Ads (crestfallen mixed with surprise): “What are those bits you’ve added?”
Me (poker faced but confidence perking up): “They are mandarin slices and diced up apple.” When I say diced up apple I mean very roughly chopped up chunks. Like I said – rustic.
Ads rummaged in a carrier bag and pulled out a sullen jar of 50p shop mince pie filling. “I could only get this horrible stuff. I didn’t have time to get anything ready. The deli was too busy.”
My confidence rocketed from perked up to gleeful.
“And I’ve literally only been able to bosh this up too. It’s Madagascan vanilla and nutmeg pastry with ground almonds.”
He took out a cling filmed lump of dough.
Not only did Ads’ pastry dough have secret ingredients, but it was also very smooth looking. Not like the lump of gritty, buttery, pastel lemon stuff I had chilling in the fridge.
“And luckily, I had time to make this last minute …” Ads carefully extracted two tubs of beautiful dark brown mincemeat, gleaming with rich red cranberries and the fresh green of pistachios. “I added cognac and salt flakes too. That other jar was just in case …”
At this point my confidence hit rock bottom.
And had a tantrum.
“I knew it!” I cried, eyes narrowing and pointing accusingly. “You are a liar and a cheat! How could you make me think my mincemeat was GOOD and then you have made an even nicer one. WITH cognac. Which was my idea!” (I had gone out to buy cognac and come back with Cointreau because I’d become Bird/Baby Brained in the chaos of Sainsbury). ” And you have used a lovely mixing machine to mix your pastry whilst I had to use my hands and I don’t even KNOW how to rub the butter in!” Then I added, with hopeful triumph, “but LOOK. I have this!”
Whipped open the fridge and pulled out my hazelnut infused cream.
Ads smiled and his big eyes shone.
He pulled out a tub of homemade Christmas Pudding parfait. “And I have this.”
Then the bake off commenced.
6.00pm – Binnel Studios
The four judges are assembled around the table. They have each been blindfolded. There is a sense of heightened anticipation in the air.
Expectant hands hold spoons and await the serving of the first mince pie.
Sure enough, the first mince pie is served.
Each mouthful is received and savoured with with serious consideration.
a) unable to see the bowl
b) unable to know where to put one’s fork
c) to know where one’s mouth is and if one has accidentally picked up an entire mince pie and whether it will even fit into one’s mouth
The second pie is then served.
Between sips of water and animated mince pie debate, many a compliment and incredibly diplomatic criticism is delivered.
It is a very hard moment.
A moment of painful, excruciating decision …
But finally the moment has arrived.
A: “I thought number two definitely one. The pastry was lovely!”
P: “I thought that if this is a competition based on the best mince pie (emphasis on mince pie), number one would have to win. Mince pie two was more like a fruit tart. It was very nice, but not really like a mince pie.”
??????? Damn you rustic mandarin slices!
F: “This is really hard. They were both lovely. I feel so sick! I would have to say that the filling on mince pie one, but the pastry on mince pie two.”
…. Hmm …. this sounds like fence sitting to me …
M: “Yeah, I agree with F. Mince pie one for filling and two for pastry.”
Finally, once the judges had recovered from the eating of two mince pies whilst blindfolded, both mince pies were brought out and displayed in all of their glory.
This was the final part of the bake-off: the Presentation Round.
You can click on each image to see who won ….