Come Christmas time, everyone has a favourite festivity. Some enjoy decorating the tree, others like buying and wrapping the presents, but for some people (myself included) it is all about the Christmas mince pie – a delicious addition to any festive table.
In the lead-up to the big day, we discovered some of the tastiest pies on offer in and around Wellington and got the low-down on some of the best picnic spots to enjoy them.
1. Aro Bake, Aro Valley
Tasting notes: Aro Bake have been consistently baking great Christmas mince pies for the past 24 years – with their special recipe largely unchanged. Made with lashings of sherry and a king’s portion of orange and lemon zest, these pies have plenty of zing but are well-balanced by the sweet, buttery pastry. Best served warm with a dollop of whipped cream.
Also on offer: Aro Bake make a beautiful stollen, a great gift idea. They also offer vegan chocolate and cherry mince pies, a tasty alternative to the traditional recipe.
Best picnic spot: Makara Beach around the first point, great swimming spot too.
2. Penny’s, Karori
Tasting notes: World famous in Karori, Penny’s has been providing quality food for the largest suburb in New Zealand for many years. At this time of year her shop is full of seasonal goodies, including their delicious mince pies. Penny says it’s all about soaking the fruit, to give the fruit mince a greater depth of flavour. Best served warm for dessert and – if you are feeling extra indulgent – add a smear of Penny's brandy butter on top. Penny's also offer gluten-free and vegan options, all available for pre-order.
Also on offer: This year, Penny's is offering her famous fruit mince by the jar, so that keen home-bakers can bake their own for Christmas. You can also pick up your own glazing kit while you're there, full of all the ingredients you need to master the Christmas ham.
Best picnic spot: There are so many good spots around Karori and in the parks but my favourite would have to be my own backyard.
3. Gramercy, Berhampore
Tasting notes: Located on the main street of Berhampore, Gramercy is a great place to stop by if you're on your way to the South Coast this summer. Their Christmas pies provide a hearty combination of crisp sable (short-crust) pastry, Port-enriched fruit and their own candied peel, they too take their time soaking their fruit mince, making sure it is left long enough to mature. Best enjoyed fresh with a hand full of Lapin cherries from the Marlborough sounds.
Also on offer: Boozy Christmas cakes and export-grade Marlborough cherries.
Best picnic spot: Soundshell Lawn at the Botanic Gardens, particularly when the Gardens Magic series is in full swing.
4. Pandoro, Te Aro
Tasting notes: Based on Allen Street, Pandoro has a great cafe and bakery, a short walking distance from the beautiful Wellington Waterfront. Here, they're baking two sizes of mince pie, one bite-sized for your nibble platter and the other perfect for afternoon tea or dessert. Pandoro stand by their hand-made methods and traditional recipe, which has stayed consistent since 1992. Best served warm with a dollop of whipped cream or brandy butter. Available in scrumptious gift packs of 12.
Also on offer: There is lots to choose from, but if you want a winner go for the Chocolate Panforte – a chewy, spicy and nutty confection, originally from Siena, Italy. Serve in thin slices and enjoy with a cup of coffee or your favourite liqueur. Also, panforte makes a fabulous addition to a Christmas cheeseboard.
Best picnic spot: The Rose Garden in the Botanic Gardens – so beautiful!
5. Moore Wilson's, corner of Tory Street and College Street, Wellington
Tasting notes: Moore Wilson’s is Mecca when it comes to Christmas shopping. This year, they're offering an impressive round-up of the best Christmas mince pies they could get their hands on, including tasty baked goods from Pandoro, Arobake, Janus Bakkerij, Ten O'Clock Cookie Bakery, Word of Mouth, Brezelmania, Allie Cat (gluten-free) and Bakeworks (gluten-free). The hardest part about this selection is making your final decision...
Have we missed your favourite Wellington bakery? Let us know in the comments below.