A Christmas favourite from Olivier's Bakery
‘Mince pies’ and ‘healthy' are words we feel deeply uncomfortable using in the same paragraph, let alone the same sentence. You can imagine Friday feeling’s consternation, therefore, when the h-word was used in reference to the soft brown, buttery-looking beauties adorning Olivier’s Bakery.
“Healthy? Why?!” we demanded of Namdjie, the baker’s lovely French employee, worried for a moment they might not contain the quantities of fat and sugar sufficient to make a mince pie, well, pie-y.
“We use spelt wheat, an old fashioned grain that’s low in gluten and high in vitamins,” she shrugs with a Gallic sense of bewilderment that food be considered anything other than simply food. “London people love these healthy things.”
Rich, spicy syrup
“They don’t look ‘healthy’,” we persist hopefully, eying up the small dribble of rich, spicy syrup oozing seductively out from one of the pies. “Well,” Namdjie continues, slightly conspiratorially, “I don’t really like mince pies—they are more of an English thing—but I really like these ones. I think because of the rum,” she grins.
Its merits are revealed immediately upon biting through the delicacy’s subtly sweet, flaky, yet richly moist sides. The filling bursts out: a jolly, effusive blend of heady spices, fruit and yes, rum, the strong kick of which comes from the plump, dark currants that have been steeped in it.
“Oh, and the spelt pastry is lovely,” Namdjie continues. “It’s like you have in a croissant”—that is, unleavened dough rolled and folded with butter and folded again with yet more butter. ‘Healthy’ it is not. But boy oh boy is it delicious. Merry Christmas indeed.