Blue Basil Brownies – A Review

Food Reviews - general | 6th September 2011 | By

 When offered a box of Bluebasil Gourmet Brownies to review, I was not going to refuse. I’d been eyeing these up ever since I first heard about them via Twitter. They are a small company specialising in hand made brownies using good quality ingredients.

Sending brownies in the post must be a difficult undertaking I thought; I was wondering in what state these would arrive. I had no cause for concern: they were well packaged to avoid all the bumps and drops that are inevitable in the postal system. They were most beautifully presented with full eco credentials using a cardboard box, shredded paper, greaseproof paper for wrapping the brownies and tissue paper for presentation. I was impressed. When I got to look at the list of ingredients, I was impressed again. There was nothing there that I could take issue with – all the ingredients are of high quality with both the flour and eggs being local and organic (and of course free range) as well as local butter. Divine fair trade chocolate is used in some of the products, but it’s not clear what chocolate is used in the others.

On unwrapping the box of six brownies of varying flavours, I first got a wonderful scent of chocolate and cardamom. I then got a feast for the eyes and I immediately started salivating. As ever, patience was needed and I had to take the all important photographs before I could tuck in. At last they were mine! I was a little concerned that the cardamom flavour would have leaked into the other brownies, but no it hadn’t. They all had their own unique flavours and most were easy to spot as they had an identifying ingredient attractively embedded on the top. I did have difficulty identifying the chunky white chocolate one I was expecting, but I think there was a mix up as what I seemed to have instead was a very nutty one.

In the order that I tried them:

Cardamom – I had to start with this one as cardamom and chocolate are one of my favourite combinations. This is an award winning gold star brownie and I was not disappointed. This had just the right amount of cardamom, most definitely there, but not at all overwhelming. Best described as smoothly fudgy.

Summerberry – Definitely fruity. I could tell that real fruit was used here as the seeds kept sticking in my teeth. I could identify blackberries and thought I tasted raspberries and strawberries too. These tasted fantastic, but I wasn’t too keen on the seeds.

Chocwork Orange – a lovely natural orange flavour which in no way reminded me of a Terry’s chocolate orange – something I used to love in my younger days, but which now tastes too sweet and artificial. The piece of baked orange on the top was a delight.

Hazelnut – Topped with roasted hazelnuts and a few scattered through the brownie, these were a crunchy delight. A lovely contrast of textures, the chewiness provided by the nuts allowed me to savour the flavours that much longer.

Classic Chunky Chocolate – a classic brownie with no additional flavourings other than large chunks of milk chocolate, which give a very different consistency from the fudgines of the brownies when bitten into. I detected a very faint trace of something sweetly spicy, so it may have picked up a little of the cardamom and possibly orange flavours. This one used Divine milk chocolate.

Cappuccino – not being too fond of coffee, I left CT to savour this one all on his own (apart from a very small nibble); he only got a partial look in on one of the others! He thought it packed a caffeine punch, but in a nice way. Its strong, robust flavour made him salivate and he thought it would be a good pick me up. Better than a cup of coffee he opined, plus it doesn’t have the annoying froth. CT is not a coffee sophisticate, but he really enjoyed this brownie.

Other flavours include: Tiramisu, Banoffee and Chunky White Chocolate and specials are offered through the year. Both the chunky chocolate and the chunky white chocolate varieties can also be ordered gluten-free.

To be honest, I’d be more than happy to eat any of these artisan brownies at any time – even the cappuccino. All were a satisfying size and were well balanced in terms of flavour and all had the classic dense fudgy brownie consistency that I always hope for but don’t often get. Sweet, as you’d expect, but not overly so and deliciously rich. I only had very minor quibbles: the seeds in the Summerberry, not knowing what chocolate is used and it would be nice to see pictures of all the individual flavoured brownies on the bluebasil website. At £14.99 for nine, these brownies are not cheap. But they are not outrageously expensive either, certainly not for this sort of quality. A box of these would make a fabulous present – they’d certainly make me a fabulous one 😉

Apple and Chocolate Rock Cakes

4 Star, Small Cakes | 3rd September 2011 | By

Rock cakes used to be my main go to recipe when I had to bake something in a hurry or just wanted something to fill the cake tin. I haven’t made them in years, I don’t know why, they are so easy and really quite delicious. I also grew up with them. My mother used to make them with dates which I particularly liked. But at the moment I have lots of cooking apples that a friend has given me and I need to concentrate on using them up. Regular visitors may start to get bored with the ensuing number of apple cakes I may well be baking!

Anyway, this is what I did this time around:

  • Put 8oz flour (1/2 spelt, 1/2 white) into a large mixing bowl together with 2 tsp baking powder and 1 tsp cinnamon.
  • Rubbed 4oz unsalted butter into the flour.
  • Stirred in 3oz demerara sugar.
  • Added 2oz sultanas and 2oz 40% milk chocolate drops.
  • Peeled, cored and finely (ish) chopped 1 cooking apple and stirred that in to the dry ingredients.
  • Made a well in the centre, broke in 2 duck eggs and stirred until all combined.
  • Spooned 12 large lumps onto a lined baking tray and baked for 20 minutes at 180C until lightly browned.
  • Moved to a wire rack to cool.

These were just as good as I’d remembered them, firm on the outside and soft and delicious on the inside. This was the first time I’d ever used chocolate in rock cakes and as I’d guessed, it worked really well. The sweet bits of sultanas and chocolate made an excellent contrast to the sharp and flavoursome apple pieces. They were destined for friends where we were going for supper. However, I managed to snaffle one for myself, save one for CT and rush down the road to my local bookshop with two of them on a saucer, where they were gratefully received. We are lucky enough to have an independent bookshop in our small town. It is a marvellous place which somehow manages to keep going whilst many shops are closing around it. They always give excellent service and are friendly and knowledgeable. They may be small, but CT hasn’t found a book yet that they haven’t been able to order for him and he orders some rather obscure items. Surprisingly, for such humble cakes, these had rave reviews from all who ate them.

Cheekily, I’m linking this to Vanessa Kimbell’s lovely idea to Practice Random Acts of Baking. Vanessa, I had a much more random and kinder plan that this in mind, but the bakes were a disaster and I had to abort – I will relate all at a later date.

I am just about to leave on a week’s holiday – hoorah! It is two years since I had a proper holiday and it feels very much needed. We are not going far, we’re off to the Lizard and I can’t wait!