Wednesday 18 January 2017

Love Brownies Review

   A certain doctor once hissed 'indulgences are what make life worth living'. He wasn't wrong, and as such, despite A Blackbird's Epiphany being a health and fitness blog, above other details, I really want to remind you all that that includes mental health, too.
   Sugar is my vice; I don't drink, I don't smoke, I don't even drink coffee. I don't like fast food and I get like 4 takeaways a year. My issue is and always has been sugar, and I've fought to get the control over it that I now have. But I've never cut it out, and I never intend to; instead I've adopted a particular line of thought that seems to contradict its intentions, but is actually immensely clever: if you're going to misbehave, do it properly.
   I don't eat just any old chocolate, instead I buy only the stuff I truly love, and that, most of the time, is expensive and very high quality. Hotel Chocolat, for example: their chocolates are rich, indulgent, and expensive. And worth every. Single. Bite. They're expensive because they're of a very high quality, with no artificial stuff in sight, and even their white chocolate can be up to 40% cocoa. But because they're so expensive, I can't indulge just whenever I want to, and it's too rich to gorge on, either. Plus it's hard to find in general supermarkets, which additionally means it can't just fall into my shopping basket on a whim.
   In short, I only eat sugar if it's genuinely worth it.

   And I finally have something new to add to that list: the aptly-named Love Brownies.

   Disclaimers usually go at the foot of posts like this, but I feel it's important, due to the nature of this review, that it should go bang-smack in the middle instead, to make sure there's absolutely no confusion:
   This review was written on my own prerogative; I've not received any samples, any payment, nor any request by anyone at all, affiliated with myself nor Love Brownies, to write this. It's quite different from what I usually review, and that's because, quite simply, I don't want to keep quiet about this product. I want you to know about it, and I also want you to realise that a healthy lifestyle is a balanced one; it's about moderation, not denying yourself a treat. And these brownies, in my humble opinion, are royalty among treats.

   Every Christmas, Seeg and I, like many people, exchange a box of chocolates. But unlike what we get from other friends and relatives, we tend to go for more expensive things with a flavour specific to eachother rather than anything generic, like Prestat's red velvet truffles rather than a Milk Tray.
   The trouble is that Seeg is much harder than I am when it comes to chocolates. He's grown tired of his old favourites (like hazelnut Lindt or Ferrero Rocher), and finding something else he'll enjoy is tricky. So this year I decided to try a different approach, and after a surprisingly successful and subsequently very brief search for 'brownies', I landed upon Love Brownies.
   I admit that I was dubious about spending £18 on a box of brownies because there's a wide range of ideas as to what classifies something as a 'brownie'. Some people consider brownies as tough cakes, others as soft biscuits, and some people consider them as anything chocolatey that is half way between cake and biscuit. Some like them dry and crumbly, or with a cracking top, while others like them moist and 'fudgey' - which, again, could mean literal fudge or half-cooked batter.
   For Seeg and I, a 'brownie' is a dense chocolate cake, evenly moist all the way through with only dry edges. It should not be spongey, it should be rich and accented with chunks of chocolate, and it should be chewy, not crunchy nor something to be inhaled. It should be eaten on its own or with ice cream, but only if it is warm.
   Which means, of course, that ordering online from a small, independent bakery in Ilkley, Yorkshire, without trying them first was quite an expensive gamble, but one, I hoped would be worth the risk. If not, I'd be taught a very quick lesson.
   But, in case they were the slice of heaven they appeared to be in their pictures, I decided to risk a box of 8 rather than 4, which was only £4 more anyway. I also decided not to buy just 8 double chocolate, instead I bought a mixture of 4 double chocolate and 4 caramel fudge. There were also chocolate orange and even mince pie brownies, among others - in fact you could have a mixed box of one of each flavour - but Seeg isn't as adventurous as I am where chocolate is involved, and for the price, it was beyond the risk I was prepared to take.
   I selected my dispatch date at checkout - December 22nd - and they arrived very next day, freshly baked in a gorgeous turquoise gift box (my very favourite colour) with a hand written note, and I was excited to hand them over.
   Sadly, much to my disappointment, he loved them. And he doesn't love just anything. They were soft, fudgy, but dense - so he said; they were definitely heavy. I bought 8 because they looked small, and while my eyes are known for being many times the size of my belly, for once it was a justifiable idea.
   Though he couldn't manage more than one in a sitting, they were so dense and rich.
   He was gracious enough, eventually, to let me try them, and I knew immediately that I wanted some for my birthday, too. So I placed another order - lesson learned - for a box of 4 caramel fudge brownies. If you've ever had one, you will know why. These are the ones I've photographed for this post.

   Truly, Love Brownies' brownies are dense; they're heavy, physically and in taste, and even I would be hard pushed to have two in one sitting, and I have been called a 'good eater' many times. But this is so far from a bad thing. I wouldn't want to pay £16+ for brownies and to enjoy them for a fleeting moment. Instead, they last, and they keep well. With a shelf life of two weeks (and a best before date stamped onto the ingredients card), they are something to look forward to and, if you're like me, plan your diet around. There is little rush to encourage you to scoff, in fact they actually taste better 4 or so days after baking, which makes the concern of freshness void when having them delivered (free, did I mention?). And nearing the end of the two weeks, they're firmer, and, true, a little drier, but they're still quite undeniably 'brownies'.

   These brownies are gooey, but not too much so; they are sweet, but not overpowering; they are chocolatey, but...they are chocolatey. The caramel, as you can see, is epic, and though they are small in size, they punch well above their weight. One box of four makes for an excellent and more satisfying and longer-lasting alternative to a box of chocolates, or as a small 'boutique' dessert for four on a special occasion - placed perfectly centred on a small, posh plate with some kind of sparkly adornments and you'll do its taste and texture justice. Or heat them up in the oven on a low setting for 5 minutes or so and serve with a dollop of vanilla bean ice cream, and perhaps some crushed nuts.

   If ever there was a brownie that was worth every calorie, every bite, and every ounce of guilt, it is this. Nothing I nor anyone I know has ever made a brownie that can stand up to this, but the fact that they're made in a small, independant bakery allows them to keep the 'handmade' and 'fresh from the oven' labels that generally mark the best of baked confection.

   Boxes start at £12 for 4 'treat yourself' double chocolate brownies, up to £24 for a variety box of 8 brownies, and there are also countless delivery options, from free first class (which I selected for my own, and they still arrived the next day) to guaranteed next day delivery for £5.95, and you always choose your dispatch date. They're always baked fresh, to order, with local, organic and Fairtrade ingredients (and unrefined sugar), and every one of them can be made gluten free or regular. Any note requested is handwritten on a printed band around the box, and the gorgeous box is always tightly sealed.
   They also have hot chocolate spoons, tote bags, marshmallows and gift sets, and if you're passing through Ilkley, you can stop in for a cup of their hot chocolate and a brownie for £4 or so. The perfect re-energiser if you're lucky enough to be hiking through the local Yorkshire landscape.


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