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The B is For Brownie Story

Back in 2015, B is For Brownie took its first steps as a new business, thanks to the passion and boundless enthusiasm of Founder and Head Brownie Baker Lou Cox.

Lou had been working closely with fine, luxury chocolate during her time at Hotel Chocolat, and came up with the idea of creating an incredibly flavourful brownie using only the very best single-origin chocolate.

During those early baking tests, Lou tweaked and experimented with various flavour and ingredient combinations, including testing recipes for both gluten-containing and gluten-free flour mixtures.

Luxury and quality are non-negotiable. These are extreme brownies baked for their flavour and texture rather than their looks. A real indulgence with an ongoing commitment to using only the finest, quality ingredients, ensuring that B is for Brownie continues to offer something really different from the rest.

Beginnings

The B is For Brownie story began in 2014, when Lou was suddenly struck by the urge to bake late one autumnal October evening, “I always kept a mental list in my head of my next bake and that night it was the turn of the chocolate brownie. Strange that I should not have made one before then, I had certainly eaten plenty.” Says Lou.

Before baking, Lou consulted with a trio of faithful foodies, “I consulted with Nigel (Slater), Nigella (Lawson) and Hugh (Fearnley-Whittingstall), a trusted trio and selected a simple brownie recipe from each. I baked them all and all were amazing as I had expected, but I thought there had to be more to it.”

Lou always had an eye for experimentation (especially when it comes to food), stemming from her degree in science and her development work for Hotel Chocolat, “I knew a bit about chocolate and ingredients and understood the process of experimentation,” she says.

Due to her perfectionist nature, Lou knew that although the initial recipes tasted good, it just wasn’t quite where she wanted it to be – so she continued to bake and refine along the way with the simple goal of baking better brownies.

Development

To refine the recipe Lou began by tweaking each element individually during each bake, focusing on three core elements:

  • Chocolatiness
  • Tenderness
  • Sweetness

Lou knew that each of these elements needed to be exactly right to create the perfect balance. For example, too little sugar would impact tenderness and moisture, and increasing the chocolate content tended to create a tougher, dryer product.

“This became the focus of my experimentation, pushing up the cocoa content whilst retaining that tender brownie feel.” Says Lou.

During each batch a different chocolate was used, and Lou noticed how this could radically change the taste of each brownie.

“With that thought still in my head I baked with a single origin chocolate from Madagascar and was amazed by the intensity of flavour and the red berry notes, gentle acidity and the buttery flavour.”

“It was at this time that I realised what I wanted to do: bake amazing brownies with single origin chocolate and experiment with flavour.”

The Star of the Show

Once we’d managed to refine and perfect the recipe we use now, Lou knew she was on to something special.

Of course, the single most important ingredient in our luxury brownies is the star of the show: chocolate.

We select the finest Madagascan and Colombian single-origin chocolate for its exceptional characteristics and unique flavour. This is precisely why our brownies are so distinctive and memorable.

The heat from the baking process stimulates and intensifies the character of the chocolate, which highlights the complexity resulting in a brownie that packs a far bigger flavour punch.

We source our Madagascan chocolate from the cacao grown in the forests of the Sabirano river basin, located on the Northwest coast of the country. It’s rich volcanic soil results in delicate red fruit notes and a pleasant acidity.

The Colombian cacao used to make our chocolate is grown and harvested under the forest canopies in the tropical climates of the Tumaco forests in Nariño, Colombia. This particular chocolate showcases a gentle kick of acidity and floral, smokiness.

Cacao is similar to wine grapes or coffee, in that the local terroir or climate and soil conditions heavily contribute to the unique and exceptional flavour of the cacao. The beauty of this is that the the brownies will capture the change in flavour and aroma with each cacao harvest.

The Supporting Cast

Although we’ve now got a wide selection of finely honed products, in many classic and seasonal flavours we have never strayed from our early commitment to source only the very best ingredients.

  • Eggs – a crucial ingredient in our recipe, as each slab contains two whole eggs to maintain texture and richness. We only use the freshest free-range eggs.
  • Butter – we only ever use unsalted butter in our brownies, so we can measure out how much sea salt the recipe needs to enhance the character of the chocolate.
  • Sea Salt – the sea salt in our recipes is Guérande coarse sea salt, which is harvested by hand using traditional methods on the salt marshes of the Guérande peninsula. This salt is milder than many other sea salts, which makes it richer in flavour and softer on the palette.
  • Sugar – most brownie recipes include processed white sugar. This process removes the molasses content, which ultimately results in a mass produced, often bland product. We instead use unrefined light soft brown sugar. We found that this produces a delicate, almost treacle-like molasses flavour.
  • Gluten-Free Flour – Our flour blend contains gluten-free ingredients, such as rice, potato, tapioca, maize, and buckwheat. Although we tried blends containing both gluten and non-gluten, we adored the rich, silky texture of those brownies which contained gluten-free ingredients.

The Future

The future for B is For Brownie is exciting! We’re looking to move to new premises to serve our growing customer base, and we’re always testing and experimenting with brand new flavours – particularly around Valentine’s Day, Christmas and Easter.

If you’re interested in any of our products, or you’d to like to learn more about our ingredients, why not get in touch with us today?

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Hot Chocolate 3 Ways

I have to say that on the rare occassion that I drink hot chocolate I usually reach for the jarred variety and add a slug of whole milk to add richness and somehow lessen the guilt over my poor choice of “cheating” hot beverage. But eventually enough is enough & you have to take a stand & make something that you yourself could proudly share with a like minded foodie. So with this in mind I sat down with pen & paper & decided what my perfect hot chocolate would be be. Not necessarily an every day hot chocolate (I don’t think this should be) but something ritualistic, decadent & memorable. I decided that I could learn a thing or two from how custard is made & use an egg yolk to create something thick, rich & restorative.

The following recipe makes two small luxurious hot chocolates & is made very simply from dark chocolate, whole milk & one egg yolk.  Place 200ml of whole milk over a gentle heat & add 50g of grated 80% dark chocolate. I chose 80% dark chocolate because the remaining 20% is sugar and this is just enough. If you would like your hot chocolate a little sweeter simply select a 70% dark chocolate. What is very important though is that this hot chocolate deserves a high quality, characterful chocolate, ideally single origin. Stir frequently until chocolate has fully melted into the milk. Meanwhile, whisk one medium egg yolk in a small clean bowl. Whisk until smooth and pale. Once the chocolate has melted into the milk pour over the whisked egg yolk in a thin stream continuing to whisk as you do so to prevent the egg scrambling. Return the chocolate, milk and egg to the pan & heat gently stirring frequently with a whisk to ensure it does not catch on the bottom. Watch & whisk for approximately 5 minutes, the hot chocolate will begin to thicken & coat the back of a spoon. Pour the hot chocolate into small coffee cups & enjoy. For an added dimension add a measure of good rum, my choice is Sailor Jerry spiced rum…..

Alternatively, make the most of this decadent hot chocolate & pour over good quality vanilla ice cream & finish with a sprinkling of toasted flaked almonds for an impressive but easy pudding.

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Baking the Blondie

So you may think that a Blondie is just a white chocolate brownie (minus dark chocolate or cocoa powder). I actually found it trickier to produce a good recipe for a Blondie then I did for my Brownie. The simplest way to describe a Blondie is that it is little more than a vanilla sponge cake with white chocolate chunks and so the first time I baked one I was a little disappointed. I stupidly assumed that I would achieve the same, velvet dense texture that I have with my Brownie. I had to start from scratch and the resulting Blondie had to be dense, caramelly, delicately chewy and satisfyingly dense. Here’s what I do. Of course you can tweak this recipe to suit you. I use a single origin white chocolate from the Dominican Republic for my blondies but as long as use a good quality white chocolate and avoid white chocolate chips for baking then all will be fine. So if you’d rather use white caster sugar, or add vanilla or leave out the salt then feel free. You can also switch the plain wheat flour for a gluten free one.

Preheat oven to 170’C fan. Grease and line a 2lb loaf tin. Place 50g chopped white chocolate, 105g unsalted butter, 80g dark Muscovado sugar and 80g soft light brown sugar in a bowl placed over a pan of gently simmering water. Stir until melted. Remove from heat and add 130g plain flour, 1/2 tsp of sea salt and 1 large egg and whisk. It will look split at first, just keep whisking and it will come together to form a smooth toffee coloured Blondie batter.

Add 80g of chopped white chocolate and fold through batter. Pour into loaf tin and smooth over. Place onto a baking tray on the middle shelf of oven and bake for 25 minutes. Check your Blondie, the centre should have a slight wobble, if very wobbly put back into the oven for a few minutes until it has firmed a little. Leave in loaf tin until cool. Cut into 8 or 10 pieces. Now enjoy.

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Bean to Brownie

Cocoa Beans

Well it’s been a while since I last wrote one of these, but I am bursting to share something. I did something this week which I had thought I would never do and now I am so pleased that I have! I purchased a new toy and some cocoa beans and set to work. I had to work a little creatively but I am amazed that my first attempt produced something that I am very pleased with. You’ll not find ‘Bean to Brownies’ on my website yet, but email me and I will make them for you!


At first, I had dismissed the whole idea of making chocolate from beans for brownies as a bit of a faff. But after speaking to a chocolatier friend of mine I was inspired to give it a go. I already knew the basics, you get some beans, roast them, shell them, nib them and finally grind them. So I bought a grinder (commonly known as a conche to those in the chocolate trade), some Grenadan cocoa beans, and some deodorised cocoa butter to help the process along. I armed myself with some other pretty rudimentary equipment, a chopping board, a wine bottle, and a hairdryer. Probably not what you were expecting me to list but I’m sure I can refine the process along the way.

It’s a simple process, more time consuming and messy than anything else. For my first test I weighed 500g of cocoa beans. I preheated my fan oven to 130 C. Laid the beans in a single layer on a baking tray and placed them in the centre of the oven and roasted for 20 minutes, giving the tray a little shake half way through. At this stage I won’t understand how the temperature and time will affect the flavour of the beans, I just needed to make sure that they were clean enough from roasting at this stage.

I left the beans to cool overnight and was delighted when the shells began to gently crackle as they cooled and split, this also helps to make the shells easier to remove.

The next day I set to work removing the shells by hand, only 500g to shell but it took me well over an hour. This is where the chopping board came in handy. I used to to gently crack not crush a number of beans at a time. A gentle crack means you can remove the shell in fewer larger pieces and retrieve a whole bean. I’m sure there are more time effective ways of doing this but I was enjoying the hands on element to the process and the novelty.

Once the beans and shells had been separated I took a large clean tea towel and laid it out on the work top. I placed a couple of hand fulls of shelled beans on the tea towel, folded the towel over and rolled the wine bottle over while applying as much pressure as I could. The beans broke relatively easily. I was aiming to reduce the size of the beans to nibs the size of fat grains of rice which, on the whole I managed. Beans were now nibs and ready to grind.

Now I have seen this done by others in the know many times before, but was also very aware for the same reason that the cocoa grinding equipment or conche can be quite a fragile bit of kit if not handled with respect. So a little nervously I set the grinder running with the stones set on the highest setting to allow for any bigger nibs passing under them and started to pour the nibs into the grinder and a little melted cocoa butter whilst blasting the outer metal drum, stones and nibs with the hair dryer. The heat helps the nibs to release cocoa butter and lubricate the process thereby reducing the strain on the stones as they grind. I think I was overly cautious but with good reason. I had to keep stopping to scrape down the sides as the nibs kept banking up due to being spun, so thought it would be advantageous at this stage to use the scraper that had been supplied, it made such a difference.

After about five hours I poured the cocoa liquor or mass into a container to let it cool and solidify, a bit like making a chocolate bar but without the need to temper as I am only going to use it for baking, simple!

I might return the mass to the conche/grinder and run for a little longer to reduce the particle size even further but probably only an extra hour or two. I didn’t mention previously but if you are conching and grinding cocoa for chocolate bars you will need to grind the chocolate until you have reduced the particle size of the cocoa to something that cannot be detected on the tongue. This can take upwards of eighteen hours on small scale equipment.

It was an exciting moment when i tipped the cooled lump of Grenadan cocoa mass from its container and hacked pieces off to melt into my brownies. I’m eating them as I type, the texture is unctious (is this spelt right) and the flavour is deep, slightly fruity, slightly earthy and very roasted. So there we have it, it must be a first, BEAN TO BROWNIES, I am very happy and feeling ever so slightly smug….

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My Big Brownie Experiment

I’ve done it! My brownie shop is open for business. I’ve baked and photographed and wrapped and written, a brilliant challenge. It all began in October last year, it was quite late one night when I was taken by an urge to bake. I always keep a ‘mental’ list in my head of my next bake and that night it was the turn of the chocolate brownie. Strange that I should not have made one before now, I have certainly eaten plenty.

I consulted with Nigel, Nigella and Hugh, a trusted trio and selected a simple brownie recipe from each. I baked some brownies and they were good but there had to be more to it.

I have a science degree and having worked for a luxury chocolate brand for nearly six years in development, process and ingredient sourcing I knew a bit about chocolate and ingredients and understood the process of experimentation.

To test the recipe I started by tweaking a single element each time I baked thereby focusing on each key brownie attribute; chocolatiness, tenderness and sweetness. Each has to be right and there is a balance, reducing sugar too much can affect tenderness and moisture and increasing the cocoa too far can make for a tougher, dry eat so this became the focus of my experimentation, pushing up the cocoa content whilst retaining the tender brownie texture.

During the baking I used different chocolate and I noticed that the brownies tasted different. With that thought still in my head I baked with a single origin chocolate from Madagascar and was amazed by the intensity of flavour and the red berry notes, gentle acidity and the butteriness coming from the Madagascan chocolate. It was at this time that I realised what I wanted to do, bake amazing brownies with single origin chocolate and experiment with flavour.

I am a perfectionist and although I knew I had the beginnings of something the recipe was far from where I wanted it to be so I continued to bake and tweak and until at last I found brownie happiness. Everyone should have the opportunity to ‘eat better brownies’.

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Our Luxury Gluten-Free Brownie Recipe

How We Create Our Indulgent Brownies

The single most important ingredient in our brownies is the chocolate.

Single-origin chocolate is known for its exceptional flavour and character, which is the reason we decided to create delectable brownies using this incredible ingredient. It’s one of the reasons our brownies have such a unique flavour with a velvety texture.

The heat from baking invigorates and amplifies the intricacy and intensity of the single-origin chocolate, pushing the complexity of the flavour and heightening individual character, resulting in a bolder and brighter brownie which is difficult to resist.

The Single-Origin Chocolate

We chose two kinds of single-origin chocolate for our brownies, Madagascan and Colombian, both of which exhibit unique flavour characteristics due to the terrior (natural environment, weather and soil conditions) of the distinct regions within the country in which they are grown. Everyone understands terrior in relation to grapes and wine or coffee beans, well this is the same for cacao too. The terroir will impact the flavour of the cacao at each harvest.

The Madagascan chocolate takes cacao from the Sambirano forests off the northwest coast and exhibits beautiful red fruit notes and a warming acidity resulting in an intense brownie with a buttery finish.

The Colombian chocolate is seriously dark with an extraordinary floral, smoky edge. The cacao is grown and harvested under the canopy of the tropical forests of Tumaco.

Our Ingredients

We strive to select only the finest possible ingredients, and that commitment doesn’t just stop at our finely sourced chocolate

  • Our eggs are always fresh and free range, and each ten-piece slab contains two whole eggs, which creates great texture and richness.
  • The butter we use is always unsalted to allow us to add just the right amount of sea salt pre-bake. This really enhances and heightens the character of the cacao in the finished product.
  • The sea salt itself is Guerande coarse sea salt, harvested by hand from the salt marshes of Southern Brittany. You can taste the salt in little peaks of sea salted savouriness as you eat.
  • Traditional brownie recipes list white sugar; processed to remove molasses, resulting in a bland flavourless sugar. We select an unrefined light soft brown sugar; the brownies are given a delicate caramel note which is gentle enough to ensure that the all-important chocolate remains centre stage.

Naturally Gluten-Free Brownies

The flour is a blend of non-gluten ingredients, containing rice, potato, tapioca, maize, and buckwheat. In the early baking trials, we started out by baking with both gluten and non-gluten flour.

We were so struck by the improved rich, silky texture of the brownies baked with gluten free flour that we decided to bake without gluten, which means that more people can enjoy our brownies!

A Superior Brownie

Our luxury brownie recipe includes a superior level of chocolate, greater than the average brownie. The balance of chocolate and sugar is key, too little chocolate or cacao mass and too much sugar results in an overly sweet brownie with very little cacao and little flavour. Too much chocolate and the brownie can be too dry and firm.

Getting the balance just right means that the brownie is chocolate rich whilst retaining the tenderness contributed by the sugar. The cacao mass content of the chocolate is 70% to 100%, this variation is adjusted in the recipe to suit each bake to ensure consistent results.