Upon being invited to sample and review Bluebasil Brownies’ Christmas collection, I was really rather excited – after all, who wouldn’t want to receive a beautifully packaged assortment of lovingly made brownies to enjoy in the comfort of their own abode?! Furthermore, as a person who has been referred to (in the workplace no less) as the ambassador of Christmas, combining my love of chocolate with an element of the festive season was doubly appealing. As I'm sure you can imagine, I had a multitude of volunteers when it came to enlisting the help of a companion for that all-important second opinion and of course, I did consider snaffling them all myself – the notion of a-brownie-a-day until the box was empty proving somewhat alluring. Yet, given that we were just days away from the onset of advent, I couldn’t have possibly left The Boy out of the proceedings…besides, this is the time of year when we’re supposed to share with our loved ones; presents, a tipple or two, festive joy and…erm…chocolate apparently!!
Located in the North Cotswolds and founded by self-confessed local-food lover Nikki Taylor, Bluebasil has been producing and posting batches of their dreamily decadent brownies for well over a year now. Winning gold in the Great Taste Awards 2011 for their cardamom brownie is clearly testament to the quality of the ingredients sourced and the passion channelled through good honest baking…baking as it should be with butter from a local farm and organic Cotswold flour and eggs. Consequently, hard-work and dedication to one's craft amounts to a gift (for yourself or a loved one and in light of any occasion) which has that personal touch and really ignites a sense of unveiling something special – well, that was certainly the sentiment I experienced when I untied the neat ribbon and un-boxed what can only be described as a weighty wall of brownies; excitedly revealing them from within layers of delicate tissue and paper straw. As for the limited edition Christmassy flavours – they were as follows (listed in order of consumption!):
Dark Orange and Ginger – Cleverly coupling ‘Divine's' Orange and Ginger dark chocolate with fresh ginger and candied orange, this brownie felt decidedly grown-up – not too sweet and fairly subtle in terms of its arrangement, that is, until the spicy notes of the ginger packs in its punch! This was The Boy’s favourite and before I knew it, both sizeable squares of this particular brownie had disappeared!
Tiramisu –Unmistakably a ‘dessert brownie’, especially from the fridge (which incidentally is where all varieties should be stored for best results), the layered tiramisu effect was true to form whereby cool mascarpone had been folded between hoards of gooey chocolate. The roasted coffee aroma and dusting of cocoa powder balanced the overall flavour so not to make this too sickly a combination and the modest brandy content, (although a little too modest for my palate) gave the after-taste an ever-so-slightly boozy edge! Yum!
Coffee and Irish Cream – Whenever I visit my Grandad during the festive season (or at any other time for that matter) he insists on a mid-morning tipple of coffee laced with Baileys. Biting into this brownie captured an aspect of that nostalgic indulgence as well as a comforting warmth that is just perfect for this time of year. Intensely creamy, this is probably the heaviest of the collection but let me assure you that this is not to its detriment – you may just have to enjoy half at a time!
Classic Chunky chocolate – Focussing on the main attraction, this was a chocolate-lover’s dream – richly flavoured, densely textured and created with fine 70% European chocolate and ‘Divine’ chocolate chunks to constitute a hard-core chocolate hit! I’ve discovered via my ongoing chocolate appreciation that brownies can differ significantly in terms of their composition and Bluebasil’s are fudgy and smooth rather than cakey which gives them, in my opinion, that extra je ne sais quoi! I loved that this brownie also has a gluten-free counterpart so those having to adhere to a specific diet can still delight in the choc-fest!
Rudolph’s Rumnut – This brownie was saved until last as the ingredients list provided warned of nuts which meant that the allergic Boy could not partake, (shame?!) True to its word, a generous scattering of nibbled brazil nuts topped this brownie which had been packed with juicy fruit and a mixture of spices – cinnamon, fennel and nutmeg to name but a few! This brownie's most notable characteristic however was its somewhat alcoholic quality giving it a similar flavour to that festive favourite – Christmas Pudding (yet with the texture of a rum truffle if you will)! One to be warmed through and served with a dollop of crème fraiche perhaps?!
In conclusion, a fantastic gift idea for the foodies (and chocoholics) in your life – not only are Bluebasil Brownies thoughtfully packaged in boxes of either 9 (£14.50), 12 (£17.50) or 16 (£21.50) – with functionality and frills in equal measures - they are quite simply, delicious! In addition to this, shunning the hustle of the High Street in favour of efficient online service and avoiding the wrapping paper and sticky-tape dance by allowing for Bluebasil’s packaging and personalised greeting combo must surely be plus points in any Christmas-shopper’s book! Thus, if you’re reading this and wondering what to get me for Christmas, forget the usual musical snowman socks or chocolate-scented bath salts (true story!) and instead, say it with brownies!
To Note: Order your Christmas brownies before the end of November and receive a discount of 15% with the following code – 15XMAS11