It’s usually a safe bet that an established coffee shop will have some sort of brownie in their baked goods selection. When I wandered to the nearest branch of Black Sheep Coffee today in my usual post-lunch mid-afternoon need-coffee slump, they turned out to have a salted caramel brownie just waiting for me to buy and eat it!
Dear readers… I am a bit of a grump when it comes to salted caramel. I know this is literally a matter of taste! It’s just that when I eat salted caramel, my reaction is always somewhere on a scale between “Yes, this tastes as good as regular caramel” and “Oh my god, they ruined the caramel, it’s so salty!” With that in mind, I’m not really down with the current trend of all caramel to be salted.
On the other hand, it works sometimes e.g. in icecream or brownies! So I’m not that much of a grump about it.
Black Sheep Coffee is a chain with branches in… (checks website) …London, Manchester and Manila. It’s one of those places that does coffee etc. in the daytime but which also transforms into a bit of a late-night venue with beers and cocktails. They also offer waffles apparently? That seems to me like the sort of thing that a not-very-funny comedy sketch might make up to satirise “millennial culture” in coffee shops. I have no idea if the waffles are any good or not, and in fairness that’s usually the deciding factor. Like, if Pizza Express suddenly started doing sushi platters, obviously everyone would be pretty skeptical but if then it turned out to be amazing sushi I reckon people would be like “huh ok” and probably eat lots of Pizza Express sushi.
To be honest I’m running out of things to say about Black Sheep Coffee. It’s a perfectly decent place with a slightly eclectic mix of food and drink for sale, and let’s get down to the brownie I bought from there.
Taste: Unsurprisingly, it’s sweet. The salt in the salted caramel is definitely down the “I can’t really taste this” end of things, which is a bonus. On the other hand, the caramel in the salted caramel isn’t adding much flavour either. It tastes like it’s a little lacking in actual chocolate, as if the sweetness of the caramel was balanced out by removing some of the main ingredient. And also the aftertaste (now that I’ve eaten it) is weirdly disappointing? 6/10
Texture: I’m pretty sure that 75% of the reason for baking brownies with caramel is that they make it very easy to bake a beautifully moist and rich brownie. (In case you’re wondering, the other 25% of the reason is: caramel good.) I’ve never known it to not work, and it’s worked here. I really like how this brownie feels in my mouth (not in a weird way) and the caramel topping also adds tactile interest, which is definitely a thing. Crucially, the texture of the brownie is consistent all the way through – there’s no feeling that it’s over- or underbaked in any part. 8/10
Presentation: Look at it up there! Joking aside, I do really like the haphazard caramel on top of it and the triangle cut. I’m not such a fan of the two-tone colour scheme on top. Canonically brownies are supposed to get a bit of a ‘crust’ on top, which is due to a number of things about how brownies are made and baked, and which I may go into some day. This brownie sort of has that – and if you look reeeeeally closely it does look like it’s actual crust, not a dusting of chocolate powder or whatever – but it’s not uniform and it’s downright missing in large places, which I have decided to blame on the cooling process they are using for this brownie. 3/5
Value: As well as taste and texture, value is always going to be partly based on the quantity of brownie present, and once again there’s no obvious sense of scale in the photo. Let me lay it down for you: this is about two-thirds the size of the brownie I got from the National Theatre, and it’s exactly the same price. On the other hand, the brownie you get is much higher quality! Quality over quantity: 6/10
Fudge Factor: Wikipedia tells me that I’m supposed to like salted caramel because its ingredients hit all the pleasure centres in my brain at the same time, leading to something called “hedonistic escalation”. I didn’t feel like this hit all my pleasure centres, which is probably because I misread the Wikipedia article on salted caramel. Anyway, I liked this brownie even though I don’t like salted caramel, and I do like brownies that successfully play around with added ingredients, so I’ll give it a fudge factor of 3/5
Total Score: 26
Should I Buy And Eat This Brownie?
You probably like salted caramel, because it seems like everyone does. Assuming you also like brownies, logic dictates that you will enjoy this salted caramel brownie. I feel like £3 is a little bit on the pricey side for the size of brownie, but it’s not really small or anything. Sure, go ahead and buy and eat this brownie!
Hedonic Escalation would be a great name for a band of some description, but I’m not sure what genre of music they would play.
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