Galeta: On The Origin Of Brownies

Brownie Basics

Oh boy oh boy oh boy I have been looking forward to this since I started this blog (so, five days ago).
It’s a blondie! A gluten-free vegan peanut butter blondie!

Do not adjust your set!

Brownie Backstory

I love a good food market near to the office! When I was doing my PhD there was the Bloomsbury farmers’ market on a Thursday that we’d go to at lunchtime, which is probably where I picked up the habit. These days I’m all about the Southbank food market on a Friday. As it happens, the suggestion to create this blog came out of my strong #opinions on a brownie I bought from that very market a week ago. As a result I’ve been pretty excited to return and try the many many many brownies available there. There are at least four different baked goods stalls, including one that literally has the word “brownie” in its name, so I don’t think I will be short of brownies to write about on Fridays for a while!

This particular brownie came from the Galeta stall, which apparently is run by a bakery in East London (or at least that’s how I’m interpreting the entry on my Monzo statement). They seem well established and boast presence at a number of food markets and an impressive roster of corporate clients. This isn’t the first baked good, or even the first brownie, that I’ve bought and enjoyed from this stall – so I have some expectation that this will be quite superb!

Wikipedia tells me that a blondie resembles a chocolate brownie, but that the cocoa is replaced by vanilla. Wikipedia also tells me that people who rely too heavily on Wikipedia rather than talking about things themselves are “squares”. Finally, some sources disagree on whether or not a “blondie” can really be considered a brownie: even Wikipedia (oops) is a little inconsistent. As far as I’m concerned the answer is “yes” and I obviously proceeded on that basis: however, for fun, I wrestled a bit with trying to come up with a ‘rational’ answer, which you can see in a footnote to this post.

This blondie, as already mentioned, has peanut butter in it (which I love), and is vegan and gluten-free. I’m not vegan and I don’t have coeliac disease so arguably these are irrelevant qualities, but I do tend to find that cakes/brownies which are both vegan and gluten-free are delicious, and my working theory is that these desserts have so many of the traditional base ingredients removed that they have to compensate by loading up on the best bits i.e. the sugar, the cocoa, and other deliciousness. Let’s see if that holds true for this blondie!

Brownie Points

Taste: This is delicious. No other way to put it. Peanut butter is an excellent flavour to add to a blondie. It’s dominant and compensates for the lack of chocolate flavour that a chocolate brownie would have, but it doesn’t overpower everything else in there – and there’s other elements, including some very high-quality dark chocolate chips in the mixture and a heavy dusting of brown sugar on the top. There’s a slight saltiness to some bites, which just about works with the stronger flavour of brown sugar, and is probably what salted caramel is supposed to do but doesn’t. 9/10

Texture: Interestingly, I find myself wondering how I’d feel about this texture in a chocolate brownie, because on the face of it it seems like the sort of thing I don’t really like: it’s quite dry and missing the critical ‘moisture’. However, probably because of the heavy use of peanut butter, it’s thick and dense and completely avoids feeling like a sponge cake (which is the real cardinal sin of poor brownies). At the risk of grading on too inconsistent a basis, I have to say that this texture totally works for the flavours and ingredients in the blondie. I also like how the chocolate chips go with it and how they’re all sitting towards the bottom of the bar for a fun bit of pseudo-layering. 8/10

Presentation: Eh, one area where it falls down a little, I think. I’m not going to grade too harshly, because the whole point of this bakery is that all these various treats were made by hand this morning and so I don’t expect the brownies to look like they came from the Queen’s bakery or anything. The brown sugar on top neither stands out nor blends in and the whole bar looks (only looks, mind you)… dull? Also, I’ve had cake slices from this place before, which came in cute little boxes with handles. The brownie apparently comes in… a paper bag. 2/5

Value: But who cares about presentation? (Except me, a teeny bit, because I decided it was one of my judging criteria.) This is a really delicious brownie, reasonably sized (probably comparable to the Black Sheep brownie, although a different shape) and it’s £2.50! And it was hand-made this morning using all natural ingredients! Great value brownie. 8/10

Fudge Factor: The cute girl who’s been running the stall every week I’ve previously gone wasn’t there when I went for lunch today. There was a slightly-less cute guy. That’s not really his fault though. Hand-made this very morning! Ok, maybe they just shout about that more than some other places do. The key thing is that I had high expectations of this brownie and I’m still impressed by it. 3/5

Sum Total: 30

Should I Buy And Eat This Brownie?

If you have an allergy to peanuts, you should not buy or eat this brownie. Doing so would probably cause an allergic reaction and that would be bad. You also shouldn’t kiss me until I next brush my teeth, because I just bought and ate this brownie.

If you are a meat-eater and you are also the sort of person who goes out of their way to hate vegans and veganism, presumably because you treat everyone else’s personal choices as directly affecting your personal choices or something? You should buy this brownie, but then throw it away without eating any of it. That’ll show those pesky vegans who’s boss!

If you yourself have no issues with eating gluten, but are becoming concerned that the rise in gluten-free foods is fuelled entirely by a popular misconception that “gluten is bad for you” and not any actual attempt to help those who are genuinely unable to eat gluten, and you don’t want to support this trend? I think this is an interesting issue though I don’t see it as black-and-white as that, but I respect where you’re coming from.

If none of the above apply to you, hell yes you should buy and eat this brownie.

Closing Thought

You know how the most common joke about vegans is that they’re always going on about being vegan? You know, “how are you”, “I’m vegan”, that sort of thing. Does anyone actually know any vegans that are like this? I’m starting to think that this attitude towards vegans is itself so pervasive that the joke feels like it’s the wrong way round!

To expand on this a bit: all the vegans I know are normal, well-rounded and interesting people who turned out to be vegan at some point – usually it either came up when we were getting food together (a logical time for your food preferences to be established) or when I specifically asked about their dietary requirements for a dinner party or restaurant booking or something. Meanwhile, there’s always a few non-vegans who apparently can’t think of anything to say about vegans other than “Ooh, aren’t they always going on about being vegan?” I appreciate that jokes don’t necessarily need to be super accurate or anything, but this seems so far from the truth that I can’t even understand how it started.

I began to think this when watching an episode of QI recently. I like it a lot more with Sandi Toksvig than I did with Stephen Fry (controversial #opinion) partly because it feels a lot less smug than it used to. However there was one bit which stuck out, because Romesh Ranganathan was a guest and the theme was “Picnics”. It turns out he’s vegan, so when all the guests were given picnic-themed snacks, he got something vegan, and all the other four panellists spent some time making fun of him for always talking about his veganism, and he sort of alternated between playing along and getting mock-annoyed.

Thing is, though, it totally fell flat to me, because the very first mention of his veganism was someone else saying “Romesh, you’re vegan aren’t you?” and basically before he could respond it was all jokes about vegans always talking about veganism. Of all the people on that panel, he spoke less about his own dietary habits than any of the others spoke about his! I didn’t even know he was vegan before this episode! I’m very much not vegan myself (I am trying to reduce my meat consumption and broaden my diet so I have nothing against vegan food, but I don’t think I could ever be truly vegan) and I’m not going to go on some defensive rant about the poor mistreated vegans… I’m just saying the received wisdom about vegans seems so much at odds with my lived experience of both vegans and non-vegans!

Where has this stereotype come from? I don’t have any (admittedly anecdotal, but what other type could you possibly have for this?) evidence in my own life for it. Surely it isn’t possible that the stereotype of a sanctimonious humourless self-obsessed vegan has been created out of whole cloth by a non-vegan culture to cover up their instinctive backlash against something strongly counter-cultural but ultimately totally harmless, right? Surely not? Guys?


Footnote: Solving Problems For Fun And Brownies

Is a blondie a brownie? Let’s consider the following potential evidence:

  1. The full name of the ‘normal’ brownie is ‘chocolate brownie’, linguistically implying an essential ‘brownie’ element even when the chocolate is removed.
  2. An accepted alternate name for a ‘blondie’ is ‘blonde brownie’. (Corollary: this suggests brownies are female)
  3. In most circumstances, you would understand an ‘X brownie’ to be a chocolate brownie with X added. For example: cheesecake brownies do not replace the chocolate with cheesecake, but rather add cheesecake (of some description) to the finished product. A blondie or blonde brownie doesn’t follow this pattern, instead changing a base ingredient of the (chocolate) brownie.
  4. I, a brownie blogger, bought a blondie from a bakery and am blogging about it.
  5. The existence of ‘vegan brownies’ is apparently accepted, although this requires the substitution of more base ingredients than a blondie does (neither eggs nor butter are vegan).
  6. Blondies, unlike brownies, are not brown.
  7. If blondies are acceptable fare for a brownie blog, then someday for consistency I may also have to allow a wider definition of ‘brownie’ that basically includes a whole bunch of different ‘dessert bars’.

Upon consideration of the above points:

  • 1, 2 and 5 seem to be sufficient evidence that the definition of ‘brownie’ is flexible enough to classify blondies as a brownie variant.
  • 3 is a consequence of language being imprecise as a habit: in such constructions as ‘salted caramel brownie’, context makes it clear that this is a chocolate brownie (which most brownies are) with added salted caramel. ‘Blonde’ is an adjective and not an ingredient, so doesn’t necessarily behave the same way (see also ‘vegan’ in 5). It’s however worth noting that some people (incorrectly, in my opinion) believe that ‘blondie’ is synonymous with ‘white chocolate brownie’.
  • 6 is not really relevant (although it is true).
  • 4 is, in reality, the most important factor.
  • 7 sounds like a delicious problem that I look forward to dealing with some day.

In conclusion: yes, a blondie can be classed as a brownie, QED.


7 thoughts on “Galeta: On The Origin Of Brownies

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