Thorntons: Setting A Brownie Bar

Brownie Basics

I haven’t seen a Thorntons chocolate shop for a while, but presumably they still exist because 9-packs of their brownie bites are in all my local supermarkets. I got these from Sainsbury’s. Here they are in a little pile on a coaster on my coffee table!

Nine is a surprisingly awkward number out of which to make a three-layer pile.

Brownie Backstory

I was grocery shopping on Friday night after work (or at least that’s how I justified it to myself) and decided to stock up on brownies for the weekend. The thing is, though, I’m not that enamored of the brownies you get in any (British) supermarkets. Some are better than others but none of them are particularly good. As a result, I plump for things other than brownies when buying supermarket baked goods. But I have a blog now, and a theme, and it’s a whole thing and I’m not going to write a blog post about caramel shortcake. No doubt some day – and probably soon – I’ll feel the need to buy and eat a range of supermarket brownies so that I can tell you, dear readers, all about why I don’t like them very much, but at this point I didn’t really feel like putting myself through that. Thorntons came to the rescue with something a little bit higher in quality!

My first experience with these brownies was back in my halcyon university days (the first time around, anyway). I went out drinking with some friends, which was my standard activity back then, and after the bars closed we went back to their flat. There was an open packet of Thorntons brownies on the coffee table and someone accidentally spilled a beer on said open packet: thinking quickly, I decided we should eat them immediately before the beer ruined them. I remember thinking they were quite tasty, but I was drunk, and I’m not sure if the beer helped the taste at all (I suspect not, however).

The full description for these brownies states that they are “baked with fudge pieces and dipped in chocolate”. Dipped in chocolate I can see, but I’m not quite sure how to interpret “baked with fudge pieces”. Do they mean pieces of fudge were put into the mixture rather than (for example) chocolate chips? Do they mean that the mixture was made fudgier by adding solid fudge, in the form of fudge pieces which would then melt? Is this just ad-speak for “real fudge was in the cooking process somewhere”? The mind boggles (slightly).

As an unrelated side-note, in the town where I grew up there was not only a Thorntons chocolate shop but also a bike shop of no obvious relation called Thorntons. I dimly remember this as one of the (presumably) myriad things which you assume your child is capable of instinctively understanding but which actually confuses them greatly: as a small boy, I concluded that there must be some connection between the shops as they shared a name, and wondered if they were run by the same people who just happened to have two very different business interests. I was also really bad at inferring from context which Thorntons my parents were talking about: so I would wonder why we were going to a bike shop to buy a birthday cake, or to a chocolate shop to buy inner tubes. Even now, far into adulthood, there’s a tinge of confusion to my mental associations whenever someone refers to Thorntons in the context of a shop, even though Thorntons (like many of the lovely little independent shops in my old hometown) has sadly closed up shop and no longer exists.

Now. Back to brownies!

Brownie Points

Taste: I wonder if the dipping-in-melted-chocolate bit is a bit of a taste cheat, because the first taste when I bite into one of these brownies is the taste of that chocolate and chocolate good. There’s no denying however that it works. The brownie itself is very tasty as well: there’s a sense that it’s chocolatey but not as sweet as the chocolate coating and so the combination is powerful. 8/10

Texture: I can’t find any lumps of fudge in here so I assume they melted away? Texture’s pretty good, soft on the inside and all that good stuff, but somehow it’s a little insubstantial, as if the brownie is actually dissolving in my mouth as soon as I start eating it, so it can’t get top marks for that. 7/10

Presentation: Ok, so… I like the fact that these come as nine brownie bites, rather than a single brownie. I don’t really like anything else about how they’re presented. There is this slightly-bizarre combination of the worst visual aspects of hand-made and factory-made foods. Like, all the brownies have identical colour gradient, but then the chocolate coating is unevenly applied both in height and thickness…but then the edges of this look like they were hurriedly removed from a plastic sprue and not tidied up! As is often the case, they were also sold in a lot of packaging, but I’m going to give them a low pass on that because I suspect it was deliberate to maintain the brownie’s freshness on a supermarket shelf rather than just because they couldn’t be bothered about the environment. Still, a poor showing. 1/5

Value: In more positive news, I think these are really good value brownies. Sure, they’re mass-produced and will always have cost advantages over bakeries and coffee shops. I’m trying to do a more like-for-like comparison here. These were £1.25 from Sainsbury’s (ok actually they were on offer for £1 but I’m not going to take that into account) and they look to be similarly priced elsewhere. For my mind, that means that you can go into a supermarket and get a brownie that is so much better than any in-store supermarket brownie, for significantly less cost, and the only downside is that you end up with about half the total brownie volume. I’d rather spend less and get less of a much better product. 9/10

Fudge Factor: Dipped in chocolate is a good direction for brownies to go. Having nine brownie bites to a packet encourages me to eat less brownie in one sitting and instead to focus on the brownie quality. 3/5

Final Points: 28

Should I Buy And Eat This Brownie?

Solid yes. In fact, make a commitment right now. The next time you go to a supermarket and get a craving for a brownie, seek out this pack of nine brownie bites and buy it. Then eat it. Then if you still want to eat the in-store bakery brownies instead… well, at least you had a taste of a better life.

Closing Thought

Do haircuts count as “luxury” items, or are they more like washing-up liquid or spoons – i.e. not strictly essential for human survival but need to be priced into the basic cost of living?

5 thoughts on “Thorntons: Setting A Brownie Bar

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