It’s food market day in the office, and I deliberately went for something other than Galeta to try to maximise my brownie coverage. There is a stall called Tea, Bread & Brownie: shockingly, brownies are a specialty of theirs. This one is a cheesecake brownie.
Man, let me tell you, I am still not completely over just how bad the Sainsbury’s brownies were. I mean, I obviously knew they weren’t very good, there was a reason why I stopped buying them after all. Other than my general health, that is. It’s just that with this blog I’ve had the motivation to go and try all sorts of different brownies, including a number that I’d never eaten before, and that’s really driven home what is out there and available to buy and therefore the Sainsbury’s terrible-excuse-for-a-fallen-cake brownie came across even worse. Gah!
All of this is to say, I was fully in the mood to have a really good brownie today. I went to Tea, Bread & Brownie on a bit of whim really: I decided to give Galeta a miss because it was where I went last week, and aside from that I wandered between the various baked goods stalls and reached this one last. They had a good selection on offer actually, enough to make any bakery proud: not just the eponymous tea, breads and brownies, but also a huge range of cakes, pastries and various other sundries. The man running the stall was friendly and very kind when, like a klutz, I accidentally dropped my change into the bread display. That’ll teach me to exchange small pieces of metal for my baked goods, rather than waving a piece of plastic about like a normal person.
Tea, Bread & Brownie doesn’t seem to exist outside of this market, which is unusual, as most of the stalls seem to be extensions of existing food places or at least have some presence at other markets. This means there’s not much research to be done into them and how they make/where they sell their products. I’ve decided to classify them as a bakery as their main output is baked goods, although it’s not clear if they bake their own bread too. They gave me my brownie in a paper bag with the logo of ‘The Flour Station’ on it – does this mean they outsource their sourdough, or are they linked to ‘The Flour Station’ by personnel? The only other thing to say is that they apparently take the ‘Tea’ part of their name very seriously: you can get tea at their stall, but not coffee, which is a bit unusual. They do make an exception for hot chocolate, so maybe they just don’t have the equipment and skills to compete with any of the coffee stalls and so don’t try.
Cheesecake brownies are not exactly uncommon, but I imagine they’re quite hard to get perfect. If you decide to bake the cheesecake topping, then you need to time your baking carefully to avoid overdoing it. If you go for a no-bake cheesecake approach and cover the brownie when it’s cooling in the fridge (I’ve also seen this done) then I could see all sorts of difficult things happening to the consistency of both layers at the interface. If you decide to go for a cheesecake marbling instead, with some cheesecake between a couple of layers of brownie, then you really risk some interface problems (based on the cross-section of this brownie, they seem to have tried this but not ended up with very much cheesecake at all in the middle).
Obviously there’s solutions to all of these problems, but a certain risk factor needs to be taken into account. Maybe this is why most cheesecake brownies I see just use plain/vanilla cheesecake rather than experimenting with flavours: there’s already a fair bit of complexity involved! As much as I’d love to see an orange-and-white-chocolate cheesecake brownie or a forest fruits cheesecake brownie, there is such a thing as overwhelming a brownie with too many flavours (in my #opinion).
There doesn’t seem to be any such concern with this brownie: it looks like the bakers have stuck to the basic flavours of each of the two components, and hopefully concentrated on perfecting them both. With luck, the brownie will live up to the pleasant experience of buying it: it was a nice sunny afternoon when I meandered down to the Southbank food market, got a delicious filling lunch, got my usual macchiato, bought this excellent-looking brownie and meandered back into the office, and now here I am to eat it and tell you about it.
Taste: Oh my Lord, this tastes so damn good. Excellent chocolate flavour in the brownie. Excellent-tasting cheesecake. There’s a really good use of extra sugar to make the crust sweeter than the main base. There are certainly some brownies in the world that taste better than this, but right now I can’t really think about them. 9/10
Texture: Ok. I wrestled with this for a little while, and for the good reason. This brownie is basically perfect brownie texture. There is a great, almost crunchy crust and then the rest of the brownie is soft, thick, moist, all the best words. The cheesecake topping mostly adds flavour rather than texture, as it’s a lot thinner than the brownie, and I think this is the right call. Here’s what I struggled with: the texture is so close to perfect. Is it close enough to get a ‘perfect’ score on a discrete 0-10 rating? I decided… yes. It may not be literally the best brownie texture in the world, but I’d basically be nitpicking to find fault: it deserves a full 10/10
Presentation: Also pretty damn great – look at how smooth that cross-sectional cut is! The colour gradient on the cheesecake topping is masterful! This is an edge piece but you’d hardly know it because there’s nearly no rise at the edge. I even kind of like the way that the crust has cracked, but I have to mark it down a bit for how as a result large pieces of crust have separated themselves entirely from the base. 4/5
Value: This was £2.50, for a piece of brownie that’s on the smallish side as they go, but which on the other hand is fantastic. I’d say the value is comparable to the Galeta brownie, which was the same price, larger, and not quite as great. 8/10
Fudge Factor: My faith in brownies is fully restored, and for the first time since Costa Coffee changed their recipe, I’ve found a brownie with a comparable brownie base (in case it’s not clear, that is to say: superb). I could probably talk myself into giving this a full five points. What I’m going to do instead is use this section as a vector for some of my minor nitpicks and misgivings that this brownie doesn’t quite deserve perfection, so it scores ‘only’ 4/5
Final Rating: 35
Should I Buy And Eat This Brownie?
YES! It was so good. Do it! Unless, I guess, you can’t make it to Southbank food market for some reason, like living hundreds of miles away from London. This brownie is (sadly) not quite good enough to rate a brownie pilgrimage of that magnitude. It’s pretty close, though…
I honestly wonder sometimes if caffeine would be legal if it was discovered today. (For clarity: obviously caffeine should be legal, but rationality doesn’t often enter into the discourse around drugs!)