I know it doesn't seem like it from this blog, and if it does please don't tell me because I'll cry, but I'm kind of awkward! So when circumstances forced me to go to the Chocolate Festival alone if I wanted to go at all, I steeled myself up for some weirdness. I don't like to stand around by myself, silently buy things, and look surly.
One of the things I was most excited for was trying brownies from two of London's most recent and celebrated brownie-ers: Batch Bakery & Bad Brownie. Being me though, I wasn't able to contain myself to try similar flavors, or even easy to compare flavors from the two. At Batch Bakery I got the Peanut Butter Oreo Brownie "Bun", which was like a brownie cupcake with an Oreo inside, surrounded by peanut butter and topped with peanut butter frosting. At Bad Brownie I got the Maple & Bacon Brownie, which is apparently the second best seller.
The Oreo Brownie Bun was incredibly good - which is unsurprising considering the ingredients. There was a lot of peanut butter in the center, and the peanut butter frosting was perfectly smooth - a difficult one with peanut butter frosting, as I've often had it/made it and watched it turn out a bit grainy.
The Oreos had gone a bit softer from baking, but that just makes them integrate better into the batter. The brownie itself was well done, more cake-y than fudge-y but it made sense since it was filled with richness anyway. The chocolate flavor itself was light - but again, it's full of peanut butter & Oreos, it probably shouldn't be a heavy dark chocolate brownie on top of all that.
Batch Bakery had a lot of other interesting flavor combinations, so I'd be happy to give them another go sometime. They're mostly in markets - I actually remember seeing them in R3d Market a few times, but I had always been rushing back to the office after getting my Burger Bear, haha.
The Maple & Bacon Brownie from Bad Brownie was a risk, I accept that. However I've had some bacon & ____ sweets before that ended up just right. A special 'American Brunch' style cupcake from Hummingbird ages ago turned out super. Maple-y flavored frosting, a buttery cake & with tiny bits of soft salty, bacon, and a single crispy, salty slice of bacon on top. Worked very well. I even had a Denny's 'Baconalia' salted caramel & bacon brownie sundae, which was also nice! I have, however, also had a chocolate bar with bacon in it that tasted dreadful. It can go either way.
Unfortunately for Bad Brownie, this one was in the same camp as that nameless, random chocolate bar.
I'm absolutely sure that there other flavors are great - they looked good, and the brownie itself was tasty. All the bits that were absent bacon, that is. That bacon was dreadful, just the chewiest, jerkiest, and not even that salted. Just like crunchy, chewy bits of jerky inside a brownie. I don't know how it could've been done better, but it could have. There was also a lot of it, you certainly couldn't complain if you were a fan of jerky & chocolate. I think the problem was the chewiness and the lack of salt - the other bacon & sweet combos I've had have had quite soft bits of bacon in the batter, and maybe one crispy bit on top. Never anything half as chewy as this, though. I mean, bacon stuck in my teeth - bacon that would've been bad with eggs, just not good bacon. The maple was also pretty much a non-participant, so my guess is that real maple syrup was used to flavor it.
Good effort, but my experience as a maple loving baker myself tells me that the only way to really get a maple taste to come through, especially when paired with chocolate, is to use artificial extract.
It's a shame, because the brownie itself was very well done - dense, fudge-y, squishy, very strong chocolate taste. Did everything right, I just wasn't a fan of the bacon element. I'd be excited to try another flavor, it was my own fault for going risky. I do wonder though, how much of this brownie's buyers are second-timers? It sounds fun & tasty, but it comes out a bit tough to love...and tough in general. I bet most people give this one a go, find out it doesn't work that well but the brownie is good, and come back to try salted caramel or something. For my readers I suggest you just skip the initial curiosity, and drown that nagging voice saying "but salty & sweet is great, right? eccentric flavor combinations like this are always worth it!" with some classic brownies.
I'll be honest, these were very tasty - but none of them beat the Paul A. Young brownie for me. I like fudgy, very densely chocolate, and nearly just goo in the middle. Brownies really are divisive - some people will probably appreciate the more cakey texture of these two, but for me it's all about the fudge and squish - as much as I can get. Still very tasty stuff, and if you see either of these sellers in markets, grab one!
I got lots of other interesting things at the Chocolate Festival to be reviewed later, so...stay tuned!