Boxed Brownies

December 30, 2015 at 2:55 pm | Posted in Made Locally | Leave a comment

Due to Christmas and general life-related craziness, this review is long overdue, so apologies to Boxed Brownies for just how long it’s taken me to turn my scribbled notes into a legible blog post.

I was recently lucky enough to receive a package of goodies from Boxed Brownies, a Sheffield-based duo who not only make delicious brownies, but have that kind of special, homemade vibe you only get from local and independent businesses.  

Just flicking through their website left me with a smile on my face, as I read about Clive and Hayley baking batches of brownies in their cottage kitchen and then heading out to sell them from their renovated vintage horse box, not to mention their tales of the time Clive almost made it through to the Great British Bake Off.

Just to top it off, the website also reveals that all the eggs used in Boxed Brownies come from Clive and Hayley’s free range chickens, who go by the names of Tilly-the-Hen, Jessica Hennis (haha!) Rocky Rhode and Cabbage. A big part of shopping locally is knowing where your food comes from, but knowing the names of the chickens who laid the eggs definitely takes this to a whole new level!

But are their brownies any good? Well, shortly before Christmas I had the chance to find out, as on a dark, rainy night Clive hand-delivered a box of homemade brownies direct to my door.

The package was beautifully presented, wrapped in brown paper, tied up with string and sealed with a “Proudly made in Sheffield” sticker. Inside were 6 brownies, wrapped in greaseproof paper that was printed with lots of different words relating to Sheffield, and sealed with another “Proudly made in Sheffield” sticker. I don’t think I’ve ever raved about cardboard and greaseproof paper before, but this whole box was so beautifully presented, I just had to take a photo of it.  

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At this point, I realised we had a big problem. Since the package had been delivered at night, the lighting was all wrong for taking photos. I spent a good 10 minutes running around the house with my box of brownies and camera phone, but eventually I had to admit defeat: I was going to have to wait until tomorrow so I could take photos in natural light. Which meant no brownie supper for me. Disaster.

Fast forward to the next day, and as soon as I got home from work I made myself a brew and got settled on the sofa for some serious brownie-eating action.

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All 6 flavours looked delicious, so I decided to kick things off with the one I didn’t think think I’d be so keen on (the stollen) and then work my way up from there. It wasn’t that the stollen didn’t look good, because it did, I’m just not that crazy about stollen in general. So I was pretty surprised to find that I loved Boxed Brownie’s take on this festive favourite.

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Boxed Brownie’s stollen was packed full of juicy raisins and big chunks of sweet and zesty candied lemon, which also gave the stollen a satisfying crunch. My only niggle is that the stollen was a bit on the dry side on its own – but it was perfect with a cup of tea.

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Boxed Brownies were off to a strong start by making me fall in love with something I didn’t think I even liked, so now I was really looking forward to the other 5 flavours. Next up, was cranberry and pistachio.

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This was my first taste of the dense, rich dark chocolate brownie that seems to form the base of most of Boxed Brownie’s culinary creations. The crunchy pistachios contrasted nicely with the velvety texture of the brownie, and the cranberries added a burst of tartness to this otherwise incredibly rich chocolate treat. Another hit!

Next up was the cardamom and ginger brownie.

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The crystallised ginger gave this brownie a unique sandy texture, and although the ginger wasn’t particularly strong it did add a nice background hum of warmth to this very seasonal brownie.

And speaking of seasonal treats, it doesn’t get more autumnal than Boxed Brownie’s bonfire toffee and marshmallow creation. This brownie caught my eye the second I opened the box – I mean, just look at it!

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Basically, I love everything about this brownie. The marshmallows genuinely do taste toasted, which just screams fireworks, sparklers, candied apples and all that autumn/winter goodness. This was easily my favourite brownie of the bunch.

After polishing off the wonderful bonfire toffee brownie, it was time to move onto the amaretto and rosemary flavoured brownie.

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This was a much less chocolatey brownie, and the rosemary gave it a subtle savoury taste. After so many rich chocolate brownies this was a very welcome change.

Finally, it was time to tuck into what I anticipated would be my favourite of them all: the salted caramel.

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I love anything salted caramel flavoured, and Boxed Brownie’s salted caramel brownie didn’t disappoint. It was visibly sticky and incredibly moreish, so even though I was full from scoffing the previous 5 brownies, the salted caramel vanished in no time. It was just too good to put down!

And so concluded my Boxed Brownies feast. I loved everything in the box, including the stollen (to my surprise), but what really sealed the deal was Boxed Brownie’s attention to detail, right down to the Sheffield-themed greaseproof paper they wrap their brownies in. This would make a lovely present for a foodie friend, or anyone who loves goodies from boutique, independent companies.

You can order your own box of 6 brownies for £15 from the Boxed Brownies website. If you do decide to treat yourself, I’d definitely go for the mixed box so you can try lots of different flavours at once.

four-stars

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Spotlight: Seven Hills Bakery

February 2, 2013 at 5:07 pm | Posted in Features, Made Locally | Leave a comment
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bread

Specializing in sourdough and long-fermented artisan bread, Seven Hills Bakery’s menu makes for mouth-watering reading (Apricot and Hazelnut loafs, Mixed Seed Sourdough made with sunflower, sesame, poppy and millet, Linseed Sharrow with buttermilk…) and it’s not unusual to see people queuing outside their shop in Sharrow Vale road and at their stall when they pitch up at Sharrow Vale market.

I spoke to baker and co-founder of Seven Hills Bakery, Matina Mitchell, to find out the secret to making bread that the people of Sheffield are willing to queue for, and what 2013 holds for the bakery.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself, pre-Seven Hills Bakery?

Matina: I worked in the NHS in Wales as a planner and for local authorities. However I have baked bread at home since I was a student and got more and more interested in it. Three months in Berlin in an organic bakery convinced me that I wanted to make bread professionally, but also underlined that there was a big difference between baking at home and for a market.

What was the inspiration behind Seven Hills Bakery?

Matina: I have wanted to open a bakery for several years but knew that I couldn’t do it alone. How to meet the right people to bake bread with and start a small business? I met Laura and John at the School of Artisan Food and we decided that we should set up together. We’d had an amazing experience as students selling Welbeck bread at Nether Edge Market and after some research decided that Sheffield was ready for a new artisan bakery! After a year John decided to move on to do other things, so Laura and I have been the two partners since last October.

I’ve seen people queuing outside your shop before – what’s the secret to baking bread that people are willing to queue for?

Matina: You’ll have to ask our customers! But we strive to produce consistently high quality bread and cakes with first class ingredients. Maybe the secret is to make what you like to eat yourself!

Where do you get the inspiration for your recipes?

Matina: We read a lot of bread books and eat a lot of different artisan bakers’ breads! We take recipes but work on them ourselves and tweak things until we are happy with the taste and the consistency of the end product.

You make your bread using locally grown and milled flours, and much of your equipment was made my local tradesman. Why is it so important, that people support local businesses?

Matina: There is good evidence that money spent locally in locally based businesses revolves round the local economy more times than if the money is spent with a big multinational and therefore leaves the area. But there is also something very satisfying about having equipment that is made by people working in local firms. Tins and trays made by Invicta, moulding table made by Andrew Marsh. We currently use both the Yorkshire Organic Millers (YOM) based on the edge of the North York Moors and Shipton Mill (further away on the Severn estuary) for our organic flours. YOM produce stone ground flours from grain grown locally and we use the wholewheat in many of our loaves.

And finally, what are your plans for 2013?

Matina: We are hoping to extend our range of bread and cakes and start making pastries e.g croissants. We also got planning permission to open a cafe at the back of our shop in Sharrow Vale Road and we are working on getting that up and running in the next months.

You can find out more about Seven Hills Bakery at www.sevenhillsbakery.co.uk

The Tea Experience

January 5, 2013 at 9:39 am | Posted in Made Locally | 2 Comments
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I’ve had my eye on the Tea Experience’s beautiful flowering tea for a while now. So with the Christmas expense successfully behind me, I decided to treat myself and splash out on their flowering tea starter kit.

The Tea Experience are South Yorkshire-based purveyors of fine teas and tea accessories, including authentic Yixing teapots, quirky glass teaware, and high-quality loose leaf tea. But it’s their flowering tea blooms that really make them stand out, with their double-whammy promise of both “good tasting tea” and a “stunning display.” A quick Google search reveals that these flowering tea blooms are made by wrapping dried tea leaves around one or more dried flowers, then sewing the whole thing up into an unassuming little ball. When popped into hot water, the bundle expands in a way that mimics a blooming flower.

For flowering tea novices, The Tea Experience offer a ‘Flowering Tea Blooms: Boxed Set’ which includes a selection box of six tea blooms, alongside a Lin glass teapot and two glass tea bowls. The set arrives neatly packaged, with every piece in a separate box marked with a differently-coloured sticky label.

When I unpacked the Lin tea pot I was surprised by how small it was, but then I unpacked the two tea bowls and the teapot suddenly seemed enormous by comparison!

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The dinky tea bowls are far smaller than any I’ve seen in a restaurant. Feeling a little shortchanged, I turned my attention to the tea blooms themselves, which are very nicely presented in individual cardboard compartments, individually wrapped and marked with a different coloured sticker so you can tell one little green bundle from the next.

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Size of the glassware aside, this is a very nicely turned out kit that would made a fantastic present.

But what about the tea itself? As soon as I popped the first bloom into hot water a few air bubbles popped to the surface, then one-by-one the spiky little leaves started to unfold. When the bloom drops to the bottom of the bowl you know the real show is about to start, as the flower finally pushes its way out.

My first mug turned out to be the red amaranth and jasmine blossom tea bloom:

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As the set comes with a selection box of tea blooms, I was also treated to the dramatic Dragon’s Eye bloom, which is made from a marigold,vibrant red amaranth and a snaking vine of jasmine blossom. This is a truly spectacular cuppa – definitely one to save for a dinner party!

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In terms of taste, all the teas have a delicate flavour and are much lighter than herbal tea. It’s also one of the most refreshing cuppas I’ve ever had! Although you can refill the teapot a few times before each bloom runs out of juice, the real flavour comes from the first brew and subsequent cups do begin to taste like hot water.

The Tea Experience’s flowering tea is a unique present and a novelty that you’ll want to share with anyone who drops by your house. While it isn’t the tastiest or strongest hot drink, it’s a light, refreshing brew that leaves you feeling extra hydrated. Worth splashing out on if you fancy trying something different!

Visit www.teaexperience.co.uk/catalog/ to find out more.

Foundry Coffee

September 29, 2012 at 5:50 pm | Posted in Made Locally | 1 Comment
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Sheffield seems to be in the grip of a real coffee revolution, with more independent coffee shops than ever before. However, if you’re after some high-quality, locally-roasted beans for your home-brewed morning cuppa, it’s not immediately obvious where to go. This is the niche Sheffield-based Foundry Coffee are looking to fill.

Formed fairly recently (March of this year, in fact) Foundry Coffee take ethically sourced beans, roast them to order and get them to you in double-quick time via first class post, in packaging that’s designed to fit through your letterbox. For anyone who doesn’t enjoy spending their Saturday mornings in the queue at the Royal Mail delivery office, the latter is an absolute blessing.

So far so good but, of course, it all hinges on the product. Are Foundry Coffee’s beans any cop?

First impressions are encouraging, as the finished product arrives in a packet that boasts a mouth-watering description worthy of a wine menu at a posh restaurant, and you can find out when your beans were roasted, and by whom, on the back of the packet.

It’s this attention to detail, not to mention clear pride and enthusiasm for the product, that puts Sheffield’s independents miles ahead of their big-chain competition.

Of course, Foundry Coffee is far more expensive than the jar of own brand stuff you can pick up at Tesco’s, with prices ranging from £12 to £16 for a bag of beans. However, upon opening the bag I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of beans this buys you.

A hefty price tag, but you do get enough beans to remain highly caffeinated for weeks on end. Foundry Coffee aren’t stingy when it comes to the quantity of beans.

Actually, the smell alone is likely to make you twitchy. Even before grinding, expect to be hit by that delicious aroma of roasted coffee. By the time you’ve ground up your first batch, the entire house will smell of fresh coffee. Caffeine fans will be desperate for a cuppa after just one whiff of the stuff!

After leaving to brew for a few minutes, it was finally time to enjoy the fruits of our labour – and it’s pretty potent stuff! Absolutely impossible to compare to instant coffee, our bag of Rwanda beans produced a strong, heady brew with some subtly fruity flavours, and a vaguely smoky aftertaste. If you’re not already a coffee bean regular, the distinctive taste (and sheer strength!) will take some getting used to but, once you have, it’ll ruin instant coffee for you forever.

If you’re feeling flush with cash then it’s well worth investing in a bumper bag of Foundry Coffee beans. For your cash, you get enough coffee to keep you buzzing for a good solid month, and the freshness, strength and complex taste of the coffee will take your morning cuppa to a whole new level.

Visit www.foundrycoffeeroasters.com to find out more.

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