Pioneering the artisinal brownie
Its been ten years since we decided to create an artisinal brownie. A combination of madness, determinaton and love for chocolate, these are the not-so-secret ingredients required to create the first Australian Luxury Brownie and brownie gift. Until then, Australian brownies were cocoa dusted dry, bottom shelf options.
Bien and I, after a trip to Italy fell in love with the idea of food gifts. We watched Italians exchange the simplest of household foods and were mesmerised by the care and love in the sales process. When we returned home, our mission was centralised and clear: we’d take the dusty old brownie, reveolutionise it and shine a spotlight that would catapult brownies into this century. We dreamed that a combination of product quality and a “chocolate gift customer service” would be critical as our customers came to buy brownies.
Since then, the once humble brownie now appears on many cafe, restaurant menus and a new industry of brownie manufacturers has spawned (who would have thought!).
Factors that make an artisinal brownie
So with increasing numbers and types of brownies, it’s important for us brownie connoisseurs to understand what sets an artisinal brownie apart? What should be considered as you buy brownies? If you’re looking to buy brownies of high quality then there are definitely a few things to consider in the process.
Firstly to be really clear. Chocolate and artisinal anything, are way more costly than the mass produced versions. The combination of chocolate and labour is an expensive exercise. As with all food types, there will always be the industrialised versions using heavy machinery and cheaper ingredients in an attempt to cut costs. And of course, as with all things, there will always be those masquerading as artisinal brownies.
So here’s what sets an artisinal brownie apart from the others:
- Pure, Quality Ingredients – as costs are high, often fillers of all types are used to mask the blandness of cheaper ingredients. Only the purest of ingredients are found in artisinal brownies. These producers make a real commitment to the highest possible quality ingredients
- Real chocolate – the inclusion of real chocolate and amount of chocolate in an artisinal brownie makes a huge difference. Of course the cost of real chocolate is very expensive and so brownie manufacturers looking to cut costs will substitute cocoa powder for chocolate and sometimes a combination of chocolate and cocoa. Here at Dello Mano our Luxury Brownies are made using pure chocolate. To be sure, a brownie may still be artisian if made purely from cocoa, however the cost of this type of brownie recipe is significanly less expensive and the result less flavoursome and generally speaking sweeeter.
- Egg quality- Now I’m an egg fanatic when it comes to brownies. I studied Food Science and my thesis was on eggs! Even back ten years ago when egg quality was not fashionable (and we couldn’t really afford it) , we purchased free range eggs fresh from the farm (we were the first brownie stall at the Jan Powers Farmers Market and so got to know our fellow egg marketeers). While cost-cutting may be appealing to some, artisan brownie makers do not use powdered eggs or pre shelled eggs. At Dello Mano our eggs are delivered fresh from the farm, free range, to our kitchen door, still to this day. We crack each and every one of our eggs and as they slip from their shells they dip straight into a heavenly chocolatey brownie recipe.
- Fresh Dairy – Artisinal Luxury brownie crafters use fresh dairy, butter and cream. Artisinal brownie devotees do not use cheaper fat subsitutes as are sometimes used in the baking industry. A superior brownie is achieved by baking with butter.
- Prime Quality Nuts & Fruits – Artisinal Luxury Brownies liberally use the highest quality nuts and fruits. An artisinal brownie producer will also offer flavours of brownies despite the costs of expensive ingredients like Pistachio and Macadamia. These nuts are more expensive than sugary, flavoured syrups and so nuts are often overlooked by producers who are looking for a cost cutting exercise.
- No preservatives or additives – these are essential no go zones to an artisan brownie producer. A well developed recipe will allow the customer to buy brownies and expect a good shelf life without the addition of these products.
- Quality Flavours– artisan brownie creators will only use real flavourings – Artisan brownies do not contain artificial flavours or alcohol essences. At Dello Mano for example, we craft our famous Christmas Pudding Luxury Brownie and in its’ preparation we only use real brandy, rum and dark beer in the brownie recipe. We do not use harsh alcohol substitutes.
- The Brownie Recipe – crafting brownie recipes is both an art and a science. A great brownie recipe will provide the most glorious rich, full , well rounded flavour profile. It will allow for the addition of real ingredients and it will not be dependent on concentrated artificial flavourings
- A Good Shelf Life – artisinal brownies crafted from real and quality ingredients contain these in the proportions required to sustain the brownie. Those brownies that contain fillers rather than real chocolate and butter will have shorter shelf lives and often dry and cake as a result. A well crafted brownie recipe will have excellent shelf life, utilising the combination of quality real ingredients in proportions that naturally offer excellent keepability.
- Refrigeration – an artisinal brownie will contain real butter and require refrigeration as a means of protecting brownie integrity and preventing the butter from rancidity. A well developed brownie recipe will sustain limited time without refrigeration due to its food structure, however it should be noted that any brownie containing the quantity of butter required to make it great, is best refrigerated.
- Small Portion Sizes – At Dello Mano we really were part of the drive to smaller, quality food. When we launched, cake slices in general were huge and it was our goal to help demonstrate the value and meaning of small. And value is the key word. In our minds, value is not size, it’s substance. If you are assessing a brownie and you want a truly artisinal experience, given the cost of handmade and real ingredients, and the power of the best possible ingredients, the brownie size will be relatively smaller to the cakey, filler and often aerated varieties.
An artisan brownie is one that is crafted in a traditional, non-mechanised, good-old-fashioned way using the highest quality ingredients. The choices made in the list above are what make the difference between a brownie and a Brownie. The list is a great guide for reference as you buy brownies. Each choice made by the producer culminates to create an artisian brownie that is truly different and well worth the dollars… and the calories.