Gluten Free food on the move is a challenge, especially if you don’t want unhealthy crisps and chocolate; but lately all of the major coffee chains have upped their games in gluten-free provision – notably Costa who have a range of cakes; and Starbucks who offer sandwiches made with Genius bread. This all makes things a little bit easier – maybe one day I won’t carry an emergency snack in my handbag!
All of the major coffee chains in the City offer that staple of GF-baked goods: the chocolate brownie; so I employed my colleagues to help with a highly (ahem) scientific taste test across some key brownie characteristics: Visual Appeal, Texture, Taste and overall Brownieness. So who did my gluten-eating colleagues prefer?
Best Visual Appeal & Feelgood Prize – Starbucks
Clocking in at a MOR £1.55 for takeaway and the most calorific at 370 per brownie; Starbucks’ brownie doesn’t win in the convenience stakes – they are put on display in a wheat-crumbed counter, so you have to ask for one still in the wrapper. Luckily the baristas were happy to oblige between confusing customers by asking for their names.
The Starbucks brownie won hands down in the ‘Visual Appeal’ category – a good robust shape which unlike the others, didn’t stick to the packet and make a massive mess all over my desk (sorry cleaners!). “Very brownie-looking” commented one of my team. So far, so intellectual. Overall taste was pretty good, but the major objections from the team was that “this is a cake, NOT a brownie, too cakey”. The texture is good, and a little squidgy – but doesn’t have that chewygooeyness we were looking for.
Bonus points awarded for being Fairtrade. Eating brownies, and helping some of the poorest people in the world? Thumbs up.
Average GF Nom-ability: 6/10
Try Again Next Time Prize – Caffe Nero
Oh Nero, it started so well. Your brownie was the cheapest at £1.50, and the lowest-calorie (319kcals) but it seems we have a sweet tooth, because you lagged in every round. Disappointing from the shop that brings us the most indulgent hot chocolate on the high street. (Skinny with cream? Don’t mind if I do…)
Major objections were the crumbly, mottled appearance, and the taste which was variously described as “artificial”, “metallic”, having a bad aftertaste and “EWWW – NOT GOOD”. A resounding “won’t buy again” all round. Sorry Nero.
Average GF Nom-ability: 4.5/10
Overall Om-Nom-Nom Award – Costa
The Costa brownie was the surprise winner, as it looked a bit of a mess in its plastic wrapper; but it was the strongest competitor on overall ‘Brownieness’ as well as preferred for chocolatey flavour and gooey brownie texture. The white chocolate chunks were a nice touch too. A shame that it was well ahead on price too at £1.70 a piece and that it was so hard to find nutritional information on their website – perhaps they need our A Team to do them a digital strategy? (369 calories according to My Fitness Pal if you wondered).
Minor objections were raised about the shape “not square!” but the texture was the clear favourite prompting the superlative comment “tastes like normal” as well as the verbose “yum” from my friends regarding the gooey centre and crumbly (slightly gritty) top. Overall I think we preferred Fee’s home-made gluten free brownies, but this is a worthy convenience snack and the best of the bunch. Yay Costa!
Average GF Nom-ability: 7/10