It’s amazing to watch my seven-year-old make these brownies with the kind of shamanistic frenzy customarily associated with a COS mid-season sale. Adults will appreciate the espresso syrup, but for God’s sake keep it away from the childer. Coconut sugar is not just another hipsteria colonising Ireland’s fashionable cafés. This curious brown sugar actually makes sense. For a start, coconut sugar has a modest mineral content, which helps to explain why health nuts go cross-eyed and slack-jawed for it. Then there’s the taste. Even though it comes from the coconut tree, it is positively not coconutty. Think crunchy caramel crumbs without that sickly-sweet kick of regular sugar. And my favourite bit? It won’t make your heart beat like a bodhrán. Don’t freak out – it’s still a sugar, dear friends! Just a little less bossy with your blood sugar levels.
Salted Almond Butter Brownies with Espresso Syrup
200g dark chocolate, roughly broken
1 x 200g block of creamed coconut (not coconut cream)
200-220g coconut sugar (€€€) or golden caster sugar (€)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla bean paste or good-quality extract
generous flurry of flaky sea salt
1 tbsp nut milk
30g dark chocolate chips or chunks
3-4 tbsp almond butter
For the espresso syrup
250ml freshly brewed dark roast French press coffee
3 tbsp golden caster sugar
€ Coconut sugar bumps up the price
To make the brownies, crank up your oven to 170ºC/gas mark 5. Line a 20cm square springform brownie tin with non-stick baking paper and set aside. If you don’t have one, they cost about €10 and will last a lifetime of cake binges.
Slowly melt your chocolate with the creamed coconut in a bain marie. This is just a fancy term for a saucepan filled with 2cm of water simmering away and a shallow bowl fitted snugly on top in place of a lid. The shallow bowl is where you’ll melt the coconut with the chocolate. If the bowl gets too hot the chocolate will go lumpy, so take the pan off its heat source as soon as you see the ingredients melding together. Stir until smooth.
While the chocolate is melting, beat together the eggs and sugar with an electric mixer until creamy. The mixture will aerate and change colour slightly, so don’t be overly alarmed. Add the baking powder, vanilla and sea salt. Whisk until well socialised.
Stir in the nut milk followed by the melted chocolate and coconut, then scatter in your chocolate chips.
Using a spatula, scrape the batter into your lined brownie tin. Decorate the top with giddiness and almond butter. Blobs are delicious, as are creative swirls. (No one’s going to know if the spoon finds your mouth by accident.) Bake in the oven for 30 minutes.
Once the salted almond butter brownies are done – they should still be a bit wobbly in the centre – allow to cool overnight in a locked room. Then refrigerate until chilled – this is not one of those desserts that tastes better while hot. If you get this far in the recipe, I think it’s probably fair to lock it back in the room and tell no one. Theoretically this is not selfish, as you are looking after their teeth.
To make the optional espresso syrup, boil the coffee and sugar for approximately 20 minutes. It should just about coat the back of a spoon when ready. Best used on the same day or stored at room temperature for two days. Serve beside hunks of brownies and a side of Louis Armstrong. (Inside the locked room. Obvs.)
Freeze in sneaky slices and mark as ‘stinky cheese’ so no one else takes it.
Extracted from Clever Batch by Susan Jane White (Gill Books, €24.99). Photography by Joanne Murphy.