I don’t think of myself as a particularly dramatic person and yet drama seems to follow me unnecessarily. Over the past couple of years I’ve faced more difficulties in my life than it seems any one person should have on their plate at any given time. From my health which took a sudden downward turn last summer to the stresses of being a freelance writer, it’s not been a particularly easy path to tread, certainly not helped along by a significant amount of sadness which has dragged on for over a year and a half.
In the past couple of weeks I’ve felt exhausted by it all, to the point where I’ve considered giving up on, well, everything. This blog – which has always been my escape, my refuge – has lately seemed a chore. Writing, which is for me an extremely cathartic process, has not helped me begin to unravel the tangled mess in my mind as it normally would and I’ve even started to consider a career away from food, away from the things that I love and away from my dreams. A hard thing for a person as proud as I am to admit, but at one point I hadn’t been able to afford groceries for two months and so had been living off frozen vegetables and lentils and literally lying awake until the wee hours of the morning, mentally calculating how much money I’d need to save up before I could pay off all of my debts. Needless to say, it’s been a tough start to the year.
But amongst all of the drama, all of the stresses, worries and difficulties, there have been small glimmers of hope and success, from the catering job I recently completed for 150 people, to the wonderfully supportive friends, family and particularly special person who entered my life a few months ago; and they’ve made me realise that all I really need is to drop the drama and simplify: rid my life of the things that make me unhappy and focus only on the ones that put a smile on my face. It’s so easy – I don’t know why I haven’t realised it before this point.
Part of simplifying is being selfish but sometimes you just need to be. It’s a horrible thing to say and to do, especially for somebody like me who would give the shirt off my back to anybody who needed it, but when you give away all of your clothes all you’re left with is resentment and a cold, naked ass, which is never a very good combination of things. I have to learn to be less giving or, at least, to only give as whole heartedly as I do to those who really deserve it, because frankly my good nature has been taken advantage of far too much and enough is enough. So here I am, a little older, a lot wiser and ready to live a much simpler and happier life.
When I made these brownies I was craving peanut butter and chocolate, two things that have recently been re-introduced into my life (damn you peanut M&Ms!) and that pair together beautifully. Add to that a hit of sweet raspberry jam and you’re looking at a whole new (bigger and fatter) world – just the way I like it.
With huge thanks to the fabulous Russell at Chasing Delicious for the base fudgey brownie recipe – his may be the best fudgey brownie recipe I’ve come across lately and I’m always looking for a good one (props must also go to Brian of A Thought For Food and Deb of Smitten Kitchen as Russell’s recipe was adapted from the two of them, so thank you all for providing me with a delicious brownie base!).
Original brownie recipe courtesy of Chasing Delicious, A Thought For Food and Smitten Kitchen.
Makes 16 brownies.
225 g unsalted butter, chopped, plus extra for pan
450 g caster sugar
90 g (unsweetened) cocoa powder
100 g 70% cocoa chocolate bar, chopped (I like Green & Black’s)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs, cold
80 g plain flour + 20 g cornflour, sifted together and set aside
Chunky peanut butter
1. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C and liberally butter a (23cm) square baking tin (as you can see from the above photos my pan is not square so I only got 12 (very large) brownies out of this recipe).
2. Place the butter and chopped chocolate in a large heatproof bowl and over a pan of barely simmering water – make sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water – and stir with a heatproof silicone spatula until melted. When all of the butter and chocolate have melded together to a smooth consistency, add the caster sugar and cocoa powder and mix together thoroughly – it will appear grainy.
3. Set the bowl aside and allow to cool slightly – about five minutes. When cool, add the vanilla, stir, then add the eggs one at a time, beating in well with an electric hand mixer (or by hand with a wooden spoon, but it does get a little stiff after a while) and making sure each is fully incorporated before adding the next.
4. Sift in the flour and cornflour mixture and fold in with a spatula until just incorporated, being careful not to overmix.
5. Pour the batter into the buttered tin then, using a teaspoon, place 16 heaped 1/2 tsp blobs of peanut butter across the top of the brownie batter (you want one blob for every brownie square, so about 4 x 4 in a square pan). Next to the peanut butter add 16 heaped 1/2 tsp blobs of raspberry jam. Using a sharp knife, dip the tip into each peanut butter/raspberry jam blob and drag it into the batter in a swirl – as the peanut butter is very viscous you won’t be able to drag it cleanly through the batter and so will need to dip it in and out a few times to achieve the desired marbling pattern. Be sure to pull it around in a swirl and not just drag it in a straight line. You may want to add a little more raspberry jam if you find it disappearing into the brownie batter a little too much.
6. When your batter is sufficiently marbled and you’re happy with your peanut butter/raspberry jam ratio, pop the tin into the preheated oven and bake for 15 – 20 mins, or until a cake tester (or toothpick) inserted into the centre comes out covered in crumbs and a fudgey paste-like substance. If it’s still liquidy (ie. falls off the cake tester) then bake for a few more minutes and test again.
6. Allow the brownies to cool to room temperature, then slice into squares and remove to a plate. Serve with a glass of milk, a couple of scoops of vanilla ice cream or simply stuff into your mouth – I promise I won’t tell.
Until next time, peace and love,