Firstly, for the budget-conscious among you raising eyebrows at the use of a bottle of the authentic black stuff in a batch of brownies, fear not, for this recipe makes 24 of the little tinkers and uses a little over half a can at that, so you could stretch to 40ish from a single can if you’ve a crowd to feed. If that doesn’t satisfy you, well, most supermarkets sell an own-brand value range can of bitter at around £ 1 for 4 x 440ml cans.
But I created this on the eve of both my birthday and St Patrick’s Day, so it had to be the real thing. I’m fussy about very little when it comes to ingredients in cooking, but Guinness makes my non-negotiable list, and I hope that you, dear readers, will note my half-Irish blood and birthday on St Paddy’s Day and gently forgive me.
I first came across the idea of Guinness in cooking from the wonderful Nigella, in her book Kitchen, one of my go-to reads for comfort food and seductive words, to relax and unwind , to feel inspired, to find a moment of joy in food at the end of a long day. Her Guinness gingerbread with plums was the inspiration for my own Beery Berry Crumble in my first book, A Girl Called Jack, and both stand up to long cold days and a craving for a little comfort, and now here we are: double-chocolate Guinness birthday brownies. I hope you love them as much as I do.
MAKES 24 SMALL FAT RICH BROWNIES at 13p each
250ml Guinness (or other stout, if your budget doesn’t stretch), 92p (£1.83/500ml)
200g dark chocolate, 60p (30p/100g, Smartprice at Asda)
200g butter, diced, 44p (55p/250g baking block, Asda)
3 medium eggs, 50p (£1/6, Asda)
300g granulated sugar, 20p (65p/1kg, Silver Spoon at Asda)
a pinch of salt, <1p (27p/750g, Asda)
150g plain flour, 5p (45p/1.5kg)
100g milk chocolate, 30p (30p/100g, Smartprice at Asda)
Preheat the oven to 180 ° C/ 350 ° F/ gas 4 and line a small roasting tray with baking parchment. If baking parchment isn’t the kind of thing you have lying around, give the tray a good grease with oil to stop your brownies sticking.
Pour the Guinness into a small saucepan over low–medium heat. Perch a heatproof mixing bowl on the top – this will act as a bain-marie to simultaneously melt the butter and chocolate, and reduce the Guinness. Break up the dark chocolate only and pop it into the bowl with the butter, and heat for around 8 minutes to melt, stirring occasionally. Don’t be tempted to crank up the heat, I did and my Guinness bubbled up and made a ghastly sticky mess all over my hob. Patience, it will all work out.
Meanwhile, beat together the eggs and sugar with the pinch of salt until well combined. Gradually add the flour, a quarter at a time, and beat it all in before adding the next batch. You can sift it for a smoother consistency, but a thorough beating with a wooden spoon will do the job just as well, with one less thing to wash up. When the chocolate and butter are melted and combined, gradually beat those into the mixture. Don’t be tempted to splosh it all in at once, as searing hot chocolate and cold eggs has a lot of potential to go quite wrong . . . There’s a reason why you don’t generally see ‘chocolate scrambled eggs’on restaurant menus!
When the melted chocolate and butter are combined with the eggs, flour and sugar, it’s time to add the booze. It should have reduced by half (i.e. there should be 125ml there now, instead of 250ml, as half of it should have evaporated). If it hasn’t, you can either carry on reducing it for a moment now it doesn’t have a bowl of chocolate balancing on top, or just use 125ml of whatever quantity you have left –I can’t imagine it will make a frightfully noticeable difference. Pour a little into the brownie mixture, mix well, and repeat until consistent. Pour the whole lot into your tray –it will be VERY runny. I had my doubts, slopping it in, that I was going to make anything that remotely resembled a brownie, so if you are pouring brownie soup into your tray with more than a touch of scepticism, you’re doing it exactly right.
Break up your milk chocolate and poke the bits into the brownie soup at random intervals, and put the whole thing on the middle shelf of the oven. Close the door, and don’t open it for 40 minutes, no matter how great it smells or how curious you are.