I made these brownies recently for two occasions – an apocalyptic storm-induced solo cinema date and a friendly picnic. I’m not sure if that is taboo, like re-gifting, or just very efficient culinary preparedness. I will counterintuitively start with reason two: An impromptu picnic with some friends, where I was told, “ok, they aren’t, like ‘brownies’, but they’re awesome.” Add a moustache and a languid hipster drawl and you get it! But however you like ‘em – cakey, chewy, fudgey, warm, cold, squishy, ice-cream/sans ice-cream – brownies are as subjective as they are enchanting.
Which brings me to the initial reason for whipping these babies up: To ease the feelings of abandonment when a friend ditches you for a [prepaid online dammit] film. Now, my brother deserted me for boarding school in the city when I was really young - rendering me virtually an only child during my most vulnerable years – so I am ok with this victim dynamic. This meant I spent a lot of time doing things alone, like watching Parent Trap on repeat and building religious shrines in my bedroom – you know, normal kid stuff. I may no longer dress my cat in my doll’s clothes or force my Sims to fornicate incessantly, but rolling solo is still my comfort zone. Even with this natural affinity for loneliness, there is something totally unsettling about going to the cinema alone, which is what I did on Thanksgiving when one of my friends got stranded in traffic during a flash hail storm.
I am usually fairly considerate, perhaps too much so, of those around me. I would never, say, bring unshelled pistachios to a movie only to leave my friend covered in salty, slobbery confetti, and I nearly always compromise when it comes to choosing share snacks. But on my solo Thanksgiving date, I revelled in the opportunity to not buy an overpriced box of stale Malteasers, and instead whipped up some rich stout brownies which I shamelessly smuggled inside, tea towel-clad, in an insulated picnic bag. Instead of a large frozen coke (sorry, but gross) in my armrest, I had a steaming hot chai. I then proceeded to grotesquely shake my vanilla ice-cream out of its cone and over my warm brownie. BECAUSE NO ONE WAS EVEN WATCHING! There is certainly a social stigma attached to seeing a film alone, yet we all watch TV alone?! Next time you head to your favourite rom com solo, take some pride in the fact that your selfless martyrdom is paving the way for generations of lone-bownie-eating-cinemagoers. And failing that, take these babies along, and just know that with each bite you are underwriting profound social change.
- 1 large gold sweet potato (peeled and diced)
- 20 fresh dates (pitted)
- 500ml dark stout beer
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 3 star anise
- 1 orange peeled and chopped + peel
- 1 cup hazelnut meal
- 1 cup wholemeal spelt flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 egg
- ½ cup coconut oil
- ½ cup raw brown sugar
- 1 cup raw cacao powder
- In a saucepan, simmer stout, sweet potato, dates, spices, and orange + peel, until about ¾ of the liquid has evaporated and the sweet potato is mushy.
- Make sure you fish out all of the orange peel, cinnamon and star anise. With a stick mixer, or in a blender, combine mixture well into a gooey paste. Allow to cool.
- Once cool, add remaining ingredients to mixture and combine well.
- Scoop into a large flat (lined) baking tray and bake at 180 (degrees) for about 30-40 minutes. (To test, poke with a fork. If it comes out clean, they are ready!)
- The brownies will be pretty moist (worst word in the entire English language) on the inside, so ensure they are stored in an airtight container in the fridge.