Where would we be without coffee? I’m serious about this. It’s been a great friend to me. The dark art of caffeine has fueled me through two degrees and two books. The quest for a perfect cup took us around the world, finding surprisingly stellar spots in Reykjavik and Istanbul, as well as London. It’s an ingredient I’ve put to work in combinations as curious as aiolli with artichokes and jamon (a version of this is also in Cut the Carbs as red-eye aiolli, a twist on the Southern tradition of red eye gravy)  and our espresso and Pedro Ximenex Christmas pudding. It’s also something that has helped keep me on an even keel during my transition from carefree girl about town to ‘lady with the pram’.

Yes, we have the means to produce a cup of Joe at home. There’s a very shiny exoskeleton of an ECM Giotto that sits on its own shelf adjacent to the kitchen. It’s The Hungry One’s pride and joy. As such, I very rarely touch it. It’s not that I’m not welcome to, or occasionally intrigued by the mechanics of bar pressure and milk temperatures. It’s just that I like to go out.

In those sleep bankrupt early months with Will, a morning walk and expedition for a latte were worth their weight in gold. They gave my ambles around the concrete corridors of Redfern, Waterloo, Surry Hills, Rosebery and Alexandria purpose. They usually afforded some interaction with another human, even if it was just to hand over $3.50 at the end of it all. And often they were the only time in which Will properly slept (oh, the irony of it all).  Going out for coffee was about more than caffeine.

These days our latte expeditions remain firmly fixed to the social calendar. Granted, Will’s cafe threshold is now condensed to 25 minutes- that’s as long as it takes him to make it through his morning tea, play an extended game of ‘Ta’ with the teaspoons and flirt with the waitstaff.  But when the nights get splintered again, or the rain starts to pelt sometimes there’s little choice to turn to what you have at home. And if it takes you three shots to produce one which is an acceptable standard for sipping, here’s somewhere to put the excess.

These brownies are the very definition of a morale booster. They’re fit for all sorts of days, both shining and shitty.  They suit a more health conscious brief than your traditional indulgence (like these ones perhaps); here the sweetness comes from a ripe banana and some blitzed dates. The body comes from ground almonds and desiccated coconut. The end result is somewhere between a coconut rough and a fudgy truffle, squelched into squares. The coffee flavour in the end is subtle, if anything its bitterness helps to turn up the volume on the taste of the chocolate. They’re a very adult treat, perfect for at home or taking to an office. If you spend a good portion of your day surrounded by children (either real, or behavioral) they’re a perfect edible refuge. That being said, if you needed to abstain from the caffeinated pleasures for a while, two shots of decaf would work fine, as would a slosh of milk.

Flourless Espresso Brownies

Makes 20 brownies

Shopping/foraging

2 shots of espresso (60 ml) or of strong black coffee (you can substitute with decaf or milk)
100 g pitted dates
3 tbsp neutral tasting oil or melted butter
3 eggs
1 very ripe banana, mashed
1 cup of ground almonds/100 g
1/2 cup of dessicated coconut/50 g
50 g cocoa
pinch of salt
50 g of roughly chopped walnuts (or dried cranberries, goji berries, chopped hazelnuts, or chocolate chips if you prefer)

Here’s how we roll

1) Preheat the oven to 180C/350F and grease and line a baking pan the size of an A4 sheet of paper with greaseproof paper.

2) Combine the shots of espresso with the dates (double check there are no pits). Add the oil and blend until you have a slurry.

2) Add in the mashed banana and stir to combine.

3) Stir in the eggs one at a time, stirring well to combine.

4) Fold in the dry ingredients, except for the roughly chopped nuts, berries or chocolate chips.

5) Fold in the chopped walnuts (or your mixable of choice).

6) Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

7) Bake for 20 minutes, until the top is firm to touch and a skewer comes out with a few fudgy crumbs on it. Allow to cool in the baking pan for 10 minutes, then turn out and slice into 20 brownies (or 40 if you want small bites for petit fours).