I am not very good at social situations. In small groups of people I know already that I love, I am ok; I can make jokes and I can laugh in the right places and offer support and I can feel like I am ok. But in a big group, or in a new group, I am Not Good. At parties full of unfamiliars I can often be found in a corner with the one familiar I have found, and when they leave to have a conversation with someone more fizzy I go and sit in the bathroom for a bit on my own or leave altogether.
I have often not gone to things where I know I will only know one or two people. I am well-intentioned, normally. A Facebook event for a birthday, a friendly gathering or a flatwarming will pop up in my notifications and I will happily click to say I will come. But then, as the event draws nearer, my stomach will turn and I will feel sick and I cannot and therefore do not go. I remain in my pyjamas. Sometimes, I count down and try to convince myself: ‘Yes, I will leave in half an hour.’ But the half an hour passes, I do not leave. I promise myself again I will go soon, but instead I stay and probably fall asleep at an early hour.
Slowly but surely, my friends from Edinburgh are migrating down to London. Their lives begin again and I am invited to celebrate new jobs, new homes, new selves. I sometimes struggle to say yes to these things, often struggle to actually get there.
The weekend just gone, some friends threw a housewarming. It was a potluck dinner. In preparation, I made these brownies. They are good brownies. Thick, like slabs of peat, with a bit of sharpness from the raspberries, and a little extra crunch from the chunks of white chocolate. Great with cream, best when still a little warm, but good whenever. I baked them, cooled them, and put them in tupperware, ready to go with me.
I thought about not going. I had so almost talked myself out of it. But then I realised I had made brownies. The brownies meant I went, because if I didn’t go the preparation would be wasted. Or I would have eaten a huge batch of brownies all to myself, which is a sure fire way to knock out any last trace of self-esteem you might hold on a Sunday afternoon. I went.
My lovely friends cooked roast lamb, and it was delicious. I did some conversation, laughing in the right places most of the time, and it was lovely. I will never be someone who walks into a room and lights it up. I am not someone who shimmers and sparkles in any social situation. I am awkward and full of worry, but I can make these brilliant brownies, and so I can be brilliant, too; quietly, momentarily brilliant as each person takes a bite. That’s fine by me.
- 175g unsalted butter, plus a little extra for sticking your baking paper to a tin
- 150g dark chocolate, broken into bits (most brownie recipes say at least 70% cocoa, but I've never much noticed a difference... use the best you can afford)
- 3 eggs
- 300g caster sugar
- 75g plain flour
- 40g cocoa powder (again, the best you can afford, even if the value kind, will be fine)
- 100g white chocolate, broken into big bits
- A punnet of raspberries
- Icing sugar, optional, to dust
- Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line a 22cm x 22cm deep tin with greaseproof paper, using a little butter to stick the paper down.
- Put the butter and dark chocolate in a heatproof bowl and melt together. I tend to use the microwave but go for a ban marie if you prefer. Set aside to cool while you do the rest.
- In a new bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the sugar and eggs together until they are very thick, like a mousse. This will take you several minutes but it is worth it.
- Add the melted chocolate and butter mixture. Fold it in with a big metal spoon (metal will stop the eggs deflating as much), gently but confidently.
- Add the flour and cocoa powder, and, again, fold in gently but confidently. Dip your finger into the batter and taste, it will be good.
- Add the white chocolate pieces and mix until well distributed.
- Spoon the batter into the prepared tin, spreading evenly and into the corners.
- Take a raspberry and push it, whole, into the batter. Repeat, repeat again until you have a lot of raspberries dotted in there or you run out. Take a knife and spread the top of the batter around again to cover the raspberries so they don't burn.
- Bake for 35 - 40 mins, or until the brownies are firm and a skewer inserted into them comes out clean-ish.
- Leave to cool in the tin for ten minutes or so, then lift out using the greaseproof paper. Cut into the desired number of squares (4 each way, making 16, seems right to me), then cool on a wire rack for a while. Put in tupperware, take elsewhere and share.
- You can mix the raspberries into the batter, but I think with this you get a big hit of raspberry flavour and I prefer that.
- The size of tin is a guideline, use what you have and adjust cooking time accordingly. I have never used the tin size a recipe stated.