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In August, my sister came back to London for a three week holiday. Living in Melbourne means that moments together are few and far between. Even Skyping can be difficult with an 11 hour time difference during parts of the year. That’s why, when she came back, I cherished it. Deeply and dearly. She probably wouldn’t dream I’d feature her exclusively on this blog, but my story wouldn’t be the same without her. There are moments in life that make you realise time is precious and you need to hold onto and enjoy the present. Surround yourself with people who feel like sunshine and make you laugh until your belly hurts – a lot.

Ingredients layout

Whenever I bake brownies, I think of her. Her and her friend Sarah. They both regularly encourage me to make brownies and ship them overseas all the way to Australia so that they can enjoy the cocoa-dusted yumminess – because apparently no other brownies are quite as good. If I’m honest, I’d say her hugs were just like these: big, squishy and indulgent. I made sure I got my fill of overdue hugs back in August. Recently though, I’ve been wishing I could teleport myself to Oz, jump into a pair of freshly washed PJs, grab a bottle of cold prosecco or a warming pot of tea (depending on the mood) and stick a few episodes of New Girl on with her.

There’s something wholesome and comforting in being with people who bring you positive energy, who allow you to be who you are and don’t have a problem with that, who can handle and respect your ‘no’ and your boundaries (and therefore deserve your ‘yes’) and who embrace your twinkling, never trying to dull it. There aren’t many people who “get me” the way she does. There are a few special people, yes. But honestly – she’s the bomb. The bestest sister ever, and I’m entirely grateful you’re in my life, Han.

Soppiness aside, these brownies were an experiment I’d been longing to try. Yep, they’re squishy and chocolatey and satisfying but they’re also wholesome AF. I adapted this recipe from Sarah Kieffer’s The Vanilla Bean baking book because whenever I make brownies, they can’t just be normal chocolate brownies. I had wanted to add chunky nuts to these originally, but Australia has strict laws about what goes into the country. Previous experience taught me that my package would no doubt be sent through customs, scanned, unwrapped completely and if it passes checks, finally shipped to the right address. It took me five weeks once to get a batch of Millionaire’s Shortbread to a friend living in Brisbane. They did eventually make it, and apparently still tasted great.

This recipe calls for glossy peanut butter because I’m obsessed with the stuff. I’ve also added a touch of coffee to add some richness and a little bitterness, to take the edge off what is essentially (and most of the time) a chocolatey sugary treat. Having sprinkled my recent cornflake cookies with flaky salt, I HAD to do this too. No doubt I’ll be getting a follow-up request to ship internationally more often.

Dark chocolate peanut butter brownies with flaky sea salt

Makes 12 large brownies

113g unsalted butter, cold
226g 70% dark chocolate, chopped
25g Dutch-process cocoa powder
160g plain flour
1/2tsp baking powder
3/4tsp salt
4 large eggs
112ml rapeseed oil
297g caster sugar
99g dark brown sugar
2tsp vanilla bean paste
1tbsp coffee extract/filter coffee

Glossy smooth peanut butter (I like Pip & Nut)
Flaky Maldon sea salt to finish

  1. Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position. Preheat the oven to 350F/175C and grease a square 20x20cm baking pan, then line with parchment paper.
  2. Melt the butter and chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan full of boiling water, stirring until melted and smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, cocoa powder and salt.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, oil, sugars, vanilla and coffee. Add the slightly cooled chocolate mixture and whisk until smooth.
  5. Add the flour mixture, bit by bit, stirring after every addition to combine until all of the dry ingredients have been used. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Drizzle the peanut butter on top and swirl with a spatula.
  6. Bake for 22-27 minutes, until the sides of the brownies have set, the top is beginning to crackle and look glossy, and a wooden skewer or toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. The batter on the skewer should not be wet but should have a good amount of crumbs clinging to it.
  7. Scatter the top with the Maldon sea salt whilst the brownies are still warm, then transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely.
  8. Once cool, gently lift or slide the brownies out of the pan and cut them into squares.

Recipe adapted from Sarah Kieffer‘s The Vanilla Bean baking book.

September 22, 2019