It’s amazing quite how quickly holiday memories can fade into dust, especially when you have a little over 16 hours at home before you find yourself back at the airport and about to hop on another plane to head back to your office on the other side of the Atlantic.
I was never particularly the kind of person who knew what they wanted to do with their lives – I still don’t really. There’s a long running joke in my family that we all become accountants while we figure out what we want to do when we grow up.
In a couple of weeks, I will have been in my job for eight years. It seems like an awfully long time to spend in the same place, although given that most of my work is project-based, I have worked in plenty of different environments in that time. People quite often ask me if I’m planning to give up my job to focus on blogging full-time to which my answer is always exactly the same: absolutely not.
For a start, we have an intimidatingly large mortgage and I’m not sure there are enough sponsored posts in the world to allow me to pay my share. Most importantly though, I quite like my job and, despite semi-frequent bouts of insecurity, I’m actually quite good at it.
As with many similar organisations, we operate a hierarchical structure. Within the last eight years, I’ve progressed to the stage where I’m now at a relatively senior level, albeit on the lowest rung of that ladder. It quite often comes as a shock to me when I realise that I’m the most senior person in the room or that people are looking to me for expertise in my field. It’s not so much a case of imposter syndrome (although I have my moments) but more the fact that, as I scamper around the office barefoot or am unable to stop giggling at an unintended innuendo, I find it hard to believe that I’m considered a professional grown up now.
A few weeks ago, a pupil from my old school came to do a week’s work experience in my office. She got in touch with me after a gave a careers talk and so I felt a certain degree of responsibility for her. One afternoon, we went to grab a coffee and ended up sat in Starbucks for hours, alternating between serious life discussions and gossiping about teachers that we both knew. Going back to my desk afterwards was disconcerting; the emails and instant messages that were demanding my attention seemed like they were meant for someone much more responsible than me. Surely I was only 16 too and not comfortably into my 30’s?
It was her first real introduction to working in a “professional” environment and at the end of her week, she told me that the thing that surprised her the most was how much fun we appeared to be having. I think this may have been partly because myself and a couple of colleagues spent most of the week engaged in what quickly became known as brownie wars.
Each day, someone brought in a different offering using their own pet recipe. Some people went down a classic route, others, like me, jazzed up their brownies with all sorts of add-ins. I like a good, squidgy, rich brownie – I don’t necessarily want it underbaked but there needs to be a certain amount of give. Time and time again, I come back to this base recipe and have found that it’s sturdy enough to cope with whatever you want to throw at it – in this case, the classic combination of cherries and almonds.
Although we didn’t declare an official winner of our brownie wars, in my own mind, the victory was most definitely mine.
These brownies are super rich, mainly due to the rather large amount of chocolate in the batter. I tend to cut them pretty small as a result and find you don't need more than a little nibble really to satisfy the brownie craving (sort of). The almond flavour is not particularly pronounced in these but if you want to, you can add a touch of almond extract for a more marzipan-y taste.
- 300g (12 oz) dark chocolate, 70% solids
- 175g (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
- 170g (3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons) demerara sugar
- 4 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or swap in 1/2 teaspoon almond extract)
- 50g (1/2 cup) ground almonds
- 35g (1/2 cup) cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda/baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 150g - 200g (6 - 8oz) fresh cherries, stoned and halved
- Flaked almonds, for scattering on top
- Preheat the oven to 180C/350F and line a 23cm square tin with greased paper.
- Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl over a bowl of barely simmering water, stirring constantly until it's all liquidy. Pour the chocolate mixture into a bowl, add the sugar and beat well. Add the eggs, one by one, followed by the vanilla (or almond if you prefer) and continue to mix until combined. Finally, gently mix in all of the dry ingredients.
- Pour the batter into the tin, and scatter the cherries on top. I like to leave some on the surface and push others in a bit deeper. Finally, throw some flaked almonds on top for a bit of crunch.
- Bake for about 30 minutes until just firm to the touch. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely (ideally overnight) before cutting.
Adapted from my basic flourless brownie recipe