Monday, 12 May 2014

Egg-free brownies ... and ancestor-envy ...

We've had a miserable weekend, weather-wise, here in London. We'd planned to go on a wonderful long walk on Sunday followed by a lazy pub-terrace lunch down by the river with some of our very best friends, but everything got rained-off thanks to our doolalley British weather. Memo to the British climate: it's SPRINGTIME, can you please take note and behave accordingly?

So, instead we stayed at home and made a batch of yummy, egg-free Brownies. I should explain: Emi has an egg allergy. Eggs in cakes annoy him, but eggs in pancakes are just fine. Not sure exactly why that should be the case, but it's something I've got to work around in the sweet-things department.

And sweet-things, as we all know, are very important. After school, for instance, a cup of hot chocolate with some little nibble or other is an important part of our daily routine. Life's always better with chocolate in my view, and it certainly helps loosen young Emi's tongue as he enjoys his snack and gives me a blow-by-blow account of his day.

And right now he's in the grip of some serious ancestor-envy. It's like this: one of his friend's fathers thinks that he may be descended from Admiral Lord Nelson. And as a result F, the little chum, has had great fun telling the boys at school, that it's an absolute biological certainty that they share the great seaman's DNA.

They found some of his blood on a rusty sword and it was the exact same as mine, he explained to Emi and their other friend, G when they (enviously) voiced their doubts on the matter.

G, who's a very shrewd little operator, didn't miss a beat and replied that he was, of course, related to the late, great Nelson Mandela, which I strongly suspect is a total porkie pie, but full marks to him for quick thinking.

Emi, on the other hand, had not come prepared to claim an illustrious ancestor and he returned home that afternoon feeling very lacklustre in the DNA department.

Over our customary hot chocolate we had a think about his ancestry.

On my side they were a bunch of Border Reavers from the lowlands of Scotland, who played an exceptionally good hand at cattle rustling across the frontier with England. They enjoyed a certain notoriety for their professional talents, and boasted a flying stirrup as their clan emblem. All of it was very colourful, but not really up there with Admiral Lord Nelson.

On  my husband's side we could do little better. He looks like a man of exotic provenance, and we feel confident that there's a Barbary Pirate or two lurking in the upper branches of his family tree. His mother's family have an appellido Judeoespa├▒ole, a surname that was often used by Jewish people to hide their semitic origins when they were forced to convert to Catholicism back in the fifteenth century, so we may even have a learned Rabbi or two sitting on a hidden branch safely out of sight of the Spanish Inquisition. But again, there was nothing to compare with Admiral Lord Nelson's star ancestral cachet.

So, having exhausted the supply of actual ancestors, Emi turned his mind to think of whom he might like to have been related to. For reasons which elude adult logic, he decided that it would have been very cool to have owned Harry Houdini as an ancestor. I think he may just have liked the word escapologist: I've noticed that he's been collecting big words recently - possibly to hold in reserve and use defensively when he's feeling the want of an illustrious ancestor or two.

I can just tell everyone that I'm related to Harry Houdini, he mused, slurping the last dregs of his hot coffee through a straw. Using a straw to drink hot chocolate is, I should add, another of his current peccadilloes.

Normally I would not encourage my child to tell fibs, but on the basis that we are all descended from Adam - and, hence, by extension distant cousins - and given that he was by now quite bent out of shape about the Admiral Lord Nelson business I let the matter pass.

The following day he returned triumphant.

Mum, I told them all about my famous ancestor, Harry Hooligan, who discovered the dinosaurs, he announced proudly, having apparently forgotten Houdini's proper name and occupation and, perhaps more importantly, that the whole thing had been a fiction of his own making. 

They were dead impressed even though they didn't know who he was, and then F and I went off to play World War Two.

That's nice, dear. Which parts did you play in World War Two? I asked, happy to see him back on form.

I was Churchill and F was Admiral Lord Nelson, he replied, dabbing the last of the brownie crumbs on his plate with a chocolatey index finger, and popping them in his mouth.

Anyway, if you'd like to make these tongue-loosening brownies to winkle secrets out of your own little people this is how I make them. The trick is to substitute mashed potato in place of eggs as the binding agent. I find that this works well in most other cake recipes when I want to adapt them for Emi.


85g (3 oz) plain flour
40 g ( 1 1/2 oz) instant mashed potato powder
Sufficient hot water to turn the mashed potato powder into normal eating consistency mashed potato
1 tablespoon good quality cocoa powder
a pinch of salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
170 g (6 oz) caster sugar
55 g (2 oz) butter
2 tablespoonfuls water
100g (3 1/2 oz) plain chocolate
1 teaspoonful of vanilla essence


1. Preheat the oven to 180 C (Gas mark 4 or 350 F) and line a 7" x 11" baking tin with baking paper.

2. Sift flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking powder into a bowl.

3. Boil a kettle and mix the mashed potato powder with sufficient hot water to give it a normal eating consistency.

4. Over a Bain Marie, melt the chocolate with the butter and sugar until they are a smooth, even consistency. Remove from the heat and add the vanilla essence and the 2 tablespoonfuls of water and mix so that these last ingredients are evenly incorporated.

5. Pour the chocolate mixture and the mashed potato into the flour mixture, and beat until the combined mixture is smooth. Then pour it into the baking tray, and place in the preheated oven.

6. Cook for about 25 minutes, until the mixture forms a slight crust on top and becomes firm to the touch.

7. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for half an hour before cutting into brownies. Store in an air-tight container.

And enjoy with hot chocolate and tall tales of amazing ancestors, real or imagined,

Bonny x
As shared on The Alphabet Project


  1. Real lush looking brownies! I will try this cuz its something new #alphabetphoto

    1. Thank you. Hope you like them. All the best, Bonny

  2. Ooh they look rather fabulous Bonny, how great they're egg free too. Thank you for sharing with #alphabetphoto