Dirk Van Susteren Photo
Guinness stout and brewed coffee turn this brownie into a gooey treat.
Folks who have lived in Ireland know that if you stop in a pub there and ask simply for “a pint,” the bartender almost certainly will pour you a Guinness. It’s a brew central to Irish culture, the “pint of plain” that famed Irish poet Flann O’Brien lauded in “The Workingman’s Friend.” (“When things go wrong and will not come right/Though you do the best you can/When life looks black as the hour of night/A pint of plain is your only man.”)
Guinness has a long history in Ireland. It dates to the mid-1700s, when Arthur Guinness used an inheritance to sign a 9,000-year lease on a brewery at St. James’ Gate, Dublin, and went on to create the legendary brew that bears his name.
Guinness stout — now sold in more than 150 countries, with annual sales of about 2 billion pints — is arguably Ireland’s best-known export. According to TheStreet.com, in 2010 Americans drank an average of 600,000 pints a day, which spiked to 3.5 million pints on — you guessed it — St. Patrick’s Day.
That celebration happens to be another sort of Irish “export.” It turns out that March 17, the day that marks the death of St. Patrick sometime around the year 493, was not much celebrated in Ireland until recent times. Although it has long been a holy day for Catholics in Ireland, the rowdy celebrations we know — the parades, the pub crawls, the corned beef dinners — are all American creations.
Irish New Yorkers were marching in St. Patrick’s honor as early as 1762. The 1.6 million Irish who fled to the U.S. during the potato famine of the mid-1800s, along with their descendants, used St. Patrick as a rallying point to raise Irish pride and political clout. Chicagoans have been dyeing their river emerald green for 43 years. But it wasn’t until the 1990s that Dubliners began a St. Patrick’s festival. Green beer? “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” buttons? That’s American ingenuity at work.
It seems right, somehow, to celebrate the Americanized version of St. Patrick’s Day with something actually Irish, so get your Guinness on. Feel free to drink it plain (as in “a pint of plain”) or in combination with other alcohol. A Black and Tan is Guinness and a lager or ale; a Black Velvet is Guinness mixed with Champagne; a Black Fog is Guinness and raspberry liqueur; and a Hairball is Guinness, hard cider and Irish whiskey.
Or, if the sharp, tangy brew is not your drink, you can cook with it. Guinness Extra Stout (along with Murphy’s Irish Stout, from County Cork) would work well in an Irish stew or in a steak and kidney pie. But they are spectacular with chocolate, as in this brownie recipe from my files. Eat it, it’s Irish!
Guinness Molten Brownie
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
For the brownie layer:
Butter for greasing baking pan
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup packed dark brown sugar
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup heavy cream or half-and-half
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
For the topping (which becomes molten layer on bottom):
½ cup unsweetened cocoa
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
½ cup Guinness Extra Stout (or other brand, such as Murphy’s Irish Stout)
1 cup dark, strong, brewed coffee
Sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream
Center a rack in the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter an 8-inch square cake pan.
In a microwave-safe bowl, melt chocolate and 6 tablespoons butter 1 minute on high. Stir to make sure the chocolate is melted. If not, microwave at 10-second intervals until it is. (Alternatively, melt chocolate and butter together in a small saucepan over low heat.) Set aside.
In a medium bowl, stir together flour, brown sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in melted chocolate mixture, cream and vanilla. The batter will be stiff. Spoon into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
In a small bowl, combine cocoa and granulated sugar. Sprinkle evenly over the batter in the pan.
Combine the stout and coffee in a microwave-safe bowl or in a small saucepan and heat until almost boiling. Pour evenly over the cocoa mixture. Do not stir.
Bake 30 minutes, or until the top layer is set and the brownie is starting to pull away from the sides of the pan. Cool on a wire rack at least 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream or ice cream.
Marialisa Calta is a syndicated food writer who lives in Calais.
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