I'm picky about my coffee. I love to chill out in coffee shops, and all sorts of factors go into defining the perfect café (atmosphere and cake are near the top of the list, obviously), but all else being equal there are some brands of coffee that will make me turn towards one café over another.
Puro is one that I'm particularly fond of, being both fairtrade and great tasting. When they offered to send me a hamper of samples to try at home, I naturally jumped at the chance. I've loved their coffee for a while, but I've never seen packets in the shops so I didn't know it was available in retail sizes - however they do have an online shop, where I expect I'll be stocking up in future.
More information on Puro's social and ecological policies is available on their YouTube channel, where you can learn about their purchase of extensive rainforest tracts, their huge solar installations, or tree planting activities. Meanwhile, you'll just have to take my word for it about the taste, at least until you can pop into one of the many coffee shops serving their blends (they supply all National Trust cafés, amongst others).
As much as I love drinking coffee, I think I might love baking with it even more. I made these lush coffee and walnut brownies using Puro's Fuerte blend, a dark and rich roast which has enough body to stand out even when paired with pure dark chocolate. This was also my favourite for drinking, as I do like a robust flavour.
I've had a go-to chocolate brownie recipe for some time now, but instead of adapting that recipe, I decided to go with a vegan variant for today. When it comes to making coffee cakes, the advantage of many vegan cake recipes is that they already contain water as an ingredient - making it simple to substitute coffee for water in a way you just can't do with egg-based recipes. And since I also have several vegan and lactose-intolerant friends, I'm always looking to expand my vegan repertoire. These brownies may be slightly less gooey than my regular recipe, but they definitely have that distinctive fudgey brownie texture.
Coffee & Walnut Brownies
Makes 15 squares
250ml (1 cup) strong coffee
150g dark chocolate
150g (5oz) walnuts
250g (9oz) plain flour
350g (12oz) light muscovado sugar
50g (2oz) unsweetened cocoa powder
1tsp baking powder
250ml sunflower oil (or other neutral-flavoured oil)
½tsp vanilla bean paste (or extract)
- Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F), and line a large (9x13in), deep baking tin with greaseproof paper.
- Brew the coffee (I used 2tbsp of dark roast coffee grounds in a single-cup cafetiere), and set aside to cool.
- Melt the chocolate over a bain marie.
- Roughly chop the walnuts.
- Sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl.
- Add the cooled coffee, oil, and vanilla to the bowl. Stir until there are no dry lumps remaining.
- Fold in the walnuts and the melted chocolate. It won't be easy to see when the chocolate is well distributed throughout the already rich brown batter, so give it a few extra stirs for luck.
- Pour the batter into the baking tin, and smooth the surface with a spatula.
- Bake for about 30 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.
- Cool on a wire rack before cutting into squares.