The Beer Lover's Table: Spiced Brownie Cookies and Oud Beersel Oude Kriek Vieille

Maybe you’ve noticed. The cherry trees that seem to march along every London street, the ones that emerged in pom-poms of blossoms a month or two back, have begun to fruit. Most of the cherries are still firm and green, but a few are starting to redden and blush. I keep mental tallies of when they’re likely to ripen, so I can steal some when no one is looking.

Cherry season is the reason humans were put on this Earth, probably. And while other produce tends to take a starring role in summer’s bumper crop – your tomatoes, your strawberries – it’s cherries I look forward to the most. While I could eat a big bowl of blue-black cherries every evening, I also like them with ricotta and honey, thrown into a salad with slices of seared duck breast, baked in a clafoutis or, as Nigella does, served as cherries jubilee atop ice cream. And
I like them in my beer, too.

If I had to choose a favourite lambic, it would almost certainly be garnet-hued kriek, with its rich cherry flavour, its sweet-tart character and that luscious whiff of baking spices and almond that comes from the cherry stones (this kriek from Oud Beersel is a wonderful example of the style). That latter aspect is what I had in mind when devising this pairing.

For all that I talk up cherry, these brownie cookies don’t actually have any cherry in them. But, as any slice of Black Forest Gateau proves, deep, bitter chocolate is wonderful with vivid, sharp cherry, so I let the beer provide the fruit element in this pairing. In adapting this recipe from The Boy Who Bakes, I also added freshly grated tonka beans. (If you haven’t had tonka beans, they smell and taste like a combination of cherry, cinnamon, almond and vanilla – you can find them at specialty retailers. You could substitute with cinnamon, but for me, there’s no beating tonka.)

These brownie cookies are exactly what the name suggests: fudgey, intensely chocolatey, but with a pleasing crackle. The batter is almost like glossy meringue and the finished product feels like the cookie in its most adult, decadent form. As someone whose sweet tooth has diminished over time, I opted to up the cocoa percentage to 80%, so the moody, red-fruit character of the chocolate comes through, as well as a pleasing bitterness that prevents them from feeling too sweet. A sprinkle of sea salt on the top adds a finishing touch.

The kriek, too, with its brightness and balanced acidity, further balances out the richness of these treats and makes them feel even more sophisticated. If you want to serve both with a bowl of freshly picked (or stolen) dark cherries on the side too, well, I won’t stop you.

Spiced Brownie Cookies
Adapted from The Boy Who Bakes
Makes 10 large cookies

200g dark chocolate (I used 80%), finely chopped
125g unsalted butter, diced
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (substitute with vanilla extract)
130g plain flour
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1½ teaspoons grated tonka bean (substitute with cinnamon)
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
150g caster sugar
100g light brown sugar
2 large eggs
Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon, to garnish

1. Before you begin, line two baking sheets with parchment paper and preheat your oven to 180° Celsius (160° fan).

2. Bring a medium saucepan of water to a simmer. Fit a large, heatproof bowl on top of the saucepan to make a double boiler (it should not touch the water below or leave any gaps around the edges). Add the dark chocolate pieces and the butter. Using a spatula, stir frequently for roughly 5 minutes, or until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and evenly mixed. Add the vanilla bean paste (or extract) and mix to combine. Remove the bowl from the heat, set aside and leave to cool slightly.

3. In a medium bowl, add the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, grated tonka bean (or cinnamon) and the fine sea salt, and whisk to combine. Set aside.

4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or in a large standalone bowl, if you plan to use a hand mixer), add both sugars and the eggs. Mix on medium-high speed for precisely 5 minutes; the mixture should look airy, pale and glossy, almost like a meringue. After 5 minutes, stop the mixer and add the melted chocolate and butter mixture. Beat on medium speed for 1 minute, or until evenly incorporated (scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, if needed).

5. Add the premixed dry ingredients and beat on a low speed until just combined. Gently scrape down the sides and fold from the bottom to ensure everything is evenly mixed.

6. Working quickly and using a large spoon, dollop five large cookies on each baking sheet, making sure to leave roughly two inches between them, as they do spread. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt.

7. Put both trays in the oven at the same time and bake for 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool; the cookies will be very soft and squidgy at this stage, so don’t transfer to a cooling rack until they firm up and cool for 20-30 minutes on the trays. Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days after baking.

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beer hound and all-around lover of tasty things. When she's not cracking open a cold one, she's probably cooking up roasted lamb with hummus. Or chicken laksa. Or pumpkin bread. You can follow her at @clairembullen. For more recipes like this, sign up to our HB&B All Killer No Filler beer subscription - you'll receive Claire's recipe and food pairings, plus beer reviews and expert tasting notes with up to 12 world-class beers every month.