This weekend I celebrated my birthday and was reminiscing about what I used to do when I was little to celebrate my birthdays. Normally my birthday fell at the end of term and of course being July, we had our fingers crossed for sunshine so that we could have outdoor games in the garden, often at my Grandpa’s house.
My Grandpa just had the coolest house for kids birthday parties. With an indoor swimming pool that opened out onto a fantastic green lawn, what more could you ask for? Ok, I was like 8 years old so I clearly wanted lots of presents too.
Being the sporty child, parties revolved around the epic game that is rounders. There was nothing I loved more than a game of rounders and as my sister recently said to me ‘It’s the best game in the world, if you were good at it…’ She had a point.
Being an enthusiastic tennis player in my younger years, this always lent itself to making you half decent with a rounders bat and ball; to the point that whenever anyone decent at tennis rocked up to bat the holler came out “IT’S A TENNIS PLAYER, BACK UP!” There were a few really good tennis players at school, so we always had a good game out on the school fields.
I’d forgotten just how much I enjoyed rounders until I saw a local school take to the public park and mark out the rounders pitch. The excitement of the kids was infectious and a few of us started to watch and cheer on good hits and catches. It was a feisty competitive game, with endless screams of ‘Out, Out!’ and appeals to the teacher.
No good birthday party of course is complete without a decent dessert and with my birthday falling on American Independence Day, I had to go with chocolate brownies, with a slight twist of including sweet cherries from our cherry tree in the garden. I have to say, I wasn’t awfully fussed discovering we had a cherry tree when we moved in, but these past few weeks have definitely made me come to appreciate it.
I’ve eaten them fresh off the tree, added them to meals, turned them into dressings and in this instance added them to brownies and ice cream. The latter being my favourite use of them so far.
I went for a more American style brownie, slightly thinner, more chewy and rich but with pockets of fresh sweet jammy cherries providing a fruity freshness. They are thinner than your usual brownie, especially if you’re used to a Nigella style Brownie that is an inch thick of fudgy and squidgy (a chocolate addicts bite of heaven) chocolate cake.
The ice cream is gorgeously creamy and luxurious. The almond praline is sinfully good, delivering a crunchy texture in between pockets of sweet cherries. I love the speckles of red fruit that parade like some graffiti against the pure vanilla background. I think it’s up there as one of my favourite ice cream recipes and possibly one of my husband’s as he’s announced on more that one occasion, ‘you can make this one again’ as he tucks into another bowl full.
A perfect combo of rich chocolate brownie and refreshing vanilla ice cream well earned after a game of rounders in the sunshine, or just a delightful way to end a brilliant birthday weekend.
Chocolate Cherry Brownies with a cherry and praline almond vanilla ice cream
Makes 1 litre of ice cream and 16 brownies
Brownies inspired by The Little Loaf – Chewy Chocolate Brownies
Vanilla ice cream basic recipe from ‘The Perfect Scoop’ by David Lebovitz
Can I suggest you start with making the ice cream to the point of it being chilled in the fridge, followed by the cherries, then the brownies, then the almonds whilst the brownies are in the oven, and finally finish with the churning of the ice cream.
For chocolate brownies:
75g cocoa powder (I use Green & Black’s)
3 medium free range eggs
150g granulated sugar
50g plain flour
1tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp salt
For the cherries (half to go on the top of the brownies, half to go in the ice cream):
1kg pitted cherries
100g granulated sugar
For the ice cream:
500ml double cream (split into 250ml jugs)
250ml whole milk
150g granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
1 vanilla pod with the seeds scraped out (keep the pod too)
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
For the almond praline:
135g untoasted almonds
pinch of sea salt
To make the ice cream:
Pour 250ml of the double cream into a saucepan and add your sugar and salt followed by the seeds from the vanilla pod and the pod itself. Warm the mixture over a medium heat and continue to sit until all your sugar has dissolved.
Once your sugar has dissolved remove the saucepan from the heat and add the remaining 250ml double cream and the whole milk and stir. Add the vanilla extra and stir again.
Pour into a bowl and chill in the fridge for a few hours or overnight.
Churn the mixture in your ice cream machine according to manufacturer’s instructions.
I find the easiest way to add ingredients that are slightly larger like fruits and nuts is to leave the ice cream to come to the end of its churning process and then put a layer of ice cream (about an inch of ice cream) in the bottom of an airtight container, followed by a sprinkling of the cherries and nuts, then another layer of ice cream and keep repeating till all your ingredients are mixed up. Quickly get your ice cream in the freezer to set properly.
To make the cherries for your ice cream and the top of your brownies:
Place the pitted cherries into a large saucepan on a medium to high heat along with your water and sugar and stir. You want all the water to evaporate so that your left with sticky, jammy cherries. Turn the heat down after about 10 minutes and keep stirring so that all your cherries are cooked evenly. The cherries will take about 20-30 minutes to reach the right kind of consistency, you don’t want it to turn to jam though!
To make the brownies:
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees and grease and line a brownie tin.
Begin with melting your butter in a saucepan over a medium heat. Once melted add in your cocoa powder, nutella and stir until you have a smooth consistency. Set the saucepan aside to cool a little.
Using a kitchen aid mixer or whisk, whisk together your egg and sugar. Then using a wooden spoon or your paddle attachment add your chocolate mixture to the eggs and fold together.
Fold in your flour, vanilla extract and salt and mix again until you can’t see any flour. Don’t over mix.
Pour into your prepared brownie tin and top with your cherries.
Place in your oven for 30minutes until you have a crust on top and skewer comes out with a gooey crumb – it doesn’t need to be clean like in the a usual cake test.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool before slicing.
To make the praline almonds:
Begin with placing some baking paper on a baking sheet.
Mix the water, sugar and almonds in a large saucepan and stir continuously for a few minutes until the liquid crystallises and becomes sandy. Don’t panic! Before long the crystals of sugar will liquefy and become a dark looking caramel syrup. You want to stir this liquid over the almonds so that they are evenly coated. The almonds will begin to look glossy and shiny. Careful not to burn the nuts at this point, you might need to remove the saucepan from the heat.
Pour / scrape your almonds onto the baking paper and sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt.
Leave to cool and then coarsely chop the praline almonds into decent size chunks still.
(The almonds can be kept in an airtight container for up to a week)
Slice of cherry chocolate brownie topped with a generous serving of ice cream.