Prison Bake Brownies & Good Bitches’ Truffles

I did a lot of cool food-related things in 2018. I wrote a book about burgers, I helped judge the second Outstanding Food Producer Awards and I ate in some of London’s most celebrated restaurants. But the very best thing I did was join a group of volunteers teaching baking at one of New Zealand’s largest prisons.

That might not sound very interesting in and of itself (though I can tell you, being behind the wire at a prison is a huge learning experience) until you realise that baking was a bit of a Trojan horse. What we were really trying to teach – along with a few tips and tricks about successfully making biscuits and cakes – was the redemptive power of kindness. The Prison Bake programme, which ran as a short pilot in August and then a three-week stint before Christmas, was the brainchild of Good Bitches Baking. This charity, set up by Marie Fitzgerald and Nic Murray in 2014, now has about 1600 volunteers baking for 135 different recipient organisations every week. Prison Bake is another way of reaching out to the community and spreading what Fitzgerald and Murray call ‘moments of sweetness’.

You might take a dim view of prison rehab, preferring to think of jail being a place where they lock you and and lose the key. You might not think baking a cake is much of a help to someone having a tough time. But it’s hard to argue with the feedback from the prisoners themselves. When asked what they’d learned during the pilot programme, one of them said he’d learned that he could be a kind person – and he didn’t think that was possible. You don’t have to be behind bars to have that kind of learning experience (but it’s even more remarkable if you are).

PRISON BAKE BROWNIES

These brownies were part of the pre-Christmas Prison Bake programme. They’re very simple to mix and make, and you can change it up by using different chocolate or fruit. I think dark chocolate chips and brandy-soaked prunes might be a good combo (though perhaps not quite so prison-friendly).

125g butter

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1 cup caster sugar

2 eggs

1 cup plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 cup frozen raspberries

1/2 cup roughly chopped dark chocolate

Heat the oven to 180C. Line a brownie pan (about 20x30cm) with baking paper.

Set a large pot over medium heat. Add the butter and cocoa, stirring until it melts. Cook for a minute or two, then remove from the heat and stir in the sugar. Let it cool until it’s no longer hot to the touch (about 10 minutes).

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each one. Sift in the flour and baking powder. Fold together gently, then fold in the chocolate. Pour into the prepared pan and dot the raspberries on top (press them in lightly).

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the brownies are set in the middle. Cool in the pan before slicing.

Of course, if going to prison isn’t your thing there are plenty of other ways to support Good Bitches Baking. They’ve got a whole bunch of cool things you can buy to support their fundraising efforts, including the most beautiful cake sprinkles I’ve ever seen. If you wanted to be a very kind person you could buy some sprinkles, make these truffles and then give them away to a person in need of cheering up. (It’s ok if that person is you – self-care takes many forms.)

GOOD BITCHES TRUFFLES

This is more-or-less a Julie Le Clerc recipe from issue 100 of Cuisine magazine (a deeply precious issue that sparks much joy).

250g dark chocolate, roughly chopped (I use Whittaker’s 72% Dark Ghana)
50g butter
125ml cream
3 Tbsp dark rum (or brandy, or whisky, or a liqueur of your choice)
1 egg yolk
1 packet Good Bitches Baking Kindness Sprinkles

Put the chocolate, butter, cream and rum into a heatproof bowl and put into a low oven – or over a saucepan of simmering water, or in a microwave – and melt, stirring occasionally. The oven method is really easy, as long as you don’t forget it’s there. 
Let cool for a minute or two, then stir in the egg yolk until well mixed. Let cool for 10 minutes, then chill in the fridge until set (about an hour).
Roll teaspoonfuls of the mixture into balls – this is a sticky job, don’t even think about answering the phone etc while you’re doing it – then roll in the sprinkles. Store in the fridge, eat at room temperature. Makes about 22 truffles if you don’t accidentally eat the mixture.

To learn more about Good Bitches Baking, visit www.gbb.org.nz

8 Comments

  1. January 15, 2019 / 3:38 am

    That sounds rewarding as well as interesting. From my experience of those around me, it seems that the people in prison aren’t always bad people and it is not always the ones who should be in prison who are there! If you can’t send the cake with a nail file hidden in it then baking a cake with the prisoners is the next best thing 🙂

  2. shaheen
    January 15, 2019 / 3:44 pm

    Firstly Happy New Year Lucy. Fantastic to hear that you have been busy doing stuff you love.
    Secondly, this is the kind of stuff that makes my heart beat. I work in the voluntary sector, have done so most of my life so fully admire and endorse such work in the world. There is a initiative in Cardiff set up in 2012. Its a restaurant called Clink Cymru and is staffed by low risk prisoners . Its not applauded by everyone, but certainly does upskill individuals as well as rehabilitate them. See here if you interested. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-south-east-wales-19651916

    I am loving these brownies and truffles so will bookmark to make them.

    • lucycorry
      Author
      January 16, 2019 / 8:03 am

      Happy New Year to you! Love the idea of that restaurant, it’s a great concept. Hope all is well with you x

  3. Sue
    January 15, 2019 / 6:58 pm

    I started to make these and can’t see when the sugar gets added. There’s no mention of the sugar apart from the list of ingredients? As I’ve already started I’ll have to look for other brownie recipes to see if I can work it out – whether the sugar is with the butter & cocoa powder, or added with the flower?

  4. January 15, 2019 / 9:15 pm

    What a great cause and we could all learn something about enjoying ‘moments of sweetness’. Thanks for the mention and for your expertise at the 2018 Outstanding NZ Food Producer Awards 🙂 We look forward to seeing you again for the 2019 judging in March!

  5. Sue
    January 15, 2019 / 11:31 pm

    When is the sugar added in the brownies? I can’t see it mentioned apart from listed in the ingredients. I was already part way through making the brownies tonight when I realised so had to guess but it would be good to know for sure, thanks

    • lucycorry
      Author
      January 16, 2019 / 8:02 am

      Hi Sue, I’m so sorry, I’ve updated the recipe now. Hope they turned out ok!

      • Sue
        January 16, 2019 / 11:16 am

        Thanks Lucy. I guessed correctly and added the sugar after I’d melted the butter & cocoa together. They turned out really well and have been a hit with my colleagues today as they’re very light and not too rich/sickly. I would add more raspberries on top next time as it’s a great combo

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