Posted on

Lady Sybil & Branson: Love Like a Brownie

Lady Sybil and Tom Branson go public (ITV)

Valentine’s Day. In keeping with the spirit, Masterpiece Classics served up a double helping of Downton Abbey romance last night. A great pre-Valentine’s Day date night in our home which we enjoyed, even though we had seen these episodes before. Love gained, love lost, wedding bliss, wedding cancelled, attempted elopement, a funeral, an arrest. Yes, Downton Abbey has it all, and it is all good.

The sad news is that there is only one episode left (the Christmas episode) and North America will soon join the UK in the count down to September for the anticipated launch of Season 3. To keep my spirits up I am still spending some time playing a little game of matching Downton Abbey couples with my Valentine’s Day favorite sweets.

Lady Sybil and Tom Branson: The idealistic romantics

Lord Grantham is now regretting the day he hired Tom Branson, a “revolutionary chaffeur”way back in Season 1. He discovers that his daughter plans to toss aside her life of privilege for the love of an idealistic and live the life of commoners. After much posturing, he finally concedes that she is leaving for love with or without his blessing, while the Dowager Countess processes how to best spin this news to those who matter.

Sybil and Branson finally kiss (ITV)

This was a long simmering romance. Tom Branson patiently waited 14 episodes for Lady Sybil to decide that he was “her ticket to travel”. She gives him permission to kiss her, but “that is all until everything is settled”. A great example for young viewers to follow: think before you act. If he loves you, he will wait for you. While this is very much an idealistic pairing of young love from two different worlds, it is not improbable. I recall the love story of a similarly matched couple from my childhood: beautiful privileged British maiden meets handsome school teacher and they run away to Canada to raise 9 children. I remember that it was “literally” a house full of love.

Young love like a brownie

For some reason I seem to be stuck on choosing brownies for this couple. I was trying to think of a dessert that evokes innocence, youth; this tasty treat is a mash up of two separate existing sweets. I got thinking about brownies since they are a cross between cake and cookie, triggered by a post from Foodimentary that Friday was National Have a Brownie Day. Foodimentary ( is a great blog which celebrates food with a featured food, history and fun facts. All in a convenient take away container.

Brownies, like young love, come in a variety of forms. They are either fudgy or cakey, depending on their density, and they may include nuts, frosting, whipped cream, chocolate chips, or other ingredients. All goodness.

History of the Brownie

Brownies are period appropriate, but like many dishes, it appears to have evolved, and not necessarily invented. Some believe that brownies are an Americanization of Scottish cocoa scones, a scottish relative of the Orkney Broonie (which has oats). Foodimentary mentions a connection with the Palmer House Hotel during the 1893 Columbian Exposition (The largest World’s Fair of it’s time). Food historians look for printed recipes to determine a time line, and verification. American Fannie Farmer published the first known brownie recipe in 1896. In any case it has long been a particularly popular treat in North America, so look for Cora’s mother to be asking Mrs. Patmore to make them in Season 3.

I enjoy the sweets, but always look to find a way to make healthier versions. Here is an easy great one. This also allows you to do “girl math”: eat twice as much since they have less calories. So bake a batch for your Valentine, your kids, your tea tray, or your foodie friends as a Downton Abbey viewing party treat.

Votes: 0
Rating: 0
Rate this recipe!
Print Recipe
Votes: 0
Rating: 0
Rate this recipe!
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time Cook Time
162 inch servings 15minutes 25minutes
Servings Prep Time
162 inch servings 15minutes
Cook Time
Servings: 2 inch servings
Servings: 2 inch servings
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C/Gas Mark 4
  2. Spray an 8-inch square pan with olive oil. Set aside.
  3. Place the honey in a large glass measuring cup. Microwave on high power until the honey is runny and just bubbling, 45 to 60 seconds. Add the cocoa and stir with a fork until well combined. Let cool to room temperature (15 minutes).
  4. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, place the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk until well combined.
  5. In a large bowl, combine the applesauce, egg, and vanilla. Whisk together until well blended. Add the honey-cocoa mixture and whisk until smooth. Add the flour mixture to the liquid mixture and stir until no traces of flour remain. For some texture you can add some mini chocolate chips and chopped walnuts. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan.
  6. Bake until the surface looks dry around the edges of the pan and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs clinging to it, about 25 minutes. Do not overbake.
  7. Place the pan on a cooling rack and let cool completely before slicing into 16 squares.
Recipe Notes

Freezes great or store in airtight container. They won’t dry out!

Share this Recipe

10 thoughts on “Lady Sybil & Branson: Love Like a Brownie

  1. They look great Pam! Thanks for the shout out on this one. I’m sure that the walnuts are a lovely addition — I don’t use any nuts because these go in school lunchboxes….but I love nuts!!!!

    1. I made a quick batch this morning and finally moved to real food at dinner. Thanks for reminding me of how much I love black bean brownies, particularly when I run low on honey for the other low fat recipe.

  2. I’m going to make Barb’s brownies too…forgot to get the beans tonight, so the dessert tomorrow shall have to be something else. I have a great low fat brownie recipe but it has a lot of sugar…

    1. I have been snacking on those black bean brownies all day… Ran out of the other ones yesterday. They are so good! I love recipes which taste decadent but are also healthy.

  3. Thanks so much for this great blog! I’ve been following for a while, since PBS or a similar group tweeted one of your posts. I had to comment about this one because I’ve stayed at the Palmer House in Chicago, where the brownie may have been “invented”. It’s a lovely hotel. Of course, it’s been modernized, especially since it’s now a Hilton Hotel. However, the main lobby still holds the grandeur of its early days, especially the beautiful ceiling. My husband and I were staying the hotel because he had a conference in Chicago. While he spent time at lectures, I spent time in the spa and walking around the nearby parks. One afternoon, I decided to take afternoon tea (my first!) in the Palmer House’s elegant lobby. I had a table reserved to myself, and one of the waiters from the hotel restaurant served me the three tiered tray of dainties and a lovely Earl Grey in a beautiful tea pot. (I don’t remember any brownies on the tray, but there were some wonderful tea sandwiches and petit fours.) As I sat and enjoyed my tea, an older couple, leaving the hotel, but needing to wait for their train, asked to sit opposite me at the table. It was such a nice afternoon spent talking to a couple of nice people and enjoying my time at the hotel. I highly recommend it to anyone visiting Chicago.

    1. Thanks for sharing your story. I have been to the Palmer before on a business trip and it is grand. I didn’t see the brownies either, but I think we were shopping for martinis at the time!

  4. […] brownies, but don’t want details of the long simmering romance, follow the link to my brownie post–just scroll down quickly to the bottom for the […]

  5. […] Sybil & Tom Branson- love like a brownie: guilt free brownies […]

  6. have you seen this UK reality series inspired by Downton?

  7. […] Sybil & Tom Branson- love was like a brownie: guilt free brownies […]

Leave a Reply