Chocolate cheesecake brownies anyone?

I love chocolate, I love cheesecake, I love brownies… so considering that, there is a high probability that I would adore chocolate cheesecake brownies, right? But actually, I’m a bit of a brownie purist – I like chocolate brownies and that’s it, no nuts, no fruit… just good quality chocolate! To me, that’s what a brownie should be. And I like them fudgey (to the point of almost not being cooked in the middle), I really don’t like them when they get a hard, crackly crust on the top – but I digress…

I’ve had a recipe for chocolate cheesecake brownie for ages, but maybe my purist tendencies have caused me to take so long before trying to make them. But the planets aligned today and I just happened to look in my fridge and see an abundance of exactly the right ingredients – fantastic!! (It may also have been the inspiration gained after reading the fantastic sounding recipe for Cappuccino Brownies that I saw on the Amandeleine blog).

In the past I’ve had my issues with Donna Hay recipes, but I’ll give her another chance… this one is bound to work (I can feel it) plus it’s not one of those highly-technical baking recipes where everything has to be exactly right in order to work. I figure any recipe where you just throw everything in a blender at once and whizz the ingredients together can’t be all that technical.

To make Chocolate Cheesecake Brownies you will need:

Straight from the oven - ignore the unorthodox round tin...!

185gm melted butter
1/4 cup cocoa (best quality dutch process of course!)
1 cup caster sugar
2 eggs
1 cup plain flour

For the cheesecake:
285 gm cream cheese
4 1/2 tablespoons caster sugar
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 160 c (325 F). Place butter, cocoa, sugar, eggs and flour in a food processer and whizz till smooth. Pour into a greased 20cm slice tin or similar. To make the cheesecake, whizz the cream cheese, sugar and eggs together in a food processor. Place large spoonfuls of the cheesecake mixture on top of the chocolate mixture and gently swirl with a knife to get a ‘marbled look’. Bake for around 40 mins until set. Cool in the tin then cut into slices.

The verdict:

The odd texture didn't stop me from eating it, of course...!

I probably wouldn’t bother making this again to be honest. The texture of the cheesecake part was nice and light, but with a touch of egginess (not so good) and it contrasted strangely with the heavy, greasy texture of the brownie… and the two components didn’t really stay together well – they kept separating whenever I cut a piece of the brownie. Donna Hay be damned – I was right to be a brownie purist after all!!

In search of the ultimate muffin recipe…

I consider myself an amateur muffin connoisseur… (with tongue firmly in cheek!) Muffins are my morning tea of choice at the majority of cafes I frequent, and yet, in all my years of muffin eating, I have only eaten a few that I would class as ‘really good muffins’. That goes for baking muffins too, I have tried loads of different recipes – sweet and savoury – and yet none of the recipes I have tried are recipes that I would pass onto people and say ‘Try these, these are great!”.

So what’s up? Muffins aren’t HARD to make… they are generally considered an easy thing to bake, and would be something that first time bakers are pointed to as a recipe to try out first. Just mix wet ingredients with dry (but don’t over mix), add some flavoursome addition, and you’re off – so why are they never any GOOD?

By good I mean light but with a close cake-y crumb, sweet and moist and full of fruit etc (if sweet), or salty and cheesy and full of veges/meat etc (if savoury). Most muffins I come across tend to be dry and heavy, with nothing much inside, and a faint but awful aftertaste of baking powder. Even the muffins I make (and can tinker with the ingredients somewhat) are never quite right – I seem to get moist and heavy, or light and dry… it’s like one cancels out the other.

So does anyone have a great muffin recipe they would mind sharing? Or any hints or tips? I would truly overjoyed to finally find a great muffin recipe after all these years of searching – and no doubt, my waistline could also benefit ;-)

Return of the lazy blogger

Having quit my job last month, I would have thought I’d have MORE time to blog, but it’s been the total opposite! I’ve been pretty much offline for the last six weeks or so (mostly spent spring cleaning – spring is FINALLY here, asparagus is in the shops – HOORAY!), and it has been surprisingly enjoyable… but I have missed reading all my favourite blogs and I’m looking forward to catching up on what people have been up to, and what people have been baking, cooking, growing, eating and thinking.

And I’m starting my new job on Monday, so I should be back to blogging with a vengeance! Anything to distract me from what REALLY needs to be done, right…?!

A wonderfully moist, fresh plum cake courtesy of Nigel Slater

I adapted a recipe from Nigel Slater’s wonderful book ‘The Kitchen Diaries’ today. Not that the recipe really needed adapting – I’m sure the original recipe, with little or no tampering, would have been great… but due to personal tastes, and seasonal discrepancies between the northern and southern hemisphere, tampering was required!

Coconut is one of my favourite additions to cakes. I love the beautiful smell it has when it’s baked, and the slightly nutty crunchy texture it brings to a light-as-air cake crumb. Vanilla is also another thing I happily add to pretty much any sweet baking, sure in the knowledge that the end product will be further enhanced by the addition. And the taste of tart, summery plums… You get where I’m coming from, right?

Straight from the oven

And so to MY recipe, adapted from Nigel’s:

150gm butter
100gm caster sugar
50gm dark brown sugar
3 eggs
1tsp vanilla extract
130gm flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
30gm ground almond
50gm shredded coconut
1 tin plums (I used Black Doris)

More dark brown sugar, and cinnamon for sprinkling.

Set oven to 180c (Gas Mark 4). Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition. Add vanilla. In another bowl, sift flour and baking powder, add ground almonds and coconut – mix together. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and gently fold together with a large spoon. Scrape the batter into a greased cake tin and carefully place the plums on top, pushing in slightly. Sprinkle the sugar and cinnamon mixture over the top, then bake for about 35 minutes, or until the top is starting to brown a little.

I call it 'simple' - some may say my food styling and photography skills need some work!

Mmmm, that beautiful sweet coconutty scent will be filling your kitchen in no time as it did with mine! I highly recommend consuming a large piece with a nice cup of tea, accompanied by a good book (though my current ‘good book’ – The Girl Who Played With Fire – is the reason I have been totally neglecting my blog over the past week, so on second thoughts, don’t listen to my recommendation at all).

Baked chickpea puree (or Hummus) with lemon and pine nuts

This recipe uses a pretty bog standard Hummus and takes it to another level by BAKING it! Yes, baking it… Sounds a little weird, but trust me, it’s delicious ;-)

This is courtesy of one of my favourite cookbooks –  ‘The Complete Book of Turkish Cooking”. It’s the kind of book where pretty much EVERY recipe has you salivating and wishing you could eat whatever it is right there and then.

225gm chickpeas (soaked in cold water overnight) or substitute with tinned chickpeas
50ml olive oil
Juice of two lemons
3-4 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp cumin seeds, crushed
2-3 tbsp tahini
3-4 tbsp plain yoghurt
2-3 tbsp pine nuts
40gm butter
1-2 tsp Turkish red pepper or paprika

Drain chickpeas and cover with cold water, bring to the boil, then simmer for one hour or until soft and easy to mash. Rinse chickpeas under running water and remove any loose skins. Heat oven to 200c or gas mark 6. Pound chickpeas (or blitz in a food processor) with a large mortar and pestle with the oil, lemon, garlic and cumin. Beat in the tahini and yoghurt until the puree is light and smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer the puree to an ovenproof dish and smooth the top with the back of a spoon. Dry roast the pine nuts in a heavy based fry pan over a medium heat until the nuts are golden brown. Lower the heat and add the butter to melt it, then stir in the red pepper or paprika. Pour the mixture over the hummus and bake for about 25 minutes until it has risen slightly and the butter has been absorbed. Serve straight from the oven with plenty of hot flat bread for dipping – try Natalie’s recipe for quick roti here.

Caramelised garlic, feta and olive rolls

Dough ready to roll up and cut

I made some delicious rolls today for lunch. It was a basic dough recipe, with a caramelised garlic, feta and olive filling. I think the bread dough would have risen more if the weather had been warmer, but it’s the middle of winter here in New Zealand at the moment!

Rolling up the dough trying to keep the filling in place was a little difficult but the rolls are supposed to be ‘rustic’, and indeed they were. The filling could easily be changed to incorporate whatever is lying around – or growing in the garden in abundance – and the recipe I used called for ‘oven dried’ tomatoes, but I substituted those with the olives, as winter tomatoes are so watery and tasteless that it’s just not worth bothering with them really.

Ready to eat!!

This was my first attempt at this recipe, I would possibly make a few changes next time I make them – but all in all, I’m very happy with the finished product. I’ll add this to my list of ‘Out of My Comfort Zone Cooking‘ successes!