Cheesecake Brownies

Sunday, 27 December 2009

A good chocolate brownie is one of my favourite things to make and eat. Brownie recipes range from simple cocoa rich treats to complex beasts with more add-ins than you know what to do with but I'd pretty much eat whatever kind of brownie you put in front of me. I like mine more on the fudgey than cakey side. I like chewy edges and sticky middles. I like rich chocolate flavours and simple additions. I am always keen to try new things.

I've been reading for ages about the wonderful mix of cheesecake and chocolate cake. Black bottom cupcakes for example combine a chocolatey cake with a cheesecake centre into a perfectly formed cupcake combination. They are also on my list to try. The combination extends to cheesecake and brownies. There is just something about the combination of dense chocolate brownies with a rich topping of slightly sweetened cream cheese that makes them irresistable. I must emphasise that they are irresistable; I have made 2 batches in the last couple of weeks and they've been snaffled up.

This recipe is from David Lebovitz who has a whole book about chocolate. I trusted him to provide a reliable and easy recipe and I was right to. This recipe is simple to follow and has no complicated/unusual ingredients or instructions. I've reprinted the recipe here using only the metric measures.

85g unsalted butter, cut into pieces
115g dark chocolate, chopped
130g sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
70g plain flour
1 tbsp cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
80g chocolate chips

200g cream cheese, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk
75g sugar
Splash of vanilla extract

Line a 9-inch (23cm) square pan with foil, making sure it goes up all four sides. Use two sheets if necessary. Mist with non-stick spray or grease lightly.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees (180C).
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and chocolate over low heat, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat and beat in the sugar, then the eggs.
Mix in the flour, cocoa powder and salt, then the vanilla and chocolate chips. Spread evenly in the prepared pan.
In a separate bowl, beat together the cream cheese, egg yolk, sugar, and vanilla until smooth.
Distribute the cream cheese mixture in eight dollops across the top of the brownie mixture, then take a dull knife or spatula and swirl the cream cheese mixture with the chocolate batter.
Bake for 35 minutes or until the brownies feel set in the centre. Allow to cool before peeling the foil off and slicing.


Chocolate Espresso Snowcaps

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Chocolate and coffee are flavours made for each other. Whether mixed together hot into a mocha or enjoyed as simply as a square of chocolate with a cup of hot coffee, the way the flavours complement each other makes for a combination that is hard to beat!

When I was browsing (as I do every year) through Martha's Christmas cookie list, I came across this recipe for Chocolate Espresso Snowcaps. The crackled top caught my eye and the stark contrast between snowy icing sugar and dark chocolate cookie makes for an attractive cookie. I'd never rolled unbaked cookies in icing sugar before so this was a new technique to me. The resulting treat is dark and chocolatey with the complex espresso flavour lingering behind. I made these as part of my Christmas baking but they are suitable as a year round treat.

I've reprinted the recipe with metric conversions.

60g plain flour
35g cocoa powder
4 tsp espresso powder
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
4 tbsp unsalted butter
135g soft light brown sugar
1 large egg
115g dark chocolate (melted and cooled slightly)
1 tbsp milk
Icing sugar, for coating

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, espresso, baking powder, and salt.
With an electric mixer, cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy.
Beat in egg until well combined then mix in cooled chocolate.
With mixer on low, gradually add flour mixture; beat in milk until just combined. Flatten dough into a disk; wrap in plastic. Freeze until firm, about 45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment.
Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Pour icing sugar (about 60g) into a medium bowl and, working in batches, roll balls in sugar two times, letting them sit in sugar between coatings.
Place on prepared baking sheets, 2 inches apart.
Bake until cookies have spread and coating is cracked, 12 to 14 minutes; cookies will still be soft to the touch. Cool cookies on a wire rack.


Damson Linzer Biscuits

Saturday, 12 December 2009

I really wanted to start this post with some fascinating information about Linzer biscuits... Unfortunately, I don't have any. I've done a bit of Googling and have found very little in the way of history or origin. I apologise.

I do not however feel sorry for making these beauties. They are delicious! The eye catching "window" on the top biscuit (somewhat reminiscent of a very popular mass produced treat) lends itself well to the holiday season as any small, festive cutter can be used to create it. The jam (or in this case jelly) shines through like a jewel and the crumbly, slightly spiced biscuit pairs with this beautifully.

The dough for this recipe can be made several days ahead and kept in the fridge or freezer. It is easy to make and work with if chilled before attempting to roll. Next time I might dust the top biscuits with icing sugar before sandwiching with the bottom but this is purely an aesthetic thing. I chose to use our homemade damson jelly to sandwich between the layers. Raspberry jam is more traditional but I wanted something smooth and dark. The damson flavour worked well as it was not too sweet.
I used this recipe from Joy of Baking and must say that it worked really well. I made some alterations and will add them in. This is largely the original recipe but I'll reproduce it with the metric measures for ease.

110g ground almonds
280g plain flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
227g butter at room temperature
135g granulated white sugar (divided)
1 tsp vanilla
2 large egg yolks
Zest of 1 lemon
Icing sugar (for dusting)
120g damson jelly (heated with the water until smooth and runny)
1-2 tbsp water

Mix the ground almonds with 50g of the sugar and set aside.
In another bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon and salt and set aside.
In the bowl of a mixer (you can use a hand mixer) bream the butter and the remaining sugar together until fluffy.
Add the vanilla, egg yolks and lemon zest and beat until combined. Add the ground nut mixture and beat again.
Add the flur mixture and beat until just combined. Divide the dough into two and wrap with cling film. Chill in the fridge until firm.
Preheat the oven to 180C and line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
Take one of the pieces of dough from the fridge and roll on a floured surface until just under 1cm thick (the original recipe says 1cm but I think that's too thick personally).
Using a round, fluted cutter, cut an even number of disks from the dough rerolling as necessary. Using a smaller cutter (I used a star) cut holes in the centre of half the disks.
Transfer the rounds to the baking sheet spaced about an inch apart and bake for 12-14 minutes or until very lightly golden brown.
Allow the cookies to cool on a wire rack completely before sandwiching a plain and a holed biscuit with the warm jelly.
Dust with icing sugar (I would consider doing this with the holed side before sandwiching together).


Perfect Chocolate Truffles

Thursday, 10 December 2009

It's Christmas. I cannot ignore it any longer (though in real life I've been embracing it) on this blog. I've got lots of wonderful things to post about but it's all been about preparation so far. I have rounds and logs of cookie dough in my freezer waiting to be baked, I have things cooling on racks, hiding in tins and wrapped in paper and foil. I'm really not ignoring Christmas... I'm just waiting for the right time.

So I'll begin with these simple chocolate truffles to ease you in gently to the multitude of yummy things soon to be coming your way. Chocolate truffles are deliciously rich and smooth. They have an intense chocolate flavour and they melt as soon as you put them in your mouth. There isn't an easier recipe than this one I assure you.

450g good quality dark chocolate (preferably no higher than 65%)
240ml double cream

Chop the chocolate into small even pieces and place in a heatproof bowl and set aside.
Pour the double cream into a saucepan and warm on a medium heat until it just reaches a boil (this is called "scalding"). You'll need to stir it to prevent it from burning and forming a skin.
When the cream has been scalded, pour it onto the chocolate and leave to stand for 5 minutes.
Stir the cream and chocolate together until smooth and creamy and the chocolate has melted. If the chocolate doesn't melt completely, place the bowl over a pan of barely simmering water and stir until melted.
Leave the mixture to cool and then place in the fridge until firm.
Once firm, scoop the mixture using a melon baller or two teaspoons and place on greaseproof paper. Roll in cocoa, icing sugar or chocolate strands.

These will keep for a few weeks at room temperature in an airtight container, they can also be frozen for longer term storage.


Chocolate Custard Muffins

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Dan Lepard is an award-winning baker and he publishes many recipe through his Guardian column "How to Bake." I regularly trawl through the archived recipes and bookmark those that look delicious (most of them) and easy to recreate at home. I have had this recipe for chocolate custard muffins bookmarked for ages and, in a desperate need for a chocolate fix, decided to make them to share with my family one evening.

The muffins were delicious and decadent. They had a wonderfully rich chocolate flavour thanks to the cocoa powder and melted dark chocolate. When served warm these were moist and sweet and when cold were still tasty and soft.

The recipe is really rather simple. A warm chocolate custard thickened with cornflour is made in a saucepan and the flour is added to the mix. The batter is then baked and comes out amazingly moist but still light. Dan boasts that this is "the best chocolate muffin you'll ever eat!" and I must say that I'm inclined to agree.

The original recipe is posted here along with links to the whole series. I've reprinted it here for ease of use.
50g cornflour
3 level tbsp cocoa
100g dark soft brown sugar
225ml cold water
75g unsalted butter, cubed
125g dark chocolate, broken small
75ml sunflower oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
125g caster sugar
125g plain flour
2½ tsp baking powder

First make the custard: put the cornflour, cocoa, brown sugar and water into a saucepan and whisk together over a medium heat until boiling, very thick and smooth. Remove from the heat, beat in the butter and chocolate until melted and absorbed, then add the oil, vanilla and one of the eggs, and beat again until combined. Add the remaining egg and the caster sugar, and beat again until smooth and thick.

Measure the flour and baking powder into a bowl, stir together, then sift directly on to the custard and beat through until combined. Spoon into a dozen paper muffin cases sitting in the pockets of a muffin tray; heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4 and bake for 25 minutes.


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