Cheesecake Brownies

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I’m guilty of making the same brownies again and again (and I can’t feel too bad about it as they are delicious) but a recent pit stop at Gloucester Services, of all places, has inspired me to expand my repertoire.

I should explain that the service station in question is actual part farmers market, part artisanal coffee shop, so as you can imagine that they weren’t peddling any ordinary brownies. There were salted caramel brownies, peanut butter brownies and the prettiest swirled cheesecake brownies, all of which I am determined to try!

The brownies recipe used for the base is slightly less involved that my regular one, with the cheesecake bringing a sweetness and chewiness of its own. I should warn you that these are not the cakey variety of brownie – in truth, these are so squidgy they could be mistaken for fudge. But that makes them kind of perfect.

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Makes 12

Ingredients:

Brownie Base:

3 ½ oz / 100g butter

3 ½ oz / 100g dark chocolate, broken into pieces

4 oz / 125g caster sugar

3 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 ½ oz / 75g self raising flour

2 tbsp cocoa

3 ½ oz / 100g dark chocolate, chopped, or dark chocolate chips

Cheesecake swirl:

7 oz / 200g cream cheese

1 medium egg

2 ½ oz / 75g caster sugar

½ tsp vanilla extract

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F and take the eggs and cream cheese out of the fridge to come to room temperature.

Grease a 20cm square tin and line the base with baking parchment.

Gently heat the butter, sugar and chocolate over a very low heat and stir. Once the butter has melted, remove from the heat let the butter will continue to melt the chocolate. Allow the mixture to cool for 5 to 10 minutes before beating in the eggs and vanilla extract – the cooling stage is important unless you like the idea of chocolate scrambled eggs. Sift in the flour and cocoa and stir until combined.

Stir in the chocolate chips or chopped chocolate – this is the last thing added, otherwise the warmth from the butter chocolate mix can melt the chips and they disappear into the brownies when the batter is stirred. Once these are distributed throughout the mix, resist the urge to stir any further. That way, you get little morsels of chocolate throughout.

Pour the brownie batter into your prepared tin. Give it a gentle jiggle to help level out the mixture. There’s no need to be precise, as you are about to make a mess with the cheesecake topping.

Speaking of which:

In a separate bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth, then beat in the egg, vanilla and sugar. If you only have large eggs, separate the yolk from the white and just use the yolk. Don’t worry if the mix seems very wet; it will still set!

Pour the cheesecake mix over the brownie batter. It might be quite a tight fit, so you’ll need to use your judgement over whether to use it all or not. The batter will rise slightly in the oven, so be sure to leave at least half a centimetre clear at the top of the pan. Use a knife to swirl the two so that some of the brownie mix shows.

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Bake for 30-35 minutes until the sides begin to pull away from the sides. The centre may still be a little jiggly, but it will firm up as it cools.

Allow to completely cool in the tin, resting on a cooling rack. The brownies should leave the tin easily once cooled, but if you have any problems, slide a sharp knife down the sides of the tin to loosen the brownies. Don’t forget to peel the baking parchment away from the base!

I sliced these into nine individual brownies, but they are so rich that you might prefer to go with twelve pieces instead. That way you get to eat more brownies!

These will keep for up to three days in an airtight tin.

I’m kidding of course, there is no way they will hang around for three days. Full disclosure: the popped air bubbles in the first picture are because I could not even wait for these to cool fully before turning them out of the tin to slice them. They’re pretty delicious warm out of the oven, with little pockets of melted chocolate, but I do think they are best once they’ve cooled.

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Downloadable PDF: Cheesecake Brownies

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sugar Syrups

Sugar syrups are sometimes just so incredibly useful. They are also one of those things that you can go your entire culinary career without ever needing to use, until suddenly you do.

There are two main types of sugar syrups that you will see listed as ingredients for baking and cocktails; simple syrup and standard syrup. Both are a mix of sugar and water; Simple Syrup is made of equal amounts of sugar and water (and sometimes referred to as a one-to-one, or 1:1 syrup.) Standard syrup in made with two parts sugar to one part water. This 2:1 mix can be referred to as Rich Simple Syrup in American recipes.

The higher sugar content in Standard Syrup means, unsurprisingly, that it brings more sweetness to a recipe, and is therefore more noticeable. It also means that Standard Syrup has a longer shelf life, with the sugar acting as a natural preservative. Neither syrup lasts indefinitely, however, so it’s probably a good idea to only even make ever-so-slightly more than enough to cover your immediate plans. It’s not as if it will be difficult to make some more should you run out. This syrup really is as simple to make as the name suggests.

Back to storage: if you are planning to make this ahead, it’s best to follow the following tips to keep everything fresh.

Simple Syrup: Find a jar with a tightly fitting/airtight lid to store it in – a jam jar or mason jar will do very well. Wash it well, then sterilise it by filling with boiling water. Pour boiling water over the lid as well. Leave the hot water inside until just before you pour the hot syrup in – hot glass is far less likely to crack than cold. Please, never pour boiling hot liquid into cold glass!

If you are planning on making a Standard Syrup and keeping it for a few months, then take things a step further. Wash your jar and lid well (removing the rubber seal if it has one) and once completely dry, place on a baking tray and place in a low oven (gas mark 1 / 140 C / 275 F) for ten minutes. If using a Kilner jar with a rubber seal, this can be boiled – although if you are boiling the seal you may as well use the boiling method to sterlise the jar as well. Either way, be very careful when handling your heated jars.

Keep your syrups in the fridge. Simple Syrup can be kept for a month, and Standard Syrup for up to six, however both can go mouldy if left out at room temperature. Both can go mouldy in the fridge too, so make sure you make a note of the date you make them and throw them away if you are unsure if they are still good.

It’s usual to measure the sugar and water out by volume when making syrup. I tend to use measuring cups, but you can use a measuring jug just as easily. If you don’t have either then you can weigh the amounts (you won’t end up with quite the same ratio, but this isn’t exactly a science.)

I always use granulated sugar for sugar syrup and reserve my more expensive caster sugar for recipes that require a finer grain, but please use whichever you have to hand.

Ingredients:

Simple Syrup

1 cup white sugar

1 cup water

Standard Syrup

2 cups white sugar

1 cup water

Method:

I’m almost embarrassed to write this down, it’s so easy! Place the sugar and water in a saucepan over a gentle heat and stir until all the sugar has dissolved. There’s no need to let the syrup boil – in fact this will reduce the water content and change the ratio of the mix. Once all the sugar has dissolved, remove from the heat and pour into your heated jar.

Once again, please be careful when handling hot syrup! Make sure your jar is standing on a stable surface.

Secure the lid, allow to cool completely, and store in the fridge until needed.

Ultimate Iced Coffee

I know, I know. ‘Ultimate’ is a pretty big claim, but this iced coffee is delicious. Perhaps it’s the unusually hot summer we’re experiencing here in ole Blighty, but I am all about iced drinks at the moment.

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So hot I think most of the ice had melted by this point!

A word of warning – there is a lot of sugar in this recipe. However, you will find that the milk can handle quite a lot of sugar; in fact, coffee shops usually add sugar syrups to milk based iced coffee. If you’re unsure, or if you don’t usually have sugar in coffee, start small, then add more of the sweet stuff to suit your taste.

The sweetened condensed milk is what makes this drink so amazing. If you can’t bring yourself to add sugar and condensed milk to this, please choose the condensed milk. Although you will only use a small part of a tin, it’s not expensive, and it’s easy to use up. It’s amazing stirred into an everyday cup of coffee, can be used to make no-churn ice cream, or used to sweeten a number of desserts and bakes.

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This recipe makes two iced coffees. Whether you share one with someone or drink both yourself is up to you.

Serves: 2

Ingredients:

3/4 cup / 180 ml / 6 fl oz strong cold brew coffee

1 1/2 cups / 360 ml / 12 fl oz cold milk

2 – 6 tsp simple syrup

2 – 6 tsp sweetened condensed milk

Ice

Method:

Measure out your coffee and milk into a jug that’s larger than the glass you intend to use. Add a small amount of both the sugar syrup and the condensed milk and stir thoroughly. Up the amounts of sugar and condensed milk to taste, making sure you stir well between each addition.

Add ice to the glasses you intend to serve the coffee in to start chilling the glass. Add extra ice to your coffee mix (honestly the amount is up to you – but don’t skip this part entirely unless you are super short on ice) and stir, stir, stir for at good minute. This will bring the temperature of your coffee right down.

Serve over ice. With a straw.

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Cold Brew Coffee

With summer finally upon us, cold coffee suddenly seems sensible.

20180707_132918Cold Brew Coffee is a pretty new idea on this side of the Atlantic (especially all the way down in far flung Devon.)

Despite the name, Cold Brew Coffee is actually brewed at room temperature, usually overnight. The resulting coffee is stronger than hot brewed coffee, and if you believe the experts, has a smoother taste. Because it’s already cool, it works well in cold drinks.

This version (there are several, just check online) is pretty strong. It’s made with a ratio of one part ground coffee to two parts water. The resulting coffee can be served either black or white, with one part of Cold Brew mixed with two parts ice cold milk or water. This higher ratio of coffee to milk than would be used in a traditional espresso-based iced coffees means that the final drink is lighter.

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It’s strength means that the concentrated coffee drink takes up less space in your fridge. Unmixed, this can be kept in the fridge for a few days, ready for whenever you need a cool caffeine fix.

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Use a fairly coarse ground coffee (suitable for cafetiere or filter) rather than fine ground blends (so avoid espresso.) This is simply because you don’t want to end up with grounds in your drink, and small grounds might seep through your filter.

You will need a jug or bowl to brew the coffee in and a muslin cloth or paper coffee filter to strain the coffee through. A funnel is useful, but you might be able to cope without one if using cloth (as in the picture above.)

I’ve used (UK) measuring cups in this ‘recipe’, but all you really need to remember is the mix of one part coffee to two parts water. If you don’t have measuring cups yourself, use a teacup or pour your coffee straight into a measuring jug until you reach the 240ml / 8 fl oz mark.

Ingredients:

1 cup / 240 ml ground coffee

2 cups / 480 ml room temperature water

Combine the coffee and water in a jug or bowl and gently stir until there are no dry grounds left on top. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave in a cool place, away from direct sunlight (mine sits of top of the fridge.)

Leave for eight hours, or preferably overnight. Once it’s brewed, carefully strain it into a clean jug or bowl, and keep it in the fridge until you are ready to use it (up to three days.)

This is a pretty concentrated coffee, so you will need to dilute it with one part coffee to two parts water (or milk.) For a lighter milk version, dilute with water then finish with just a splash of milk.

If you like to add sugar, go ahead. It will need a very good stir to dissolve in the cold drink, so consider sugar syrup or even a flavoured syrup.

Or, if you are feeling in need of a real treat, try an Ultimate Iced Coffee

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Berry Streusel Muffins

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Berry Streusel Muffins

Fresh or frozen berries can be used to make these eye-catching muffins. There are three steps to making these, all of them easy.

The brightness of the berries mean these look as tasty as they, well, taste.

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The cake rises up through the fruit, giving these a marbled pattern

They say that necessity is the mother of invention. In the case of these Berry Streusel Muffins, it was both the mother and the mother-in-law. Phil’s mum managed to leave a couple of bags of frozen fruit in the freezer after her last visit. I was wondering what I could possibly use them for, when my mum casually mentioned that she needed cakes for the church summer fete. Cakes, and lots of them.

I think everyone who bakes has at least one beloved cake, bar or biscuit can they can produce with a moment’s notice. Sadly for me, my standby choices of Lemon Drizzle and fresh Scones are also my mother’s favourites, so I couldn’t rely on these. Well, I made a Lemon Drizzle, because these will always sell, along with a Lemon and Elderflower cake (making good use of the Lemon and Elderflower Syrup I made earlier this summer.)

I’ve already shared my Rhubarb Crumble Cake with you. These use the same crumble topping, but their individual portion size makes them popular with people looking for something to eat straight away, or who don’t have a family at home to help them eat an entire large cake.

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Makes 12

Ingredients:

Cake:

4 oz / 110g caster sugar

4 oz / 110g unsalted butter

1 tsp vanilla essence

2 large eggs

6 oz /170g self-raising flour

3 tbsp buttermilk

Berry Topping:

10 oz / 280g mixed summer berries, fresh or frozen

1 oz / 30g caster sugar (or more to taste)

Streusel Topping:

2 oz / 60g plain flour

1 oz / 30g butter

½ oz / 15g caster sugar

Method:

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Line a 12 hole muffin tin with muffin cases.

Prepare the berries and the streusel mix first so that you have everything to hand when it’s time to assemble your muffins.

Rinse the berries if using fresh. Place in a large saucepan with the sugar and cook over a low heat until the berries have released their juice and begun to break down, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon. Use the back of the spoon to break up any larger berries that are still intact. Remove from the heat and set to one side to cool slightly.

Next up, the streusel topping. Using your fingertips, rub the fat into the flour until it looks a bit like breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar.

For the cake, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. This can be done using a stand mixer or hand whisk, but don’t worry if you have neither; this batch is small enough to be mixed by hand, using a clean wooden spoon. Add the vanilla, and then your eggs one at a time. Don’t worry if the mixture looks a little curdled at this point, I promise it will all come together!

Sift in the flour and stir in until just incorporated. Add the buttermilk and beat until smooth.

Spoon equal amounts into your muffin cases. I find that using an ice cream scoop with a release does this neatly, but also gives you a perfect measure for each cake. Spoon your berry mixture over the top of each muffin – there’s no need to be especially neat here as the cake mix with push up through a lot of the fruit as they bake and rise, however you will want about a dessert spoon of berry mix for each muffin.

Sprinkle over the streusel mix. These will need to bake for about 35 minutes until the cakes have risen and the streusel is golden. Test the cakes to make sure they’re done – insert a sharp knife or a skewer and check if it comes away clean, or simple gently press down on the surface of one of the muffins. If it springs back, it’s done.

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Allow the cakes to cool in the tin for five minutes before transferring to a wire rack to continue to cool.

Once cool, store in an airtight cake tin. These can be kept at room temperature for 3-4 days, and are generally at their best on the second day.

Printable PDF: Berry Streusel Muffins