Thursday, December 30, 2010

Cheesecake Brownies

The day after I baked the yogurt cake, I found myself dessertless and in the kitchen. What else could arise from that but yet another baked goodie? The only question was: which one? You see, I love to bake and cook, but indecision always, always proves my most major obstacle in the kitchen. From what to make, to whether to scramble the eggs or boil them, to whether to use green chilli pepper or red chilli powder, I spend way more(or well, at least as much as!) time planning and thinking than actually cooking. And that is probably why I don't blog as much as I would like, because there simply isn't enough time left! Anyway, as usual, I spent hours agonizing over whether to make cookies, brownies, bars, muffins, another variation of the yogurt cake or individual molten chocolate cakes! When I finally decided that I was most in the mood for brownies, my next step was to decide whether to make plain brownies, cheesecake brownies, brownies with nuts or caramel brownies. I almost never make anything plain, I always have to embellish at least a little bit. A. doesn't care for nuts in the slightest, and I heavily rely on her to help me finish all the desserts I make. And, as much as I love caramel, I do have six more months left in Paris and will most certainly get way more than my fair share of it during that time (That's an idea for a post when I come back-salted butter caramel brownies!). And, we all love cheesecake! So, cheesecake brownies it was! Ina's brownie recipe is always my go to because they are incredibly fudgy, the only way I like brownies. So, I put together the cheesecake batter from David Lebovitz's Cheesecake Brownie recipe (with slightly more cream cheese and sugar) and Ina's Outrageous Brownies* recipe(halved) to produce the most luscious, most chocolatey, most delicious dessert I have yet taken out of the oven. We savored them warm right out of the oven, when the brownies were super moist and again today, cold out of the fridge, when the brownies were incredibly fudgy. Either way, these brownies take the cake any day! Indeed, my other sister, A.P., just couldn't stop saying that this was literally the best thing she'd ever eaten! And I must say, I might just have to agree with her there :)

*I have already posted Ina's brownie recipe in my post Brownie-Caramel Sundaes, but I will repost it here(again halved) for simplicity's sake.

Brownie Batter: (adapted from Ina Garten's Outrageous Brownies)
2 sticks unsalted butter
1/2 pound(1 and 1/3 cups) semisweet chocolate chips
3 ounces(1/2 cup) unsweetened chocolate, chopped
3 extra-large eggs
1 tbsp. instant coffee powder
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp. flour
1.5 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour a 9" x 13" baking pan. Melt together butter, 8 ounces of chocolate chips and unsweetend chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl, at 50% power, in 30-second intervals until completely melted. Stir in-between intervals. Let it cool slightly. Stir together eggs, coffee powder, vanilla extract and sugar in a large bowl. Stir the warm chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and allow to cool to room temperature. In another bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Fold this into the cooled chocolate mixture gently, until completely mixed in and no lumps of flour remain.

Cheesecake Batter: (Adapted from David Lebovitz's Cheesecake Brownies)
10 ounces cream cheese( I used neufchatel), at room temperature
1 egg
6 tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

Beat all ingredients together until smooth.

Pour brownie batter into the prepared pan. Then, spoon cheesecake batter evenly over the brownie batter. Use a knife to whirl the cheesecake batter into the brownie batter and create a marbled effect. Place pan into preheated oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the brownies have slightly pulled away from the edges and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few dry crumbs, but no liquid. After 15 minutes of baking time, rap the pan against the oven shelf to release the air from between the pan and the brownie dough. Let the brownies stand for at least 20 minutes before serving, and then relish them warm with a glass of almond milk! Or, let them cool completely, refrigerate them overnight or for a few hours, and eat them cold and fudgy. Either way, you will ascend to heaven :)


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Celebrating Togetherness: Strawberry-Almond Yogurt Cake

So, the day before yesterday, I surprised my family by coming home for the holidays, and boy, were they surprised!! I was quite relieved that I managed to keep it a surprise, given the fact that I had this trip planned for a month and a half. Of course, the fact that we were all together after so long coupled with the fact that I had not done any baking since leaving for Paris meant that I absolutely had to bake a cake to celebrate. I wanted to prepare something French, of course, but yet not incredibly complicated, so, as usual, I turned to Clotilde's Gateau au Yaourt, my usual go-to cake recipe. This recipe actually entails a fusion of both her basic yogurt cake and her raspberry-almond version. I actually don't care for raspberries in their whole form, but I was extremely lucky to find exceptionally fresh, ripe strawberries(my favorite fruit!), even at the end of December! Thus, I substituted strawberries for the raspberries, and substituted part almond meal for the all-purpose flour as the raspberry version called for. Besides that, I mostly stuck to the basic recipe, besides using ghee in place of oil. I also made my own very slight change by melting some strawberry jam and pouring it over the strawberries before topping them with the second half of the batter. This resulted in a consistency similar to pie filling after the cake came out of the oven, yet the cake had the perfect level of sweetness. The cake itself was of course extremely moist on the inside, but boasted a crusty golden-brown top which I very much enjoyed in contrast. We relished this cake with masala chai, which made for the perfect afternoon goƻter (French for snack), and yes, we finished the entire cake! :)

Strawberry-Almond Yogurt Cake (adapted from Yogurt Cake and Raspberry Yogurt Cake) :
1.5 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup almond meal
2 eggs
1 cup whole-milk, plain unsweetened yogurt
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil or ghee(I used ghee)
1.5 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1.5 cups washed and sliced strawberries
1/2 cup strawberry jam
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
a good pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350F, and grease a 10-inch round cake pan. Combine yogurt, sugar, eggs, , ghee and vanilla and almond extracts in a large mixing-bowl. Sift together the flour, almond meal, baking powder, baking soda and salt in another bowl. Gradually add the flour mixture into the wet mixture, but don't overmix the dough. Melt jam over low heat until it becomes thin and slightly runny. Pour half of the cake batter into the cake pan. Arrange the sliced strawberries on top. Pour jam over the strawberries, and use a pastry brush to evenly spread it if needed. Pour the other half of the batter on top, and use a spatula to spread it evenly over the strawberry layer. Bake in the preheated oven for about 35 minutes, or until a tester toothpick comes out clean. Let the cake sit for about 30 minutes before serving.



 

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