Thursday, January 24, 2013

Cheesecake Brownies

When someone calls a dessert 'sinful', this is what they mean.

It means that you take two desserts that are sufficiently rich and indulgent in their own right and you go ahead and put them together anyway. What you end up with is something that may feel like a bit too much but you also can't seem to get enough.

These cheesecake brownies manage to pack a ridiculous amount of deliciousness in just one 2-inch square. The recipe is from David Lebovitz's blog, one of my favourites. He's the guy to go to if you need dessert advice or inspiration.

His recipe called for swirling the cream cheese mixture into the brownies but I decided to spread it evenly on top of the brownie batter. The result is a dense fudgy brownie topped with a rich creamy cheesecake layer.

You can also use your favourite brownie mix to make these. I baked mine in an 8-inch square pan, but if you make yours in a larger pan you can still use the same quantities for the cheesecake topping, you'll just end up with a thinner cheesecake layer. And you'll have to adjust the baking time.

David mentioned that these brownies could be frozen. That's a good idea, I thought, better to freeze some of them for later.

Yeah, right.

They didn't stay in the freezer for even a day.

Cheesecake Brownies

adapted from David Lebovitz

Brownie layer:
3 oz unsalted butter*
4 oz dark chocolate
⅔ cup caster sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon instant coffee powder dissolved in 1 tablespoon hot water

Cheesecake layer:
8 oz cream cheese
1 egg
⅓ cup caster sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

(*If you use salted butter then omit the salt from the recipe.)

  1. Preheat the oven to 180⁰C (350⁰F).
  2. Add the butter and chocolate to a large glass bowl and place the bowl on a saucepan of simmering water, making sure that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Stir occasionally until the butter and chocolate have melted, then set the mixture aside to cool.
  3. When the butter-chocolate mixture has cooled, stir in the sugar.
  4. Add the beaten eggs and stir until well combined.
  5. Sift the flour and cocoa powder into the bowl, add the salt and coffee and mix well.
  6. Grease a sheet of foil and press it into an 8-inch square baking pan. Spread the brownie mixture evenly in the baking pan.
  7. For the cheesecake layer: Add the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla and egg to a mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until the mixture is smooth and creamy, 3 to 4 minutes.
  8. Pour the cream cheese mixture on top of the brownie mixture, spread evenly and smooth the top.
  9. Place in the oven and bake for 35 to 40 minutes.
  10. Remove from the oven and allow the brownies to cool to room temperature. Refrigerate for about 4 hours or overnight before slicing. Remove the brownies from the pan by lifting the foil out. Gently peel the foil away and then cut them into squares.
Makes 16 brownies.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


Our holiday in Skardu became a longer one than we had planned because of bad weather and flight delays. However, had we not been stuck there for a few extra days we may never have discovered this wonderful dessert, which we were served after our last lunch at The Shigar Fort Residence. It's called Pharingbath (pronounced 'faringbath') and the chef was kind enough to share the recipe with us.

Apricots, fresh and dried, are abundant in Skardu and we had already sampled the rich apricot mousse in Khaplu. However, this dessert, served with cream, was so different from anything else we had eaten. It's luscious and sweet but, at the same time, it's not too heavy.

It is also surprisingly easy to make.

This Pharingbath was made with apricots we brought back with us. You need to take care that you buy sweet dried apricots, not the sour kind.


1 kg dried apricots, without stones
Water, as needed
Chopped walnuts and almonds
Cream, to serve

  1. Add the apricots to a pot and cover with water. 
  2. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat to low and simmer for two hours, stirring occasionally.
  3. As the liquid begins to dry up, keep an eye on the mixture and stir more frequently.
  4. Mash the cooked apricots a bit with a potato masher, then strain the mixture. 
  5. Cool the dessert to room temperature and then chill in the refrigerator.
  6. Sprinkle with chopped almonds and walnuts and serve with cream.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Date, Pistachio and Lemon Loaf

I love a good loaf cake. They're infinitely adaptable, the preparation involves minimal fuss, they can be as simple or as extravagant as you want them to be, they travel well, they don't take up too much space... 

... A slice can be conveniently wrapped up and tucked in your bag for when hunger strikes unexpectedly...

... And it's the perfect in-between-meals snack with a cup of tea.

I was trying to think of a way to jazz up the date-and-walnut loaf and I thought pistachios would be a good substitute. 

The pistachios lend their beautiful green colour to the loaf and I also added a bit of lemon zest and a lemon glaze which adds a mildly tart flavour that goes quite well with the other ingredients.

I'm definitely going to be making this cake again soon because I really didn't get to eat much of it. My mother took some to work and it disappeared very very quickly.

4 oz butter, softened
⅓ cup caster sugar
⅓ cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1½ cups flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ cup milk
4 tablespoons yogurt
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 oz pistachios, chopped
5 oz dates, pitted and chopped

Lemon Glaze
½ cup icing sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon water (if needed)

  1. Preheat the oven to 180⁰C (350⁰F).
  2. Add the butter and sugars to a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until light and creamy.
  3. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after you add each one.
  4. Sift together the flour and baking powder. Add about a third of the flour mixture, then mix in the milk. Add another third of flour then mix in the yogurt, and finish with the remaining third of flour.
  5. Stir in the lemon zest, pistachios and dates.
  6. Grease and flour a 8x4" loaf tin and line with wax paper.
  7. Spoon the cake batter into the tin, smooth the top and place in the oven. Bake for 60 to 70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the loaf comes out clean. 
  8. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes. 
  9. Remove the loaf from the tin and gently peel away the wax paper. Place on a wire rack to cool completely.
  10. To make the glaze: Stir together the icing sugar and lemon juice and drizzle over the cooled loaf. (The glaze will come together as you mix but if it is still too thick then add a teaspoon of water.)