Whew. When I was first approached by Jennifer to host this month’s Sugar High Friday, I approached it with nervous optimism. Everyone’s had that feeling, that illogical fear of “what would happen if I threw a party, and nobody came?”

Thank goodness for food bloggers. I did not expect, and could not have hoped for, a more enthusiastic and supportive group of contributors to this month’s event. From the dramatic to the sublime, these desserts celebrating the shades of white run the spectrum. 45 entries from around the world, are all delicious variations on the theme. What a party!

Again, my gratitude to those who participated, and those of you who have come by to see the results of our little event. Cheers to Jennifer, once again of the Domestic Goddess, who will be the host of next month’s SHF installment. It will be a confectionery celebration of Canada’s 140th birthday on July 1st - look out for the announcement and details on her site.

And with that, on to the desserts; click the photos to link to the author's site ...

I am sure that anyone who hears about my endeavours in the kitchen would assume that I have one heck of a sweet tooth. And, really, I would be hard pressed to provide evidence to the contrary.

However, what one may not realize is that rarely do I truly overindulge in the confections that I so frequently describe; those are most often destined for family and friends, celebrations and gifts.

Of course I nibble here and there, but those who know me best know that my true achilles heel is ice cream; not surprisingly, my predilection of choice is most often in the form of chocolate.

Last evening I was looking for frozen creamy goodness - but sadly, my freezer was unexpectedly bare. Though my dear Sean would have been willing to retrieve my treat, it was a chilly night and I could not bear ask him to leave the warmth of our home (or namely, the comfort of the couch). I could have gone, but when faced with the option of going out in the cold, dark night or staying in my slippers and pottering about the kitchen, there is no contest.

With the Mixer out of commission, and me lacking the drive to do much more than stir, I had only one option: brownies. Fudgy and dense, satisfyingly decadent but uncommonly simple to make.

As luck would have it, I recently stumbled upon Jamie Oliver’s brownie recipe. The photo depicted what was surely the solution to my Monday doldrums. Nothing looked airy and light about these squares - they looked meltingly decadent, just the way I prefer a brownie.

After a modest amount of effort, we were rewarded with the smell of chocolate warming in the oven. Even my dear Sean, from the depths of the couch, was pressed to inquire "when will those be ready?" Gooey from the oven, these brownies made for stickey fingers and ebony-stained grins. The doldrums were a distant memory.

While not a pint of Häagen Dazs, sometimes a brownie will more than suffice.

Jamie Oliver’s bloomin’ brilliant brownies
Unctuous chocolate, tenuously bound by flour; they are more truffle than cake, bordering on a confection. This recipe is featured in Jamie's Little Book of Big Treats in support of Comic Relief.

Recipe

Notes:
• I opted to omit any add-ins (dried cherries, nuts). While I am sure that they would be delicious, I wanted nothing more than uniterrupted cocoa.
• I cannot bake anything with chocolate without a dash of vanilla extract and a bit of espresso powder. To my palate, they add a depth of flavour and make the chocolate more chocolatey. I added these, along with a pinch of salt, to the melted chocolate and butter mixture.
• When making brownies, the key to fudgy perfection is stirring the batter as little as possible once the flour has been added. With this in mind, I opted to add the eggs to the chocolate mixture first, rather than following the flour as indicated in the recipe.
• I only had a 9”x9” pan, rather than the 10” (25 cm) called for. The cooking time was increased to about 35 minutes (a 10 minute increase), but keep an eye on them after 25 minutes.

Please note, I have been establishing tags for archived posts. My apologies if this causes any confusion.

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I have never been ashamed to admit that I can be utterly shallow. Nor have I ever feigned ignorance of my obsession with chocolate in its purest form. However now and again a girl is struck by something that goes beyond infatuation and adoration. Something deeper than that; something that touches your very soul. Of course, I am talking about greed.

Were you expecting something different?

I will admit, maybe something along the lines of love and affection would be more apt for today - and I have been looking at lighter-than-air mousses and soufflés, pillowy madelines and coyly trembling panna cottas. But I cannot deny my want, nay the necessity, for something much more soul-satisfyingly decadent than a trifle of the palate.

Dense and rich, these squares are so very indulgent that one overlooks their rather indelicate appearance; they are reminiscent of a elementary bake sale treat but oh so much better. A tumble of chocolate, peanut butter and toffee chips, unctuous dulce de leche tempered by a ribbon of tart cheesecake ... sigh. Attempt to restrain yourself to just one.

Chockablock cheesecake squares
Fans of the famous recipe will note that the cookie base is a variation on the classic Nestlé® Toll House® cookies. I recommend cutting these into either 1 1/2”x2 1/4” bars or 1 1/2” squares.

For the cookie base
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks, 1/2 pound) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2/3 cup peanut butter chips
1/3 cup of toffee bits

For the cheesecake layer
1 8 ounce package of cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg

1/2 cup dulce de leche or caramel sauce (use up to 1 cup, depending on your taste)

Preheat oven to 350ºF (175ºC). Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-by-9-inch baking pan. Line with parchment paper, allowing for a 1-inch overhang on two sides to form handles.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set this aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugars on medium high speed until combined. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides. Continue to beat the mixture, stopping to scrape down the sides as necessary, for approximately 3 minutes or until the butter is fluffy and pale in colour.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down sides of bowl. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the flour and stir to combine. Add in chips and candy. Refrigerate dough.

In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment in place, beat the cream cheese and sugars on medium high speed until combined and smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. On medium speed, add the egg and vanilla.

Take approximately half the refrigerated cookie dough and, with floured fingers, press into the prepared pan. Using an offset spatula, spread the dulce de leche over the bottom layer. Pour over the cream cheese mixture. Crumble the remaining cookie dough over the cream cheese.

Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until golden brown. As with many cheesecake recipes, you may see a bit of “wiggle” in the centre of the pan; not to worry, it will set up as it sits. Cool 1 hour. Refrigerate at least 4 hours, preferably overnight. Cut into squares or bars, as desired.

Makes 1 9-inch pan. Approximately 24-36 bars, depending on size. These bars should be stored in refrigerator and can be frozen.

Notes:
• For the cookie crust, I like to use a large flake sea or kosher salt for a salty-sweet combination.
• You can use whatever combination of morsels, nuts and candy you like for the cookie crust; aim for about 2 cups in total.
• If you prefer pockets of caramel, swirl the dulce de leche with the cream cheese filling, rather than layering it.
• The dulce de leche can be substituted with a chocolate ganache or thick chocolate fudge sauce as well.

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