Let me tell you about an amazing person called Keely. We were at school together in Holland (the third time I lived there), and I’m so lucky to be able to call her one of my best friends. She has always been there for me (well, since I’ve known her, otherwise that would be weird), and I know that she always will, no matter how far away we are from each other, and I love her to bits for that. She’s one of those amazing people who, no matter how busy, upset or stressed out she is, will always make time for somebody who needs it. I find that incredible, because I’m the sort of person that when stressed, nobody gets a look-in. But Keely isn’t just a wonderful friend, she’s a remarkable person, too. Despite having a constant source of worry and sorrow in her life, she carries on being there for everybody else and being taken for granted when really everybody else should be there for her. Neither of us actually know why we’re such great friends – as the expression goes, we’re like chalk and cheese. We have totally different tastes in films, men (think Zac Efron vs Daniel Craig), clothes, interests and food. Keely is religious, I’m really not; I love academics (though I’ll tell you otherwise just before a deadline), Keely really doesn’t enjoy academics at all; she never cries, I cry all the time; I’m a huge fan of gin (in case you didn’t know), Keely hates the stuff; she has a heart of gold, I really don’t. I could go on, but I’m sure you get the point. Despite our many differences though, we just click, and we always have, probably because we can both be super-talkative and totally immature. We had the same free periods in our last year of school, and this is usually how they were spent:
That photo was taken five years ago, and things haven’t changed much – whenever we see each other we spend a lot of time not getting anything done. When we finished school, Keely got into the University of Liverpool to study Orthoptics, and she successfully completed her degree a year and a half ago, which was a huge achievement (as I mentioned, academics really isn’t her thing, but I always knew she would do it), and I’m still so, so proud of her for it. She got a job as an Orthoptist at the hospital in Oxford, which I’m also super proud of her for. She started that job almost exactly a year ago, and she loves it. I went down to Oxford in September as a surprise for her birthday, and because she loves cake and enjoys baking (probably a significant contributing factor to our friendship), I gave her Eric Lanlard’s Home Bake.
I hadn’t heard of Eric Lanlard before coming across his book in Waterstone’s (I’m not a fan of this apostrophe removal rebranding nonsense – what’s that all about?! – so I’m stubbornly leaving it in), but I liked the way the book was laid out, the photos were mouth-watering and there was a good variety of recipes. And I also knew that Keely would be a total fan of Eric Lanlard, who conveniently features in several photos in the book. Before wrapping it up, I may or may not have taken photos of the recipes that interested me… If you ever receive a cookbook from me, you can pretty much guarantee that I’ve been through it and done exactly that (writing the recipes out takes far too long and scanning them involves flattening the book and damaging the spine). Does anybody else do that, or is it just me? Is it weird? One of the recipes that had caught my eye was for cream cheese brownies, which I must admit I wasn’t convinced by, but I was definitely intrigued. Last week was a stressful week where everything seemed to go wrong or be unnecessarily complicated, so I was in need of a cheer-up baking session, and I decided to finally give these brownies a go…
The original recipe uses coffee, but I substituted that with Kahlúa, which obviously had everything to do with having a bottle of Kahlúa which needed finishing and nothing to do with me feeling a bit too lazy to actually make coffee (because it takes so much effort, ahem). Don’t judge too much, because it totally worked. Against my expectations, the combination of cream cheese and brownie actually went well together, although I’d decided I wanted the middle to be fudgy and didn’t quite baked the brownies as long as I should have so the cream cheese in the middle slices was vaguely reminiscent of cheesecake (which I really don’t like, but my mum does and she ate all the middle slices), but on the outer slices where it was properly cooked, it was delicious. It adds a sharp tang to the brownie which just cuts through but doesn’t overwhelm the general chocolateyness. Be warned though, these are pretty heavy and rich, so they might not be ideal if you’re on a January detox! So these cream cheese Kahlúa brownies are for Keely – we’ll just ignore that she has the book that the recipe came from and I know she’s already made them and loves them, and we’ll also skip over the fact that my version was born out of total laziness (I’m such a great friend) – because she’s just so wonderful. I love her to bits and I’m so proud of her, and she’s one of the best friends one could ever wish for!
Cream cheese Kahlúa brownies
Makes 12-16 brownies
Adapted from Home Bake
Whilst I used Kahlúa, the original recipe calls for 100ml of freshly-brewed coffee, so do go for that option if you don’t have any Kahlúa or don’t like the stuff. The marbling can be as messy as you like since these will be cut up after baking (and it’s also far more fun to do than it probably should be!). When baking, make sure there’s no wobble in the middle of the brownies, as this means they won’t be properly cooked in the middle (even if you normally like your brownies fudgy, trust me on this one). These brownies are very rich, heavy and chocolatey, so cutting them into smaller squares is probably the best option.
For the brownies:
150g unsalted butter
200g dark chocolate (at least 70%)
250g caster sugar
1 tsp coffee extract
Pinch of salt
100g all-purpose flour
For the cream cheese marbling:
150g cream cheese
60g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1. Butter and line a 20 x 20cm cake tin (don’t use anything smaller or it will overflow – you can use a slightly bigger tin and reduce the baking time slightly). Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.
2. Break the chocolate into a large heat-proof bowl and add the diced butter. Melt them together over a pan of simmering water, stirring from time to time. Once glossy, remove the bowl from the heat and allow to cool a little.
3. Stir in the sugar, vanilla and salt. Add the eggs and whisk until smooth (if using an electric whisk, make sure it won’t shatter your heat-proof bowl).
4. Gently whisk in the Kahlúa, and then sift in the flour. Whisk the mixture together until smooth. Set aside whilst making the cream cheese marbling mixture.
5. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the cream cheese until smooth (this can easily be done by hand, particularly if the cream cheese is softened). Beat the egg in a small bowl, then add it to the cream cheese, along with the sugar and coffee extract and whisk them all together until smooth.
6. Pour the chocolate brownie mixture into the prepared cake tin, followed by the cream cheese mixture. Using a knife, cut through the cream cheese layer to marble the layers.
7. Bake for 30-35 mins (cover with tin foil for the last 10 mins if necessary to avoid the top from burning), making sure the middle isn’t wobbly. Allow to cool in the tin before cutting into squares.