Last week we celebrated July 4th, the birth of our nation. I’ll be honest. This is not my favourite holiday especially when it lands in the middle of the week. This year was particularly weird. Our nation is divided on the political scale – I won’t go into a tirade on how I feel about the state of our union. The air of atmosphere is becoming less communal, meaning people are spending way too much time on their electronic devices and less time just communicating with each other…verbally. Then there was the devastating blow to one of my favourite annual sports events, the Tour de France. The disqualification of cycling great Peter Sagan baffled me and now just pretty much annoys the crap out of me. C’est la vie. Next year Peter.
So let’s just skip my petite vent there and get onto the good stuff, which is the things I do find enjoyable about the 4th of July.
Growing up we spent the holiday together as a family, sometimes just the immediate ones and often times with my extended family of aunties, uncles and cousins. There was usually sprinkler time where we’d all end up soaking wet. We could see fireworks in the distance and on the rare occasion someone would have a few bottle rockets for the older kids to set off.
Then there was my number one favourite thing…the food!
Our grill probably resembled the majority of family grills in the U.S. Burgers and hotdogs cooking as the flames from the charcoal created billows of smoke that would tease our noses with the wonderful aroma of beef mixed with hotdogs. Mom would provided her homemade potato salad or macaroni salad and on some occasions she would present both. There were always baked beans, pickles, buns and the coup de grâce brownies.
These days my family is pretty much dismantled. Both Mom and Dad have since past and my oldest sister and brother live in a different state. But my sisters Judy and Margaret are here with me, and we planned a cookout with our own twists.
Hamburgers have now evolved into turkey burgers. Baked beans are still represented on the table. In lieu of Mom’s special salads, Margaret produced her absolutely delicious ramen noodle salad – I could seriously eat the entire bowl.
But what about the brownies? Enter master baker Paul Hollywood. No, he did not make an appearance at our cookout, although that would have been just lovely.
I recently purchased a copy of his book The Weekend Baker that is filled with recipes from around the world. Since this was our nation’s birthday, I chose to visit his New York section and selected his Chocolate Cheesecake Brownies. This lovely gem of a recipe can be found on page 216 in this treasure trove of international bakes.
The recipe, while not too difficult, did offer its challenges.
I was successful in locating all of the ingredients save one, double cream. Where I used to live outside of Atlanta, there was this quaint British shop (plug for a Taste of Britain here). I know I would have been able to purchase double cream at their location. However, living in small town Santa Rosa Beach, it was a lost cause. I was forced to substitute the cream with heavy whipping cream that may have caused the end result of my brownies be a little to be a wetter than normal.
Challenge number two was the need to convert the measurements from metric to the standard system. As I called out the varying amounts in grams, my sister Judy was quick to provide me with the U.S. equivalent or as close as we could get to it anyway.
My other sister Margaret assisted in the kitchen, pouring ingredients into various cups or measuring spoons on command. This was truly a team effort and one that I feel we actually won.
The aroma the oven offered was something I’d never experienced before. The scent of the chocolate intertwining with cream cheese and butter was more than my nose could take. The more these delectable beauties baked the more I was ready to just dive in and take a bite.
I ended up baking them a bit longer than the recipe called for but that was due to the need to convert from Celsius to Fahrenheit. And when I opened the oven door and moved the pan they still seemed a bit runny. So what was another five or 10 minutes?
Finally the timer announced the dessert was ready but alas, Paul’s directions made us wait until they were cooled which is a must follow step. I believe that wait time allowed the brownies to firm. Patience is a virtue, right?
The moment arrived when I began to gently slice and plate the brownies. Total chocolaty, gooey goodness is the best way I can describe the outcome. They were a bit messy on which I blame the heavy whipping cream. But nonetheless, based on my taste testers these were a huge success!
File this one under: Make This One Again
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Stay tuned for another recipe from Paul’s book. Until we meet again…cheers!