A couple of days ago autumn finally arrived. And I don't mean autumn as in pumpkins at the farmer's market and halloween costumes in the stores but autumn as in coolish, windy weather with grey clouds chasing each other across the sky, trees turning yellow and shedding their leaves and people pulling out their woollen coats, scarves and hats.
I love autumn almost as much as winter. I love the chilly air in the mornings with the mist over the meadows, the damp smell of the air and the yellow and brown of the leaves gleaming in the afternoon sunlight, I love going for a long walk wrapped in a warm coat and a big scarf, with my pretty autumn boots at my feet and returning with a cold face, rosy cheeks and windswept hair. I love sitting at home on a rainy day with lit candles, a cuppa and some biscuits, listening to Laura Marling on the stereo and dawdling away the time, or watching a film while lying on the bed, snuggled up with a warm blanket and a cup of hot cocoa.
Another good thing about autumn is the start of the winter term in mid-October. Don't get me wrong, I love summer hols. But after 2 months of no courses and only an occasional term paper or test, I tend to get extremely bored and my brain yearns for something to do. If you say "swot" now, I'll hit you.
But the best thing about autumn is that it's the season of harvest. Which means food. Loads of food. And I love, LOVE autumn food.
Pumpkins, grains, parsnips, sweet potatoes, beetroots, chestnuts, spices, apples, pears. Autumn, for me, means colourful, earthy food that warms your soul and your eyes as well as your stomach. Soups, gratins, purees and pies. I can't wait.
This autumn, pumpkin will call the tune. I plan to let it star in syrups, pies, cupcakes, pancakes, brownies and much more. I already made some amazing healthy and tasty pumpkin dishes in September but I promise to make them again and post the recipes.
The first recipe on this blog is incidentally also the first thing I baked in my new kitchen in my new flat. So I thought to myself, I could as well start my blog and life in my new flat with my new flatmate (and good friend, here's to you!) off with a bang, or better: a calorie bomb for the hips and an explosion for the taste buds: Pumpkin Cheesecake Brownies. Your life will never be the same. Cross my heart and hope to die.
Pumpkin Cheesecake Brownies
(find the picture in my header; recipe adapted from Confections of a Foodie Bride)
8 Tbsp butter
8 oz / 225 g bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup / 200 g+ 2 Tbsp sugar
4 large eggs
1 cup / 125 g + 2 Tbsp flour
1/4 cup / 30 g cocoa powder (the darker and the less de-oiled the better)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 oz/200 g reduced-fat cream cheese, at room temp
1/2 cup/250 g canned pumpkin
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp ground all spice
1/4 tsp ground ginger
- If canned pumpkin isn't available at your local supermarket, you'll have to make the pumpkin puree yourself: Cut 250 g of pumpkin or winter squash (I prefer onion squash) in thin slices, put them on a baking tray covered with baking parchment and bake at 200° C for about half an hour.
- Grease a square 8-inch/20-cm baking tin or something similar. I didn't have one and used a round tarte tin.
- In a bain-marie, melt butter and chocolate together and whisk until completely smooth. Be careful not to let any water from the bain-marie get into the chocolate-butter-mixture because for some reason, the water makes it turn into a tough, unusable lump.
- Whisk in the sugar and then add 3 of the eggs, one at a time, whisking between each addition.
- Whisk in the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. Use a wooden spoon for that, the batter will get too tough for a handheld mixer or an egg whisk.
- The batter will by now have reached the consistency of something resembling greasy chocolatey bubble gum but that's what it's supposed to look like, don't worry. Transfer it to the greased tin and spread it evenly.
- In a separate bowl, beat cream cheese and 2 Tbsp sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
- When the pumpkin is ready, transfer it to a blender and puree it. Add the puree to the cream cheese and beat until thoroughly combined. Beat in the egg and vanilla, then add 2 Tbsp flour and the ground spices. I used freshly ground nutmeg but was a bit over-enthusiastic and ended up using nearly twice the required amount. It didn't hurt. And I was out of ginger, so I used ground cardamon instead. You can never go wrong with cardamon.
- Create wells in the top of the brownie batter. Spoon the pumpkin cheesecake mixture into the wells. Use the tip of a knife to swirl the chocolate and pumpkin together. I didn't manage that very well, but I think I like the brownies better with the pumpkin cheesecake on top of the chocolate dough instead of swirled into it, anyway.
- Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 40-50 minutes. Cool in pan for 30 minutes then cut into squares and serve.