I am back! It has been too long and I owe everyone an apology for not having posted a recipe since December…I can only imagine how desperate you have all been, waiting for some more baking inspiration…just joking! But on a more serious note, I have missed not baking and writing for Phi Mag and indeed I have been so submerged by essay writing that I have had no time to do some baking for myself either.
Last week we celebrated Shrove Tuesday, a day when in the UK we eat as many pancakes as we possibly can and are allowed to feel no regret for all the calories consumed. Yet, some of you may not know that this day marks the day before the beginning of Lent, a 40 period during which Catholics prepare themselves to commemorate Jesus’ death and celebrate his resurrection. Traditionally, people would give up meat during these 40 days. Nowadays, people tend to give up things like chocolate and fizzy drinks. Indeed, as a complete chocolate addict, I was once one of those people who would give up chocolate…and the first 2 weeks would feel painfully long. But I remember always feeling a huge sense of accomplishment when I would make it to Easter Sunday without having touched anything remotely related to chocolate (including Nutella!).
During the two years in which I suffered from anorexia, giving up chocolate was the perfect excuse to eat less of the sweet treats which I craved, but which also generated the greatest mental battles for me because I wanted to eat them but I thought that it meant letting go of the sense of control which I had created around food at a time when things seemed uncertain (school was ending, how did I do in my exams?, what would life be like at uni?, what would I do after that? Etc.).
And yet, this year, I have decided not to give up anything because I have come to the realisation that giving up a food is merely a way to avoid addressing the other things which tempt us much more, but which we might not be as willing to recognise and change. I now know that when I had anorexia, giving up the temptation to control food and mealtimes would have been a much greater challenge than giving up chocolate. It would also have given me a reason to confront my fears and an opportunity to begin to let go of some of that debilitating control. I may sound like my mother right now, but I truly believe that social media has a big role to play in impeding all of us from living out best, authentic lives, free from any conditions and limits we set ourselves based on the apparently better, happier, healthier lives than our own which we are bombarded with on social media. Personally, my eating disorder did not develop because of a desire to be thinner, but because a feeling of disorientation which began during my last year of school and led me to control food to counter my sense of confusion.
Still, the first step towards overcoming anorexia was accepting what I looked like – simply, a skinny, bony body – and using the desire to become healthy again, which I had every time I looked in the mirror, to rid myself of the temptation to control food. Whatever religion you follow, and even if you are an atheist, I think that the message I would like to pass on from my experience of Lent is that the process of overcoming temptations is just as important, if not more important, than the final outcome. Rather than thinking about what we have been capable of in the past, and trying to replicate what we did, or looked like, or felt like, our aim should be to constantly develop ourselves and understand where our thoughts, feelings and ideas come from in order to truly become better, more authentic versions of ourselves.
Having said this, I think you should all make this swirled cheesecake brownie. For me personally, baking this was the perfect excuse to begin to use this Lenten period to find more time to do the things which make me feel happy and alive. After all, overcoming an eating disorder takes years and although I am now back to a healthy weight, I still have days when I struggle with my relationship with food. But this brownie, it has shown me what’s good! I like a good, dense brownie, which is why I have added the extra egg yolk. If, however, you prefer a gooier brownie, then feel free to omit the yolk and only use the 2 whole eggs (I promise not to judge you on our brownie differences!). Also, you do not have to use Minieggs and can instead swap them for chocolate chips, or no extra chocolate at all… although given the option to add more chocolate, I don’t see why you wouldn’t! Finally, if you want to jazz-up your cheesecake, you could add some orange zest to give it a chocolate orange feeling, or some coffee for an extra kick. Honestly, let your imagination run wild on this one…the cheesecake is your oyster!
And if you have made it to reading all the way to the end of the post, I applaud you. Do not forget to tag @phi.mag with your creations…who knows, there may be a prize, courtesy of the Fearless Baker, for the best-looking one…
The Fearless Baker
For the brownie base:
2 eggs plus 1 yolk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
85g plain flour
Pinch of salt
For the cheesecake: 220g cream cheese
1 egg yolk
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
Small pack Minieggs (optional)
1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees and line an 8-inch square baking tin with greaseproof paper.
2. To make the brownie base, melt butter and sugar in a heat-proof bowl over a pan of boiling water, or in the microwave in 30-second bursts.
3. Whisk in the sugar to cool down the mixture before whisking in the eggs and yolk, to avoid scrambling them.
4. Using a spatula, gently fold the flour through the mixture until combined. Add the vanilla extract and salt. Set aside whilst you make the cheesecake.
5. To make the cheesecake, whisk together all the ingredients, apart from the Minieggs if you are adding them, until you reach a thick, glossy consistency.
6. Pour the brownie into the pre-prepared tin and level with a knife.
7. Carefully add dollops of the cheesecake mixture onto the brownie. Then, using a knife, swirl the cheesecake around, taking care not to mix it too much with the brownie.
8. Bake brownie for 20 minutes. Take it out of the oven and top with the Minieggs, if using. Replace the brownie into the oven for a further 15 minutes – the skewer test will not work here as you want there to be some fudgy crumbs on the skewer, otherwise you have overbaked your brownie!
9. If, however, a skewer inserted into the centre comes out with too much batter stuck to it, place the brownie back into the oven for a further 5 minutes.
10. Allow to cool completely before slicing. This brownie tastes best when chilled in the fridge for a couple of hours…if you can resist that long!