Let us start with the story of Matarranya... or "Spanish Tuscany", as our real estate agent calls it. I have no idea, as I've never been to the real (Italian) Tuscany. I know they have olive trees as well though.
(note: pictures in this post will be replaced... as soon as I get to make better ones. Cheesecake brownie seems to be a hard one to capture!)
Matarranya is a gorgeous region, but scarcely populated with an aging population; young people often leave to study in bigger towns or cities, and rarely come back as there aren't many conventional jobs to be found here. That does make land quite cheap, and village houses waiting for a new family plentiful; those families are coming from everywhere. Young families from all corners of Spain, looking for a quieter place to raise their children; nutters from other parts of Europe, coming to Spain for new challenges and maybe a business opportunity; people who've worked hard all their lives and now want the good life on a British pension; adventurers from all over the world in search of a simple life and a place to practice permaculture.
It's not easy being a newcomer in a country where you might not speak the language, might not know a living soul and might not understand many of the crazy ideas and traditions. I know, we've been there. You miss out on local village fiestas because nobody told you when they were on - or because you think 2 am is a good time to sleep in summer. You don't get invited to the expats' parties, just because they don't know you (yet). You're won't go to the Encuentros Eco Vida because that's a bunch of hippies doing hippie things like working together (and you didn't come here to work, let alone on somebody else's land).
It's for you that we started doing Coffee & Cake Thursdays at Mas del Encanto. And for the locals who're curious about all these newcomers. And for those Spanish-speaking hippies, and the expat community, and the harem pants-wearing hippies. And anybody else who might be passing by.
Every Thursday from 10:30 to 12:30, we invite you to come and have a coffee (or tea, or juice, or water) with us. We'll bake the cakes, you just come to enjoy yourself, meet other people and chat about what's keeping you up at night - or what makes living here so great. We just ask a tiny participation of 1€ (or 1 Fura) per coffee & cake; or you can just have water, which is free. It's not about the cakes - it's about coming together, meeting people and socialising with neighbours.
Anyway, back to the cheesecake-brownie. This is a returning feature on Coffee & Cake Thursdays; it's easy to bake and to adapt, using seasonal fruit (or just jam, if it's no season for fresh fruit). And it's always a hit! Unless the banana bread cake is stealing the spotlights...
For this recipe, I've used bits and pieces of other recipes over the course of a few months and combined them into something I liked. Easy to make, not too sweet (but sweet enough!), and just delicious.
This will make a medium big tray of red fruit brownie cheesecake (about 12 people)
Ingredients for the brownie layer
200 gr chocolate (pure)
200 gr sugar (I use granulated cane sugar)
120 gr butter
30 ml olive oil
110 gr flour
Ingredients for the cheesecake layer
800 gr cream cheese (I use a combination of Mascarpone, Philadelphia and some fresh cottage cheese)
250 gr sugar (in my case, granulated raw cane sugar)
How to make the brownie layer
Melt the chocolate au bain marie
Mix the softened butter and sugar to a creamy mix
Add the eggs, chocolate and flour one by one - make sure they're well blended in
Pour the mix into a well-oiled cookie tray or pie mold (or put baking paper in the cookie tray so you can get it out easily).
How to make the cheesecake layer
That's an easy one... mix the cream cheese with the eggs and the sugar.
Gently pour on top of the brownie layer so it forms a smooth new layer.
How to make it even better with red fruit or berry jam
The first one of these I ever tasted, was at a tasting for a wedding cake at Baksels Amsterdam (if you're ever in Amsterdam, go get a slice of their heavenly stuff!). They've got the very best raspberry cheesecake brownie (an excellent way to start a marriage as well). When I still lived in Amsterdam, I would push frozen pieces of red fruit into the cheesecake layer. In a pinch a few weeks ago, I used lingonberry jam (yes, the one from Ikea) and that worked great). It's cherry season now though, so I'm using cherries now... and might try other red or darker fruits later in the year.
The whole thing can go into the oven at 170 degrees (350 Fahrenheit) for 45 minutes. Make sure you try putting a fork into the cake when time's up; if your fork comes out sticky and gooey, it needs 5-10 more minutes.
When it's time to serve it, go pick some borage flowers in the garden. They're not only pretty, they're edible too!
So, when's Coffee & Cake Thursdays at your place?