One of the things I’ve noticed since becoming pregnant (and ‘showing’ pregnant more to the point) is just how many people talk to you. Total strangers will embark on conversations; they will literally stop you on the street to make a comment either positively or negatively about your pregnancy. For example, walking back from Putney yesterday a chap stopped me just to tell me how massive I was!
It’s taken a little while to get used to and in my case I’ve probably received a lot more remarks than most because I still go to the gym each day.
I’ve been incredibly lucky throughout my pregnancy as I’ve really felt just fine. Yes in the first trimester I was a little more tired and I have had the odd day where I felt whacked, but looking back over the last 9 months I’ve really been very spoilt.
I’ve had to slowly adapt what I do; the running stopped at about 4 months, body combat classes at 6 months, spinning at 7 months and the high intensity exercises have slowly decreased. But I’ve continued with my weights classes and general CV, but over the last few months I’ve really started to enjoy swimming. From thinking it’s the most boring activity, I’ve now taken to my 100 lengths each morning with a renewed sense of vigour. It’s probably because it’s one of the few times you actually don’t feel pregnant! Weightless and able to stretch out properly is quite a luxury at this point.
When I’m in the gym though you really do get a mixed bag of comments. Some people think it’s really unsafe to be in there and will give you looks of utter disgust along with a snide comment. But the majority think it’s great and wish they’d done the same.
I’ve had the motto throughout that as long as you listen to your body, it’ll let you know if something doesn’t feel right. I’ve also spent a lot of time reading round the topic to understand for example when you should stop doing any sit-ups or varying intensity levels for different types of exercise so I’ve felt confident that I know what I’m doing.
At the end of it, you have to remember, you’re not ill, you’re just pregnant!
To me exercise is an important part of my life balance, a bit like your diet. If you eat healthily 90% of the time then it’s totally fine to have some of the delicious brownies that I baked this week! Maternity leave is great… lots of time to bake lots of sweet treats.
I actually only chose these because I had ¾ of a tub of cream cheese in the fridge that was going to end up in the bin which seemed like a total waste. I had a flick through a few baking cookbooks and came across these chocolate cherry cheesecake brownies in the Outsider Tart cookbook.
I’ve blogged previously about the Outside Tart Bakery which is located in Chiswick when I made some cinnamon puffs that were just delicious but also a little bit different to what you might normally find in your average cookbook. And these brownies, made me think they might just be different to your average brownie as well.
There really aren’t any fruits I don’t like, but cherries might be slightly lower down the favourites list. If I’d seen these brownies on display at the café I have to be honest, it wouldn’t have been first on my list to try.
But, wow, I was so wrong!
Normally you think of raspberries and chocolate as a fabulous combination, but there was something about the dried cherries and rich dark chocolate that just worked so well. It really was a surprisingly great match. I was also a little unsure that dried cherries would work better than fresh ones, but I followed the recipe to the letter and I’m glad I didn’t go off-piste.
The dried cherries held their form and it was the slightly chewy fruity mouthfuls that really brought out the chocolate flavor. The cream cheese added the required creaminess to prevent it becoming a chocolate overload and meant that you didn’t need any ice cream or cream with it. Obviously I had a dollop of ice cream on top, but, I need the calories.
Of course they are reminiscent of ingredients you might use in a black forest gateau but like I said earlier, if that might not be your normal dessert favourite, don’t let it put you off baking these. You might just be a surprised how addictive these brownies are.
Chocolate cherry cheesecake brownies
From the Outsider Tart Bakery Cookbook
Makes about 15-18 brownies
For the chocolate batter:
115g unsalted butter, softened
120g chopped (70% cocoa) dark chocolate
160g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
4 large eggs
120g granulated sugar
2 tsps vanilla extract
½ tsp almond extract (optional)
200g dried cherries (not glacier cherries!)
For the cream cheese topping:
115g softened butter
225g cream cheese
175g granulated sugar
3 large eggs
3 tbs plain flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
Butter a brownie tray (approx. 12x9x2 inches) and then line the bottom and sides with baking parchment.
To make the cream cheese topping:
In a bowl cream together the butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy using an electric mixer. Slow down the speed and then add your sugar, eggs, flour and vanilla and blend until just combined. You want the mixture to be smooth but not a texture that has become runny and frothy. Set the bowl aside.
To make the chocolate batter:
Melt the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a simmering saucepan of water. Be careful that the water does not touch the bowl at all. Once melted remove from the heat.
In a separate bowl, whisk together you flour, baking powder and salt.
In another bowl (that you can use with your electric mixer) start with combining your eggs and sugar on a medium speed until slightly thickened.
Reduce your speed down and slowly add your dry ingredients, until they are just combined.
By hand stir in your melted chocolate, vanilla and almond extracts.
Spread half the chocolate batter in the prepared tin and smooth it out so that you have an even layer.
Sprinkle on your dried cherries so that they are evenly distributed and gently push them in slightly to your batter.
Now pour on all your cream cheese topping and jiggle the pan or using a knife try to even the layer out.
Using a spoon dollop on the remaining chocolate batter over the creamcheese layer.
Using a knife, gently swirl the chocolate batter and the creamcheese together – this will create a marbled effect. Don’t go overboard though as the more swirling you keep doing, the less marbled it will become!
Bake for about 30-35 minutes, at which point your topping should be slightly puffy and starting to darken. Use a small knife to see if your centre is cooked by inserting it into the brownie, it should come out pretty clean. The streaks on the knife should look like cooked brownie.
Let the brownie cool before chilling it in the fridge for a few hours or preferably overnight.
Cut into even squares and enjoy!