Friday, February 19, 2010

Black and White Cheesecake Squares and Gratitude Journals

Last year, a friend suggested that I begin keeping a gratitude journal, as a tool to nurture creativity and happiness. The concept is extremely simple, but according to many, it is transformative. Select a blank notebook, and each night, write down five things you are grateful for that day. Because you are writing for your eyes only, you can be as personal as you like. Try not to repeat yourself. This means that the big blessings like partners, children, friends and family are dealt with early on, and forces you to take note and take pleasure in the finer details of your life. So popular has the gratitude journal process become, that there is even a gratitude journal iPhone application, as well as various websites for those who would rather log their joys electronically, than with pen and paper.

I have only just started this process, so it is way too early to report on whether my creativity or happiness has been successfully nurtured however it has made me take note of the tiny moments of happiness that can get overlooked in the dizzy spin of a day around here. Sprinklings of bliss this week have come from:
- the divinely heavy smell of murraya flowers at dusk (orange jessamine to US readers)
- a good book in a long bath
- an excellent parking spot (the joy I get from this should never be underestimated)
- a lamb and onion sandwich created from leftovers
- a walk with a friend
- a helpful soul at the post office (also not to be underestimated)

These chocolate cheesecake squares gave me another moment of bliss a couple of weeks ago, as I watched a friend's daughter orbit around and around the plate until her mother said she could have one. For me, one of the great joys in cooking is watching the pleasure it gives others, especially when it is as pure and obvious as it was on this little girl's face. Definitely a moment of happiness that made me feel grateful .

Black and White Cheesecake Squares
from Martha
Makes 24

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
300g unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
21/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
250g cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup icing sugar

Preheat oven to 160C. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with baking paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on both long sides. Sift flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Cream butter and sugar with a mixer until smooth. Add 2 eggs and 2 teaspoons vanilla, and beat until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl. Reduce speed to low; add flour mixture. Increase speed to medium; beat until just incorporated. Reserve 1 cup of dough; cover, and refrigerate. Press remaining dough into bottom of prepared dish. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Bake until base is set and edges are puffed, about 25 minutes. Let cool in dish on a wire rack. Mix cream cheese, confectioners' sugar, and remaining egg and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla in a medium bowl. Spread over cooled base; crumble reserved dough on top. Bake until filling is set, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool in dish on wire rack, then lift out using overhang. Cut into 24 squares. Squares will keep in the fridge for three days.


Debinhawaii said...

The cheesecake squares look amazing! Funny, I just started using the gratitude journal app on my iphone but I was thinking that I think I would like it better if I wrote it--seems like it would be more meaningful that way.

Rachel said...

What a lovely, thoughtful post. I enjoyed reading your gratitudes very much. A wonderful idea.