3.5hrs, a hot day and the best cheesecake ever

Its my sister-in-laws birthday (you know, the brave one that took a knife out of my hands at Christmas) and I couldn't think of a better idea than to make her a birthday cake, rather than a store bought one.

She is an absolute Nutella fanatic. So I started googling all different nutella cheesecake recipes. The cheesecake is because I made one last year and she asked if she could book one in for her birthday (its amazing what I remember…or don't). I looked at all different kinds, and despite our oppressive heat and humidity I pretty much disregarded the no-bake versions out of hand. I know, I'm a cheesecake snob, but I just love the baked varieties.

I found this recipe for a New York Baked Nutella Cheesecake and got excited. Seriously. Its like my three favourite things IN A NAME. I did have to make a couple of substitutions based on what I had, and what I was prepared to spend (marscarpone is EXPENSIVE!!).

So rather than 600g of jacob's digestive biscuits, I used 500g Arnotts Choc Ripple biscuits and made up the difference with teddy bear biscuits. I stand by my choice.

And instead of 600g of marscarpone and 600g of cream cheese, I used 500g marscarpone and 700g cream cheese.

I didn't simmer my nutella jar, but I did fill my sink with hot water and sit the jar in that. (Hubby's idea, he's an ideas man). It worked just fine.

Oh, and while I'm remembering, instead of putting the filling ingredients in a food processor (because it wouldn't fit) I used the kitchenaid and did it that way. Much bigger capacity for 1.2kg of cheese and assorted other ingredients.

I checked the cake after 2.5hrs, and it was NOWHERE NEAR cooked. So after being told repeatedly by hubby that we have nowhere to be and to not stress, I put it back for another hour.

At which point, while a skewer did come out clean, the cake looked terrible. It had risen quite high, and cracked very badly, a section at the back had fallen off onto the base of the oven, and to be honest I felt beaten. I left it to cool down and hoped when I came back I would be able to inact the 'disguse the ugly bits' plan Hubby had come up with.

I will admit to being impressed by the height of the biscuit crumb. Even if I'm nervous about how we will cut it.

A second quick trip to the grocery store and we were in business with 'disguise the ugly top' plan.

Whipped cream and some flake crumbs later and I had a cake I am still extremely proud of.

It sliced up fine with a bit of downward force, and possible most important the birthday girl loved it.
 

It's a little grown up for the kiddies, but for us grown ups, it's smooth and lush and everything a cheesecake should be. If it's not oppressively hot where you are….you need to make this!

 

Its just a little crush

I have a girl crush. It’s true, I even told my husband about it (and my sister, my friends at work, pretty much anyone who’ll listen really). While my adorable niece was napping during my babysitting stint, I discovered Rachel Khoo and her little Paris kitchen.

I watched the first three episodes of the first season and I was in love. Her bright red lipstick, polka dot dresses, and her attitude in that tiny tiny kitchen were like a life affirming slap in the face. I wear red lipstick (not everyday granted), and have a growing collection of polka dot dresses and my kitchen IS MUCH BIGGER. Sadly I think we’re about on par for bench space though.

But it has encouraged me not to use my kitchen as an excuse not to try something. And while we’re enjoying a break in the relentless humidity I’m taking my inspiration from her and making a quiche. Not a quiche lorraine though, because I have some things to use up.

I had a quick look around the interweb for some shortcrust pastry recipes, and in the end went with the recipe from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking…..but not the method (blasphemous I know!). I really did just put everything except the water into the food processor and blitz it, then slowly added the water. When I tipped it out onto the cling wrap I realised the butter wasn’t as combined as I’d hoped.

I was valiantly hopeful that it wouldn’t matter. It probably didn’t….until after frying off some red onion and bacon and popping the oven on to preheat I realised that my kitchen was now too hot for pastry. I tried to roll it out….but it stuck to my baking paper, and was really more like a pastry spread. Much like what happened last time I just made the most of it, and spread it into my tin, the popped it into the oven for 10minutes.

My filling was red onion, bacon, a mixture of eggs and buttermilk, nutmeg, salt, pepper and then asparagus and a sprinkling of feta.

It made a very nice dinner for us, once I’d calmed down and gotten over my second pastry fail in a row (hey at least it was still edible). But my big takeaway right now is, if like me you live somewhere that is crazy hot and humid for a portion of the year, BUY pastry for that season, don’t try to make it. You’ll just end up frustrated and disappointed.

We had leftovers for a late lunch with a scoop of tomato relish. Now that was VERY nice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Calories be damned

Sometimes my mum or my sister will send me an email or text, or facebook message with a recipe that we just have to try. My sister sent me this one after she started watching the Mary Berry TV show.

I sat on it for probably two weeks. There was a lot of looking through my fridge and pantry to make sure I still had the ingredients (I did), and a lot of going back and going back (and going back) to reread the recipe.

My fingers started itching. I dug through my baking cupboard to make sure I had the right tin (I do!). And then finally, on a Friday night caved. Calories be damned I wanted chocolate tart.

The trouble is…..Brisbane in January is not a good time to bake. As an individual I'm already baking and you've never seen a cake, in the oven cooking, making a batch of cookies. There's a reason for that (and its nothing to do with cake being an inanimate object I assure you).

Still. I had to try. I did learn that Mary's receipe for pastry does NOT like Brisbane humidity (much like me) and fits your tin EXACTLY. There is no leftover pastry. It did shrink a little when I did the first bake, so the chocolate filling probably could have done two shells…..I couldn't face the heat again so I will admit I brought some premade shells the next day to use up the last of chocolate filling. It also freezes WONDERFULLY (much to the disgust of my workmates who usually reap the benefits of my baking). I put quite a lot of it in the freezer and I ate a slice today, straight from the freezer, and now have visions of using it as the base for the most epic ice cream cake…..

Please make this….on a day when you don't have 90% humidity.

Chocolate Fondant Tart – from Mary Berry Cooks

I followed the receipe on the BBC website almost to the letter, just substituting a little of the dark chocolate for milk….

 

It’s Turkey! One last time!

Well. I know I’m not Captain Reliable but that was an unexpectedly long break. I thought my Christmas/New Year mini-holiday would be hectic at the beginning (hello Christmas) and then basically a long leisurely week of batch cooking with my leftovers, a bit of baking, afternoon naps and glasses of cold wine (or Bacardi depending on my mood). It, in all honestly wasn’t quite like that, but I guess there were elements of it. Boxing Day I tore apart what was left of my turkey, weighed how much meat I had and started to make plans. Given we had both a turkey and a ham to use up, and that turkey really doesn’t last as long I went hard at that first.

There were of course Turkey Sandwiches. What kind of leftover person would I be if I didn’t make some sandwiches? But more excitingly there was Turkey Scrolls (thanks Great British Bake Off Christmas Book of awesome) and a creamy Turkey stew (which used up all sorts of other things I had left over) which I turned into some pasties, and then portioned up the rest and froze ready to be poured over rice, or baked potatoes or left over vegetables for easy lunches.

I am absolutely in love with the Great British Bake-Off Christmas Cookbook. I had actually ordered a copy for my sister for our birthday, and before wrapping it, cheekily had taken quick photos of the recipes I wanted to have a go at.

Imagine my surprise when I had my very own copy waiting gift wrapped on my birthday, not from my sister (that would have been too funny), but from my mum and dad? It was hilarious, especially given I’d sent mum the link to it and said ‘hey I love this, do you reckon Sophie would like it too?’. She must have been chuckling for weeks about that.

Anyway. Turkey scrolls. I did have to make a substitution. Unlike Paul I had no stuffing left over (what a crazy idea), and I wasn’t making more, so I fried off some diced bacon, shredded cabbage, garlic and sage instead. It used up what I had left over, and got similar kinds of flavours. It is a little dry, which is probably where having real stuffing would have helped, but I can overcome that with….oh I suppose butter, or a quick swipe of mayo and extra cranberry sauce/relish or even….oh…gravy?

We ate two hot from the oven, and I’ve batched up the rest for lunches. I had one yesterday, zapped in the microwave with a side of Caesar Salad. (Obviously the salad wasn’t zapped).

Not bad GBBO, not bad at all.

Turkey, Stuffing and Cranberry Chelsea Buns – adapted from Paul's Turkey, Stuffing and Cranberry Chelsea Buns, Great British Christmas Bakeoff

Ingredients

For the dough

  • 500g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 40g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 2 x 7g sachets fast-action dried yeast
  • 10g salt
  • 150ml warm milk

 

  • 1 x 270 jar of cranberry sauce
  • 300g leftover roast turkey, shredded
  • 200g leftover sage and onion stuffing (or in my case bacon and cabbage fried with garlic and sage)

Method

Place all the dough ingredients in a large bowl with 140ml water. Stir with your hands until a dough is formed, then slowly add 50ml more water and massage the dough in the bowl for 4 minutes.

Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead well of 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic (I sped this up with the electric mixer and a dough hook). Leave in the bowl to rise for 1 hour covered with a damp tea towel.

Tip the risen dough out onto a very lightly floured surface and roll out to a rectangle about 50 x 25cm and 5mm thick. Spread the cranberry sauce onto the surface of the dough, using a palette knife, then sprinkle the turkey and stuffing (or stuffing alternative!) on top.

Roll up the dough quite tightly towards you, starting with the long side furthest from you. For me the dough stuck quite badly to my countertop, so I used a dough scraper to keep pushing it along. Use a sharp knife to cut the rolled dough into 5cm thick rounds. Place cut side up in a buttered baking tray or roasting tin, spacing them 1cm apart (I couldn't, my tray wasn't big enough, but they seemed quite happy squished in together). Cover with a tea towel and leave for a second rise (1 hour in a warm place). Heat the oven to 200C.

Place the risen buns in the heated oven and bake for 15-20 mins, until golden brown. Leave to cool in the tray/tin for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack.

 

Orange you glad to see me?

I can't get the image of a hypnotised Christian Slater offering to get orange sherbert out of my mind. Mostly because I made orange creamsicle sherbert as part of a New Years Eve dessert. I had two oranges left over from the Christmas insanity so it seemed like a good way to use them up. And it's crazy hot here so cold desserts are better.

I cut the original recipe in half, because the whole recipe when I made strawberry ice cream broke the lid on my machine. This worked much better and was actually frozen when I took it out.

To go with my sherbert I borrowed a clementine cake recipe from Jamie's Great Britain cookbook, but instead of making a big cake, or predictable cupcakes, I used my brand new mini Bundt tray. I think they look adorable.

I'm skipping out on the lemon icing though, I think the sherbert is sugar enough!!

Happy New Year everyone, I hope 2015 is more good things than bad. Starting with cake and icecream hopefully bodes well!

Orange Creamsicle Sherbert – adapted from the Cuisinart Recipe Booklet

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup orange juice (about the juice of one naval orange)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons caster sugar
  • 3/4 cup thickened cream
  • 3/4 cup reduced fat milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Zest of half the orange

Method

Put the juice and sugar in a blender and blitz until the sugar has dissolved. Add the cream, milk, vanilla extract and zest then blitz to combine.

Pour into your ice cream maker and set for 60mins. One finished swap into an airtight container and pop into the freezer until you're ready to serve.

Little Orange Cakes – from Jamie's Great Britian cookbook, My Nan's Clementine Cake

Ingredients

  • 125g unsalted butter, softened plus extra for greasing the pan.
  • 225g golden caster sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 large orange (zest and juice)
  • 200g ground almonds
  • 100g self-raising flour

Method

Preheat your oven to 180C. Grease a 12 tin mini Bundt tray, or 12 cupcakes, or a 20cm loose-bottomed springform cake tin.

Beat the softened butter with 125g caster sugar and until it's light and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well inbetween. Add the zest, fold in the ground almonds and sift in the flour.e. Mix and gently combine everything before spooning into your chosen tin. Bake for about 30mins (less for mini bundts and cupcakes – keep an eye on them) or until risen and golden. Check with a skewer if uncertain, it should come out clean.

Leave to cool in the tin while you make the orange syrup.

Put the remaining 100g of caster sugar into a pan and add the juice of the orange. Place the pan on a medium heat for a few minutes until the sugar has dissolved. While the cake is still hot, poke lots of holes in the top with a cocktail stick and pour the syrup all over it. Once the syrup has been absorbed move to a wire rack to cool.

Serve cake and sherbert together in a very humid hot summers night.