Monday, 27 May 2013

Mini Lemon Cheesecakes

There are only four of us in my immediate family. My sister is away and my Mum doesn’t eat that many sweet things – so this leaves just me and my Dad to bake for. Whilst we wouldn’t exactly say no to eating layer cakes and batches of muffins and trays of scones, it’s hardly good for us and more often than not the food is no longer its freshest and best before we’ve had a chance to eat it and this waste is super annoying. It also limits my recipe choices: when I had some leftover cream cheese I knew immediately I wanted to make cheesecake but all the recipes I read were way out of my feasibility – calling for 700g of cream cheese, 400g of biscuits, finished bakes serving 12 etc. It was time to go it on my own!DSCF9514I don’t create my own recipes from scratch very often so I used this as a starting point but halved it to make it even smaller. I prefer chilled cheesecakes to baked – they seem to be creamier yet lighter and so much easier. I’ve also written before about how citrus desserts for me need to be rammed with flavour so I wanted this to be really punchy with lemon. These also gave me the chance to finally use my food rings which I got for birthday nearly a year ago now and had never used, and I was really pleased with how they turned out looking very neat! I wasn’t exactly sure how to use these so I just set the cheesecakes straight onto the little plates and then removed the ring at the end which actually worked well as I didn’t have  to risk moving them! Overall I loved the finished cheesecakes – they were the perfect size for a satisfying, slightly decadent individual treat and tasted divine. DSCF9517Mini Lemon Cheesecakes
Makes 3-4 mini cheesecakes

Ingredients: 50g butter

120g digestives

200g cream cheese

1tbsp creme fraiche

50g icing sugar

1 lemon, zest and juice

Method: 1. Heat the butter in the microwave until fully melted. Place the digestives in small plastic bag or bowl and use the end of a rolling pin to bash the biscuits to crumbs. Tip the biscuits into the melted butter and stir until fully combined then press a few teaspoons of crumbs into the base of each food ring.

2. Combine the cream cheese, cr̬me fraiche, icing sugar and lemon zest and juice all together in a bowl until smooth. Taste and tweak if you like Рthe exact quantities do not matter too much in this recipe, so feel free to add more sugar for more sweetness or some more lemon for a sharper cheesecake etc.

3. Spoon the cheesecake mixture between the food rings, pressing the mixture down and levelling the top to prevent air bubbles forming. Cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for 3-4 hours until firm.

4. To remove the cheesecake from the ring, I just warmed them slightly with my hands and ran a knife round the edge and then gently pulled the ring up and off. Zest a little more lemon over the top of the cheesecakes if you wish and enjoy! DSCF9518

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Chocolate Orange Cream Cheese Pound Cake

Baking, and food in general, can often be a comfort. That might seem strange at this time of year – fair enough to talk about comfort food in rainy November, but surely now that we’re in May (where has time gone?!) it’s time to be moving on to light, summery, bikini-ready food, right? Well, not necessarily. DSCF9480For starters, London summers take a long while to get going so the weather is only sporadically beginning to warm up here.  Secondly, just because it is summer doesn’t mean life stresses (I’m looking at you, exams!) don’t occur. And thirdly, when is cake ever a bad thing? That was my thinking recently when I had a stash of oranges that needed using up and I was looking for a new way to use them. With a title as good as this – Chocolate (tick) Cream Cheese (tick) Orange (tick) Cake (big tick) – this cake that I’ve had bookmarked forever finally got its day! Pound cake is an American classic but I’d never made it before and I think this was also my first time using cream cheese in a cake. DSCF9471I liked that the recipe made a properly generously sized cake – one that keeps well for a few days and is very much a cut-and-come-again cake. Despite sounding quite rich and indulgent, it really didn’t taste that way (particularly as I used slightly less chocolate than suggested) so it was perfect as a 4pm pick me up. I also liked the firm texture of a pound cake and am looking forward to trying out more – I think they would be the perfect sturdy cake to bake before a weekend away and take away with you. As I mentioned, it was my first time baking with cream cheese and I had mixed feelings about the results in that respect. Whilst you could taste it in the cake batter, the flavour really cooked out in the oven and I guess the cream cheese is really there to provide texture. I was a bit disappointed by this as I love the flavour, but I guess if you wanted you could add indulgence to this cake with a cream cheese icing! You can find the original Joy the Baker recipe here – enjoy!

Sunday, 12 May 2013

White Cobb Loaf

Sometimes I think that the foodie and blogging world can do weird things to baking patterns. Like when Larkin, a finalist on the most recent series of Masterchef, could make incredible multi dimension main courses, often using molecular gastronomy techniques and equipment, but had never made a dessert before he entered the series! Or when contestants on Great British Bake Off can whip up stunning towering layer cakes but have never made jam before. I am exactly the same (albeit on a smaller scale!). I am approaching my 5th blogoversary and 200th post so I’ve made dozens of cakes, cookies, pies and tarts. But I’d never made a simple loaf of bread. DSCF9536I’ve made tomato fougasse, focaccia, pizza dough, naan, bagels, pitta breads, hot cross buns , rosemary honey fruit bread and cheesy tear and share bread. But never a plain white loaf! It was time to go back to basics and change this. I chose a Paul Hollywood recipe following his recent bread television series and the tempting round cobb loaf recipe, a traditional style that really reminded me of big loaves we used to get from the bakery on a Saturday when I was younger. DSCF9534I was so pleased when this turned out well! I’m always nervous of making bread and some of the more complicated breads I listed before did not turn out quite as I’d like – too flat, yeasty or dry. I really took my time when making this and I think this is probably the key with baking bread – it can’t (and shouldn’t) be rushed in order to get the perfect loaf. I loved this loaf warm straight out the oven but it lasted nicely for a few days (although the crispy crust softened) and made great toast. You can find the recipe here – enjoy!

ALSO: Exciting news today – a few weeks ago I was interviewed by Podium for a podcast all about baking and blogging and it is now online and available to listen to here!DSCF9541

Monday, 6 May 2013

Heston’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

Okay, so there a lot of chocolate chip cookies out there. And a lot of them are referred to as ‘the best’ or ‘perfect’. A lot of them have twists – butterscotch chips, caramel centres, the zest of an orange. However, I think there is a strong case to be made for adding these cookies to the collection. DSCF9148I’d never tried a recipe by Heston Blumenthal before – his signature style displayed in his restaurant and TV shows is truly complicated molecular gastronomy with lots of equipment and ingredient lists involving chemicals and numbers so I’ve always been pretty intimidated! Having said that, I do have a couple of his recipes in my To Bake list and if they’re anything like these cookies I’m hoping they’ll turn out really well. This is probably one of the simplest Heston recipes but he’s still added an extra step to the simple cookie – instead of just throwing in some chocolate chips, you make and freeze your own chocolate ganache before chopping it into tiny chunks and stirring it through the dough. It is a bit faffy by adding more time to the recipe (and the ganache melts fairly quickly when you’re chopping it) but really it just requires a bit of extra planning and the results are so worth it. Instead of getting slightly burnt chocolate on the base of the biscuit, the ganache stays really creamy and soft and is better distributed than little chips. The recipe makes big, chewy, classic American cookies – stereotypically perfect with a big glass of milk.DSCF9146I kicked myself after making these for leaving the ganache plain – I think the zest of an orange or dash of cointreau would have been delicious – but I guess their simple flavours is part of the cookies charm. Plus, that just means I have an excuse to make these again! I found the recipe here – enjoy!DSCF9156