Whew, birthday month is over. There are just too many amazing people in my life born in the month of January. It started with my very own birthday (ahem!), to a couple of my colleagues’, to my mum’s, to my best friend’s and right through to the hubby’s on the last day of the month. Many celebratory meals in the form of a picnic, a hoity-toity degustation, brunches, lunches and dinners were had. Good times often do come with expanding waistlines! This is another reason why I never have weight-loss new year resolutions. It’s pointless.
Now the one thing my hubby enjoys most for his birthday is to have his very own home-made birthday cake (preferably all to himself) which he can enjoy throughout his birthday week.
This year, I whipped out his all-time favourite baked blueberry cheesecake. I’m not even sure where I got this recipe from, but it is one of my rare, handwritten recipes in my book which I have tried and enjoyed countless times. I doubt it was from a cookbook (why else would I have re-written it), or that it was found online (maybe? but I can’t seem to find the exact same recipe again).
Wherever it’s from, I’m just glad I have it, and now I’m sharing it here. So go forth my friends, bake, eat and prosper!
BAKED BLUEBERRY CHEESECAKE
Makes a 9″/24cm cake
For the base
200g digestives biscuits
100g melted butter
For the cheesecake
1 x 250g cream cheese (I use Philadelphia)
1/3 cup whipping cream
1 cup sugar
2 tbsp plain flour
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup sour cream
1/3 cup melted butter
1 cup of blueberries (I usually put in at least 1/2 a cup more!)
1. Lightly grease a springform cake tin. Process digestive biscuits to fine crumbs in a food processor. Mix crumbs and melted butter well in a bowl before layering it on the base of the cake tin. Press down evenly and firmly. Leave the tin in the fridge while you prepare the rest of the cake.
2. Preheat oven to 220C/420F.
Beat cream cheese, cream, sugar, eggs, flour, cornstarch, vanilla extract and lemon juice until light.
3. Gently mix in sour cream and melted butter. The mixture is quite runny. Gently fold in blueberries.
5. Remove tin from the fridge, pour in cake mixture.
6. Bake in the oven at 220C/420F for 15 minutes, then lower the oven and bake at 140C/280F for about an hour or until cake is no longer wobbly in the middle. I rotate my cake halfway through for even baking.
Best served fully cooled.
I have a problem. I own a number of really amazing cookbooks and have recently added a few more to my collection. I love browsing through them and getting ideas for recipes as well as oogle at the gorgeous food photography or typography. But when it comes to last minute cooking inspiration, I tend to just whip out the iPhone or iPad and surf the web. Whaaatt??
Take last Sunday for example, I woke up and decided that I needed to bake. I didn’t care what, I just wanted to get the butter, sugar and flour out. So instead of getting out of bed and flipping through my cookbooks, I stayed in bed and surfed YouTube for recipes. Gosh, how low can one go right?
This recipe for fudgey brownies came from Laura Vitale of Laura in the Kitchen. I’m sure we all have our ‘go-to’ brownie recipe, I had one too. But after watching Laura’s version, I chucked my age-old high school brownie recipe and dived straight into the kitchen for my baking therapy.
Loved, loved, loved this fudgey brownie. Chewy and super chocolatey – just the way I think brownies should be and it’s really easy to make. No excuses for anyone wanting to reach for the pre-mixed brownie box!
Adapted from Laurainthekitchen.com
140g (5 oz) of unsalted butter, at room temperature
200g (7 oz) of 70% dark chocolate, melted
200g (approx 1 cup) of castor sugar
2 tsp of vanilla extract
¼ tsp of salt
1 tbsp cocoa powder
2 large eggs
2 tbsp of espresso coffee
75 g (2/3 cup) of plain flour
Preheat oven to 180C (350F). Spray an 8 by 8 inch square pan with non stick cooking spray and lay the bottom with parchment paper. Set aside.
In a large bowl whisk together the sugar and butter until fluffy. Add the eggs, vanilla extract and espresso. Beat until all is combined.
Add the melted chocolate and whisk, add the dry ingredients and mix everything together until it’s incorporated but don’t over mix.
Pour batter into your prepared pan, spread evenly and bake for about 40 minutes or until when a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with moist crumbs but not wet batter.
Cool for about 5 minutes in the pan and then transfer them to a cooling rack to cool completely.
There are days when I feel like baking and in my head I picture elaborate layered cakes with glossy frosting or perfect pastries with melt in the mouth creme patissiere. The reality is I’d rather get the baking done quickly so I can sit in front of the TV and stuff my face with cake. The sooner done, the better. And who am I kidding? Elaborate layered cakes only live somewhere in my head probably from a snapshot of someone else’s hard work on the web or in cookbooks.
So at times like these, I could pop around the corner to the mini supermarket and get a loaf of factory made shrink wrapped madeira cake (triple yuck) or I take out my cake tray, pause the TV and get cracking on this.
Red velvet cake and cream cheese frosting are like BFFs. So when I discovered that cream cheese which I thought was in my fridge didn’t really exist, I resorted to cream cheese frosting’s much lighter and healthier cousin – meringue frosting. Sweeeeeet.
Red Velvet Sheet Cake with Meringue Frosting
Cake recipe adapted from The Pioneer Woman and Smitten Kitchen
- 1 cup canola oil (instead of shortening which was in the original recipe)
- 1-3/4 cup Sugar
- 2-1/2 cups Cake Flour
- 1-1/4 teaspoon Salt
- 2 whole Eggs
- 1 cup Buttermilk
- 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
- 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
- 1-1/2 teaspoon Vinegar
- 1-1/2 ounce, fluid Red Food Coloring
- 1-1/2 teaspoon Cocoa Powder (not Dutch processed, just the regular stuff)
Preheat oven to 180 C (350F) degrees. Thoroughly spray a large sheet cake pan with baking spray, be generous with the spray.
Whisk cake flour, cocoa and salt in a bowl.
Place oil and sugar in bowl of an electric mixer and beat at medium speed until well-blended. Beat in eggs one at a time. With machine on low, very slowly add red food coloring. Add vanilla. Add flour mixture alternately with buttermilk in two batches. Scrape down bowl and beat just long enough to combine.
Place baking soda in a small dish, stir in vinegar and add to batter with machine running. Beat for 10 seconds.
Pour batter into prepared sheet cake pan. Even out the surface. Bake for 20 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Remove pan from oven and allow cake to cool completely before icing.
Italian Meringue Frosting
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
3 egg whites (room temperature)
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla or other flavoring
2 tablespoons sugar
Mix 2/3 cup sugar and water together and bring to a boil until a temperature of 275 is reached on a candy thermometer.
As the syrup reaches its temperature, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar, 2 tablespoons sugar until the whites form soft peaks.
Remove syrup from heat add the syrup in a small stream while continuing to beat the mixture with the electric mixer.
Beat about 3 more minutes. The mixture will form glossy peaks and thicken.
Add the vanilla and mix a bit more.
Frost the cake immediately.
*Although this frosting is super easy to make and is much healthier than cream cheese, it doesn’t keep as well. Maximum two days refrigerated – that is if your cake lasts that long to begin with!
We all know Heston Blumenthal is amazing. Usually his recipes involve stuff that sounds more like a science experiment – dry ice, paint sprays, super chillers etc but his latest TV gig ‘How to cook like Heston’ has a few recipes that are meant for regular folks! Hooray!
The first episode was about eggs. How to poach, scramble, make scotch eggs and bacon and egg ice-cream like Heston. Yeah right, bacon and egg ice-cream…let me just pop to the store and get some dry ice after work and I’ll whip some up! Not!
To be fair, this particular lemon tart recipe from the egg episode was easy to follow and not bizarre in any way.
The only tart tin I had was a shallow one so I couldn’t get the same proportion of luscious lemon custard to pastry the same way Heston did. Actually I had more pastry than lemon custard but it tasted really, really good. All lemony, smooth and sweet. Oh alright, I need to get a proper tart tin and try this again.
Original recipe below from ‘Heston Blumenthal at Home’
(I halved the recipe to fit a shallow 30 cm tart tin)
For the pastry
300g plain flour
150g unsalted butter
½ tsp salt
120g icing sugar
3 large egg yolks
Seeds from ½ vanilla pod
Finely grated zest of ½ lemon
1 egg for the egg wash
For the filling
Finely grated zest and juice of 5 lemons
300ml double cream
390g white caster sugar
9 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1.Using a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix the flour, butter and salt on low speed until it becomes a sand like texture (approximately 2-3 minutes).
2.In the meantime, in a tall container blitz together the icing sugar and egg yolks with a hand blender.
3.Add the vanilla seeds and lemon zest to the egg yolk mixture and then add to the bowl in the mixer and continue to mix on low speed until fully combined and a very soft dough has formed (approximately 3-5 minutes).
4.Mould the dough into a flat rectangle and wrap it in clingfilm before placing in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
5.Roll the pastry between two sheets of baking paper to a thickness of 2mm, using two stacked 2 pence coins as guides, then place in the freezer for 30 minutes.
6.Pre-heat the oven to 190ºC/gas mark 5. Line a 26cm tart tin (2.5cm deep) with the pastry making sure to press it into the edges and leaving the pastry hanging over the edge.
7.Take a sheet of baking paper and scrunch it up several times to eliminate any sharp edges. Prick the dough with a fork all over the surface. Place the baking paper on top and add enough coins (or baking beans) to fill the casing ¼ of the way up. Place in the preheated oven to bake for approximately 20 minutes or until fully cooked.
8.In the meantime, mix some of the leftover dough with an egg using a hand blender.
9.After 20 minutes, remove the baking paper and coins and, using a pastry brush, brush the entire surface of the tart with the dough and egg mixture. This ‘liquid pastry’ will ensure that any holes will be sealed. Return the tart to the oven for an additional 10 minutes.
10.Remove the tart from the oven and allow to cool completely.
11.When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 120ºC/gas mark ½. Place the baked pastry case in the oven to warm up.
12.Put all the filling ingredients into a bowl and mix together using a spatula. Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and allow to warm up until the temperature reaches 60ºC. At this point, strain the mixture through a fine sieve into a jug. With a spoon, remove the bubbles from the surface of the liquid.
13.Slide the oven rack out a bit, then pour the mixture into the warm pastry case inside the oven. Fill the case to the top, slide the rack carefully back in, and bake the tart for approximately 25 minutes or until the temperature of the filling reaches 70ºC. Allow to cool completely at room temperature.
14.Just before serving, trim the overhanging pastry by running a sharp knife round the top of the tart tin and discard. .
I go absolutely ga-ga over Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia.
I even took a photo with it when I went to the B&J factory in Vermont five years ago…okay swooning over a poster = not a good look.
I love the full fat version as well as the not-so-fat frozen yogurt version. Love love love! Thus it’s no surprise that I thought of making my very own Cherry Garcia ice cream with my haul of Tassie cherries. It’s such a simple recipe that I kick myself for not making it sooner – B&J stocks very limited flavours in the UK and Australia – it’s always Phish food and Cookie Dough, Phish food and Cookie dough…yawn I’m bored already, show me some new flavours! But now that I have my own homemade CG, I shall fret no more…muahahaha!
Even better, this recipe is eggless which means it’s even easier to make! If you are a CG fan like me, you have to get some of this homemade stuff in your belly right now!
EGGLESS CHERRY GARCIA
Makes about 1.5 pints
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup sugar (most recipes call for more sugar but I didn’t want it too sweet)
200g pitted cherries, whole
200g pitted cherries, roughly chopped
50g shaved dark chocolate
1. Warm up milk, cream and sugar just till the sugar is all dissolved.
2. Add whole cherries to the mixture and with a hand held blender, blitz till smooth.
3. Stir through chopped cherries. Store mixture in a container and chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours, or overnight.
4. Churn in ice-cream maker, following manufacturer’s instructions. The final churned product will still be soft, so return the ice cream to a covered container and leave in freezer until firmed up. (About another hour or so)
It’s the last day of 2011!!! Oh my, how time flies. This has been an amazing year starting off with our final months in the UK, enjoying a luxurious Mexican vacation, saying farewell to our wonderful friends in the big smoke, witnessing my brother in law’s wedding in Vietnam, moving home to Melbourne Australia, setting up a new home, starting and ending a new job within a few weeks, enjoying funemployment for a few months and now here I am, fresh from my Christmas vacation in beautiful Tasmania and ready for 2012. Busy no?
I’m very thankful for all of God’s blessings, including a year of good health for me and my family and friends. I’ve also had a few blissful month of funemployment, but I am also pleased to say that I will be back in the rat race starting next week. New year, new job, new hopes, new adventures. I can’t wait!
One of this year’s many blessings is this.
Meet my new and totally adorable friend – my PINK Cuisinart ice cream maker. I think I’m becoming more and more of a girly girl. My once black, blue and grey wardrobe is being taken over by splashes of colours, pink included. And this trend has obviously seeped into my kitchenware! Gaaahhh!
So with this new pink gadget, I decided to make a more “manly” ice cream. A dark, super duper chocolatey ice cream. It’s easy, and egg-free and this method of making ice cream with corn flour guarantees a creamy and very smooth dessert.
Have a wonderful new year’s eve, go a little crazy cos you can, don’t drink and drive and may 2012 start off with a bang (yes to fireworks!) and filled with more deliciousness in your lives! xx
Eggless Very Chocolate Ice Cream
Serves 4 – 6
350 ml whole milk
350 ml cream
1/2 cup sugar
4 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
3-4 tablespoons of corn starch
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1. Whisk together 200 ml of the milk with the corn starch, making sure that there are no lumps. Set aside for now.
2. Blend the remaining milk, cream, sugar, salt and vanilla extract in a sauce pan. Warm until steaming hot on medium heat. Now, stir in the cocoa and corn starch mixture with the rest of the ingredients in the sauce pan. Barely reaching a boil, cook and stir continuously for about five minutes, or until the mixture begins to thicken.
3. Reduce the heat and continue to stir for another five minutes until the mixture has thickened even further.
4. Remove from the heat and let the mixture cool down. Refrigerate for a couple of hours and prepare according to the instructions of your ice cream machine