Monthly Archives: September 2011

Caramelised plum cake

It’s plum season and I’m enjoying having a daily fix of tasty English plums.

That is, until the following hitch in my plummy plan (the following is probably exaggerated for comic effect, but this does not mean that any time Henry is sitting at his computer he does not hear a word I say):
Me (very busy): Are you ok going to the supermarket without me?
Henry: Yes, of course dear
Me: I put plums on the list… you know the plums I like? English plums? That are like this (indicating plum shape) not round?
Henry: Yes, of course dear
Later: Henry has bought the shopping. The plums are the round ones that are not so good for eating. Of course, being a dutiful wife I plan to cook with these plums and quietly buy my own ones and not say anything about it (apart from subsequently exposing the whole sordid affair on my blog. Naturally)

So. There were plums for cooking. We were going to my sister’s house in the country(ish) on the weekend, to pick the apples from the tree in the garden and have a jolly little apple factory with peeling and slicing and stewing. I said I’d bring cake, and it had to be quick to make because instead of spending the morning baking we spent the morning shopping… Well, when your husband gets rid of most of his wardrobe and declares he needs some smart, grown-up-type people clothes, I’m not one to disagree.

This is where this cake comes in. It met all the criteria. It had plums. It was quick to make. It was, indeed, a cake. And it had that rustic country feeling that I experience every time I visit my sister and her husband in the country (that is, until the novelty wears off and I wish I were back in the city).

Caramelised plum cake

Ingredients
For the plums:
6 plums
50g granulated sugar (or try demerara, light or dark brown soft sugar)
1 tablespoon butter

For the cake:
115g butter
100g granulated sugar
2 eggs
100g self-raising flour
50g ground almonds (you can leave these out if you are planning to feed the cake to anyone with a nut allergy)

Serves 8

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease a deep 8 inch cake tin (use a springform one, or one where the bottom comes out)
2. Caramelise the plums. Put the sugar in a saucepan and heat until it starts to caramelise. Slice the plums and add with the butter, stirring to coat
3. Meanwhile, make the cake. Cream the butter and sugar, then add the eggs one at a time, and finally the flour and ground almonds
4. Pour the cake batter into the prepared tin, then tip in the caramelised plums (don’t worry if there is still runny caramel)
5. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a knife stuck in the centre of the cake comes out clean

Best served warm.

Caramelised plum cake

I think it turned out pretty well! So well, in fact, that I may buy the erroneous plums on purpose to make it again. Caramelising the plums managed to get some flavour out of them. When I first sliced them up there didn’t seem to be a drop of juice in them, or a drop of flavour either, but the cake was filled with plummy goodness – this would be very good for using up a bad batch of plums. I think you could also use nectarines, and serve with whipped cream, or sour cream, or yogurt or ice cream for a tasty pudding. Or just have it as is with a nice cup of tea, sitting in the city, daydreaming of fields and apple trees and autumn.

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One a Day Cheesecake (or, hazelnut caramel chocolate cheesecake)

I never used to like cheesecake. This fact would enough to make me very sad and angry, now that I have discovered the One a Day Cheesecake, except that the recipe book it’s from (The Humingbird Bakery – Cake Days) was only recently published. So I haven’t been missing out for that long.

It was pure luck that led me to make this cheesecake. Henry bought me the book (which I highly recommend) for my birthday, then got a new job. Obviously my natural response was to bake something from my new recipe book to celebrate. The cheesecake looked so tasty – all I had to do was get Henry to use his remaining days of being a stay-at-home husband to pick up an obscene amount of cream cheese and we were good to go.

caramel hazelnut chocolate cheesecake

I have come to realise that I find it almost pathologically impossible to follow any recipe to the letter. I tend to skim read then erroneously reconstruct the instructions in my head, then read again after the relevant step to find out I’ve done it differently. Or I can’t be fussed with having two different types of butter in my kitchen. And I definitely can’t be bothered with lining things with baking parchment. I suppose I am also blessed in that the vast majority of what I make turns out fine (and comes out of the pan…) – perhaps if it didn’t I would be a more conscientious baker. But I promise you this works – so here is the glory I call the One a Day Cheesecake.

Serves one (me) , or two at a push, for a good five days

Ingredients
Biscuit base:
220g digestive biscuits
100g butter

Cheesecake:
700g cream cheese
120g granulated sugar
3 eggs
50g caramel or dulce de leche (you can buy it ready made in a tin, or make your own if you are inclined)
50g good-quality dark chocolate, at least 70% cocoa solids

Topping:
More caramel/dulce de leche (if you want to be scant you can be scant, likewise if you want to be generous do so. The original recipe suggests 4 tablespoons. I just poured it on until I felt like stopping)
50g toasted chopped hazelnuts (dry fry in a pan, shaking often to toast. When they’re browning, tip onto a plate to cool. If you have whole hazelnuts, whack a few times with a rolling pin to break them up a bit)

You will also need an 8 inch diameter cake tin, either spring-form or one where the base comes out.

Method:
1.  Grease the cake tin very well
2. Crush the biscuits in a bowl with a rolling pin, or blend in a food processor until they are all crumbs. Melt the butter and add to the biscuit crumbs
3. Stir well, then press into the greased cake tin and put in the fridge while you make the rest. Preheat the oven to 160C
4.  With an electric whisk, cream the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each and taking care to scrape down the sides of the bowl
5. Take out a third of the mixture and set aside (preferably in a bowl… not just on your kitchen counter)
6.  To the 2/3 mix, add the caramel and stir well. To the 1/3 mix, melt the chocolate and stir in
7. Spread the caramel cheesecake mix onto your biscuit base, then spread the chocolate cheesecake mix on top
8. Wrap the cake tin in foil from the bottom upwards, then bake in a bain-marie (the foil is so that no water leaks into the cheesecake) for 35-45 minutes – until the cheesecake is mostly set but still with a wobble in the middle
9. (ESSENTIAL STEP)* Allow the cheesecake to cool to room temperature, then put it in the fridge to set for a few hours. Remove it from its tin and top with the caramel and toasted hazelnuts

caramel chocolate hazelnut cheesecake

*I am too used to baking things that go into the oven liquidy and come out more solid. This cheesecake comes out of the oven still liquidy. Luckily I took a photo before I cut into it, but I was too keen to try it (and it was about 11pm by this time and I wasn’t going to stay up to allow for chilling time). When I took out a couple of slices, there was a sort of cheesecake landslide and it all ended up very sunken and messy. I was amazed when the next day it was all set (amazed like, “wow! I didn’t know it would do that!” because I really thought I’d undercooked it despite my oven being preheated and cooking it for the specified time). So yes, chilling time is essential, unless you are really really hungry and don’t mind having a sunken landslide cheesecake mess. It’s not that much of a disaster as it just means that it is not in a state to be seen by others as it might cast doubt on your baking prowess, so you have to eat it all yourself.

One last thing, why do I call it the One a Day Cheesecake? Because I believe I could happily eat a slice of this cheesecake every single day for the rest of my life and not get sick of it. It is delightfully textural with the creamy cheesecake and crunchy hazelnuts, and the chocolate layer really makes it something special. I did have a mini-depression when I finished it then wanted a slice after rollerskating. I missed the cheesecake… like a lost lover snatched from a dream. Though, it has put me on a real cheesecake kick, so I am excited to explore what other cheesecakey delights are out there. Watch this space.