Category Archives: Dessert

Chocolate and peanut butter cheesecake

Henry is away in Sweden, so I decided to make him a nice welcome-home cheesecake…. well… okay I admit it, I wanted cheesecake! BUT I did decide to make a sort of Henry-themed one as a kind of “you’ve been away nerding out and eating junk food for five days, now have some cheesecake” sentiment. See? I had everyone’s best interests at heart.

Now, a couple of weeks ago he asked me to make some sort of pumpkin and bourbon cheesecake concoction. Luckily tinned pumpkin, one of the chief ingredients, is not readily available in the UK. At least, none jumped out at me as I was browsing the peanut butter shelves in Sainsbury’s. Obviously, I had thought about what alternate flavour Henry might like, and quite quickly settled on peanut butter. That wasn’t hard, seeing as he has been known to eat spoonfuls of the stuff as a snack. (He claims it’s a nutritionally sound snack, secretly I think it’s one of those things you eat because you were never allowed to as a child; for example, cereal for dinner – in fact cereal for every meal, and snacks too – or coffee and hula hoops for “brunch” on a weekend.) Of course it had to be peanut butter and chocolate, because, well, why would you not add chocolate?

chocolate peanut butter cheesecake

Clearly, things are better when there are layers.

I prettymuch used the recipe I used for the one a day cheesecake:

Ingredients
Biscuit base:
220g digestive biscuits
100g butter

Cheesecake:
700g cream cheese
120g granulated sugar
3 eggs
75g smooth peanut butter
100g good-quality dark chocolate, at least 70% cocoa solids, melted

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 with butter
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. Pour half of the mixture into a bowl
6.  To one half, add the peanut butter; to the other half, add the melted chocolate
7. Pour the peanut butter layer onto the base and smooth it out with a spatula, then pour the chocolate layer on top and smooth that out too
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.  Allow the cheesecake to cool to room temperature, then remove it from the tin onto a plate and put it in the fridge to set for a few hours

The finished article:

Ignore that tiny crack that I just pointed out (on the plus side, this was a result of careless manhandling rather than it cracking while baking).

Total deliciousness… I had my first helping with a sliced banana, then my second helping on its own. The third helping was a pre-dinner snack (it’s good for you). I expect Henry will enjoy his washed down with a glass of milk. I just hope, when he does get back, he doesn’t mind that a significant portion is missing.

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.

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.

Chocolate espresso pots

I had a hankering for chocolate espresso pots. Perhaps it was because I had been going to make a chocolate tart but then didn’t, or because we were eating al fresco and a little dessert in an espresso cup seemed fitting. The use of pancetta may also have had something to do with it. Sometimes it’s nice to make an event out of dinner on a random weeknight.

Now I was sure I had a recipe for these, but when I looked it up it wasn’t the recipe I thought. So after consulting several recipes and deciding I didn’t want to use 6 egg yolks (meringue/macaroon anyone?), I took matters into my own hands and made up my own recipe.

Serves 4

Ingredients
50g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
150ml double cream
1 tsp instant coffee granules
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp dark brown soft sugar
pinch salt

Method
Break the chocolate into pieces. Add the cream and microwave for 1 minute on high. Stir until choc is melted, then whisk in the egg yolk. Once smooth, mix in sugar, salt and coffee until all smooth. Divide between four espresso cups and chill for at least a couple of hours before serving.

I very much enjoyed these. I would happily serve these at a dinner party as a mini dessert if I’d made a really big main, or even as an extra bonus dessert for people too full for the chocolate tart (or greedy enough to want both). Or for a decadent weeknight, as they really took next to no time to actually make. One egg white is not too hard to use up. I am fairly sure my cupboard will always have at least 50g dark chocolate in it. You could easily mix them up by adding vanilla instead of coffee granules, or orange chocolate, or baileys, or rum… definitely rum. I think I will be making these again very soon.

Dulce de leche

Last week I made dulce de leche. We had a fair bit of milk that was on the point of going bad, and what better way to use it than to add sugar and turn it into dulce?

I loosely followed Alton Brown’s recipe , but I had no vanilla so had to skip that. It still tasted damn good. I also switched to metric because I don’t have anything to measure a quart with (nor, most likely, will I ever).

You will need:
950ml milk
1.5 cups sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
An evening

What to do:
1. Mix together the milk and sugar in a saucepan
2. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved
3.  Add the baking soda and stir to combine, then turn the heat down to very low (so it is barely simmering) and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally but ignoring the foam that will appear on top
4.  Carry on until it has turned a dark caramel colour and has reduced to about 1 cup – this can take up to (or longer than…) 3 hours
5. Strain through a seive into a sterile jar, then store in the fridge – it will keep for a month.

Recipe notes
I think I should have used a smaller saucepan (and thus, smaller hob ring) as I’m fairly sure mine was cooking too hot. However, it did take absolutely ages, to the point where I was checking on it every half an hour, then I left it a little TOO long and I think it overcooked. Definitely better to cook colder, longer I think. Also straining it made a massive sticky mess, though having said that I would make it again (bearing in mind the above points) as it was most yummy – on ice cream, in baked goods, licked off the end of a sneakily-dipped finger…


 

Crème brûlée

Henry got me a chef’s blowtorch for Christmas (after my oh-so-subtle hint of “I love chef’s blowtorches. I wish I had a chef’s blowtorch. I hear you can buy chef’s blowtorches in Kitchens for £15.95”) so naturally my first new recipe had to be crème brûlée.

All the recipes I looked at seemed to be pretty similar. I adapted this one from Simon Rimmer’s ‘Original crème brûlée’ recipe on the BBC.

Ingredients/equipment:
250ml double cream
3 egg yolks (use the whites to make macaroons, nom)
50g caster sugar, plus extra for the topping
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

4 ramekins, a deep baking tray for a bain marie, a chef’s blowtorch.

What to do:
1. Preheat oven to 140C (fan) or 150C (regular)2. Bring the cream to a boil in a saucepan, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes
3. Meanwhile, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl, and boil the kettle
4. When the 5 minutes is up, add the vanilla to the cream, then pour the hot cream over the egg yolks/sugar, whisking as you go. Keep whisking until the mixture thickens – this means the egg yolks are cooking and you are on track to set puddings
5.  Put the ramekins into the baking tray. Divide the mixture equally between them, then pour in hot water until it comes halfway up the sides of the ramekins
6. Put the bain-marie into the middle of your oven and cook for 25-30 minutes, until the custards are set but still slightly wobbly in the middle
7.  Take the ramekins out of the bain-marie and cool at room temperature
8. Before serving, sprinkle the tops with sugar and  caramelise with the blowtorch

Recipe notes
* Our oven cooks hot, so I reduced the cooking time from the original 40-45 minutes to 30, but I’d say they could have done with a little less time
* I found the best results for the crunchy topping were when I used about 1/2 tsp sugar and caramelised this, then added another 1/2 tsp in a second layer and blasted again

Aside from being maybe a teeny bit too set around the edges, and my clumsy work with the blowtorch, I was very pleased with how these turned out. Now I have the basic recipe I will definitely be experimenting!