Sunday, September 26, 2010

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cheesecake

I have been meaning to make this cheesecake for months and months now, and these days I have been using any opportunity I can to use my new stand mixer.

The recipe is from Tartelettes blog and I thought it looked simply divine. The only amendement I made the original recipe is the crust. Tartelette uses an almond crust using pulverised whole almonds, but as my other half doesn't do nuts in cakes, I swapped the almonds for a traditional biscuit base.

The puree which flavours this cheesecake is made from frozen berries. The freezing and subsequent thawing releases the juice from the berry’s cells which have been ruptured in the freezing process. I used strawberries which I froze when they were in season.

This cheesecake takes a little forward preparation with having to use defrosted frozen strawberries to make the puree, but it is so worth it. The cake has a beautiful mousse-like quality which to me tasted like my favourite Strawberry Ice cream. Enjoy.

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cheesecake
Strawberry puree:
280g frozen strawberries
3 tsp sugar
2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

200g digestive biscuits
2 tbs caster sugar
75g butter, melted

Strawberry cheesecake:
450g cream cheese, room temp
220g sugar
3 large eggs, room temp
1 ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
¼ tsp salt
300g sour cream, room temp
2/3 cup strawberry puree

Ganache topping:
110g chocolate (50-55% cacao mass is best), finely chopped
130ml cream
½ large egg (beat 1 egg, weigh it, and use half)

Prepare the strawberries:
Thaw strawberries and strain out the juice completely by squishing the berries through a fine sieve. Place juice in a small saucepan and, at a simmer, cook down to a third of original volume. (you should start with about 150ml, and end with 60ml) Add sugar to reduction and stir to dissolve. Mix juice and pulp together with lemon juice. Blend in food processor or with a stick blender.

Prepare the cheesecake:
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius. Prepare a 24cm springform pan by lining the bottom and sides with baking paper and butter (cut a circle out for the bottom then use strips to line the sides)

Place the biscuits in a food processor and finely crush. Transfer the crushed biscuits into a bowl, add the sugar and melted butter and mix until well combined. Press the mixture into the base of the lined pan.

Beat cream cheese and sugar until very smooth (3 min) in a stand mixer at medium speed using the whisk attachment (it gives the cake a mousse quality). Add eggs, 1 at a time, scraping bowl and beating after each just until smooth. Add vanilla & salt and beat until incorporated. Beat in sour cream. Beat in strawberry puree. Wrap the pan with the crust in a double layer of aluminum foil. Pour batter into crust. Place in water bath (hot water) in a larger oven proof pan
bake 45-55 min.

5-10 min before cheesecake is done, make ganache topping:
Boil cream. Pour over chocolate and let sit a minute. Whisk gently until chocolate is melted and smooth. Gently whisk in egg. Spread over hot cheesecake (careful, and don’t pour it all in one place as cheesecake is fragile). Smooth out the top. Bake 5-10 more minutes until ganache is set along the sides. Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack, with a large mixing bowl over the pan (to cool slowly). When it reaches room temp, refrigerate. Chill 8 hours before unmolding. To unmold, run a thin blade knife around the cake pan sides. Remove springform. Gently slide cake onto serving plate. Store covered in refrigerator.

To serve, run a knife under very hot water, dry it and then slice.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Raspberry Marshmallow Wagon Wheels

So, this is my second attempt at this recipe.

The first time I tried to make these was a disaster. My caramel burnt and trying to pour hot caramel whilst simultaneously using a hand mixer did not go down well. My kitchen (and hand mixer) was covered in hard caramel.

So now that I have the proper equipment (candy thermometer & a stand mixer) I wanted to try for round 2 using the leftover egg whites left over from the brioche (and they looked soo delicious in the picture)

Whilst I’m sure this recipe is entirely possible without the candy thermometer and stand mixer, it did help quite a lot. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, you are going to have to use the water method and if you only have a hand mixer, enlist a friend to help you.

These aren’t something I would make everyday, but they sure are impressive and equally delicious.

Raspberry Marshmallow Wagon Wheels
185g unsalted butter
75g (1/3 cup firmly packed) dark brown sugar
300g (2 cups) plain flour
200g dark chocolate, (70% cocoa solids), chopped
Icing sugar, to dust

Raspberry marshmallow
440g (2 cups) caster sugar
1 tbs lemon juice
125g raspberries, plus extra, to serve (I used frozen)
5 tsp powdered gelatine
3 egg whites
1 tbs cornflour
1 tbs icing sugar

Combine cornflour and icing sugar and use to dust a greased 20cm x 30cm slice pan.

Place the raspberries and 2 tablespoons of water in a clean saucepan. Stir over medium heat for 5 minutes, crushing raspberries with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle gelatine over and stir until dissolved.

For marshmallow, stir 400g sugar, lemon juice and 150ml water in a small saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to high and boil rapidly for approx 10 minutes or until a spoonful of syrup dropped into a glass of iced water forms a hard ball (see note). If using a candy thermometer, boil until the temperature reaches about 125 degrees celsius. Make sure you don't take the syrup too far, as it will continue to cook once taken off the heat (the colour should not have turned to a caramel)

Whilst making the sugar syrup, using an electric mixer, whisk egg whites to soft peaks, then gradually add remaining 40g sugar and whisk to stiff peaks. With the motor running, pour hot syrup in a thin, steady stream down the side of the bowl, then add the raspberry mixture. Whisk until mixture thickens enough to hold its shape.

Spoon marshmallow mixture into pan, level with the back of a spoon and refrigerate for 2 hours or until set.

Meanwhile, make shortbread biscuits. Preheat oven to 150C. Using an electric mixer, beat butter, sugar and 1/2 tsp salt for 10 minutes or until creamy. Add flour in 2 batches and beat until just combined. Transfer to a floured sheet of baking paper. Roll out until 6mm-thick. Using a 7cm pastry cutter, cut dough into 16 discs and place on 2 oven trays lined with baking paper. Prick the tops with a fork, then bake for 30 minutes, swapping trays halfway, or until biscuits are golden. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, melt chocolate in a small bowl over some simmering water.

To assemble wagon wheels, brush the tops and sides of the biscuits with melted chocolate, then place on an oven tray lined with baking paper. Leave to set. Grease a 7cm pastry cutter and press into the marshmallow. Remove cutter and, using a knife, lift out marshmallow round and place on a biscuit. Top with a second biscuit and dust with icing sugar. Repeat with the remaining marshmallow and biscuits to make 8 wagon wheels. Serve with extra raspberries. Refrigerate if not serving immediately.

Notes: The temperature of syrup are classified by stages, which describe what happens when you drop a small quantity of syrup into a glass of iced water. These stages vary from 'soft ball' to 'hard ball'.

To ensure smooth melted chocolate, place a quantity of chopped chocolate in a glass or stainless-steel bowl. Pick a saucepan that the bowl will sit over snugly and fill one-third full with water. bring water to a gentle simmer. Place bowl over the pan, making sure it doesn't touch the simmering water, and stir occasionally.

Brioche/French Toast

It was my birthday last week and for my present, my amazing boy surprised me with a Kitchenaid stand mixer – in the colour Caviar (it’s black with a nice sparkle through it).

I was so freakin’ excited because it was exactly what I was after (even the colour!)

So, to break in my new appliance I baked some Brioche and for Sunday morning I made some French Toast.

Brioche is a type of French bread enriched with egg and butter, which in France, is commonly eaten at breakfast or as a snack. It can also be both sweet or used in savoury dishes (my MIL makes a version which has a sausage inside)

Brioche comes in all different shapes and sizes. The commonly known Parisian version, Brioche à Tête is formed and baked in a fluted round tin; a large ball of dough is placed on the bottom, topped with a smaller ball of dough to form the head. Here I have made a loaf of brioche made in a standard loaf pan.

As brioche is made with a yeasted dough, have the milk lukewarm and all other ingredients at room temperature to assist the activation of the yeast.

Brioche is double-proved, once in the bowl and again after it has been shaped, so make sure you allow plenty of time. Having the oven pre-heating to warm the room also helps this rising process (I baked a lasagne whilst waiting for my dough to rise)

160ml milk
1½ tsp dried yeast
5 egg yolks, at room temperature, lightly beaten
375 g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
30 g caster sugar, plus extra for dusting
150g butter, diced and softened, plus extra for greasing
For brushing: eggwash

Warm milk in a small saucepan over low heat until lukewarm. Combine yeast and half the milk in a bowl, stirring to dissolve. Stand in a warm place until foamy (8-10 minutes).

Whisk remaining milk with egg yolks in a bowl and set aside.

Mix flour, sugar and a pinch of salt in the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with a dough hook, until combined. Make a well in the centre, add yeast mixture and yolk mixture. Beat on medium speed until a smooth dough forms (4-5 minutes).

While mixing, gradually add one-third of butter at a time, beat until dough is elastic and pulls away from sides of bowl (8-10 minutes).

Transfer to a lightly buttered bowl, cover and stand until doubled in size (1½-2 hours).

Knock back dough, knead on a lightly floured surface until smooth, shape into a loaf and place in an 11cm x 24cm loaf tin buttered and lined with baking paper. Cover, stand until doubled in size (30 minutes-1 hour).

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 180C. Brush top with eggwash, dust with caster sugar, bake until golden and risen (25-30 minutes).

Remove from tin, place on a baking tray lined with baking paper, return to oven until sides are golden (8-10 minutes), cool on a wire rack.

Cinnamon & Vanilla French Toast
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup cream
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or essence
1 tablespoon icing sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 x 2.5cm-thick slices day-old brioche
2 tablespoons butter
3 bananas, sliced on an angle
pure maple syrup, to serve

Combine eggs, milk, cream, vanilla, icing sugar and cinnamon in a large jug. Whisk with a fork until well combined. Pour mixture into a shallow ceramic dish.

Preheat oven to 180°C. Dip 2 brioche slices in milk mixture for 30 seconds to 1 minute each side or until well soaked. Hold over dish to drain.

Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a large frying pan over medium heat until bubbling. Add soaked brioche. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes each side or until golden.

Transfer to a baking tray. Keep warm in oven. Repeat with remaining butter and brioche.

Place French toast on plates. Serve with a the sliced banana and a drizzle with maple syrup.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Raspberry & Coconut Loaf

Here is another of my no-fail recipes. It is a great way to use up leftover coconut milk, or alternatively you can use regular cows milk.

This time I used a minature loaf pan (which made about 12), but normally I would use a full sized loaf pan.

This loaf if beautiful when it has just come out of the oven, served with a spread of butter

Raspberry & Coconut Loaf
1 3/4 cups desiccated coconut
1 1/2 cups coconut milk
1 cup caster sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 2/3 cups self-raising flour
1 cup frozen raspberries
pure icing sugar, to serve

Combine coconut and coconut milk in a large bowl. Cover and stand for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 170°C. Line base and sides of a 7cm-deep, 10.5cm x 20.5cm (base) loaf pan with baking paper, allowing a 2cm overhang at both long ends.

Using a metal spoon, stir sugar, egg and vanilla into coconut mixture. Sift flour over coconut mixture. Gently stir until combined. Fold in raspberries. Spoon mixture into prepared pan.

Bake for 1 hour 10 minutes to 1 hour 15 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool loaf in pan for 10 minutes. Lift onto a wire rack to cool completely. Dust with icing sugar and slice. Serve toasted, if desired

Notes: Take the raspberries out of the freezer at the last minute, so their colour does not bleed into the mixture.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Chocolate & Dulce de Leche Cupcakes

Chocolate and caramel… one of the great culinary combinations.

I bought a jar Dulce de Leche before I headed off to France, and now that I am back I have be dying to use it.

After tossing a few ideas around my head (David Leibovits dulce de leche brownies…dulce de leche cheesecake…) I decided on Caramel Filled Chocolate Cupcakes, because, lets face it, cupcakes are awesome.

Now, the hardest part about this recipe was finding a decent cupcake recipe. Initially I was after a nice, dense cake, but after the first recipe failing, I dug up a chocolate cupcake recipe that I had used before which I thought would do the job nicely.

I dressed these beautiful little cupcakes with a swirl of chocolate butter cream and chocolate curls.

Now I must say, these little cupcakes were just glorious. They looked and tasted just fabulous. Will definitely be making again.

You can make your own Dulce de Leche (there are various methods to do so online) or you can just cheat and buy it. You could also substitute the Dulce de Leche for Nestle’s Caramel Top’n’Fill.

Chocolate & Dulce de Leche Cupcakes

Chocolate Cupcakes
50g Dutch-processed cocoa powder
240ml boiling hot water
175g all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
113g unsalted butter, room temperature
200g caster sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 190°C. Line a cupcake pan with liners.

In a small bowl stir until smooth the boiling hot water and the cocoa powder. Let cool to room temperature.

In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

Then in the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture and beat only until incorporated. Then add the cooled cocoa mixture and stir until smooth.

Spoon evenly among the lined cupcake pans to half fill the pans. Dollop a little (I used a piping bag, but you could use a teaspoon) Dulce de Leche into the centre of each pan, then spoon over more batter to fill.

Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Spread or pipe a swirl of buttercream and decorate as desired.

Chocolate Buttercream Icing
60g butter, softened
240g icing sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa
30ml (1 1/2 tablespoons) milk

Beat butter with an electric mixer or electric hand-held beaters until light and creamy. Sift icing sugar and cocoa together into a bowl. Gradually beat in half the icing sugar and cocoa. Add milk and remaining icing sugar and cocoa and beat until fluffy. If necessary, add a little extra milk to achieve a creamy consistency.

Notes: To make the chocolate curls, I melted some dark chocolate and then spread it out on a pastry mat (you could use a cutting board, or similar flat surface). Wait until it is almost set and then using a cheese slicer, slowly draw the slicer in a straight line down the block of chocolate. See here



My apologies for neglecting the blog for almost two months. But, the good news is I am now back from France and ready to get back into posting!

Firstly, I will fill you in a little about my wonderful holiday.

This was my second time in France, although my first time to the southern region of Provence. Home in France was at my partner’s aunt’s house (with his mum and dad) in a little town outside Marseille called Le Pennes Mirabeau.

Whilst in France I visited the antique countryside towns of Arles and Avignon, with their amazing markets filled with anything from Laguiole knives, flowers, pyramids of spices to fromage and saucisson. The views of the Mediterranean Ocean and Calanque’s from the cliff tops surrounding the seaside towns of Cassis and La Ciotat were just incredible and the scent of the Lavender as we drove to from Gourd to Sault made me feel as though I was living a fairytale. I even caught a glimpse of the Flamingo’s of the Camarge region and saw the running of the bulls in Saint Rémy.

The food of Provence was just to die for, but also very different from its Northern counterparts. Home style cooking here is very fresh and seasonal with minimal fuss. The fruit and vegetables were amazing - tomato’s were flavoursome, cherries were sweet and the donut peaches so juicy!

I ate everything from baguettes (with salted butter of course) to snails, taureau, pheasant, macarons and my favourite, crêpes with Nutella (according to my MIL, whenever we got to a new town, i would disappear for 5 minutes to scout around and find the nearest crêperie).
I was even lucky enough to have my partners aunt, who had just come back from Corsica, prepare a special Corsican style lunch which consisted of several different saucisson, tomato’s stuffed with soft Corsican cheese and to finish up, a selection of pungent hard-style Corsican cheeses.

It all went so quickly, but my time in Provence was filled with many wonderful memories of beautiful food, sunshine, the ocean, markets, quaint villages and time spent my partner’s family and friends. It felt like home and I cannot wait to return (hopefully with my partner next time).

So, in honour of my time in France, here is a recipe for Crêpes. I managed to eat these on a near daily basis – preferably with a nice thick slather of Nutella (or in my MIL’s case, Crème de Marron)

1 cup plain flour
2 eggs
280-300ml milk
20g butter
Pinch salt

Sift flour into a bowl. Make a well in the centre and add eggs, whisk starting in the centre and drawing in the flour. Add the milk a little at a time whisking until batter is the consistency of thick cream.

Melt the butter until foamy and a little nutty then pour into the batter with a pinch of salt.

Heat crêpe or regular frying pan over medium heat, add a butter to coat the base then ladle in crêpe mixture, turning to coat the base completely. Cook 1-2 minutes until light golden and lacy. Turn over and cook for 10-15 seconds. Remove to plate and keep warm. Repeat using the remaining crêpe batter.

Et voila! Serve with your favorite condiment.