Category Archives: Parties

White chocolate and berry cheesecake

I’m mindful, at this time of year, of having lots of people to cater for at once, and also the value of being able to Do Things In Advance.

I made this at the weekend, for a lunch party at a friend’s house where I was asked to bring pudding. The value of this is that it feeds lots – easily 12*. It not only can, but has to be made in advance. It looks good, but can also be brought out after a meal, to sit on the table for many hours without spoiling and be picked at (‘I’ll just tidy it up’) as guests get drunker and drunker.

I didn’t have a tin big enough, so I made this in one large rectangular Mermaid tin and a smaller tart tin. But this cheesecake is so good that I think it’s worth buying the right size tin for it as I will be making it again.

A few notes:

I put in 300g of frozen mixed berries as that’s the packet I had, and didn’t see the point of keeping back a handful of berries.

Yes you do put the berries in frozen.

Do build the crust up to a good height at the sides, although this mixture didn’t (for me) rise up, there is a lot of it and if your sides aren’t high enough, you’ll be at a dam-bust situation.

It may be an idea to put the tin on a baking sheet to catch any drips – I didn’t have any but see my point just above.

It definitely took an hour in my oven, maybe a few minutes more.

That’s it. This is a good one to keep up your sleeve for party season and the other great thing about it is that * you can cut the slices as thin or thick as you want, so it could feasibly feed may, many more than the predicted dozen.

Here is the recipe.

One giant Twix (tart). Gluten, dairy, sugar and fat full

I like this tart for bringing to people as a present. I’ve yet to meet a grown up, or child, no matter how posh or spoiled and used to presents, who doesn’t love this (unless of course you hate Twixes). But it also makes a good dessert when you really can’t decide what to make to please everyone. And just a small slice is really enough.

I can’t overstate this. It is pancreas-bustingly sweet. A bit too sweet for me if truth be told, it sets my teeth on edge. I want to play around with the recipe next time to try to resolve this. That said, a small slice (or even cube) is a treat. But, like the Wagon Wheels I made last year which set off a sort of crazy reaction, proceed with caution

The caramel making is a faff, I won’t lie. A thermometer is a must (I can hear you sighing). I have very similar to  these, which is brilliant. You can use it to probe meat with, take the temperature of a child, use it to make confectionery – it’s great because you just have a probe sticking into the hot caramel, with the actual body of the thermometer somewhere out of the way. I stick mine above where I’m working, to the extractor fan hood (it has a magnetic back). Obviously you do need to remember to clean the probe between child and caramel.

Anyway, this recipe was from Delicious magazine some time ago. I made a fundamental change to the timing of the caramel/temperature, because the first time I made it, taking it up to 115C meant the bottom of the caramel burned, so you had burnt/darker bits. It didn’t affect the taste, but it was annoying. I now stop the last bit of the caramel making at 111C – precision is all in caramel making – and it’s fine: chewy, golden and just before it starts to burn. I also changed the way you make the chocolate ganache.

This is what you need:

For the base

225g shortcake biscuits

75g unsalted butter, melted

For the caramel

125ml double cream

90ml condensed milk

125ml golden syrup

110g caster sugar

30g unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

For the chocolate topping

200g good quality milk chocolate (I use Green and Black’s Cooking chocolate at 37% cocoa solids)

75ml double cream

Small knob of butter

 

What you do:

Heat the oven to 170C. Put the biscuits and melted butter in a food processor, then pulse until all amalgamated. Line a loose bottomed tart tin, mine was 35cm x 12cm the biscuit crumbs. You can lightly oil the tin first, if you are of a nervous disposition.

Press the crumbs down and up the sides,  chill for ten minutes then cook it for 15 mins. Let it cool, then put back in the fridge. You’re done with the oven now, so switch it off.

To make the caramel, put the 125ml of double cream in a sauce pan with the condensed milk and heat up very slowly. I do this at the same time I’m making the caramel, cos I’m ‘ard and can multi task. If you do it separately it’s important it’s kept warm-ish as otherwise, if you introduce it to the caramel – such as you will later – cold, it might split.

Now put the golden syrup and caster sugar in a separate pan with 30ml of cold water, trying hard not to think of the glycaemic index of these two ingredients combined. Heat it gently until the sugar melts, stick the thermometer in, bring to the boil and then bring down to a simmer until the thermometer reads 120C. This may take a while (5-10mins). When making caramel, the temperature rises, then seems to stall, then rises again, then leaps. Be careful here, a caramel solution at 120C is very, very hot. Don’t have small children wondering round. Don’t leave it unattended.

When it reaches 120C, take it off the heat and stir in the chopped butter, then add the still warm cream/condensed milk mixture. Stir stir stir, (take out the tart base from the fridge in its tin), and put the caramel mixture back on the heat and bring back to the boil – this will take a while – until the mixture is at 111C. When it reaches this temperature, pour the caramel into the biscuit crumb lined tray and leave to cool completely. When it’s cool, put in the fridge.

Then, make the chocolate ganache: put a bowl atop a saucepan of simmering water. In this bowl put the milk chocolate, the 75ml of double cream and the knob of butter. Stir until everything has melted. This is the chocolate ganache. You now pour this over the caramel filled tart and as it cools, make wavy patterns, just, you know because.

Leave to set. Keep in fridge. Eat slowly and in small portions. No-one wants diabetes for Christmas.

Simple sushi for the beginner

My eldest and I used to make sushi from her children’s cookery books and whilst it was okay, it wasn’t great. This however, from the Maisie Makes series in the BBC Good Food magazine makes for really delicious sushi, thanks to the addition of a few key ingredients that other, simpler, recipes leave out; such as the Japanese mayonnaise – which is absolutely essential I think. I do understand about simplifying some recipes for children, but if they leave you with a lesser product, I don’t really think they give an accurate picture of what children can achieve.

Anyway, nothing here is hard. But it does take a bit of practise and do get all the ingredients because it really makes a difference, and if you like sushi I think this will become a regular thing and the cost of each make will go down… The sushi shown here was made entirely by my ten year old and she took it in her school lunch box. Her father and I had the rest for our lunch, with lots of wasabi (I am slightly addicted to the stuff) and soy sauce.

We don’t have access to sushi grade fish here, and my daughter doesn’t like pressed sushi, so we make only the rolls.

Here is the recipe, although if you can get hold of the January 2014 BBC Good Food magazine, I’d recommend you do as there are pictures which makes this much easier!

Do give this a go. It makes for a terrific packed lunch, we make the rolls the night before and it makes that whole packed lunch thing much easier the next morning. And when you are quaffing eight of these rolls for your own lunch, you can marvel at how much you would pay for them if you bought them out.

 

A last minute Christmas present idea: Kumquat chocolate slab

 

This is a really easy, delicious thing to make. Yes you do need a) chocolate and b) kumquats in the house to make this exact one, but the idea is that with a bit of imagination, you have a really easy, original gift to make for someone at the last minute. Perhaps you’ve been invited round to someone’s house and want to take a little gift.

I used kumquats, because that’s what I saw in Martha Stewart Living. This decision also resulted in perhaps my most middle class quest of the year: going in search of them (Sainsbury’s had them). It was worth it because kumquats lend themselves really beautifully to this idea and weren’t madly expensive. A packet that would have made this twice over cost £1.50. Plus they look festive, colourful and this was absolutely delicious: like a grown up, not too sickly, Terry’s Chocolate Orange.

But if you don’t have kumquats, or don’t like them you can put anything on top of the chocolate: slices of stem ginger, roasted hazelnuts, sliced pistachios, what ever takes your fancy, you get the idea.

For this I used a mixture of Green and Black’s milk chocolate and Waitrose Continental 70% cocoa chocolate, because I wanted it to be quite creamy. You want the slab to ‘snap’ when you serve it so don’t go too milky chocolatey, even if you want to serve it to children. To make it really grown up and ‘snappy’, make it out of all 70% cocoa chocolate. I used about 250g of chocolate in total to make this slab, which fed sixteen at after lunch coffee.

Melt in a bowl, over boiling water, then pour onto baking parchment on a baking tray. Scatter over your topping of choice. Put in fridge to set. If giving as a present – and not serving at your own dinner party – then break it up and put it in cellophane bag or if you have food-grade cellophane wrap (naturally, ahem, I do) then you can wrap the whole thing in one piece.

That’s it. So easy and looks so impressive.

Chocolate ganache – a great filling for doughnuts or eclairs

Continuing with my slight eclair obsession…I’ve been wanting to try a darker chocolate cream, as opposed to my white chocolate cream, for some time now in an eclair. Except I trialled it in a doughnut, first. But you could use this in anything that needs a gooey chocolate filling. It tastes like chocolate ice cream. Except not cold..

The recipe for the doughnuts is here, and of course you’ll notice immediately that these are not deep fried doughnuts. This honestly doesn’t matter. The doughnut here is simply a receptacle for the chocolate. Just like it really doesn’t matter what a drug mule looks like, they’re there to just, you know..

The topping you see above is just melted dark (70%) chocolate – about 50g – with a teaspoon of vegetable oil.  And sugar sprinkles of course. I’m not a man fan of them to eat. The conflicting textures confuse me: soft doughnut, soft cream, crunchy, sugary, balls. But the children love them.

For the chocolate ganache filling, all you do is (for 12 small doughnuts) put about 100ml of double cream and 50g of dark, 70% cocoa chocolate, in a bowl over some boiling water. Stir until the chocolate is melted. It should be thick. Chill. Then add about another 100ml of double cream and whisk until really thick. I then added two teaspoons of icing sugar, because I was after a very particular taste – just sweet but not sickly and without the sugar it was simple too ‘dark’. But do taste as you go. Put in an icing bag with an appropriate nozzle – depending on what you’re doing, eclairs, doughnuts etc. Chill the icing bag and the cream for half an hour. Then use.

Alternative Christmas ‘pudding’ ideas

Jamie’s Winter Pudding Bombe
My actual bombe

I don’t mean as a direct alternative to that dried fruit pudding English people have after Christmas dinner (which I now love, I actually made my own two years ago for the first time and make them a year in advance now). But I mean, something to eat for pudding on or around Christmas Day.

Chocolate Chestnut Rum Roulade

Every Christmas I make this amazing Chocolate Chestnut Rum Roulade. It’s an Icelandic recipe that I got from the Waitrose magazine twelve years ago. It is so good. I make it every Christmas and my eldest asked for it for her birthday this year. It’s really not that difficult, can be made ahead and put in the fridge.

Another thing I make is Jamie’s Winter Pudding Bombe. This is superb made in advance and stuck in the freezer. I do make some changes to this as the clementine he asks for just freezes solid (obviously) and I don’t find it very nice to eat. So I do his recipe but instead of the bits he asks for  I add some dark glace cherries, some candied fruits, some sour cherries soaked in marsala (I use marsala instead of vin santo throughout) and then some toasted pistachios and hazelnuts. I think you could easily customize this bit.

I also use home made vanilla ice cream because it’s tastier and cheaper.  The quantity in that recipe I’ve linked to make the perfect, perfect amount for this recipe.

Need I point out that you don’t use expensive panettone for this.

You can make it in advance, as I said, and then just turn it out when you want to serve it, and pour the chocolate over the top.

Annie Bell’s Blackout cake, as near to chocolate cake perfection as possible.

Lastly, for something that doesn’t look as festive but is really, really delicious. Annie Bell’s Brooklyn Blackout cake which is as close to chocolate cake perfection as I can take you. I guess you could make it more festive with gold leaf or something. I don’t know, up to you. It’s sensational however and once people start eating it they won’t care if it looks festive or not.

Do feel free to share your Christmas pudding alternatives.

update: mid January 2013. We just at the last of the bombe, which had been nestling in the freezer since I made it on 21st December. I thought you might like to see inside. It was still really really good.

Home made bourbon biscuits

Although I make almost all the biscuits and cakes we eat, I do think there are some things that are just better shop bought. Shop bought custard creams are just what they are and impossible to replicate at home. (This doesn’t mean I won’t try but I won’t expect to get them to compete with shop bought and compete is the right word here.)

But a few weeks ago, I was out for brunch and gossip a very important business meeting with my friend Fiona Hughes and we went to the Orchard Cafe in London’s Holborn.  On the way out, after we’d devoured extremely good scrambled eggs with home made bread and smoked tomato ketchup, I spotted a giant bourbon biscuit, filled with salted caramel goo.

Now. I don’t eat biscuits and cakes ‘n’ stuff like that, during the week, only at the weekend. And as this was a Tuesday, I couldn’t justify it.

However, because I am a greedy thing at heart, the memory of these biscuits scratched away at me, like a sticky out label on a T-shirt, and eventually I decided to try to make my own.

I finally found a mention of an edition of Jamie Magazine that had a recipe for home made bourbon biscuits and so determined was I, I tracked a back issue down, paid for it and waited for it to arrive.

These biscuits are great. Really, really good. I do of course want to get a specialist rectangular cutter and maybe a Barbieri stamp. [Update: believe it or not, I now have both of these.]  But until then, I just cut a line of these, and then cut the rectangles by hand. It made for a very artisan finish but no less impressive.

You need:

For the biscuits:

50g soft butter, unsalted
50g soft brown sugar (I used dark)
1 tablespoon of golden syrup
110g plain flour
20g good cocoa powder (don’t go using any of that ‘bad’ stuff)
half a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
a bit of caster sugar for sprinkling

For the filling:

75g icing sugar
50g soft butter
1 tablespoon of cocoa powder
1 teaspoon of cold, strong coffee (use milk if you don’t like coffee, but the coffee really, really adds something)

Put the oven on to gas 150C. You need a baking tray lined with baking parchment.

Either cream the butter and sugar for the biscuits by hand, or use an electric whisk (the recipe calls for latter, I did former). Do this until pale and fluffy. I love the word fluffy.

Then beat in the golden syrup using a wooden spoon (even if you’ve used an electric whisker you’re now instructed to STOP and use a wooden spoon and put your arms to work). Then sift in the flour, cocoa powder and bicarbonate and beat into an even dough. You may need a few drops of milk. Try not to use it but if you do, literally put the milk in half a teaspoon at a time, you want a fairly dry, low hydration dough not something really sticky.

Turn it out onto a piece of baking parchment and top it with more baking parchment so you roll it out between two sheets of baking parchment. Roll until about 3mm thick. Because you want the biscuit to be crisp, don’t make it too thick, although you can’t make it too thin either. Get the ruler out, this is biscuits for goodness sake. It’s important to get it right.

Cut the dough, however works for you, into about 24 fingers of about 5cm x 3cm. I cut long rectangles and then cut into smaller rectangles. Place on parchment lined baking tray, with about 1cm gap in between (they do rise a bit but not much). I prick with a fork for a birruva pretty pattern.

Sprinkle with caster sugar and cook for 8-10 minutes. Make sure they are cooked, not soft as they won’t harden up much and you really do want these to be crispy not cakey. But of course, don’t overcook (am I being too bossy? I want you to get these right you see).

When done, wipe the sweat from your brown, transfer to a wire rack etc. Cool.

For the filling mix the sugar and butter together, add the cocoa powder. At this point it will look pale and unpromising and you may start to panic. Have faith! When you add the milk (a scant teaspoon, just to bring everything together), it will go dark and glossy and glorious and you will be SO pleased with yourself.

Spread on one biscuit, sandwich with another. Daintily arrange. Eat and be amazed.