Category Archives: Parties

Tiramisu cheesecake

Tiramisu, for those that don’t yet know, mean’s ‘pull me up’. The English equivalent is ‘pick me up’.

Although I don’t know anyone in Italy who uses tiramisu as anything other than a delicious, indulgent dessert. Zabaglione was used, maybe still is, if you felt a bit under the weather and needed a pick me up. Presumably the warnings about not using raw egg (traditionally an ingredient in zabaglione) hadn’t reached the members of my family who used this as a salve for sick children who were too poorly to go to school.

My dad (from Parma, NE Italy) would sometimes feign illness – something he never does as an adult – as a child in order to stay off school and have zabaglione made for him by his mamma.

Anyway, this is a tiramisu cheesecake. If you don’t like coffee or cheesecake then there is nothing for you in this cheesecake. I think the base is absolutely inspired, but, again, if you don’t like amaretti biscuits (and in truth I don’t, on their own, but somehow they work here) you may not like the slightly bitter hit. But this is a really excellent cheesecake, classy, different, complex. Just don’t be left alone with it. Oh and, once chilled, it’s really the most excellent if you take it out of the fridge for half an hour before eating.

If you plan to make this for an ‘occasion’ – say a special lunch or a dinner – then I really recommend you make it the night before and leave it sitting chilling in the fridge until you serve it. One less job to do, plus with the chilling of the base and the chilling of the cake etc, it does take quite a long time from start to finish. So don’t get caught out.

This was originally from Delicious magazine.

For the base:

275g amaretti biscuits, crushed

75g unsalted butter, melted

For the cheesecake:

700g mascarpone at room temperature. I use a mixture of 500g mascarpone, cream cheese, ricotta, depending on what I have in the fridge. But I wouldn’t go lower than 500g mascarpone

150g caster sugar

3 large eggs, separated

45ml dark rum

30g plain flour

half a teaspoon of vanilla extract

175g plain chocolate, chopped (of course I didn’t chop mine and just broke up the pieces, because I am lazy like that)

1 tablespoon of finely ground espresso coffee powder – I just use something I have in a dusty jar from the supermarket, even though I have a full on, fuck-off coffee machine which freshly grinds my coffee for me. Next time it will maybe be even more awesome if I used freshly ground espresso powder

3 tablepoons of coffee liqueur. I use Kahlua which is lovely, incidentally, in an after dinner espresso, to make it espresso corretto.

Icing sugar for dusting. I was so greedy and impatient, I forgot this bit

Put the biscuit crumbs in a food processor and pulverise. In a bowl, introduce melted butter to the biscuit crumbs and let them do their thing. Press the crumbs into a 23cm spring form tin (I parchment line the base) and as far up the sides as you can get them (I didn’t do them up the sides and it was fine). Chill for 30 mins or even overnight.

When you are ready to make the cheesecake, preheat the oven to 200C; melt the chocolate in a bowl, atop some simmering water and then leave to cool. Put the mascarpone/cheeses into a bowl and beat until nice and smooth, then beat in the sugar, then the egg yolks.

Now divide this mixture into two bowls.

Into one of these bowls stir in the 30g plain flour, the 45ml of dark rum and the half a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Set aside for a moment.

Remember the melted chocolate? Into it, stir the espresso powder and coffee liqueur. Now stir the chocolatey/coffee/coffee liqueur into the second bowl of cheese mixture.

Put the egg whites into a bowl and whisk until soft peak stage, and now fold half the egg whites into each of the bowls – so half into the flour/rum/vanilla cheesey mix and half into the chocolate/coffee/liqueur mix.

Now dollop alternate spoonfuls of the mixture into the cake tin, give a swirl to gently mix and bake for 45mins to 1 hour. I lowered the temperature of my oven for the last 15 minutes or so only because my oven is fierce. Just keep an eye on it after 45 mins. It should be golden brown but still soft in the centre. Not liquid soft but softly soft, like a bit jelly on a plate.

Turn off the oven and leave the door ajar and leave the cheesecake until completely cold. When cold, chill in the fridge for several hours then it’s ready to be taken out and eaten, either fridge-cold or leave it to warm up a bit at room temperature.

Dust with icing sugar and revel in the calorie count. It’s high.

 

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.