Cream cheese

Chocolate Guinness fondants with cheesecake ice cream

chocolateguinnesscakes

The above photo does not do this pudding justice. I was a bit tipsy by the time I served/photographed it (as one often is after two previous courses and two bottles of wine!).

On the subject of food photography, I really enjoyed reading this article by the brilliant Ruby Tandoh about sharing pictures of food online. In it she argues that food that looks amazing doesn’t always taste so.

I particularly loved this paragraph and I will bear it in mind every time I beat myself up about my poor photographs for this blog. Whilst my photos maybe a bit crap they are at least honest and the food has tasted good (otherwise I would not offer you the recipe).

If you want to post your meal online, post away. Upload a picture of that sausage and mash. Don’t worry that the light is dim, that the gravy sloshes in a swampy pool across your plate. Sharing is a generous act, but perfectionism smothers that goodness. Upload the unfiltered, ugly pictures of your failed birthday cake, or your fish and chips in grease-soaked paper. Or, if you want to fuss over the exact positioning of four blueberries on top of a smoothie bowl for an hour before you tuck in, do that – but don’t forget to enjoy your food.


Getting back to the point, it was my 10th wedding anniversary on Friday and to celebrate I wanted to cook a special meal inspired by the food served at our wedding.

Our ‘big day’ was not at all fancy and our budget cake was a Chocolate Guinness one kindly made by my sister.

weddingcakes

I wanted to remember this in my anniversary menu but I don’t believe in serving cake as a dessert (unless it’s hot with custard). So I had the idea of making hot chocolate fondants flavoured with Guinness instead. And then to mirror the cream cheese icing on the cake serving the fondants with a cheesecake ice cream.

It worked really nicely so here are the recipes.

Chocolate Guinness fondants

Serves 4

  • 100g of good quality (70% cocoa) dark chocolate
  • 75g of butter
  • 2 eggs and 2 egg yolks
  • 50g of muscavado sugar
  • 50g of plain flour
  • 100ml of Guinness

Butter four ramekins with butter and place in the freezer to chill.

Set your oven to 170oC.

Melt the butter and chocolate in a pan over a low heat or in the microwave. Allow the mixture to cool a little and then stir in the two egg yolks.

In another bowl, beat together the two whole eggs, sugar and Guinness until light and foamy.

Fold in the chocolate mixture and the flour with a metal spoon until well incorporated.

Spoon the mixture into the chilled ramekins and bake for 9 minutes, or until the surface is set but there is a slight wobble in the middle.

Turn out onto plates and eat immediately with cheesecake ice cream (see recipe below).

NOTE: You can make these up in advance and keep covered in the fridge until you want to bake them. This is good if you’re making them for a dinner party. They also taste fine baked and then reheated in the microwave the next day.

Nigella Lawson’s cheesecake ice cream

  • 175ml full fat milk
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 125g Philadelphia (or other full fat cream cheese)
  • ½ a teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 350ml of double cream

In a bowl beat together the sugar, Philadelphia, vanilla and egg.

Heat the milk in a saucepan until hot and then pour this over the cream cheese mixture.

Then pour the whole lot back into the saucepan and place over a medium heat until the mixture thickens, whisking all the time. Try not to let the mixture boil or it will curdle.

Once the consistency of smooth custard, remove from the heat and whisk periodically until cooled to room temperature. Then place in the fridge to get really cold.

Finally add the double cream (lightly whipped) and lemon juice and pour into an ice cream maker. Churn until thick then put in the freezer to finish hardening.


Here’s a random photo of some baguettes I made this week. Aren’t they beautiful?

beautiful-baguettes

Not beautiful but very happy – Ben and I on our wedding day 10 years ago.

ben-and-zoes-wedding-029

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Chocolate brownies with a cheesecake swirl

marbled brownies 4

We’ve recently been on holiday to Norway. It’s a wonderful country and I could go into detailed raptures about the stunning fjords, the attractive cities of Bergen and Oslo, and how it’s a great place to travel with children, but this is a recipe blog (not a travel one) so I’ll leave that to others.

The only downside was that we mainly survived on a diet of bread and economy salami (from the supermarket) because food and drink are so expensive. We did however splash out on strong coffee and the occasional sweet treat. I particularly loved their Hvetebolle – a sweet bun with chocolate and cardamom which you could buy from the 7-Eleven for just £1.20 (each!).

Hvetebolle

Another standout was a delicious chocolate cake with a vanilla and blueberry cheesecake ripple that we had at the Aquarium cafe in Ballestrand. This bought to mind a recipe in my folder of cutouts which I had not yet tried (despite it being there for over 10 years).

So this week, with the children back at school and some time to myself, I spent some quality time in the kitchen and made ‘marbled brownies’. They were great and my husband (a man who doesn’t give praise easily) called them ‘seriously delicious’. I’ve had ‘delicious’ before but the ‘seriously’ part was a first!

Chocolate brownies with a cheesecake swirl

Makes about 24

For the chocolate brownie mix

  • 200g of good quality plain chocolate
  • 200g of butter
  • 250g of caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 125g of plain flour

For the cream cheese mix

  • 400g of full fat cream cheese
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 125g of caster sugar
  • 2 eggs

Heat the oven to 160oC (fan assisted) and butter and line a deep baking tin about 20 cm x 30 cm with baking parchment.

For the cream cheese, mix all the ingredients together in a bowl until well incorporated and smooth. Set aside.

For the brownie mix, first melt the chocolate and butter either in a bowl over a pan of simmering water, or in the microwave (which is what I do). Stir until smooth and leave to cool a little.

In another bowl whisk together the caster sugar and eggs, then add the melted butter/chocolate and mix again. Sieve in the flour and fold in gently.

To assemble, pour 3/4 of the brownie mix into the tin and spread evenly. Tip in the cream cheese mixture before spooning over the remaining brownie mix in dollops. Tap the tin sharply on the work surface to level the mixture and then take a skewer and marble the mixtures together using a wave like motion across the tin just once.

Bake for 35-45 minutes until just set. Test after 35 minutes with a skewer and if it comes out clean then remove from the oven.

Cool in the tin for 15 minutes before cutting into pieces.

View

I can take a week of bread and salami for views like this.

New York cheesecake

baked cheesecake

I’ve been using a Mary Berry recipe for baked vanilla cheesecake for years and I’ve always been perfectly happy with it. Last week though I decided on a whim to try Nigella’s New York version instead and my goodness it was so much better. The texture was smooth and creamy, it was not too sweet AND there were no cracks (probably due to the addition of cornflour).

In true Nigella style this is an expensive cheesecake to make (£11.46 based on my Tesco shop using branded items such as McVities and Philadelphia) but it’s huge and therefore ideal if you’re catering for a lot of people.

Nigella Lawson’s New York cheesecake
(from Nigel Slater’s ‘Real Food’)

Serves 12 generously

For the base

  • 250g of digestive biscuits, crushed to fine crumbs with a rolling pin or in a food processor (89p)
  • 150g of butter, melted (53p)
  • 3 tablespoons of caster sugar (5p)

For the filling

  • 2 tablespoons of cornflour (7p)
  • 225g of caster sugar (28p)
  • 750g of full fat soft cream cheese (£6.40)
  • 6 eggs, serparated (£1.25)
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract (47p)
  • 150ml of double cream (60p)
  • 150ml of sour cream (60p)
  • ½ teaspoon of salt (2p)
  • The grated zest of 1 lemon (30p)

Butter the bottom and sides of a 24cm round, springform cake tin.

For the base, mix together the butter, sugar and biscuit crumbs and press firmly into the bottom of the tin. Chill for one hour.

For the filling, start by setting your oven to 170oC.

Mix together the sugar and cornflour. Beat in the cream cheese, egg yolks and vanilla extract by hand or with an electric mixer. Then slowly pour both the creams in, add the salt and lemon zest and beat some more.

In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites until stiff and then fold carefully into the cheese mixture using a metal spoon. Tip into the chilled base and bake for one hour and fifteen minutes (the recipe said for between one hour and one and a half hours so I went with the middle ground).

Turn off the heat (don’t open the door) and let the cake stand in the oven for two more hours.

Then open the door and let it stand for another hour.

Chill in the fridge and serve cold.

You can dust the top with icing sugar before serving if you like.

NOTE: This is lovely eaten just as it is but I served mine with a cheat’s raspberry coulis (basically a tin of raspberries in syrup whizzed up until smooth). I think it would also taste nice with any other fruit coulis, or a caramel or chocolate sauce.

The best chocolate cake ever courtesy of the Domestic Goddess

chocolate guinness cake 2
I’ve had more requests for this Chocolate Guinness Cake recipe than any other by a long shot. It’s legendary in our family and is quite simply the best chocolate cake ever. People never believe me when I tell them that it’s super easy to make but it’s true. There’s hardly any mixing involved and limited measuring as you use a whole pat of butter, a whole carton of sour cream etc. Just make sure you buy a good quality spring form cake tin – my original cheapo Tesco one was leaky and it was heart breaking when the runny mixture ended up on the bottom of the oven.

You can’t really taste the Guinness (it just adds a malty stickiness) so don’t be put off making it if you’re not a fan. I’m never sure whether the addition of Guinness means that you ought not to give it to children. Surely the alcohol burns off in the oven?! Call me a bad mother but I DO let my children have a slice and they don’t seem to be any more vibrant than usual after a sugary chocolaty fix.

The ingredients are pretty expensive (around £6) but you do end up with a large cake which can be cut into at least 12 large slices.

I usually end up tinkering with even the best recipe but the only change I’ve made to this one is to leave the double cream out of the icing. It means one less ingredient to buy and I think it tastes fresher with just cream cheese and icing sugar (if you want to keep to the original then you add 125ml double cream after mixing together the cream cheese and icing sugar). The main cake is exactly as Nigella makes it.

Nigella’s Chocolate Guinness Cake (from ‘Feast’)

Makes 12 large slices

For the cake

  • 250ml Guinness
  • 250g butter
  • 75g cocoa
  • 400g caster sugar
  • 1 x 142ml pot sour cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon real vanilla extract
  • 275g plain flour
  • 2½ teaspoons bicarbonate of soda

For the icing

  • 300g Philadelphia cream cheese
  • 150g icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 180oC fan and butter and line a 23cm spring form cake tin.

Pour the Guinness into a large wide saucepan, add the butter and heat until the butter has melted. Then whisk in the cocoa and sugar.

In a separate bowl beat the sour cream with the eggs and vanilla, then pour into the saucepan with the butter, cocoa and sugar.

Finally, whisk in the flour and bicarbonate of soda.

Pour the cake mixture into the tin and bake for 45 to 1 hour (for me this timing is frustratingly vague – from experience I usually opt for nearer to 45 minutes as it’s better for this cake to be slightly too moist than overdone. I just do the usual skewer test after 45 minutes and if it comes out clean then I take it out then). Leave to cool completely in the tin on a cooling rack.

When the cake is cold sit it on a flat plate ready for icing.

For the icing, lightly whip the cream cheese until smooth and then add the icing and beat again until incorporated.

Put the icing on top of the cake, and distribute roughly so that it looks like the frothy top of a pint of Guinness.

NOTE: Don’t be tempted to use half fat cream cheese for the icing – the lower fat content makes it too runny. I also find that it pays to use branded Philadelphia even though it’s more than double the price.

Ode to the digestive – part 4, baked vanilla cheesecake

baked cheesecake

I dream about baked vanilla cheesecake – it’s my favourite dessert of all. This week I’ve been reading about the last food requests of people on death row and this would definitely be my pudding of choice for a final ever meal.

I have tried lots of different recipes for baked cheesecake and have always struggled with the texture. They have tended to be a little on the stodgy side and rather claggy. I think this recipe works well though. It initially started out as a Mary Berry but I’ve adapted it by whisking the egg white to give it a lighter texture.

It’s good on its own or with a raspberry sauce.

Baked vanilla cheesecake

Serves 8

For the base

  • 100g crushed digestives (about 7 biscuits)
  • 50g butter

For the filling

  • 700g full fat soft cheese
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon of good quality vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs

Preheat the oven to 150oC fan.

For the base, crush the digestives in a food processor or in a food bag with a rolling pin. Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the crushed biscuits and stir until incorporated. Tip the mixture into a 20 cm loose bottomed tin (about 8 cm deep) and press down firmly with your fingers or the back of a spoon to form the biscuit base. Cover with cling film and leave to rest in the fridge.

Measure the cheese into a large bowl and beat with a wooden spoon or an electric hand mixer until soft. Add the sugar and beat again until well mixed.#

Separate the eggs and whisk up the whites until soft peaks form.

Add the egg yolks and vanilla essence to the cheese mixture and stir to combine. I do this bit by hand with a metal spoon. Next, add just a spoonful of egg white to the cheese and stir in to slacken the mixture. Then very gently fold in the rest of the egg whites attempting to keep as much of the air in the mixture as possible.

Tip the mixture onto the biscuit base and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the cheesecake is puffed around the edges but still wobbly in the centre.

Turn off the oven but leave in the oven to cool.

Chill well in the fridge and serve well chilled.

A chocolate twist
For a chocolate ripple version, add just half the finished mixture into the tin in spoonfuls with gaps between the dollops. Then add 150g of melted plain chocolate to the remaining mixture and spoon into the gaps. Finally, swirl the top with a skewer or knife to make a marble effect. Make sure that the chocolate is not too hot when you add it otherwise it will start to cook the eggs in the cheesecake mixture.

Cracks
Cracks always appear in my baked cheesecake. I have a feeling that the air in the egg white in this recipe probably encourages the mixture to crack, but I’d rather have a light texture and cracks than a stodgy texture with no cracks. To be honest because it’s only an aesthetic thing and it still tastes good I’m not particularly bothered. If you are then there are some tips to avoid cracking in this link. If you hit on a winner then please do let me know. It the meantime I’m going to opt for the last suggestion and cover the cracks with sauce.

http://dianasdesserts.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/bakingtips.cheesecakes/

Eddie licking the bowl.

Ode to the digestive – part 1, silly toppings

Digestive

I love digestive biscuits. Admittedly they are a bit boring by themselves but they are so versatile and great topped with sweet or savoury food stuffs or as the biscuit base for all sorts of puddings. When I rooted through my recipe folder I found quite a few digestive based desserts and so these very silly recipes begin my 5 days of 5 ways with digestives.

Digestives with melted marshmallow

I’m not sure where on earth this idea came from but I used to do this as a child and now my own children just love it. It is pretty exciting watching the marshmallow blow up like a balloon and the end result is a sweet and sticky delight.

  • a digestive biscuit
  • a standard marshmallow (pink or white)

Place a single marshmallow on a digestive biscuit.

Place in the microwave for 10-20 seconds and watch it blow up like a balloon. When it is about the same size as the digestive (circumference-wise) stop the cooking. When you take it out it will deflate into a lovely melted gooey mess over the digestive.

Leave to cool for a minute before eating.

Marshmallow on a digestive

Ready for action.

marshmallow on a digestive blown up

Blown up.

melted marshmallow

Yummy.

Cheat’s cheesecakes

This is for when you really can’t be bothered to make a proper dessert but you need something sweet to end your day.

It honestly does taste just like the real thing once it’s all mushed up in your mouth but you obviously couldn’t serve it a dinner party – unless you were trying to be funny.

Cheat’s lemon cheesecake
Take a digestive biscuit and smear with cream cheese. Then dollop a spoonful of lemon curd on top.

Cheat’s raspberry cheesecake
As above but with a dollop of raspberry jam.

Cheat’s chocolate cheesecake
As above but with a dollop of chocolate spread.

Courgettes, courgettes, courgettes

I so look forward to the very first courgettes of the season but then, after a month or so when they just keep coming and coming, I scrabble around desperate for new recipes to try. Here are two of my favourite recipes but please do contact me (details on the ‘about me’ page) if you have any other good ones (aside from the usual ratatouille and stuffed courgettes which get a bit tedious). As much as I absolutely hate waste it’s got to the point now where we can’t even give them away. We are currently decorating our garden with some of the larger ones and in past years they have ended up as door stops and baby playthings.

courgettes edited Eddie with courgette edited 2

Courgette and basil soup

  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 8 medium courgettes roughly chopped into chunks
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Salt and pepper
  • A good handful of parmesan
  • A good handful of basil leaves (or you can use pesto if the basil has dried up)
  • 1 1/2 pints of chicken or vegetable stock (homemade is best but packet is also fine)

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add the courgettes and garlic. Turn the heat down low. The key here is to sweat the courgettes down slowly (for at least 30 minutes) without browning. The smell at this point is just wonderful. Then pour in the stock and bring to the boil and simmer for a few minutes. I let the mixture cool now for a bit before whizzing up (because I’m prone to liquidiser accidents) but if you’re in a hurry, and you’re careful it’s not really necessary.

Pour the mixture into a liquidiser and add the basil. Whizz for about 30 seconds or until smooth. The original recipe recommended a coarse texture but I personally prefer a finer one.

I then pour the mixture back into the pan and season well with salt and a little pepper. I don’t add the parmesan until the soup is ready to serve and I stir this in at the end once it’s heated through. I always have it in my head that soup is a little boring (this probably comes from my Dad who has never classed soup as a proper meal) so I like to work the presentation. With this recipe I save a little parmesan to sprinkle over the top and then add a drizzle of good olive oil and a few torn up basil leaves.

Any leftover soup keeps well for a couple of days in the fridge as long as you don’t add the parmesan.

Courgette and hazelnut cake

This recipe was passed to me by a former colleague Glenis. It’s taken from her vast collection of recipes cut out of magazines, I have no idea how old it is or which magazine it came from. I promise that it is much nicer than it sounds. In the past, when I was working, I have taken it into the office and everyone has devoured it (as long as the secret ingredient isn’t disclosed until the end).

This is a large cake that should easily divide into 10-12 large pieces.

  • 100g hazelnuts
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 200ml sunflower oil
  • 25ml walnut oil
  • 225g grated unpeeled courgettes, patted dry with kitchen towel
  • 275g self-raising flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 180oC fan, and prepare a 23cm spring form tin by lightly oiling and lining with greaseproof paper.

Roast the hazelnuts for 5-10 minutes on a tray in the oven. Watch them carefully to make sure that they don’t burn, you want a golden colour. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tray before chopping roughly.

Place the sugar, eggs and two oils in a large mixing bowl and whisk until thick (you can do this by hand but it’s really, really hard work so I always use an electric mix). Add the courgettes to the oily, sugary mixture and stir until combined. Combine the flour, salt and cinnamon in a bowl and then add to the courgette mixture, folding in very gently. Then fold in the roasted hazelnuts, again use a gentle action here so that you don’t overbeat the mixture.

Tip the mixture into the tin and bake for 45 minutes, or until a skewer in the middle of the cake comes out clean.

Leave the cake in the tin to cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack. Then remove the cake from the tin and leave to cool completely before icing.

The original recipe decorates the cake with ripe peaches before serving but I prefer a more gluttonous, carrot cake style cream cheese topping which I make by mixing a small tub of full fat cream cheese (200g) with an equal amount of icing sugar and a few drops of vanilla essence.