RSS Feed

Monthly Archives: December 2015

Jamie Oliver’s Cherry Cheesecake Semifreddo

 

 

 

IMG_8479

IMG_9554

I found this recipe just before Christmas and it seemed the perfect solution to finding a new yummy dessert for Christmas lunch. I already had a sensational Christmas pudding – more of that in another post – and I was looking for something cold and sweet and a bit different.

Jamie has combined three great ideas – cherries because they’re seasonal for us in Australia, cheesecake which is always a winner and semifreddo for all us ice cream lovers!

It’s an easy recipe but you need to be prepared for a quite a few steps. It took me an hour or so on Christmas Eve, then freezing time overnight. It was ready to go for lunch on Christmas Day. I made these changes to the original recipe:

  • I used frozen pitted cherries rather than fresh (simply to save time pitting the fresh cherries)
  • I used ginger nut biscuits for the biscuit crunch component instead of digestive biscuits. This really worked as the biscuit crunch had a great festive ginger flavour!

Ingredients

150g digestive biscuits (I used ginger nuts)
75g unsalted butter
250g fresh cherries (I used frozen pitted cherries)
250g golden caster sugar
1 lemon
4 large free-range eggs
250ml double cream
250g cream cheese
50g dark chocolate
A large handful of cherries or mixed fresh berries

Method
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Blitz the biscuits in a food processor until fine. Melt the butter in a small pan over a low heat and stir in the blitzed biscuits and a good pinch of sea salt.
Empty the mixture into a small baking dish (roughly 15 x 20 cm), pat down and bake in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes until golden and firm. Leave to cool.
Meanwhile, halve and de-stone the cherries and place in a small pan with 200g of the caster sugar. (Or use frozen cherries). Finely grate in the lemon zest and squeeze in the juice of half and place over a medium-low heat.
Gently bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 6-8 minutes, or until softened and syrupy. Leave to cool completely, then blitz two-thirds of the mixture into a purée in a blender.
When you are ready to assemble the semifreddo, separate the eggs into two large mixing bowls and pour the double cream into a third bowl. Whisk the cream to soft peaks and beat in the cream cheese.
Whisk the egg yolks with the remaining caster sugar until creamy and pale and doubled in volume.
Whisk the egg whites with a pinch of sea salt until stiff peaks form.
Gently fold the whites into the yolks, using a large metal spoon to keep the mixture as light as possible.
Beat a large spoonful of the egg mixture into the cream cheese mixture to loosen it, then carefully fold through the remaining.
Marble in half the puréed cherries and crumble in most of the biscuit mixture in large and small pieces, then fold through most of the whole cooked cherries. Spoon the semifreddo into a 1.5 litre ceramic bowl, then crumble over the remaining biscuit and ripple through most of the remaining purée. Put the dish into the freezer for at least 6 hours.
When you are ready to serve, dip the bowl 2/3 of the way into a large bowl or pan of just-boiled water, being careful not to submerge completely. Hold until you start to see the semifreddo loosen from the sides of the bowl. Place an upside down cake stand or plate on top of the bowl, and quickly turn over, holding one hand on the bowl and one hand on the cake stand.
The semifreddo should come out in a beautiful dome. Serve garnished with the remaining puree, cooked cherries, shavings of dark chocolate and a handful of fresh cherries or mixed berries.

 

IMG_9593

Christmas Cake 2015

IMG_9519

I make the same Christmas cake each year. I make it really late in the year and it never stays round for long. It’s a recipe that’s been in my family for ages.

I blogged the recipe this time last year – so why blog it again? Nothing’s changed, except this time I made it round, not square! I love making the cake, so I’ve written about it again and with photos of the process to show how easy the cake is to make. I even make this cake in the food processor, to simplify it further. It’s rich with glace, crystallized and dried fruit and it’s iced with an almond (marzipan) icing topped with royal icing.

While watching a Great British Bakeoff Christmas special, I noticed the similarities between Mary Berry‘s recipe and my cake. The recipe below is our family one but I decided to use Mary’s royal icing recipe with a good result.

IMG_9518(1)

Ingredients

250 gms butter
250 gms brown sugar
315 gms plain flour
375 gms raisins
375 gms sultanas
125 gms  glacé cherries
65 gms glacé peaches
65 gms glacé pears
125 gms glacé apricots
65 gms glacé pineapple
65 gms crystallised ginger
65 gms mixed peel (optional)
6 large free range eggs
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp almond essence
1/2 tsp glycerine
Juice of half an orange
Finely grated peel of half an orange
1/4 cup of good brandy/whisky – extra 1/4 cup of brandy/whisky to pour over the hot cake when it comes out of the oven.

Method
Grease a cake tin and line with baking paper or aluminum foil. I use an 18cm or 7″ square tin  or a 18cm or 7″ diameter round tin. You may end up with left over mixture with this size, so you could go up a size. I like a high cake and this cake doesn’t rise so you can fill the smaller tins fairly full.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C then turn back to 135 degrees C.  The principle of cooking a rich fruitcake is to put the cake into a preheated oven and cook very slowly. This size cake does take a long time!
The original recipe says to mix by hand in a large basin. This was lots of fun when we were growing up making the family Christmas cake but now I suggest using an electric mixer.
Cream butter and sugar and beat in the eggs one at a time.

IMG_9388IMG_9390IMG_9391

Mix in the sifted flour lightly. Stir in spices, essences, glycerine, fruit juice and brandy/whisky, and finally stir in the fruit the larger varieties of which have previously been cut roughly. There is no need to wash the fruit. If the fruit is wet it tends to sink to the bottom of the cake.

IMG_9392IMG_9516IMG_9395
Bake about 1- 2 hours or until the top is pale brown and a skewer comes out clean when inserted in the cake.  It’s a little hard to be more precise than this as the weather, the quality of the flour and individual ovens have a lot to do with cooking time. You can put a piece of foil over the top of the cake during the last hour of cooking if the cake browns too quickly.
When the cake is cooked, remove from the oven and pierce all over with a skewer. Pour 1/2 a cup of brandy/whisky over the hot cake and wrap in a towel till cool.
Turn out of the tin onto a board or large flat plate.

IMG_9517

Almond Icing
250 gms ground almonds
375 gms icing sugar
1 egg white
Juice of  1/2  lemon

Mix all the ingredients to make a stiff dough. Divide the dough into sections – one large ball for the top of the cake, the rest for the sides of the cake.
Brush the cake with apricot jam which will help the almond paste to stick. Let the cake rest for a day.

Royal Icing – Mary Berry recipe

Ingredients

675 g icing sugar
3 free range egg whits
3 tsp lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp glycerine

Method

Sieve the icing sugar. Whisk the egg whites in a large bowl until they become frothy. Add the icing sugar to the egg whites, a spoonful at a time, and fold in. Add the lemon juice and glycerine and stir. Beat the icing until it is very stiff and white and stands up in peaks. Spread over the top and sides of the cake and rough up the icing with a spatula so that it forms peaks.

IMG_9514(1)

 

 

Christmas Brioche

IMG_9329

I am still cooking from James Morton’s book Brilliant Bread. James is the most common sense baker around and his recipes really work. This time, I tried his Super-Fast Brioche and it was pretty fast. From mixing to eating in half a day.

I tweaked the recipe a bit and made a lovely Christmas version with sour cherries and cranberries. And as the dough is a bit tricky to use as it’s really sticky, I put the first prove in the fridge to make the dough firm up and make it easier to handle. You can also make a normal brioche loaf without the fruit and spices.

The texture was incredibly light and airy, somewhere between cake and bread. Which make sense of Marie Antoinette’s “Let them eat brioche” – not cake as the popular saying goes – Qu’ils mangent de la brioche“. And I used my wonderful sourdough starter, going strong after 6 months! I cannot recommend highly enough using sourdough starter in bread recipes where instant yeast is also used.

Here is James’ recipe, with my tweaks:

Ingredients

100g white sourdough starter (1-2 days after feeding) see here for how to make a sourdough starter

170g plain flour 30g strong white flour

One 7g sachet instant yeast

40g caster sugar ( I used 40g, double the sugar that James has in his recipe for a slightly sweeter brioche)

3 free-range eggs

5g salt

125g butter, softened and cubed

A handful of sour cherries

A handful of dried cranberries

I/4 tsp each of cinnamon and nutmeg

1 more free-range egg, for glazing at the end

Method

Preheat oven to 220 degrees C,  200 degrees C fan-forced and very heavily grease (with butter) and line a loaf tin.

Using a wooden spoon or electric mixer, beat together all dough ingredients except the butter.  (I used my KitchenAid with the dough hook.) Keep beating very vigorously – probably around 5-10 minutes – and you can see the dough become more elastic and stringy. If you are very competent with dough handling, you can attempt some stretches and folds. Beat in the butter until fully incorporated and the dough is totally smooth, another 5 minutes. You will notice the dough change – it will become firmer. Using hands or a dough scraper, fold the dough over into the middle of your bowl, tightening it.

Cover and rest for 30 minutes at room temperature. Using your hands or a dough scraper again, fold the sides of the dough into the middle, working your way all around the bowl several times. You will see the dough tightening – you want to help it hold its shape at the end.

Cover and prove the dough for at least 2 hours in the fridge.  Remove from the fridge and get ready to shape.  The dough should have firmed up enough to shape it into a   loaf to go into the tin, for a regular brioche, or roll it and fill with fruit and spices and then shape for a Christmas version.

For regular brioche, fold the dough into a loaf shape and put into the buttered tin. Be careful with handling – it’s still a fragile dough, even after being in the fridge.

For Christmas brioche, put your chilled proved dough onto a floured board and gently stretch to a rectangle. Don’t go too thin – just stretch the dough large enough to be able to fold it over a couple of times with the filling. Scatter the cherries and cranberries and spices onto the dough then fold over 1/3 from the top, and then fold the dough over onto the remaining 1/3 of the dough. Carefully transfer to the very well buttered tin.

Prove for a final 1 hour. The dough should be light and fragile, but springy on top when prodded. Eggwash the top of the loaf, and turn the oven down to 200 degrees C, 180 degrees C fan-forced, and bake for 40 minutes until dark brown on top.

When cooked, cool in the tin for for a few minutes, then carefully turn out onto a wire rack. It should be OK, but you may need to ease the brioche out of the tin, as this dough can sometimes stick. Fingers crossed!

Let cool completely before eating. I served my brioche plain with butter, and with Christmas jam* and natural yoghurt.IMG_9358

When the brioche was a couple of days old, I toasted it and served it with vanilla butter (unsalted butter whipped with icing sugar and vanilla paste) and Christmas jam*.

IMG_9377

*Christmas jam is made with fresh or frozen cherries and cranberries, and sugar and water as in normal jam recipes.

 

 

Sweet Potato Muffins – Jamie Oliver’s Everyday Super Food

IMG_9247

These muffins, from Jamie Oliver‘s book Everyday Super Food look great in the photos, and the recipe sounds quite intriguing. I’m a huge fan of sweet muffins and make loads of them. They’re a great go-to item when you’re asked to provide breakfast on the run for colleagues at work.

But the idea of a savoury muffin also appeals, and as sweet potato, one of my favourite vegetables, is the star of this recipe, I was keen to have a go! So I made my first batch and was pleased with the result.  This recipe contains my amendments to Jamie’s recipe – see here for the original. My changes were not made on taste or aesthetic grounds – I needed to substitute some ingredients as I didn’t have the items… The main substitution was using yoghurt instead of cottage cheese.  The yoghurt was non-fat so I felt even more virtuous for making the change!

Ingredients

Olive oil

600g sweet potatoes

2 eschallots

1 fresh red chillies or 1 tsp chilli paste

6 large free-range eggs

3 tbls non-fat yoghurt

250g wholemeal self-raising flour

50g Parmesan cheese

2 tbls mixed seeds (I used pepita and sesame)

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line a 12-hole muffin tin with paper cases or 15cm folded squares of grease proof paper, then lightly spray with non-stick spray or wipe each one with oiled kitchen paper. Peel the sweet potatoes and coarsely grate into a large bowl. Finely chop the eschallots and the fresh chilli if using. Add the eschallots, chopped chilli or chilli paste to the bowl. Crack in the eggs, add the yoghurt and flour, then finely grate in most of the Parmesan cheese and season with sea salt and black pepper. Mix until combined.

Evenly divide the muffin mixture between the cases. Sprinkle over the seed. Use the remaining Parmesan cheese to scatter over each muffin, then bake at the bottom of the oven for 45 to 50 minutes or until golden and set.

Serve warm straight from the oven, or leave to cool to room temperature. They taste lovely as is, but you could also dress them up with a green salad as a lunch or picnic dish.

IMG_9255

 

 

White Chocolate, Cranberry and Sour Cherry Cookies: Christmas Baking

IMG_9220

This is the first proper day of Christmas baking for me for 2015.

Technically it was the second, as I had baked for work colleagues last week. I made mini muffin Christmas cakes, but I am not counting them as I blogged them last year. See the post for Little Christmas Cakes.

I made these Christmassy cookies – White Chocolate, Cranberry and Sour Cherry –  for the the foreperson of the building renovations next door to me.

We have survived 7 months of extensive renovations to the house next door. During this time – winter, spring and summer  – I got to know the foreperson on the site, a very capable young woman who impressed me with her expertise, communication skills and physical strength!

Yesterday was the last day of renovations, and so I baked for Jess as a thank you for all her help and because it’s Christmas!

The recipe, minus the sour cherries, is Jamie Oliver‘s of course. I thought the cherries added flavour and festiveness. Strangely, while the recipe follows other conventional cookie recipes, there is no egg in it. The cookies were quite crumbly, and I wondered if the lack of egg was responsible for this.  Just be a little careful storing or transporting them.

IMG_9219

Ingredients

100g unsalted butter

85g icing sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla paste

100g self-raising flour

30g cornflour

4 tablespoons rolled oats

50g white chocolate roughly chopped

50g  cranberries (fresh, defrosted or rehydrated)

30g sour cherries

Method

Beat the butter and icing sugar till pale with an electric mixer. Or just do it in the food processor as I did. Add vanilla extract to the butter/sugar mixture.

Combine the flour, cornflour and oats, then add carefully to the mixture. Try not to over mix whether you are using an electric mixer or food processor, as the oats will break up too much. You need them still to be crunchy. Mix in the chocolate and cranberries and cherries by hand, then shape the dough into a roll. Wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 180ºC.

Slice the dough into 1cm rounds, place on a baking tray lined with baking paper and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until light golden brown, but soft to the touch.

Carefully transfer the cookies onto a cooling rack and allow to cool and crisp a little before eating or storing.

IMG_9229

 

Berry Mousse Layer Cake

IMG_9177

IMG_9182

I love meringue and I love a really light and airy sponge cake. I also love berries and cream. I decided to create a cake that incorporated all of these elements into one festive cake.

Each layer is easy to make, and the whole cake can be assembled on the day you bake it. But it does take a little more time than (my) average throw-all-the-ingredients-in-the-food-processor cake!

It’s a lovely celebration cake. I made it for a friend’s special birthday. It would be a great cake to serve at Christmas for dessert – it’s so fresh, colourful, full of berries – Christmas on a plate!

To make it, you construct layers of meringue and sponge cake with layers of  berry mousse, rasbberry jam, more berries and cream. The mousse really softens the meringue layers and make the sponge cake almost dissolve.

Decorate how you like – fancy or plain – the cake will look good and be delicious either way!

You will need: meringue layers, sponge cake layers, berry mousse, raspberry jam, whipped cream and fresh berries.

Berry Mousse – I used raspberries, blackberries and a few cherries. I’ve made it before with blueberries and strawberries in the mix too.

Ingredients
400g mixed frozen berries
125g caster sugar
300ml cream
1 sheet gelatine
Method
Soften gelatine in a bowl of water for 5 minutes. Place frozen berries in a saucepan with the caster sugar. Cook over a low heat until the sugar dissolves and the berries begin to break down. Remove from heat.
Squeeze excess water from the gelatine and add to the berry/sugar mixture in the saucepan. Stir gently to dissolve the gelatine. Set aside to cool. Whip the cream to soft peaks in an electric mixer. At this stage you can strain the berry mixture if you want a pure mousse, or you can leave the broken down berries in the mixture if you want a more fruity mousse.
Fold the berry mixture carefully into the whipped cream. Chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour until the mousse has thickened but not set completely.

Meringue Layers

Ingredients
4 egg whites
1 cup caster sugar
a few drops of vanilla essence
1/4 tsp balsamic vinegar

Method
Preheat oven to 120 degrees C. Roughly mark out rectangles the same size as the sponge cake tins on baking paper (about 23cm x 33 cm). Turn over the pieces of baking paper – you can see the rectangle markings – and place them on each of 2 baking trays.
Beat egg whites with an electric mixer until stiff. Gradually beat in sugar, continue beating until very stiff. Stir in vanilla and vinegar.
Spoon meringue onto paper rectangles, smoothing out tops so there no obvious peaks.
Place baking trays in centre of oven. Cook for 10 minutes to set the meringue, then turn down oven to 100 degrees C.
Bake for 1 1/2 – 2 hours, until the meringue is dry, but not brown.
Turn oven off, leave in oven with door ajar until meringue is cool. When meringues are completely cool, carefully remove from baking paper.

Sponge Cakes
Ingredients
50g cornflour
50g plain flour
50g self-raising flour
4 x 60g free range eggs, at room temperature
150g caster sugar
Method
Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Grease 2 rectangular cake tins or Swiss roll tins (I used a regular cake tin and a Swiss roll tin, both 23cm x 33 cm) and line bases with baking paper. Sift flours and 1/4 teaspoon salt together three times to aerate.
Using an electric mixer, beat eggs and sugar in a large bowl on medium-high speed for 6 minutes, or until mixture is thick, pale and tripled in volume. Gradually sift flour mixture over egg mixture while simultaneously folding in with a large metal spoon until just combined.
Divide mixture between prepared tins. Gently level the batter with a spatula. Bake for 15-20 minutes  or until cakes have shrunk away from the sides slightly and spring back
when gently touched.
Turn out on to baking paper-lined wire racks. Carefully peel away baking paper, then leave to cool.

To assemble the cake:

Mix a couple of tablespoons of raspberry jam with a teaspoon of water and heat for 30 seconds in the microwave. Brush the jam mixture liberally over both sponge cakes.

Place one of the meringue layers on a serving platter. Spread the meringue with 1/3 mousse. Scatter a few sliced fresh berries over the mousse. Place one of the sponge layers on top of the mousse. Spoon another 1/3 of the mousse onto the cake. Dab a little whipped cream – a couple of tablespoons – onto the mousse. Scatter a few more sliced berries over the mousse and cream. Repeat with the other sponge cake layer, the remaining 1/3 mousse, a little whipped cream and more sliced berries. Place the other meringue layer on top.

Chill in the fridge for a few hours to firm the cake. Decorate with whipped cream and fresh berries in whatever way takes your fancy.

The cake cuts well once it’s chilled. Everything softens up. It keeps well in the fridge, and like trifle, the flavour improves as everything blends together with time!

IMG_9199 (1)

 

 

Very Seedy Home-Baked Bread

IMG_8739
This is the kind of loaf you can knock up in a few hours. Yes there is proving time, and baking time of course, but you can decide to bake bread one afternoon and have it done for dinner that evening. Of course the recipe is based on one from the wonderful baker James Morton. He has revolutionized the way I approach bread making and enriched and laminated doughs.

He is the new god of baking and his first book Brilliant Bread is my bible: http://www.amazon.com/Brilliant-Bread-James-Morton/dp/0091955602

This recipe is almost but not quite no-knead. I made the recipe using white flour and heaps of seeds and a few pecans. A bit odd, not using wholemeal flour, I know, but I kind of like this combination. You could of course use wholemeal flour, or 300g wholemeal and 200g white, which James uses in his original recipe. See here for the original.

Ingredients

500g strong white flour

A good handful of mixed seeds. I don’t measure, I put in as many or as little as I feel like of sesame, poppy, linseed, chia and pepita seeds. Nuts are good too. I threw in a few pecans

10g salt

7g sachet dried instant yeast

350g water

Some sourdough starter, about 100g (optional). If you don’t have a starter on hand, the recipe still works well.

Method

Rub dry ingredients together, keeping salt and yeast separate. Add water and starter, then use your dough scraper to combine into a loose dough. Once combined, use your scraper to pull the dough from the edge of the bowl into the middle.  You should then work your way around the bowl several times, about 15-20 scrapes.

Rest the dough, covered, for 30 minutes.  Repeat the action with the scraper, knocking the air out of the dough and returning it to its original size as you do so.

Rest the dough for a further 30 minutes, then repeat scraping action one last time.

Rest the dough a final 40-50 minutes, then shape and place on a floured board or baking sheet.

Preheat the oven to 240 degrees C.

Prove until done (springs back when poked), about 50 minutes to 1 hour. Flour any baking tin you like; a loaf tin or even a square cake tin as I used this time. Carefully transfer the proved loaf to the tin.

Score the loaf and place the tin in the oven, turning the oven down to 210 degrees C.  Place another shallow baking tin with cold water in it at the very bottom of the oven to create steam (This gives your bread a lovely crust.)

Bake for about 40 minutes or until the loaf is really brown and done.

Great with any spread, I love cumquat jam on this bread. https://thequirkandthecool.com/2013/09/15/jams-marmalades-and-conserves-2013/

PS I forgot to flour my tin, and the bread stuck in places, hence the photos show where I had to cut the bread to get it out of the tin… There’s a lesson in there somewhere!

IMG_8723IMG_8743

%d bloggers like this: