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Berries and Cheesecake Trifle

Here’s a trifle recipe for Christmas from the archives. I thought it worth posting now if you’re looking for ideas for interesting looking – and tasting – deserts for Christmas 2022.

The recipe is adapted from a recipe created by Queen Vanilla products and Dr Oetker products. I liked the idea of the cheesecake filling instead of custard and cream. The recipe also created some green chocolate bark, which I thought pretty festive too.

Ingredients

Cake and berries:

4 x 250g punnets berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, or any others you fancy). Frozen berries are fine too, I used a mixture of both.

A good slosh of an orange liqueur (Cointreau, Grand Marnier)

A little caster sugar to taste if the berries are too sharp in flavour

2 sponge cake layers (bought is fine here as it’s only going to be dowsed in liqueur and berry juice)

Cheesecake filling:

280g cream cheese

90g unsalted butter

2 2/3 cups icing sugar

1 tsp vanilla bean paste

450 mls cream

Green chocolate bark:

150g original Oreos roughly blitzed in the food processor – you should have some bigger bits and some crumbs

300g white chocolate

A few drops green food colouring

Method

Combine all the berries in bowl, leaving a good handful for decorating the top of the trifle. You should cut the strawberries in halves unless they are tiny. Splosh on some orange liqueur, and add a little caster sugar to taste if the berries need sweetening. Leave for a few hours to allow the berries to release their juices.

Cut up the sponge into squares about 5 cms 0r 2 inches. It really doesn’t matter too much – they just need to be able to fit into your trifle bowl. You will also need to cut some odd shapes to fill in the gaps. Make a layer of sponge on the bottom of the bowl. Add a decent layer of berries, making sure you spoon some of the liquid over the cake so that it turns red.

To make the cheesecake filling, beat cream cheese and butter with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy. Add icing sugar gradually, beating till the mixture is well combined. Add the vanilla bean paste. Whip the cream in separate bowl until just thickened, then fold into the cheesecake mixture.

Add layer of cheesecake mixture to the berries layer in the trifle bowl.

Repeat the layering – sponge, berries and juices and cheesecake mixture, ending with a berry layer. The number of layers you get will depend on the size of your bowl and your generosity in layering. As you can see from the photo I got 3 layers of sponge and berries and 2 of cheesecake mixture. You should leave enough of the cheesecake mixture to decorate the top (3 tablespoons or so should do it). Refrigerate until ready to finish the decorations and serve.

To make green chocolate bark, heat the white chocolate in small pieces in a microwave safe bowl on medium power in 30 second intervals, stirring in between each interval, until the chocolate is completely melted. Add the green food colouring and chopped Oreos. Spread the mixture onto a baking tray lined with baking paper.  Refrigerate until set.

To finish the trifle, pile the remaining cheesecake mixture on the top of the trifle. Scatter the left over berries on the top of the “snowy” mixture. I used only fresh raspberries for the top, as they looked the most elegant. Break up the green chocolate bark and place as artistically – or in my case rustically – as you please. You don’t need to use all the bark – the recipe makes quite a large quantity. On the other hand if there are small children around they will love the white (now green) chocolate and you could use the whole lot on the pudding!

Christmas Cheesecake

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Here’s something different for Christmas Day lunch. If you’re looking for an alternative to Christmas pudding, what about a cheesecake? Make this cheesecake festive for the day by decorating it with fresh and sugared fruit, and chocolate leaves.

The recipe hails from the Sydney County Council in the 1960s and it continues to be my go to recipe for cheesecake. What makes it really delicious is the sour cream topping!

You could make it using an electric mixer, but I find it really easy to make using a food processor.

Ingredients

Crumb Crust
225g plain sweet biscuits
1/2 level teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 level teaspoon cinnamon
85g butter

Cream Cheese Filling
500g cream cheese
150g sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or paste
1 tablespoon lemon juice
4 free range eggs

Topping
300 ml sour cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 dessertspoon lemon juice
1 level tablespoon sugar

Method

Crush biscuits very finely and add nutmeg and cinnamon. Melt butter in a saucepan, remove from heat and quickly stir in biscuit crumbs.

Press firmly into greased 8″ springform tin bringing mixture within 1/2 ‘ from the top of the tin.

Put cream cheese, sugar, vanilla and lemon juice in a bowl and beat well. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.

Pour mixture into uncooked crumb crust and bake in a moderate oven at 180 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove from oven.

Beat together the topping ingredients and pour over hot cheesecake. Return to oven and bake for a further 10 minutes.

Cool, then store in refrigerator for at least 6 hours or overnight.

Decoration

Decorate with sugar frosted fresh fruit and chocolate leaves. I used cherries, strawberries and black grapes for this cheesecake. To make the sugar frosted fruit, coat fruit in lightly beaten egg white then dip in caster sugar.

To make the chocolate leaves, dip sturdy leaves in melted dark chocolate, leave to set in the fridge, then gently peel away the leaves leaving the chocolate imprint intact.

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Bishop’s Bread

This egg rich loaf, part bread, part cake, laden with colourful glacé fruit and flaked almonds is a truly festive bake for religious occasions, such as Easter.

It’s an Austrian recipe, called “Bischofsbrot”, the name alluding to its Christian origins.

I became interested in this recipe after reading about in a publication of Sydney Living Museums, that wonderful organisation that looks after many historic properties in Sydney and NSW. The link to the original recipe is here.

The recipe comes from Rose Seidler’s recipe collection. Rose was the mother of the renowned architect Harry Seidler, whose family emigrated to Australia in 1946. There are a number of Rose’s recipes written in German in the SLM collection.

Curator and colonial gastronomer at SLM, Dr Jacqui Newling has researched and baked the recipe, from a translation by Avril Vorsay. This certainly whetted my appetite to give it a go!

It’s a pretty simple recipe – the hardest part is probably separating the eggs. It’s traditionally baked in a loaf tin, but I baked mine in 16cm/6.5 inch springform tin. This made a higher, round loaf.

Another thing to remember is that you need to wait a day before you cut it. I guess that patience is a virtue!

Ingredients
140g butter, softened, + 1 teaspoon
extra butter to grease the baking pan
140g icing sugar, sifted +extra to dust the loaf after baking
6 eggs, separated
200g glacé fruit, diced*
Zest of 1 small lemon*
100g slivered or blanched almonds
140g plain flour, sifted, + 1 tablespoon extra to dust the fruit

*You can replace the glacé fruit with
a mixture of colourful dried fruit such
as apricots, apples, sultanas and
cranberries, soaked in freshly boiled
water for 15 minutes and then well
drained. Replace the lemon zest with
store-bought mixed peel for
additional citrus flavour, colour and
texture.
Note: Bishop’s bread needs to be
made a day before serving.

Method

Preheat oven to 180°C (or 160°C fan forced). Grease the base and sides of a loaf tin* with 1 teaspoon of butter and dust with a little flour.

Cream the butter and icing sugar together in a large bowl until light and fluffy, then beat in the egg yolks one at a time. Dust the fruit and zest with a tablespoon of flour and toss to lightly coat the pieces (this helps to prevent them sinking to the bottom of the cake). Stir the fruit and the almonds into the bowl, and fold in half the flour. Whisk the egg whites until stiff, then fold them through the batter with the remaining flour, being careful not to overwork the batter.

Pour the batter into the loaf tin and bake for 40–50 minutes, or until the loaf is nicely browned on top and cooked through. Test by inserting a skewer into the centre of the loaf – the skewer should come out clean and dry.

Allow the loaf to cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then transfer it to a wire rack and dust it with the sifted extra icing sugar.

Note: Once completely cooled, store the loaf overnight in a container covered with a cloth. Do not slice until the next day.

*or round springform cake tin

Speculaas Biscuits

St Ncholas Day was 6 December – so I’m a little late in posting this recipe for these delicious spicy biscuits, traditionally made for that day. But they are also eaten anytime during the Christmas season.

They are so fragrant with Christmas spice, and they make perfect edible gifts. Making them really puts you in the Christmas mood too!

This recipe is based on one I found from the brilliant people at SBS television here in Australia. You really need to stamp designs on them, and I have a couple of heavy duty Nordic ware stamps. I also have a fabulous maamoul mold, a traditional Middle Eastern pastry and biscuit mold. You put biscuit dough inside the maamoul, then turn the dough out with a lovely imprint.

But you could just as easily use any biscuit cutters.

The recipe called for a mixture of Christmas spices but I used a St Nicholas Spekulaas spice mix from Gewürzhaus Spice House in Sydney. I have included the ingredients for the individual spices as well as the pre-prepared mix.

Ingredients

250g plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

150g firmly packed brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon each of ground nutmeg, ginger and cardamom

(Or 1 tablespoon St Nicholas Spekulaas spice mix)

1/4 teaspoon salt

150g cold butter

Method

Put the flour, baking powder, sugar, spices, salt and butter in a food processor and whiz until you have a mixture that resembles breadcrumbs.

Add a tablespoon of iced water and pulse until mixture just comes together. Do this carefully – don’t overmix!

The dough will be quite loose. Turn it out onto a board or bench top and bring together into a large ball. Wrap the ball in cling film and refrigerate for 30 minutes to firm the dough and make it easier to work with.

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper.

Remove the dough from the fridge. Roll the dough out – don’t go too thin or it will be hard to cut – and use any kind of biscuit cutter to stamp out shapes. Or if you have biscuit stamps or a maamoul mold use those!

Place the biscuits on the baking trays. Roll out any scraps of dough again and stamp out more shapes. Refrigerate the trays for 20 minutes to help the biscuits keep their shape.

Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. These biscuits are quite soft in the middle so they won’t bake hard.

Once cool enough to handle, remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Store biscuits in an airtight container for a week, or you can freeze the biscuits too!

Festive Christmas Desserts

It’s 14 December. Just 11 more sleeps till Christmas! My Christmas baking is well under way, that is, I have made an awful lot of gingerbread and shortbread this last week, to give as small gifts to friends and colleagues.

I haven’t completely settled on a menu for the day itself. In Australia it’s usually hot, but we have sometimes had a chilly spell taking everyone by surprise. I usually cover both weather situations by having the festive meats hot accompanied by lots of cold salads.

Hmmm. Dessert. What to do this year? I have 4 main Chrissie desserts. Trifle – everyone’s favourite. Ice cream bombe, great for those hot days. A tiramisu style dessert for something a little different. Or the Great Australian Dessert, pavlova! Always a winner in my experience.

I know which way I’m going this year, but you’ll have to wait a bit before the big reveal.

I thought it would be good to recap some desserts that I’ve made at Christmas over the years. Maybe you might even get some inspiration if you’re looking for the perfect end to the meal!

Here are the links to some sweet treats, in no particular order, that I have made for Christmas in the past, or that would be perfect on the big day.

Peach, Passionfruit and BlackBerry Meringue Trifle – my own concoction and full of all the flavours I love at Christmas!

Christmas Pudding Cake, a Nigella Lawson recipe that celebrates tiramisu and trifle.

Christmas Festive Trifle, based on a very bright and colourful Queen Vanilla recipe.

Pavlova with Blackberries, Raspberries and Toasted Macadamias, a fabulous dessert whipped up by a wonderful friend who has a deft touch with pavlovas!

Christmas Cherry Cheesecake Semifreddo, a lovely ice cream bombe from Jamie Oliver.

Jamie’s Cherry Cheesecake Semifreddo for Christmas

Here’s another recipe from the archives for a Christmas dessert. It’s a lovely Jamie Oliver ice cream bombe from 2013.
This cherry cheesecake semifreddo bombe is pretty spectacular when frozen in a domed bowl and then turned out. And a cold alternative to a traditional hot Christmas pudding or perhaps serve both  – that’s what I usually do!
I remember finding this dessert from a magazine of Christmas recipes produced by Woolworths, our Australian supermarket for whom Jamie is the signature chef, so the recipe was created as a seasonal dessert for Australia.
Jamie has combined three great ideas – cherries, luscious cheesecake and semifreddo for all who love ice cream.
It’s an easy recipe but you need to be prepared for a quite a few steps, and of course freezing time overnight.
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.

 

 

Berry Meringue Cake for Christmas

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I made this cake last year for my friend Ruth’s birthday. I’m re-blogging it here as Christmas approaches as it would make a colourful festive offering.

I  think it would be lovely to have at Christmas time – maybe on Boxing Day if not on the big day itself.  It has echoes of a Christmas trifle – fresh berries, sponge and cream.  The meringue gives another texture to the creation.

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!

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.

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!

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