Recipe 75: Nutella cheesecake

January 15, 2012 at 5:41 pm | Posted in puddings | 1 Comment
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Again, I’m starting a post with an apology for not being around as much as I would like…. but sadly 2011 has started with a serious quantity of work, so not really having much time to do anything other than work. And work is even taking over my non-working time as I have just baked a batch of biscuits for a meeting tomorrow!

But i just wanted to draw attention to a friend of mine – Jennifer – and her new blog Running and Baking which is going to chart her preparations for an intended run across the United States of America. Yes – you did read that correctly – she is planning on running 3360 miles across the US over 3 months – working out at an average 42 miles a day. Jennifer is an awesome person – and when she is not running, she works incredibly hard and also bakes beautiful cakes – so go check her blog out!

I can’t really get my head round what is involved in running 42 miles, let alone doing that 80 times… but I guess one of the major upsides is you have to get the fuel in to keep you going…. so perhaps this recipe should be added to the eating schedule – it’s a nutella cheesecake from Nigella.

Making it: as there were only 3 adults and a child for lunch – I made half the recipe – but other than the maths of working out what the appropriate sized tin was and halving the ingredients – it was a doddle to make. The base is digestive biscuits, whizzed in the food processor with some nutella, butter and chopped hazelnuts. The topping is cream cheese, lots of nutella and some icing sugar. Then a generous application of chopped hazelnuts on top.

Eating it: wow – it was rich! But it was good! Ed’s only complaint was that I dished it up too neatly and so there was no need to “tidy” it up at the end… a situation remedied by his daughter deciding she’d prefer to have a biscuit – so he kindly “cleared up” her piece.

Next time: I have a slightly more sophisticated no-cook chocolate and mascarpone torte which is hard to beat…. but I think this will make a re-appearance on the dinner table…. but I don’t think I’d be able to go run a marathon afterwards…

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Time for sharing a secret: ultimate chocolate brownies

November 6, 2011 at 5:57 pm | Posted in baking, musings, puddings | 1 Comment
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One of the best things about the Great British Bake-Off was the “signature bake”: the weekly challenge to make something that each of the contestants saw as their best – the thing that they made often and made well (I am always disappointed when someone confessed that it wasn’t really a signature dish but instead something that had decided to do  in the run up to the competition because they thought they would impress the judges more). The idea of a signature bake is brilliant – something that you love making and that your friends and family love to be on the receiving end of…  I have a number of recipes that are my failsafes, the things I turn to when I just want to bake, and that I know will always go down well. But the premier example – the recipe that is without comparison – has to be chocolate brownies – to be precise Nigella Lawson’s chocolate brownies – to be found in both How to be a Domestic Goddess and Feast (appearing as snow-flecked brownies).

Having made these brownies countless times – and to near universal acclaim – I feel I should share them with you (in blog form) and also pass on my brownie baking tips – that I have discovered over time to make the brownies as near to fool-proof as possible! (Some have suggested that I shouldn’t write this post – that my secret should remain secret – but I think the perfect brownie is such a wonderful thing – the knowledge MUST be shared)

Making them: pretty simple (and I can more or less do it on autopilot now!) But step 1 is to melt chocolate and butter together – I do it in the microwave – slowly! Then while that is melting, the eggs, sugar and vanilla are mixed together – I usually do this in the Kenwood, so that mixing can occur while I get on with the next stage – but really it’s not hard and can easily be done by hand or using a hand mixer. Once the chocolate and butter is melted, it’s added to the sugar/eggs mixture and mixed until smooth (It’s better if the chocolate is slightly cool – if its hot when you add it to the sugar the mix ends up being oily – which does not change the taste but just ends up looking slightly less lovely). Then add flour and salt and mix once more and then add “the fun”.  Nigella suggests walnuts, and snow-flecked brownies use white chocolate chips – but I made an amazing discovery when I added mini-eggs to the batter one Easter and discovered that the crisp outer shell prevents the chocolate melting – so you get solid chunks of chocolate and a hint of the sugar shell. When it’s not Easter time – minstrels are the chocolate of choice – they make for an ultimate chocolate hit. Once everything is combined – its put into a lined tin and into the pre-heated oven for 25 minutes.

One of the key challenges of making the perfect brownie is to get it to be perfectly squidgy – I want my brownie to be fudgey and gooey and not at all like a cake! This requires courage from the baker  – because what you have to do is take them out of the oven at 25 minutes – when the top is dried out and crisp (usually a little crack or two on the surface). At this point – the inside of the brownie is still molten and were it to be a traditional cake – it would be considered seriously undercooked. But trust me: this is necessary to get the right texture. Then leave the brownies to cool and then preferably leave them overnight without cutting them for the goo to set into the perfect moist and fudgey middle.

Eating them: I don’t want to be boastful – but these brownies are amazing! A usual response is “these are the best brownies I have ever eaten”. They work on their own with tea or coffee or with ice-cream and even chocolate sauce for the ultimate pudding! There is always some in my freezer – so any emergency can be dealt with.

Next time: I will continue to refine and perfect – perhaps trying some other additions to the batter to see what they would do – I’m curious as to what would happen to chunks of a crunchie bar…

I hate seperating eggs

August 14, 2011 at 10:09 am | Posted in baking, musings, puddings | Leave a comment

One cooking task that I find deeply dull is separating eggs. I’m reasonably successful at the task thanks to a clever little separator-spoon that I bought years ago that holds the yolk and lets the white drip into a bowl. Making something requiring only egg whites is even more irritating as then the yolks have to be thrown away (or if sufficient eggs have been broken it’s an reason to make a gateau breton). So when my friend Ali told me about Two Chicks pasteurised egg whites in a carton – I was seriously excited!

Two chicks egg whites come in  carton of 15 egg whites. I used up 2 eggs white – which is 60ml of liquid to make meringues. Thanks to the Kenwood making meringue is incredibly simple – just leave it to whirr away!

The egg whites behaved totally normally when whipping them up. I created 8 little nests (and as I still haven’t conquered my fear of the piping bag, I just piled it up using a spoon to shape). We  enjoyed them with raspberries and softly whipped cream for dessert on Sunday. While I slightly overcooked the meringues to my taste  they tasted great (and that was not the fault of the ingredients, just my miscalculation).

So all in all – I think these egg whites can be considered a wonder ingredient! It makes meringue much quicker and easier to produce – and that can only be a good thing if it means that I can make the chocolate pavlova more often! The potential downside is that 15 eggs whites is a huge quantity – so I have lots left over:  time to start exploring savoury options using egg whites… watch this space!

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