Tuesday, May 31, 2011

New York Cheesecake

Last night, we had a dinner party at my house.  Naturally, I planned and cooked the menu; but the difficulty was that the guests aren't fans of big sweets which ruled out a lot of puddings, chocolate conncoctions, iced cakes and so on. 
I did know that they loved cheesecakes and lemony desserts; so this New York Cheesecake fit the bill perfectly.  I was so impressed with the way this cheesecake turned out; smooth, dense and silky.  Despite the fact I used low fat ingredients, there were no cracks or issues.  It was a perfect, smoothly chic cheesecake. We served it with strawberries and orange on the side.

Ingredients for Base
250g plain sweet biscuits
125g butter, unsalted, melted

Ingredients for Filling
750g cream cheese, softened
2 tsp finely grated orange rind
1 tsp finely grated lemon rind
1 cup caster sugar
 3 eggs
3/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup lemon juice

Ingredients for Topping
1 cup sour cream
2 tbsp caster sugar
2 tsp lemon juice

Process biscuits until fine; transfer to a bowl.  Pour melted butter into bowl with biscuits; stir until well combined.  Press mixture over base and side of a 24cm springform round tin.  Place tin in fridge; leave for 30 to 40 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 160 degrees (fan-forced).  Make filling by beating cheese, rinds and sugar in a meidum bowl with electric mixer until smooth.  Beat in eggs, one at a time.  Beat in sour cream and juice.  Pour filling into tin; bake for 1 1/4 hours.  Turn off oven and leave cheesecake in there to cool for 15 minutes; ensuring the door is ajar.  Meanwhile, make sour cream topping by combining ingredients in a small bowl. Spread topping gently on top of cheesecake.  Turn oven back on to previous heat (160).  Bake cheesecake for 20 minutes; cool in oven with door ajar.  Refridgerate cheesecake overnight before serving.  Serve plain, or with fruits on the side.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Two-tone Icing Tutorial

Two-tone icing is something I've wanted to attempt for a while, but fear of a messy coloured cupcake stopped me.  To combat mess, I've come up with an idea outlined below! I've taken some step-by-step pictures to make it easier to understand.  The extra few steps (instead of just shoving pink and white icing freely in a piping bag) is totally worth the time.  It creates such a pretty style of icing; which really reminds me of a rose for some reason!

Ingredients for Buttercream
250g unsalted butter, softened
3 cups icing sugar, sifted
3 tsp water
+ 1 drop of desired food dye
+ 12 un-iced cupcakes

Method for Buttercream
In one bowl, place 125g of the butter.  Beat in electric mixer until butter is smooth and creamy.  Add 1 cup of the icing sugar, and beat until smooth.  Add 1 1/2 tsp of water and beat again.  Now add 1/2 cup icing sugar and beat until smooth and spreadable.  Set this plain bowl of buttercream aside.
In a separate bowl, place 125g of butter and beat in electric mixer until smooth and creamy.  Add 1 cup of icing sugar, and beat until smooth.  Add 1 1/2 tsp of water and beat again.  Now add 1/2 cup icing sugar and beat until smooth.  Add 1-2 drops of desired food dye.  Beat until combined.  Set this bowl of pink buttercream aside.

Method for Two-Tone Icing
Lay out a 30cm x 20cm rectangle piece of cling film on a bench.  Scoop all of plain buttercream onto this cling film; spreading into a sausage shape.  Roll up into a sausage shape; ensuring one end is completely closed and the opposite end is open for the icing to be squeezed out later.  Repeat this process for the pink buttercream.  You should now have 2 cling film sausage shapes filled with plain buttercream, and the other with pink buttercream (refer to picture 1 below)

Picture 1: Separate icing sausages

Now slide those two cling film icing sausages (pictured above) into 1 large piping bag.  Ensure they are placed evenly in the bag as in Picture 2 (eg. both icing sausage openings are evenly near the piping bag's nozzle).  If you adjust the height of one of the icing sausages (eg. pink buttercream higher than white buttercream) you will create a different colour ratio (eg. 80% white and 20% pink).  If they are evenly placed, you will have an even two-tone effect (eg. roughly 50% white and roughly 50% pink). 

Picture 2: Both icing sausages evenly placed in 1 large piping bag
Now squeeze icing out of piping bag in a circle motion and onto a plain cupcake.  You should now have a two-tone icing ontop of your cupcake.  Adjust the height of one of the icing sausages to experiment with different colour ratios.

Even colour ratio due to evenly placed icing sausages
Uneven colour ratio due to unevenly placed icing sausages

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Two Minute Tiramisu

I whipped this dessert up in a surprisingly short time as we had unexpected guests for dinner.  I was impressed with not only the ease, but the luxurious taste of this creamy tiramisu dessert.  The cream and mascarpone create such a silky texture which work perfectly with the coffee soaked fingers.  I would make this over and over again!

1 generous tbsp instant coffee granules
1 tsp mocha granules or drinking chocolate (optional)
1/2 cup boiling water
125g savoiardi sponge finger biscuits
3/4 cup thickened cream, full fat
1/3 cup icing sugar
500g mascarpone cheese
1/3 cup marsala wine
2 tsp drinking chocolate, to sprinkle


Stir coffee, water and mocha granules/drinking chocolate in a small bowl until combined.  Cut biscuits in half and set aside.  Beat cream, icing sugar, and cheese with electric mixer until soft peaks form; then slowly beat marsala through. Dip half of biscuits in coffee mixture; divide among four 11/2 cup glasses.  Divide half of mascarpone mixture among glasses. Dip remaining biscuits in coffee mixture; divide among glasses, top with remaining mascarpone mixture,  Serve dusted with 2 tsp drinking chocolate.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Lamb and Spinach Korma

This was a easy and healthy weeknight meal which is now a new family favourite.  You could bulk it up with more vegetables or serve it along other curry recipes such as these here, or here.  Of course, it was very gratifying to make this curry with a homemade korma paste, recipe here, but the bottled paste is just fine too.

800g lamb fillet, diced
2 brown onions, chopped and diced
1/3 cup korma curry paste
1L chicken stock
150g baby spinach leaves
1/2 cup greek style natural yoghurt

Heat oil in a large frying pan over high heat and cook half of the lamb, stirring for 4-5 miin or until browned.  Transfer to a plate.  Repeat with remaining lamb.  Reduce heat to medium and cook onion, stirring, for 6-10 min or until soft but not coloured.  Add lamb and curry paste.  Cook, stirring, for 1 min or until aromatic.  Stir in stock and bring to gentle simmer.  Reduce heat to low and simmer, half covered, stirring now and then for 1 hr or until lamb is tender.  Stir in spinach and simmer for 1-2 min or until spinach wilts.  Remove from heat and stir in yoghurt until well combined.  Dive korma amongst 4 bowls.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Chocolate and Custard Tartlettes

Some of my favourite foods when it comes to baking are custard, and chocolate.  And I'm sure you all know that I love French tarts.  So what if we combined them all? This is something I have considered baking for a long time.  A custard tart with a hidden layer of cold chocolate at the bottom.  I have this thing though, that the chocolate has to make a crack when you bite into it.  I just love that texture contrast between hard chocolate and soft, creamy custard.  So, these tartlets for me are a real dream because they truly fulfil all of my critera.  Makes 4 tartlets

Ingredients for Shortcrust Pastry
1 cup plain flour
2 tbsp icing sugar
90g unsalted butter, cubed
1 -2 tbsp iced water

Sift the flour into a bowl and stir in the sugar. Using your fingertips, rub the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Make a well in the centre and water. Mix to a dough with a flat-bladed knife, using a cutting action. Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and gather into a ball. Press together until smooth, then roll out and cut to fit 1 tart dish. Regridgerate for 20 minutes; preheat the oven to 180 degrees (fan-forced). Line the dishes with baking paper and spread some baking weights at the bottom. Bake for 20 minutes, remove the paper and then continue to bake for a further 10-15 minutes. Set aside to cool before filling.

Ingredients for Chocolate Layer
100g chocolate
30g copha

Combine ingredients in a bowl set over a pot of simmering water on the stove.  Allow to melt and stir with a spoon until smooth and combined.  Distribute into 4 tarts.  Put in fridge for 1-2 hours, or until set.

Ingredients for Custard Filling
3 egg yolks
2 tablespoons caster sugar
2 tablespoons cornflour
1 cups milk (I used skim milk)
1 tsp vanilla essence
+ 20g chocolate, for decoration

Once chocolate layer it set, make the custard filling.  To make the filling, put the yolks, sugar and cornflour in a bowl and whisk until pale. Heat the milk in a saucepan until almost boiling, then remove from the heat and add gradually to the egg mixture; beating constantly. Strain back into the pan. Stir constantly over low heat for 4 minutes, or until the mixture boils and thickens. Do not over cook. Remove from the heat, and add the vanilla and stir through well. Immediately pour the custard filling into the cool pastry shell over the chocolate layer.  Allow custard to cool before using the 20g of chocolate.  With a hand held grater, curl chocolate shavings over the top of the custard tarts for decoration.  Chill in fridge for 1hr, or so, before serving.

Hidden layer of chocolate under the custard!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Homemade Korma Curry Paste

This is one of my best recent recipe finds! I am so thrilled to now be able to make my own curry paste from home. The smell and taste was identical, if not better, than store bought; and my version is free from preservatives, hidden fats and sugars.  And of course, it was very gratifying to smell, and see, the aromatic spices blending in my own kitchen.  Makes 1 cup

1 tbs cumin seeds
1/3 raw cashews, unsalted
1/4 cup tomato purée
1/4 cup fresh coriander, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crused
2 tbsp dessicated coconut
2 tbsp garam masala
3 tsp finely grated fresh ginger
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground paprika
2 tbsp ground turmeric
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 180 degrees and roast cashews, on a tray, in oven for 8 - 10 minutes before blending.  Place cumin seeds in a frying pan over medium heat and cook them, stirring, for 1 - 2 minutes or until aromatic.  Blend cumin seeds, toasted cashews, tomato puree, fresh coriander, garlic, coconut, garam masalada, ginger, ground coriander, paprika, and tumeric in a blender until combined and chopped.  Add oil and blend, scraping down sides of blender occasionally until smooth paste forms.

Look at the vibrancy of all those spices!
It's too easy - just click blend - and in seconds you'll have your own paste.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Caramel Choc Almond Slice

Even from the photo you can see that this layered brownie-like slice is seriously moist and dense.  The bottom layer is made of a rather simple chocolate base and then it is topped with a caramel nutty sauce.  The result is one very addictive slice..

Ingredients for Chocolate Base
250g plain chocolate biscuits
1 tbsp drinking chocolate
1 1/2 cup almonds or pecans
110g unsalted butter, melted

Ingredients for Caramel Topping
1/2 cup lightly packed soft brown sugar
60g unsalted butter
400g tin sweetened condensed milk

Preheat oven to 180 degres and lightly grease and line a 28 x 1cm shallow baking tin.  Finely crush biscuits, drinking chocolate and third of the nuts in a food processor.  Transfer to a bowl and add melted butter.  Mix well and press firmly into prepared tin.  Press rest of nuts gently over the top of this base.  To make caramel topping, place brown sugar and butter in a saucepan over low heat.  Stir until butter melts and sugar clumps dissolve.  Add condensed milk and cook, stirring, until thicker and combined.  (Do not allow to burn or curdle or taste will be terrible! This happens very quickly so keep an eye on it!) Pour over biscuit base.  Bake for 25 - 30 minutes or until caramel is firm and golden - edges will bubble and darken.  Cool, then refridgerate for at least 3 hrs.  Cut into squares once cooled.  Dust with drinking chocolate before serving, if desired. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Lumberjack Cake

Hello everyone, I'm back from my trip to China! It was such an incredible experience and you can look at the pictures of my Chinese foodie eats in my "Food and Travel" section here!  

When I returned back to my parents and sister in Australia, they demanded that I bake a cake the next day! I was still quite tired so I settled on some museli bars that I had made many times before.  But today, I finally felt up to trying out a new recipe.  This is called a Lumberjack cake and is densely packed with dates and grated green apples. The milky coconut topping takes this classic to a new level. It is definitely a new favourite. 

Ingredients for Cake
200g dried dates, pitted and chopped
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
125g unsalted butter, softened
1 cup caster sugar, minus 1 good tbsp
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 green apples, peeled and grated
1 cup plain flour
1/2 cup self raising flour

Ingredients for Milky Coconut Topping

75g unsalted butter
1/3 cup soft brown sugar, lightly packed
1/3 cup  milk
1 1/3 cup shredded coconut

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and prepare a round 20cm tin by lining and greasing it.  Put the dates in a saucepan with 250mL water and bring to boil.  Stir in bicarb of soda, then remove from heat.  Then, beat together the butter and sugar until fluffy.  Add egg and vanilla and beat until combined.  Stir in date mixture and grated apple.  Then fold the flours through this mixture until smooth.  Spoon batter into tin and bake for 40 minutes.  Meanwhile, put all the topping ingredients in a saucepan and stir over low heat until butter is melted and ingredients are combined.  Remove cake from oven and carefully spread topping over cake.  Bake for futher 25 - 30 minutes.  Put silver baking foil over cake if coconut starts to burn.  Expect a dense and moist cake but ensure it springs back slightly when touched before you remove it from oven.  Remove from oven and allow cake to cool completely. Cake will keep for 3 days in airtight container.

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