Chocolate ripple cheesecake

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I wanted to make something for my brother-in-law’s birthday, and after talking to my sister, we decided on a chocolate cheesecake. After looking through a few recipes, I decided on this one by Mary Berry (http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/americanchocolaterip_6334). We all love a bit of Mary Berry!

I have slightly adapted the original recipe because I found there was no where near enough base mixture on the original recipe. Even though the base is the part of a cheesecake I’m not fond of, there is no way you can make a cheesecake without a proper base! I also used milk chocolate digestives for the base and a mixture of plain and milk chocolate in the cheesecake mix simply because I like milk chocolate more.

For the base
300g milk chocolate digestive biscuits
150g melted butter

  1. Preheat the oven to 160C and lightly grease a spring release tin. The one I used was 9″ which is 22cm
  2. Crush the digestive biscuits until they are a fine crumb texture. I do this by putting the biscuits in a food bag and bashing it with a rolling pin
  3. Melt the butter and mix with the biscuits. Tip into the tin and press the mix down so the bottom of the tin is evenly covered

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For the cheesecake
100g plain chocolate
50g milk chocolate
700g full fat cream cheesee
225g caster sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs

  1. Split the chocolate into chunks and melt in a bowl over a pan of simmering water – make sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Leave to cool slightly
  2. Put the cream cheese in a bowl and beat until soft. Add the sugar and beat again until well mixed. Then add the vanilla extract and the eggs one at a time making sure everything it combined
  3. Spoon half of the mixture onto the biscuit base making sure there are spaces between them

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  1. Add the melted chocolate to the remaining cheesecake mix and stir until fully mixed. Spoon this mix into onto the base, in between the other mix already in the tin. Swirl the top to create a marbled effect

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  1. Bake the cheesecake in the oven for 30 minutes or until it becomes slightly puffy around the edges but still looks soft n the centre. In my oven, it took roughly 40 mins to get to this stage so keep an eye on it. Turn the oven off and allow the cheesecake to cool in the oven
  2. Once the cheesecake has had time to cool in the oven, put in the fridge to cool completely before serving

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My cheesecake didn’t turn out as marbled or rippled as I would have liked. I think this was because my vanilla ‘half’ of the mix wasn’t quite half! This meant there was more chocolate mix which made it look more layered than rippled. It still looked and tasted really good though, so make it look however you want! Not bad for only the second cheesecake I have made!

Sponge cake with raspberry and mascarpone cream

This was the first cake I made when I got my mixer for my birthday. Obviously I was desperate to try it out so I wanted to make my own birthday cake to share with my family.  I knew I wanted to make a sponge cake with fresh fruit, but all the recipes I had seen before either used buttercream or fresh whipped cream – not ingredients my Dad and sister would like! After a while of looking, I came across this recipe by Delia Smith that used mascarpone as the filling – perfect!

For the cake:
175g self raising flour
1 rounded tsp baking powder
3 large eggs
175g caster sugar
175g butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Preheat the oven to 170ºC and line and grease two 20cm loose bottomed cake tins
  2. Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl. Then add all the rest of the sponge ingredients and mix until everything is combined and smooth. This is what is called an all-in-one cake as all of the ingredients are added in one stage
  3. Divide the mixture between the two tins and spread out until level. Place in the centre of the oven for 30-35 mins

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  1. Allow the cake to cool completely on a wire rack

For the filling:
225g fresh raspberries
3-4 tbsp raspberry jam
250g mascarpone
200ml fromage frais
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Whisk the mascarpone and fromage frais together and then add the sugar and vanilla extract
  2. Put one cake on your serving plate and spread with one tablespoon of jam

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  1. Next spread half of the cream mixture and then scatter with the raspberries. Add the remaining cream and drizzle with the remaining jam

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  1. Place the second sponge cake on top and press down gently. Dust with a small amount of icing sugar

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This cake is a great alternative from the usual sponge cakes. The recipe is incredibly easy and very light and fluffy – a perfect cake for the summer.

The original recipe can be found at http://www.deliaonline.com/recipes/cuisine/european/english/all-in-one-sponge-cake-with-raspberry-and-mascarpone-cream.html

Yucatan chicken skewers

I am quite disorganised/forgetful when it comes to shopping. I write a list but still end up forgetting things; Rien has given up and just accepts we’ll have to go to the supermarket numerous times in a weekend! I decided I wanted to make this recipe and thought I had all of the ingredients but like usual, I didn’t – no orange juice! One of the things I like about cooking is how you can adapt recipes and add more of what you like and take out (or forget) other ingredients. Like I said, I missed out the orange juice but I added some paprika.

For the skewers:
6 chicken thighs
125ml fresh squeezed orange juice
60ml fresh squeezed lime juice
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp sunflower oil
2 tbsp ancho chilli powder
1 tsp paprika
3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
Salt
Pepper
Wooden skewers (soak in water first)

  1. Remove bones and skin from chicken thighs and cut each thigh into 2 or 3 strips
  2. Whisk together the orange juice, lime juice, honey, oil, chilli powder, garlic, salt and pepper in a shallow dish. Add the chicken thighs and leave in the fridge to marinade for 1 – 4 hours

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  1. Soak the skewers in water and thread the chicken onto the skewers (the below photo shows the Yucatan skewers next to ones marinated in lime, garlic and oil)

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  1. Cook the skewers on a griddle or BBQ for approximately 5 minutes each side or until cooked through

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Because using a BBQ is a man’s job (we must encourage men when they offer to help!), Rien was in charge of cooking the skewers. It was his first time using a BBQ so some got a little charred, but I actually like the charred flavour food gets from being cooked on a BBQ.

To go with these chicken skewers, I made some pepper and halloumi skewers. These are as easy as they sound – chopped peppers and cubed halloumi on a skewer but are a good side dish for the skewers.

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These are perfect if you’re planning on having a BBQ this weekend because they are really tasty and easy to make! You can find the original recipe at www.foodnetwork.co.uk.

Nutella buttercream

It is no secret that I am a Nutella fan. I came to the obvious conclusion that adding Nutella to buttercream could never be a bad thing!

The recipe I used was from a blog called Cooking Classy (http://www.cookingclassy.com/2013/09/banana-cupcakes-nutella-buttercream-frosting/). Their recipe used a banana cupcake, but I decided to use a simple vanilla cupcake.

This recipe makes enough buttercream for roughly 12 cupcakes. However if you like buttercream piled high on your cupcake, the recipe says to make 1 1/2 the amount below.

1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup salted butter
1/4 cup Nutella
2 1/2 tsp cocoa powder
2 cups icing sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract  
3-4 tsp double cream

  1. Beat together the butter until pale and fluffy
  2. Add the Nutella and cocoa powder and beat again to combine
  3. Add the vanilla extract and icing sugar and mix slowly until combined
  4. Finish by adding enough cream until the buttercream is the right consistency – it should be firm enough to hold its shape when piped. Mix one last time and then it is ready to pipe onto your cupcakes
  5. Decorate the cupcakes however you like, I used chopped hazelnuts and chocolate sprinkles

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Chocolate and hazelnut bundt cake

I have been very quiet on here recently because I have been on holiday in Mexico. The hotel was amazing and the food was delicious! They’ll be more of that in a later post.

Just before I went, Mum bought me a bundt tin. Bundt cakes look amazing and come in fantastic patterns and are recognised by their ring shape. When it came to finding a recipe, I knew exactly where to look. I follow someone on twitter who is referred to as the Bundt Queen – @DollyBakes. After looking at her recipes I was instantly drawn to her chocolate and hazelnut bundt cake – anything with Nutella in gets my vote! (http://www.dollybakes.co.uk/2013/09/chocolate-hazelnut-bundt-cake.html)

The hazelnut yogurt was as a little tricky to find. The original recipe said it could be found in Morrisons and Marks & Spencer. I couldn’t see it in M&S but after some serious hunting, we found it in Waitrose. I asked someone in M&S if they had it and it was definitely worth it to see their face wondering what on earth I was talking about!

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For the cake
225g butter
450g golden caster sugar
4 medium eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
350g plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp salt
250ml hazelnut yogurt 
100g milk chocolate chips
50g chopped hazelnuts
4 tbsp Nutella
Spray oil

  1. Preheat the oven to 160ºC and grease a 2.4L, 10 cup, 10 inch bundt tin. I used spray oil

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  1. Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy
  2. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after egg and then add the vanilla extract
  3. In a different bowl, mix the flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt, chocolate chips and nuts
  4. Alternate between adding the flour and yogurt starting and ending with the flour, sifting it as you add it. Don’t over mix
  5. Tip in the dry ingredients trapped by the sieve, which have been coated in flour which will help them from sinking
  6. Mix everything together once more just so the dry ingredients mixed through
  7. Pour 3/4 of the mix into the prepared tin

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  1. Spread the Nutella over the cake mix. If you mix it with a spatula in a bowl first this makes is easier to spread. Keep the Nutella away from the edges of the cake

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  1. Cover with the remaining mix and spread evenly. Give the tin a wipe with kitchen roll if you have managed to get the mix on the tin like I did!
  2. Bake in the centre of the oven for about 1 hour 15 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. It should be shrinking from the sides of the tin slightly. It took approximately 1 hour for the cake to be cooked in my oven so keep an eye on it!
  3. Leave the cake to cool for 10 minutes, then remove from the tin

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  1. Allow to cool completely

For the icing:
300g icing sugar
100g cocoa powder
Chopped hazelnuts for scattering

  1. Mix the icing sugar and cocoa powder together with enough water to make a runny icing
  2. Pour over the cake and sprinkle with chopped nuts

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This is a fantastic recipe and can’t wait to try more bundt cakes!

 

Red velvet cake

One of my friends, Hollie, asked me if I would be willing to make them a cake for her Mum’s 50th birthday party. She showed me a photo of the sort of cake she had in mind – a square 2 tiered cake covered in fondant. I haven’t used fondant before and I didn’t want to experiment with a cake for such a special occasion. I wanted to find a cake that I thought I would be able to do well but that still had a bit of a wow factor. I saw this cake on a blog I have featured before called Sunday Baking (http://www.sundaybaking.co.uk/really-easy-chocolate-rainbow-smarties-cake/) and thought it looked really pretty. I showed it to Hollie and she said it would be perfect. We started talking about it more and she asked if I could make a red velvet cake instead of the chocolate cake in the recipe. She also asked if I could use white chocolate fingers instead of the milk chocolate fingers. Challenge accepted!

I started looking for red velvet cake recipes – there were so many to choose from! I have a twitter account set up so I can tweet about food and talk to other people with the same interests (@Curlyscooking). I tweeted asking if anyone had a recipe they had used and would recommend. Food Network UK tweeted me back with an Anna Olsen recipe (http://www.foodnetwork.co.uk/recipes/red-velvet-cake.html-2) which looked really good, so I decided to use it.

I hadn’t made a red velvet cake before (ignoring the red velvet cake balls) so I wanted to try it out before I made it for Hollie’s Mum’s party. Also, Hollie hadn’t tried red velvet cake before so it was important that she actually liked it and thought her Mum would too. The cake is very dense with a subtle chocolate taste which makes it different to any cake I have eaten before. Hollie really liked it so that was the cake sorted!

It does take some time, but I think I was definitely able to create some wow factor.

For the cake:
190g unsalted butter, room temperature

400g sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
300g plain flour
50g cocoa powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
360ml buttermilk
1 1/2 tbsp white vinegar
1 tsp red food colouring gel

  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C. Line two 20cm loose bottomed cake tins – I used round tins but the original recipe used square tins
  2. Beat the butter until smooth and then add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Add the vanilla and beat again
  3. In a separate bowl, sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add this to the creamed mixture alternating with the buttermilk – start and end by adding the flour
  4. Add the colouring and vinegar to the cake and then divide the mix evenly between the two tins
  5. Bake for 35-40 mins or until a toothpick comes out clean
  6. Cool the cakes in their tins for 20 mins and then cool completely on a wire rack

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For the icing:
190g unsalted butter, at room temperature
340g cream cheese, at room temperature
450g icing sugar 
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Beat the butter until light and fluffy and then add the cream cheese. Mix until smooth
  2. Add the icing sugar in stages, making sure it is all mixed in before adding the next. Beat in the vanilla
  3. Put one of the cakes on your serving plate and spread with a generous amount of the icing. Place the other cake on top and spread this with the icing. I start with the top and then spread the icing on the sides
  4. You can leave the cake as it is, but if you want to decorate it like I did line the sides of the cake with fingers making sure there aren’t any gaps. Tie with ribbon

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  1. Carefully starting in the centre, place the smarties in rings using a different colour smartie for each ring. Don’t worry too much about making it even, as you go you get the hang of it
  2. Make sure you keep it in the fridge

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The original recipe says to stir the gel colouring into the vinegar and then add it to the mix. I did this the first time I made the cake and somehow I got the colouring everywhere when pouring it into the mixer. It stained my work surface which made me panic because my landlords are very strict and would shout at me (for those of you that don’t know, my parents are my landlords!). A little bit of Cif worked wonders and my work surface is now stain free but to avoid this happening to you, just put the colouring and vinegar straight into the mixer and don’t faff around mixing them beforehand.

Jammy biscuits

I’m not really a fan of biscuits; I think it’s the crunchiness I’m not keen on. These are my ideal kind of biscuit because they have a slight crunch on the outside but the middle is almost cake like. They are so simple and really quick people of any baking ability will be able to make them. They won’t last very long so I recommend doubling the quantities so you can make more!

Use whatever jam you like, I used raspberry because it is my favourite.

200g self raising flour
100g caster sugar

100g butter
1 egg
4 tbsp jam

  1. Heat the oven to 170ºC. Rub the flour, sugar and butter together until you have a breadcrumb texture
  2. Add enough egg to create a stiff dough – you may not need the whole egg
  3. Shape the dough into a tube and cut into slices approximately 2cm thick
  4. Put them on a baking tray lined with baking parchment make sure you leave enough space between each biscuit for them to expand when they bake

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  1. Make a small indentation in the middle of each biscuit with the end of a wooden spoon and drop a tsp of jam in the centre. Don’t get too carried away or else the jam could run out

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  1. Bake for 10-15 minutes until they are just golden brown
  2. Cool on a wire rack

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You can find the original recipe at http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1752/simple-jammy-biscuits

Millionaire’s shortbread

This recipe was Rien’s idea. I wanted to bake something that wasn’t a cake and Millionaire’s shortbread are one of his favourite things. I was most nervous about the caramel layer because I’ve never made this before and it’s a little scary.

There were lots of different recipes to choose from but I used a BBC Food recipe by Emily Angle (http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/millionaires_shortbread_76712).

I was really happy with how they turned out, especially as people said they looked and tasted as good as shop bought ones. I will definitely be making these again.

For the shortbread
225g plain flour
175g unsalted butter
75g caster sugar

  1. Preheat the oven to 150ºC and line a tin with baking parchment. You need something like a swiss roll tin
  2. Put the flour and butter in a bowl and rub together with your fingertips until you have a fine breadcrumb texture
  3. Add the caster sugar and mix again
  4. Tip the mixture into the tin and spread out evenly making sure you cover the whole tin. Use a back of a spoon or your fingers to do this making sure you press down to compact the shortbread
  5. Bake the shortbread for 30 mins, it should be a very light colour. Set aside to cool

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For the caramel
150g butter
379g condensed milk (1 can)
100g golden syrup

  1. Heat the butter, condensed milk and golden syrup in a pan, stirring until the butter is melted
  2. Turn up the heat and bring the mixture to the boil, stirring continuously. Keep stirring until the caramel until it thickens and becomes golden brown. This can take a good 10 – 15 minutes

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  1. Set aside to cool slightly and then pour over the shortbread. Spread to make an even layer and leave to cool completely

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350g milk chocolate

  1. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water (make sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water). Stir occasionally until you have a silky smooth sauce
  2. Pour the chocolate over the caramel and spread out

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  1. Leave to cool completely and then cut into squares. I put mine in the fridge overnight

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Cheese & chutney muffins

I made these muffins to take into work quite a few months ago because they are all cheese fanatics. To say they went down well is an understatement! Since then, one person in particular (yes I’m talking about you Hollie!) has asked me every few weeks when I am going to make them again. I have finally caved in and have made them again. Rien is not very happy that I’m taking them into work and has asked a couple of times if there are any spares so it looks like I might be making them again pretty soon!

These muffins are really simple and very tasty! You can use whatever chutney you think goes well with cheese, I have used an onion chutney.

Makes 12 muffins
175g plain flour
120g cheddar cheese, grated
80ml semi-skimmed milk
60ml sunflower or vegetable oil
1 egg
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp caster sugar
1/2 tsp salt
pinch of pepper
pinch of cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp mustard powder
your chosen chutney

 

  1. Preheat the oven to 190ºC and line a muffin tin with cases
  2. Mix the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and pepper in a bowl. Stir in the grated cheese
  3. In another bowl, beat the egg, milk, oil, mustard powder, wholegrain mustard and cayenne pepper in a bowl
  4. Stir the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients until just combined – don’t overwork it

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  1. Spoon a tablespoon of mixture into the muffin cases and spread it out so it completely covers the bottom of the cases

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  1. Put a small amount of chutney in the centre of each muffin case

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  1. Spoon the rest of the mixture in the muffin cases, taking care to try and keep the chutney in the centre

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  1. Bake in oven for 18 minutes until golden brown and they have a nice crust on top

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  1. Cool on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes before eating - hot chutney burns!

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BBQ pork steamed dumplings

I have been a little behind with my blog posts recently which is mainly down to my new mixer! Rien and my parents bought me a Kenwood Kmix for my birthday which is amazing! People that aren’t really into baking won’t understand but those of you that do have a mixer will know exactly what I’m talking about. It makes baking easier, quicker and more fun! I no longer have to spend ages beating my buttercream until it is smooth which was always a slight annoyance for me. I can now chuck it all in my mixer and carry on doing other things. I was initially slightly worried that it would feel like I was cheating because I wasn’t do everything by hand. I quickly realised this was stupid and it makes me feel like a professional even though I am far from being one!

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Anyway, because of the mixer, all I have wanted to do it bake! This doesn’t leave a great deal of time to write posts – whoops. In the last five days, I have only had one day off from baking. I really am obsessed, but my colleagues don’t seem to mind too much! The positive side is that I now have lots of recipes and photos just waiting to be written up so look out for them all!

These steamed dumplings are definitely a favourite recipe in my house. Rien loves them and nags me for weeks (sometimes months) until I finally give in and make them. To make life easier, I don’t make the pulled pork from scratch. You can buy some really good packs that you put the pork in the oven  pull it apart and then finish it off with BBQ sauce for the last few mins. They are really tasty and make this recipe quicker. I do intend to make these steamed dumplings with pulled pork from scratch one day, but until then I am happy to cheat!

I originally saw the recipe on Jamie Oliver’s ‘Save With Jamie’. The recipe is simple and easy enough it just takes some practice. Don’t worry if they don’t turn out perfect the first time. You are bound to get carried away and over-fill some like I did the first time and they will explode slightly. Just try to control yourself and add a small amount of filling!

For the steamed buns
300g Pulled pork (approximately)
500g self raising flour
400ml semi-skimmed milk
2 – 3 tbsp sesame seeds

You do need a bamboo steamer and a wok for this recipe. I bought my bamboo steamer at my Chinese supermarket but I did see one in Waitrose the other day so I think they are fairly easy to find.

  1. Put the flour in a bowl and add the milk. Combine until you have a sticky dough
  2. Turn out onto a floured surface and roll into a long sausage shape

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  1.  Cut into 16 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a circle approximately 5cm in diameter

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  1. Spoon a teaspoon of pulled pork into the centre of each circle. Fold one side of the dough over to the other and pinch to close. I then twist the dough slightly to help ensure it is tightly closed

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  1. Put each dumpling upside down into a double layer of muffin cases (2 cases) and put in your steamer

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  1. Repeat for all 16 dumplings – you should get 8 dumplings on each layer of the steamer. They will fit quite snugly

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  1. Pour a couple of centimetres of boiling water into a wok. Put the steamer over the water and steam for 12 minutes (please admire the world’s smallest wok)

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  1. Once steamed, sprinkle the dumplings with sesame seeds

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