Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Baked Caramel Cheesecake

I've always found cheesecake to be a bit of a botheration, but I kid you not, this one is about as elementary as it gets. You may label it as a 'cheats cheesecake' and I will not contest the fact, as the rich caramel flavour comes from one of those inexpensive tins you will find next to the condensed milk in the supermarket. However the result is nothing other than luxurious, indulgent and of course utterly delicious. 

A couple of points worth considering before we begin. You can use a split vanilla pod instead of extract if you prefer, although I personally think it leaves the finished texture a little grainy. You also have carte blanche when it comes to the biscuits. I love a classic digestive, but chocolate chip cookies, ginger nuts, even hobnobs are worth a go. You could even sprinkle a little sea salt on top, if you wanted to be REALLY cheeky!

Prep time: 20 Mins (Plus some chilling time)
Baking time: 40-45 Mins (Plus 10 Mins for the base)
200g Digestive Biscuits
125g Unsalted Butter (Melted)
600g Full Fat Soft Cheese (Such as Philadelphia)
397g Tinned Caramel (Such as Carnation)
1 Large Egg and 2 Yolks
1tsp Vanilla Extract

Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5, lightly grease a 23cm springform tin and line the base and sides with baking paper. In a large bowl, pulverise the biscuits finely, then pour in the melted butter and mix to combine. Tip into your prepared tin, press out evenly to the edges and bake in the centre of the oven for ten minutes, before leaving to one side to cool.

Preheat the oven again to 190C/375F/Gas 5. When the base has cooled you can prepare the filling (or should that be topping?). In a clean bowl mix the cheese until creamy, then add the caramel and whisk, getting right down to the bottom of the bowl as you go. Add the eggs and vanilla extract, then whisk again until smooth and silky. Pour on top of the cooled base and bake in the centre of the oven for around 40-45 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the edges are just starting to darken. When you are happy the cheesecake is baked remove it from the oven, leave in the tin until cooled to room temperature, then (still in the tin) place in a container in the fridge for at least a few hours (ideally overnight) to set.

When the cheesecake has chilled very carefully remove it from the tin, peeling the paper from the edges. It's then all yours to serve to friends, family, or just to gobble up shamelessly on your own!

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Ginger and Smoked Tea Loaf with a Caravan Crust

I hadn't planned on publishing this one until next week, but it's so good I just couldn't wait to share it with you all. In fact I want to scream my love for this fantastic recipe from the rooftops, as it's without doubt one of the best tea loaves I've ever made. The combination of ginger and smoked tea is exquisitely ambrosial, heady and romantic in it's fragrance, with a titillating, sweetly spiced flavour and a soft, almost melt in the mouth texture. Be it for a cheeky breakfast or an afternoon tea treat it's a real barnstormer of a bake and no matter what you decide to spread on it (if anything at all) I promise you will not be disappointed. So what are you waiting for?

Prep time: 15 Mins (Plus overnight soaking time)
Baking time: 75 Mins
300g Dates (I used Medjool), chopped
75g Stem Ginger Syrup (from a jar of Stem Ginger)
125g Soft Dark Brown Sugar
300ml Hot and strong Russian Caravan Tea (Or Lapsang if you'd prefer)
250g Self Raising Flour
2tsp Ground Ginger
1tsp Nutmeg
1 Large Egg (Beaten)

For the Caravan Crust
100ml Strong Russian Caravan Tea (Or Lapsang)
50g Caster Sugar

Ready? Then let's begin. In the evening place the chopped dates in a shallow container, along with the stem ginger syrup and brown sugar. Pour over the hot tea, give it all a mix together, then leave to cool, stirring it occasionally. When it has cooled to room temperature cover and leave overnight, by which time the dates will have begun to break down and the mixture will have become syrupy.

Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/Gas 3, grease a 23cm (2lb I think!) loaf tin and line completely with baking paper (or one of those handy loaf tin liners if you have one). Sift the flour into a large bowl and mix through the ground ginger and nutmeg. Pour in the soaked dates, along with the soaking liquor, not forgetting to dip your finger in for a taste first (as the liquor is DIVINE). Add the beaten egg and mix thoroughly to a consistent batter, then pour into your prepared loaf tin. Bake in the centre of the oven for around 75 minutes, until a metal skewer can be cleanly removed when inserted into the middle of the loaf. When you are happy the loaf is cooked remove it from the oven and set to one side for ten minutes, whilst you prepare the caravan crust.

Speaking of which, pour the 100ml of tea into a small saucepan and add the caster sugar. Place on a medium heat, stirring occasionally for a few minutes until the sugar has dissolved, then turn the heat up high and leave to bubble away until reduced and syrupy. You'll find the bubbles will start to hold their shape, which means it's time to turn the heat off. Carefully remove the hot loaf from the tin and place on a wire rack with a plate underneath (to catch any dripping syrup). Brush the syrup all over the top of the loaf and leave to cool completely, by which time the syrup should have crystallised slightly, leaving a sweet, shiny crust.

I personally love any sort of tea loaf sliced, warmed through either under the grill or in the toaster, then spread with peanut butter. There are no rules though, the choice is yours!

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Raisin and Sherry Cake

With such tumultuous and tempestuous weather I thought it appropriate to come up with a recipe for a great big cuddle of a cake. A palliative and consolatory cake that both warms the soul and satisfies the tummy. Although there is a relatively substantial quantity of sherry this one is far from boozy, with just the mild spiced caramel flavour bouncing off of the sweet and fruity raisins. I've also added some grated apple which not only aids in keeping the cake moreishly moist, but also gives the finished article just a touch of the enigmatic. I find it's always fun to keep your guests guessing!

Prep time: 20 Mins (Plus overnight soaking time)
Baking time: 65-70 Mins
300g Raisins
150g Peeled and Grated Apple (I used 2 medium Braeburns)
100g Golden Syrup
1tsp Vanilla Extract
150ml Sherry
180g Unsalted Butter (Softened)
125g Light Muscovado Sugar
3 Large Eggs
200g Plain Flour
1tsp Baking Powder

As the evening descends, take a decent sized airtight container and toss in the raisins. Add the apple, golden syrup and vanilla extract, then pour over the sherry. Give it a mix together, then seal and leave to soak at room temperature overnight.

The following day preheat the oven to 170C/325F/Gas 3, grease a 20cm deep loose bottomed cake tin and line the base with baking paper. In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter and the sugar, then beat in the eggs one at a time. Sift in the flour and baking paper, mix until you are left with a smooth batter, then add the soaked fruit (along with the soaking liquor) and vigorously mix once more. Spoon the mixture into your prepared tin and bake in the centre of the oven for around 65-70 minutes, until the cake is an even golden brown and a metal skewer can be cleanly removed when inserted into the middle of the cake. When you are happy the cake is baked remove from the oven, leave in the tin for 15 minutes, then carefully turn out, leaving to cool completely on a wire rack. Your work is done.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Cocoa Coffee Cake with Caramelised White Chocolate Icing

Although not a fan of coffee I concede that I cannot resist a slice of cake that has been infused with its toasty and roasty flavour, particularly when married with dark chocolate. A good coffee cake is the epitome of deliciousness and this one is a very good coffee cake, with a light mocaccino sponge studded with dark chocolate chips and topped with a rich and sweet caramelised white chocolate icing.

With regards to the caramelised white chocolate you can now buy this from various online retailers (It may be labelled as "blonde" or "dulce" chocolate). However if you want to have a go at making it yourself I fired a recipe out into the bloggosphere last year. It's a good, albeit moderately challenging one to make and well worth the effort, so if you fancy giving it a go you can find the recipe here.

Prep time: 20 Mins
Baking time: 50 Mins
5tbsp of Strong Black Coffee (Hot)
1hpd tbsp Cocoa Powder
200g Unsalted Butter (Softened)
200g Caster Sugar
3 Large Eggs
1tsp Vanilla Extract
1tsp Baking Powder
210g Plain Flour
150g Dark Chocolate (Chopped into little pieces)

For the icing
100g Caramelised White Chocolate
100g Unsalted Butter (Softened)
150g Icing Sugar
A pinch of salt (Optional)

Ready... steady... go! Mix the cocoa powder with the hot coffee and leave to cool. When the coffee mixture is at room temperature preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4, grease a 20cm deep loose bottomed baking tin and line with baking paper. Try to line the whole tin if you can as this extra layer of insulation will help reduce doming during baking. Cream together the butter and the sugar, then beat in the eggs one at a time. Add the vanilla extract along with the coffee mixture, give it a brief mix, then sift in the baking powder and flour. Mix to a smooth and consistent batter, then fold through the chopped chocolate. Spoon into your prepared tin, even to the edges and bake in the centre of the oven for around 50 minutes, until a metal skewer can be cleanly removed when inserted into the middle of the cake. When you are happy the cake is baked remove it from the oven, leave in the tin for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack, removing the paper. Leave to cool completely.

When the cake is cool you can make the icing. Melt the caramelised white chocolate over a bain-marie or in the microwave (if you are VERY confident in your timings) then set to one side for 5 minutes. Cream together the butter and icing sugar, then add the chocolate and mix until smooth. I like to add a pinch of salt at this point, which I think gives it just a hint of salted caramel, but you can leave it out if you prefer. Spread the icing over the top of the cake and you are finished. Ready... steady... go and get a knife so you can cut yourself a massive slice!

Tuesday, 7 January 2014


Florentines may well be a festive favourite, but are far too good to enjoy just over Christmas. Sweet, chewy and studded with little jewels of candied or dried fruit they really feel like a treat, which is what baking for me is all about. I've kept things relatively simple with this recipe, but there is lots of room for experimentation. Fresh or candied citrus zest, sour cherries, even stem ginger or angelica (if you can find it) all would work beautifully as well as different types of chocolate. Just have a go and see what works for you. At the very least it'll be a good excuse to make them again and again!

Prep time: 20 Mins
Baking time: 15 Mins
20g Unsalted Butter
50g Golden Caster Sugar
1/2tbsp Plain Flour
50ml Double Cream
75g Flaked Almonds
35g Raisins
35g Glace Cherries (Chopped)
100g Dark Chocolate

Before we begin a point of note. When making the caramel mixture it is important to recognise that each of the individual components can burn rather quickly, so try to make sure you keep the mixture moving and the heat as low as you can, throughout all stages.

With that in mind, let us retire to the kitchen once more! Add the butter and sugar to a small saucepan and place on a very low heat. Stir constantly, then when the butter and sugar have melted together add the flour. Continue stirring until the flour has dissolved completely, then slowly pour in the cream, keeping the mixture moving all of the time. When the you have a light golden, silky mixture add the nuts, raisins and cherries, mix them around until evenly combined, then remove from the heat. At the same time preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5.

After the mixture has cooled for around 10-15 minutes the Florentines are ready to be prepared for baking. You should get about 8 Florentines from this quantity of mixture and I bake them four per sheet, as they do spread somewhat in the oven. So line two flat baking sheets with baking paper please! Take about 2tsp of the mixture and dollop into a little tightly packed pile on the baking paper. Repeat for the rest of the mixture, making sure your dollops are well spaced apart. Gently flatten the top of each dollop with the back of the teaspoon, then bake in the centre of the oven for around 15 minutes, until each Florentine has spread, is a light golden in the centre and just darkening at the edges. When you are happy they are baked remove from the oven. At this stage I do something that may seem somewhat controversial. Using a flat bladed knifed I gently ease the edges of each spread Florentine in a little. I think this both helps compact the mixture at the edges and allows you to shape them into lovely rounds. Following this, leave the Florentines on their trays for around 15 minutes to harden, then very carefully peel each from the paper and place on a wire rack.

When the Florentines have cooled you can finish them off. Melt the chocolate over a bain-marie or in the microwave (if you are confident with your timings), then set to one side for a few minutes to cool slightly. Upturn each Florentine, so the flat side is facing up, then brush each with the melted Chocolate. You can use as much or as little of the chocolate as you see fit and add your own patterns of designs to the base depending on how artistic you are feeling at that moment. Leave the melted chocolate to set and they are then ready to be enjoyed. Over to you!

Thursday, 2 January 2014

My Baking Adventures - December 2013

December has been a busy month, but I've still been lucky enough to spend a fair few hours baking, making and experimenting. Most of the recipes are on the blog, but as always if you have any questions or comments don't hesitate to get in touch...