October 06, 2013

Raspberry Swirl Cheesecake Brownie Tray bake or Bites

We were walking through our local market one day and scoping out all of the treats along the way. We saw a cheesecake and I thought, mmmm I haven't made one of  those in a while. Then I saw some brownies and thought mmmm brownies. Then it was decided. A chocolate brownie based cheesecake was well in order!

And so it was made. Well many times in fact over the last month in different guises. A cake as a cheesecake would be expected (20" round cake tin), then it was a tray bake for our MacMillan Coffee Morning fundraiser sale, then my niece's 7th birthday afternoon tea girlie treats, and then the leftovers 
morphed into yet another tray bake (this time with Oreos instead of brownies as a base).

So what I'm saying is - if you need something tailored for special treat - this is the one to make! And it is so simples!

Here is a guide to make a tray bake (and then I will give tips at the end for other versions)

Brownie Base: 
160g golden caster sugar (can use white however the golden makes it more caramelly)
210g light brown sugar
4 heaping tablespoons cocoa
200g plain flour
4 large eggs
200g unsalted butter (cut into cubes)
100g milk chocolate
200g dark chocolate (70%+ solids) 
1tsp vanilla paste (or essence or extract if you don't have)
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 160deg fan oven (180 non fan).  Line a large brownie tin with greaseproof baking paper. 

Break all of the chocolate up and place in a large pan with the cubed butter on a low heat and stir until melted, stir in the sugars and then take off the heat. 
Mix in the eggs and vanilla.

Sift the flour, cocoa, salt together into the chocolate mixture and fold together.

Pour into your lined brownie tin (you don't want to fill more than 1/4- 1/2full as you will be adding the cheesecake mixture on top once baked and risen so.... depending on the size of your tray you might get to make two batches of brownies :) or line cupcake tin with strips of paper and use up the remaining mix.

Bake for about 20-25minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when tested.  (15-18min if in cupcake tins)
Remove from oven and using a glass tumbler, gently press down all over the brownie evenly to create a flatter base. (optional - I had to as I had a thinner pan.)

Allow to cool completely in the tin.

Cheesecake Topping
This is where you can get creative. You can add any flavour into your cheesecake mix to make it to suit your cravings. Here is a raspberry swirl recipe but leave out the fresh fruit and jam and add in anything else - like a couple of tablespoons of baileys or melted chocolate (this is where you use your instincts - just don't add too much to make the mixture too runny.

300g cream cheese 
50g icing sugar
1 vanilla pod (seeds scraped out)
150g double cream (whipped)
200g raspberry jam
fresh raspberries

In a bowl add the cream cheese and vanilla seeds and jam --- stir lightly to break it up.
In another bowl Whip the double cream with the icing sugar until it forms soft peaks.  
Carefully fold the whipped cream mixture into the cheese mixture and add fresh fruit.

Spread the cheesecake topping on top of your cooled brownie base and the put in fridge to set. Take out 10min prior to serving and cut into squares.


December 31, 2012

Bestest Chocolate Cake ever!

This chocolate cake has probably got to be my favourite chocolate cake ever. There are no surprises, no special techniques or ingredients either. No bells no whistles to be seen. A chocolate cake with a difference. It is amazing without adding anything else to an already simple recipe. Sometimes you need a simple chocolate cake to hit the spot and this one does it time and time again.

Most ingredients can be found in your pantry already - it takes a few minutes to whip up and voila. A moist and light chocolate cake to satisfy your most wicked cravings.

All credit for this cake recipe goes to a lovely lady I once worked with in Canadia - Darlene - she made it, I now tweak it every once in a while (a bit of coffee or cardamon added) or a little frosting - Now I said it needs nothing added, no icing, no sprinkles no fondant no sparks - but if you are someone who likes bling or wants to spend a few minutes more in the kitchen I suggest adding a nice fluffy toffee frosting to add a little caramel to the table. mmmm mmmmm (link to recipe follows)

Ingredients  (use either cups or grams  - don't mix measurements!)

2cups      (450g)    white sugar (caster)
1/2cup     (165ml)  vegetable oil
2                            eggs
2tsp                       vanilla extract
2 2/3 cups (340g)  plain flour
2tsp                       baking powder
2tsp                       baking soda (bicarb soda)
1tsp                       salt
2/3c        (165g)    cocoa powder
2cups     (450ml)  boiling water

Pre heat oven to 325deg F (160deg C fan oven) 
Grease a 8 x 12" pan  

In a large mixing bowl beat the sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla together (for at least 4minutes).

In a separate bowl dissolve the cocoa in the boiling water mixing to ensure no lumps.

Then add the cocoa mixture to the beaten sugar and egg mixture and mix.

Sift in the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into the mixture and fold together. It will be quite runny but all is good.

Bake in centre of oven for 35minutes or until skewer comes out clean when tested.
Do let cool before eating - at least a bit - it cuts beautifully and keeps nice and moist!

See - easy as that!

Sprinkle fresh ground green cardamon on top and add more to an orange flavoured buttercream..... Oh ya!
Or instead of 2c water add 1c water 1c coffee for a rich taste

NOW... although I said it doesn't need icing (which I really don't think it does..) I do love a little caramel on top. Here is a frosting recipe in case you are after a little extra bling!

*I have tried to make cupcakes from this recipe but they don't seem to work that great  - but if you do try and it works - let me know!!! :) 

September 07, 2012

Scrummy Banana Bread with Maple Syrup and Pecans oh and a little chocolate too

As kids we made banana bread every chance we could get - I remember my baby brother even made it (well he wasn't a baby but he was quite young indeed).  Then in college it was the one thing that my flatmates (boys) made! And when I was living in Honduras we would stop every between our dives at Fish Quays for fish burgers (and the famous banana cake!) Oh I can taste it now!

It was always and still is one absolute favourite and so very very moorish especially with a little toasted pecans and  chocolate added to it of course!

So over the years the recipes have been quite the same  (for me anyway) bananas of course..... nuts of some sort (walnuts or pecans) and chocolate chips or chunks was and is a must! :)

So after coming across the lovely Joanne Wheatley's recipe  (Winner of Series 2 GBBOI couldn't resist trying and tweaking to put my spin on it all and now I have made it over and over for friends, family, summer fetes..... I tell you it is definitely one of the best base recipes I have come across for banana bread - so go on.... go get her book A Passion for Baking and adapt as you wish (or not as it is perfect the way it is too!)

Ingredients for my tweaked version - makes 4 mini loaves or one large loaf (in long bread tin)
100g demerara sugar (I think this is the secret ingredient!!)
150g soft light brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 brown or almost brown bananas
280g plain flour
2tsp baking powder
140g unsalted butter melted
2tsp cinnamon (optional)

100g toasted pecans or walnuts (up to you)
100g bag of chocolate chips or chunks of baking chocolate (dark/milk your choice)
2 tablespoons of maple syrup (optional but oh does it taste delish!)

Preheat oven to 150degreeC fan oven (170degC convec/325degF)
Line your tin(s) with grease proof paper or spray with quick release spray.

Melt your butter over low heat and set aside to cool while you make the mix.

Whisk both sugars with the eggs  until combined. Mash the bananas up and add to the mixture.

Sift the flour and baking powder together into the mix and carefully fold until all ingredients are combined  (don't over mix)

Add the butter (don't worry too much if hasn't cooled completely).  Stir until combined.
Stir in your toasted pecans or walnuts, chocolate chips or chunks, cinnamon and 1 tbsp of maple syrup.
On the top of the mixture drizzle the remaining maple syrup on top and bake in oven for about 1 hour. Check after 40 minutes with a wooden skewer to see how it is doing in case your oven is hotter than mine or if you are making smaller versions they will take less time to bake.

Once wooden skewer comes out clean remove from oven and allow to cool (if you can!)

September 02, 2012

Oi Vey! There's a first time for everything - This week it's BAGELS!

I grew up on New York style bagels not knowing there was anything different until I met my other half. He uses his Jewish roots to be the man of all knowledge when it comes to bagels - First of all it's BAY Gels not Bah gels. Then apparently you do NOT under any circumstances toast them nor do you fill them with anything other than smoked salmon and cream cheese. Bagel should be made never on a Saturday and not by a non Jewish lady. And finally they should never be flavoured - a bagel is plain.... I will under every circumstance disagree with him on every single point as there are so very many wonderful wonderful ways to eat bagels no matter how you pronounce it!

So week 2 on the wonderful Great British Bakeoff the signature bake was BAGELS! Horray. Finally I can have a go at making them - and with it being on the show I was given the go ahead! not that I needed it of course!

So my favourite bagels at the moment are Cinnamon and Raisin, toasted with a little butter. mmmmm the smells and the flavours for breakfast are just lovely. Of course I had to make plain ones as well just for the nod!

I didn't do so well at this round of bagels but it is my GBBO challenge just like everyone else on the show so I can't do anything but keep trying and sharing here tips on what NOT to do! :

I used a basic recipe I found online to make Kosher Bagels. This made me 12 quite small bagels so tip one - don't expect too many and don't make them small (they just are not the same!)
Tip two - don't speak on the phone when you are putting together ingredients or you might miss something out. I forgot the sugar d'oh. They still tasted nice however perhaps that is why I only got 12 small bagels...??

Plain Bagels
1 package active dry yeast  (7g)
1.5 cups lukewarm water
3 tablespoons of sugar
1 tablespoon of salt (yes a tablespoon - important to use amounts of salt in bread recipes that are stated!)
4 cups self raising flour
Cinnamon and Raisin Bagels
add 2 tsp ground cinnamon to the flour mixture
and 1/4 cup of raisins at the very end before kneading

To make:
Measure out the water into a bowl. Add the yeast and the sugar to the lukewarm water and allow it to grow for at least 10min.

In a separate bowl combine the flour and salt.  (and cinnamon if using)

After the yeast has activated add it to the flour mixture , add your raisins if using and knead until soft and smooth like a baby's bottom! It will take a while. Good for the arms! :)

Tip - after kneading for a bit, if dough is still too sticky add a little flour. If too stiff, wet your fingertips with water (just a little little) and continue kneading.

Place the dough into a clean bowl, cover with a damp tea towel or cling film and leave to rise in a warm place for about 20minutes or until doubles in side.

Tip  - if you have a proving mode on your oven do use it but make sure you don't use the preset bread mode which will BAKE your dough - d'oh!

Once proven, punch the air out and then the fun of bagel shaping begins.

On a clean and lightly floured surface roll out the dough and cut into equal rectangles (1" thick, 4x6"   pieces). Roll each piece into 1/2" thick logs and with wet hands (again just wet not soaking),  seal the ends of the bagels to form a circle. Wet hands important and a good seal is as well otherwise they will fall apart when boiling.

Preheat oven to 190deg Celcius (fan oven)

Fill a large pot with water and bring to boil, then turn heat down. You don't want it rolling boiling.

Place the bagels carefully in the water (depending on size depends on how many you put in)

Boil on one side for 3 minutes and then using a slotted spoon turn over and boil on other side for another 3 minutes.

Once done drain on paper towel.

On a greased/lined baking tray place bagels with space in between each.  Bake for 40-45 minutes or until golden brown.

You decide! Jewish or not it is all about what you love!

I will endevour to make many more of these and update this blog with more tips and tricks as they come!