Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Strawberry and Vanilla Cream Cheesecake

Strawberries and cream, chocolate and cherries, champagne and me. Some things in life are made for each other.

On this most mooshy of days, I am adding my dash of sweetness with this cheesecake recipe.

If you live in Sydney, you can sample this week at Thelma & Louise, Neutral Bay, along with these cute mini heart cupcakes.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Larissa x

Strawberry and Vanilla Cream Cheesecake
(Recipe adapted from Jamie Oliver's vanilla cheesecake in his book, "Cook with Jamie," 2006)
** To make 12 small cheesecakes as I did, halve the quantities

250g plain sweet biscuits (I used Digestives)
150g butter, melted

115g caster sugar
3 tablespoons cornflour
900g cream cheese (at room temperature)
2 large eggs
120ml double cream
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
Zest of 1 lemon

Strawberry topping:
400g strawberries, sliced
3 tablespoons caster sugar
2 gold grade gelatine leaves

Preheat oven to 180C.
Grease a 24cm springform cake tin with non-stick spray and line the base with non-stick baking paper. (If making 12 small cheesecakes, grease 12 small loose bottomed quiche tins. Don't bother with lining the bases.)
Crush biscuits in a food processor and mix with melted butter.
Press mixture into the base of prepared tin (or small tins) and bake for 10 mins. Allow to cool.
For filling, place sugar and cornflour in bowl of electric mixer and stir to combine.
Add cream cheese and beat until smooth.
Add the eggs and beat until combined, followed by the cream, vanilla and zest, beating until smooth and creamy.
Spoon mixture into the biscuit base (or bases) and then gently shake to even out the surface.
Place cake tin(s) in the centre of the oven and, if making a large cake, bake for 40 to 45 mins until top is golden brown and filling has set around the edges. If making small cakes, bake for 18 minutes.
Allow cake(s) to cool in the tin before placing in the fridge for at least an hour to firm up.
For topping, place strawberries and sugar in a saucepan with a dash of water and bring to a simmer on a medium heat. Simmer gently for about 10 mins.
When strawberries are done, soak the gelatine leaves in a bowl of cold water for 5 mins.
Squeeze the leaves out gently and add them to the strawberries, stirring until combined.
Spoon the berry mixture onto the top of the cheesecake(s) and put back in the fridge until set (2-3 hours.)
Serve with a dollop of double cream.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

A French Fig Tart

Last year in Nice, my well-travelled mum had a moment with a slice of fig tart.

It must have been quite a moment because she has been talking about it ever since, and as I'm her nearest thing to a personal baker, she has been in my ear to make one.

I had my first go at a recent family lunch, using beautiful late harvest fruit and a frangipane filling spiked with Grand Marnier.

This photo, taken by Mum at La Rotonde at the Hotel Negresco in Nice, was my brief. 

While nowhere near as sophisticated in its presentation, the taste and texture of my tart were bang on according to mum, aka chief judge and fig tart connoisseur.

I pressed thick slices of figs into my filling, but I think I would use halves next time. In the very wise words of Mae West, too much of a good thing can be wonderful.

If figs are out of season, this tart would work just as well with other fruit like pears, apricots, frozen berries or plums. Roast the stone fruits with a little sugar for about 10 minutes first if they're a bit hard.

Have you ever tried to recreate a recipe tasted overseas? How did you go?

Larissa x

Fig and Grand Marnier Tart

250g plain flour
50g icing sugar
125g cold butter, cubed
1 egg
Dash of milk

Frangipane Filling:
125g butter, softened
150g caster sugar
2 eggs
325g almond meal
1 tablespoon self-raising flour
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier liqueur (or liqueur of your choice)
6-8 ripe figs, halved
2 heaped tablespoons apricot jam, warmed (for glazing)

For pastry, blitz the plain flour and icing sugar together in a food processor.
Add the cubed butter and pulse until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
Whisk together the egg and milk. Add to the food processor with the motor running and then pulse until the mixture forms a dough. Form the dough loosely into the shape of your tin (I used a rectangular tart tin) then wrap it in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least 30 mins.

Preheat oven to 180C.
Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to an even 1.5ml thickness and line your tart tin with it.
Blind bake it using non-stick baking paper filled with baking weights or dried rice for 10 mins.
Remove the baking paper and weights and fill with frangipane.
Press fig halves into the frangipane in whatever pattern you like.
Bake the tart for 30-35 mins, or until the frangipane is golden brown and the figs are caramelised.
While the tart is warm, brush the top with warmed apricot jam to glaze.
Serve warm or cooled with vanilla bean ice cream, double cream or honeyed yoghurt and a glass of dessert wine or a strong espresso.

Cream the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer.
Add the eggs and beat until just combined.
Add the flour, orange zest and almond meal and mix again until just combined.
Stir through the vanilla and Grand Marnier.

Master N getting to know Nana's new puppy, Nellie. She's a 10-week-old Groodle. What a couple of cuties!

Friday, 1 February 2013

Peach, raspberry and ricotta crumble cake

Nothing inspires baking quite like a rainy day.

In the middle of summer, with a bowl of ripening peaches on the bench and raspberries in the freezer, I took advantage of a turn in the weather to make this divine crumble cake which I found in the latest edition of Australian Gourmet Traveller (Feb 2013).

It's part cake, part crumble, part pudding, and served warm from the oven with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream, it will bring sunshine to the soggiest of days.

What's your favourite rainy day recipe?


Peach, Raspberry and Ricotta Crumble Cake
(Recipe from Australian Gourmet Traveller Feb 2013)

220g sour cream
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
300g plain flour
220g raw caster sugar
160g softened butter
30g almond meal
Finely grated rind of 2 limes
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
1 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
3 ripe peaches, halved and thinly sliced
125g raspberries, plus extra to serve
200g firm ricotta, coarsely crumbled
Pure icing sugar, for dusting

Vanilla lime syrup:
330g caster sugar
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
Juice of 3 limes and finely grated rind of 11/2

Stir sour cream and bicarbonate of soda in a jug to combine and set aside to foam (2-3 minutes).
Preheat oven to 180C.
Pulse flour, sugar, butter, almond meal, lime rind, vanilla, baking powder and 1/2 tsp sea salt in a food processor until crumbly.
Transfer 1 cup of mixture to a separate bowl and set aside.
Add eggs and sour cream mixture to food processor and pulse until just smooth then spread half in the base of a 20cm square cake tin, greased and lined with non-stick baking paper.
Scatter with half the peaches, half the raspberries, half the ricotta and one third of the reserved crumb mixture.
Spread remaining sour cream over and smooth top. Scatter with remaining peaches, raspberries, ricotta and crumb mixture and bake until golden and an inserted skewer comes out clean (1-1 1/4 hours; cover with foil if cake begins to brown too much).
Set aside to cool in tin for 15 mins then turn onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Serve dusted with icing sugar, with vanilla lime syrup and extra raspberries. (For good measure, I added a generous scoop of vanilla bean ice cream).

For syrup, stir sugar, vanilla and 200ml water Ian saucepan over medium high heat until sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil and cook to infuse (5 mins). Remove from heat. Stir in lime juice and rind, transfer to a jar, set aside to cool and refrigerate to chill.