Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Plum and Hazelnut Cheesecake

Australia Day has taken on new meaning this year and not because of a conversational lamb ad. It means three little words to me as I limp towards the end of the week. Back. To. School. 

I have few words this post. I am too exhausted from trying to squash work in between bouts of refereeing, listening to the virtues of 345 different Pokemon with another episode of Ninjago in the background, making 485,000 snacks daily, applying sunscreen to squirmy little faces, washing endless baskets of laundry (when will my eldest cease wiping his mouth on his collar? When??) and fending off my youngest from the freshly baked trays of brownies (I just eating this one...).

Here is a celebratory cheesecake. This was not baked for Australia Day but for a recent BBQ with good friends. There were TBones, kids in the pool, beers from the esky, espresso martinis for the drivers !! and this plum number at the end. A very Aussie summer day indeed. 

I used plums as they've just come into season but you could use strawberries or any other stone fruit.  

Plum and hazelnut cheesecake

500g black plums, quartered and seeds removed
Seeds of 1 vanilla bean or one teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1 tablespoon caster sugar

200g digestive biscuits
120g hazelnuts, skinned
2 tablespoons caster sugar
80g butter

500g cream cheese at room temperature
400g ricotta
Seeds of 1 vanilla bean or one teaspoon vanilla bean paste
165g caster sugar
Zest of 1/2 lemon
4 eggs at room temperature

Extra 1/4 cup caster sugar for candied hazelnut topping


For plums:
Preheat oven to 200C. Line a shallow roasting dish with non stick baking paper. 
Toss quartered plums, vanilla seeds and sugar together in a bowl. Spread in an even layer in roasting dish and bake for 20-25 mins until plums are soft and juices flowing. Set aside to cool, then store in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to use. Plums can be made up to 3 days ahead.

For cheesecake:
Preheat oven to 180C.
Roast hazelnuts on a baking tray for 8 mins or until light golden. Set aside to cool slightly.
Turn oven down to 155C. Grease a 23cm springform tin and line the base with non-stick baking paper.
Place 60g of the roasted hazelnuts (keep the rest for the topping) in a food processor with the biscuits and 2 tablespoons of caster sugar. Blitz until mixture resembles wet sand. Pour into the prepared tin and press firmly and evenly over the base and up the sides. Bake for 8 mins, then remove from oven and set aside to cool.
With an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese, ricotta, caster sugar, vanilla seeds, lemon zest until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add eggs, one at a time, until all combined.
Place three layers of foil around the base of the cheesecake tin to prevent water seeping in while baking in a water bath. Pour filling into the cheesecake base then place the tin into the middle of a deep roasting tin. Pour hot water into the roasting tin so that it comes halfway up the sides of the cheesecake tin. Carefully place the roasting tin into the oven. Bake for 55-60 mins or until the edges are firm and the centre has a slight wobble.
Remove the tin from the water bath and cool on a wire rack for at least two hours before placing in the fridge, covered in plastic wrap, until completely chilled - about four hours or overnight.

Meanwhile for candied hazelnuts, place remaining 60g hazelnuts, 1/4 cup caster sugar and 1 tablespoon water in a pan over medium high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally for 5-6 mins until the nuts are caramelised and deep golden brown. Pour onto a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper and let cool completely before using. Nuts can be prepared up to a week ahead, stored in an airtight container.

To serve, loosen the cake tin sides, remove cake from tin and place on a cake stand or platter with a lip in case plums drip.
Spoon plums in a generous mound on top, then scatter over candied hazelnuts.

Note: I baked mine on the day with a layer of plums on the bottom, as in the pic below. It wasn't too bad but I found it turned the base a bit soggy and the whole thing was a bit OTT on plums. So I have gone traditional in the recipe and left them on top.

Friday, 6 January 2017

Rocky Road

It has been so odd these past few weeks, going about being festive. That isn't to say I have been dragging my feet around - having children at Christmas leaves no time for that. But for a little while, I couldn't quite function. All the to-do lists, the orders I had to churn out, the presents to buy, they were like white noise. My family and husband stepped in and it all got done, somehow, including trays and trays of rocky road and Florentines, promised to clients weeks earlier. Life goes on. I can hear her saying it. Just get on with it, idiot. 

So here I am, getting on with it. Sort of.

But it has been hard and I suppose it always will be. She is missing. It's immensely frustrating because I have so much to tell her and if nothing else it's downright inconvenient, the permanency of death. 

I have unconsciously begun to mark time differently. Today is both the 7th of January and it is also one month and two days since Katie died. Her baby boy Francis is now nearly six weeks old and doing the most inspiring job of getting on with it. We are all learning a lot from him. He is keeping Michael on his toes, mostly in the middle of the night, and appears to everyone else as a little angel, chugging down his bottles and being generally adorable during the day. 

He is mostly what I want to tell Katie all about, of course. Him and some of my little sister's funnier baby brain antics lately. They were tracking along together, Danielle a couple of months behind. Katie definitely would've seen the entertaining side of Dani waking up in a sweat and deciding to drive to Mum's to sleep in the airconditioning, then running out of petrol at 1am because she didn't want to stop and fill up in her nightie.

Last year went fast. We packed a lot in, particularly with the milestone birthday tour which took in Tassie, Canberra, Newcastle (twice) and Balmoral, and I'll always be happy that we saw a lot of Katie because of it. But 2017 is going to be just as crazy fast. We will have a new baby in the family with Dani due in March and then we will be counting down to her wedding in October. It's the year of Danielle. She also turns 30 but I think her brain will explode if anyone adds another event to her plate. 

As for me, I'll be in my kitchen doing my thing, perhaps with a bigger oven and using an extra day of preschool to write a little more. Of all people, Katie used to say I should.  

In robot mode recently I relied on the recipes in the Christmas section of this blog so much. I made the Christmas cake, the truffles, the Florentines, the mince tarts and the pav, and all worked without a hitch. At the pointy end of last year, I can't tell you how nice it was when things just worked.

I needed this Rocky Road recipe too, so I'm adding it now, even though everyone is probably on new year diets and thoroughly over sweets. Maybe file it for Easter. It's pretty addictive.

This is my standard recipe with the secret and quite topical ingredient of rice bubbles which I added as a texture substitute one year when told teachers' presents couldn't contain nuts.


The Christmas version (pictured) leaves out the snakes and adds in 1 cup sour cherries and 1 cup chopped pistachios. Scatter silver sugar balls over the top for extra bling. It boxes up beautifully as an edible gift.

Rocky Road (Makes 1.8kg in a large lamington tin)

300g quality dark chocolate
300g quality milk chocolate
3 cups Rice Bubbles
4 x Cadbury Frys Turkish Delight bars, chopped in a large dice
2 cups jelly snakes, chopped
2 cups marshmallows whole
2 cups marshmallows, chopped in halves
1 cup shredded coconut

Line a large lamington tin with non-stick baking paper, so that the edges of the paper overhang the sides.

Melt the dark and milk chocolate together.
Place the Rice Bubbles, chopped Turkish Delight, chopped jelly snakes, all marshmallows and coconut into a large mixing bowl and stir.
Add the melted chocolate and gently stir until the mixture is thoroughly covered in chocolate. 
Tumble the mixture into the prepared tin and spread into the corners to cover evenly. 
Place in the fridge to set overnight or for at least four hours. Cut into squares to serve.