Saturday, 26 October 2013

Plum Gingerbread Swirled with Cheesecake

A quick food shop last week turned into a splurge on autumnal produce-I came back with rough-skinned russet apples, root vegetables to turn into a comforting, cream enriched soup and two big punnets of plums. Most of the apples are gone, the majority just eaten on their own, or with some sharp cheddar. A few were used as a topping for a pecan cake, sprinkled with lots of cinnamon and nutmeg. The vegetables have been peeled, cooked, pureed and eaten; I had forgotten how nice a simple vegetable soup could be, especially when you've caught the dreaded cold, like I had. I still have a lot of plums though, even though I like them a lot I was lacking inspiration. Thank goodness for the internet, especially at the moment when I am living without most of my cookery book collection. The first thing that caught my attention was plum gingerbread, then this plum traybake with cheesecake and finally these gingerbread cheesecake bars.

The cake I made came closest to the gingerbread cheesecake bars. The recipe was essentially the same, but with a few additions. Plums, obviously, but also some stem ginger to the gingerbread mix, and some lemon zest and juice to the cheesecake. I omitted the ground ginger from the cheesecake batter, as I wanted complete contrast of the two mixes. Also, instead of pouring the gingerbread batter in the cake tin, covering it with the cheesecake mix, then marbling the two, I put alternating spoonfuls of the batters in the tin and then swirled them up with a knife. I think my method would be easier, as the gingerbread batter is much heavier and denser than the cheesecake, so to try and swirl the gingerbread above and into the cheesecake seems rather difficult.

I have just a cold piece with a cup of tea , and I was very pleased- I really like the contrast between dark, heavy gingerbread and light, tangy cheesecake. I wouldn't go as far to say that the plums 'make' the dish, but they are a really nice addition and suit the flavours of the cake.

If you want to make this recipe, I used this one as a base, from the Oven Adventures blog, which looks great- I'll be pouring over it later. Add the zest of one lemon and one teaspoon of the juice to the cheesecake batter, and one ball of stem ginger, grated, plus a little of the syrup from the jar to the gingerbread. Omit the ground ginger from the cheesecake mix. See my notes above for mixing the two batters in the cake tin. Finally top with some sliced plums. I used 4 plums, each cut into four thick slices.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Toblerone Fridge Cake

I'm a big fan of Felicity Cloake's 'How to cook the perfect...' series. Felicity has my dream job, refining recipes to perfection and writing about it. Her final recipes are great- at least the ones I have made are, but I trust the other recipes are equally good. 

One of her recipes is for the perfect fridge cake. It doesn't use Toblerone, but I had a large bar at home, and after making Nigel Slater's Toblerone sauce for ice cream, I was keen to use it in other recipes. Felicity's recipe calls for half milk, half dark chocolate, which easily could be aped with a mix of dark and milk Toblerone bars. I just used milk because it is what I had at home, but perhaps the recipe could be bettered with the substitution of dark Toblerone for some of the milk. I did enjoy it as it was though, but I do have quite a sweet tooth. 

The overall flavour wasn't especially Toblerone-like, but it did have the added bonus of nougat pieces peppered throughout. The next time I make it I may use honey in the place of the golden syrup, and add a tiny drop of almond essence to boost the flavour

I omitted the 50g of candied peel, as I don't like it much, and made up the weight with some extra dried fruit. My choice of dried fruit was 70g dried apricots, 70g dried cherries, 70g dried cranberries and 40g sultanas. I only used the sultanas to make up the weight of the dried fruit, but actually I am glad I used them- the cherries and cranberries are so tangy, it was nice to have a more mellow fruit. I decided not to do the grown up option of soaking the fruit in alcohol, and stuck to orange juice. To be honest, a boozy hit isn't what I fancy in a piece of fridge cake, I prefer to save that for puddings rather than have it in my mid morning treat.

For the nuts, I used a half and half mix of pecans and almonds. I think for a Toblerone fridge cake you need to include some almonds to match the nougat in the chocolate. Macadamia strike me as a nice, but pricey addition. 

I was interested to see how little golden syrup she used- only one tablespoon compared to 4 tbsp in my other favourite fridge cake recipe. Also, using an egg in fridge cake seemed odd to me, but the resulting texture was perfect.  

I have copied the recipe with my notes added:

200g of your favourite dried fruit, chopped into raisin-sized bits- I used 70g dried apricots, 70g dried cherries, 70g dried cranberries and 40g sultanas
150ml orange juice (or rum, whisky or Cointreau for grown-ups)- just orange juice for me- I didn't measure, just used the juice of 1 large orange
200g digestive biscuits
150g dark chocolate- dark and milk chocolate replaced with 300g milk chocolate Toblerone
150g milk chocolate- see above
120g butter, at room temperature
1tbsp golden syrup
1 egg yolk
50g mixed peel- omitted, weight made up with additional dried fruit
100g flaked almonds or other nuts, chopped- I used 50g pecans and 50g blanched almonds
Put the chopped fruit into a small pan along with the juice or alcohol and heat very gently until the fruit becomes plump and squishy, and has absorbed most of the liquid. Set aside to cool. Break the biscuits into small pieces.
Line a roughly 20cm square brownie tin with baking paper (you can use a little butter to stick it down at the corners).
Break the chocolate into pieces by whacking the sealed packets against the kitchen counter. Put a heatproof bowl above, but not touching, a pan of water and bring to the boil. Tip the chocolate into the bowl, turn down the heat, and stir until the chocolate has melted. Take off the heat and allow to cool slightly.
At this point I toasted the pecans and almonds in a dry frying pan, and let cool before chopping. The toasted flavour of the nuts was lost in the finished cake, so I probably wouldn't do this next time. 
Meanwhile, put the butter in a large mixing bowl with the syrup and use a wooden spoon, or electric beater, to beat them together until they're soft and a bit fluffy. Add the egg and mix in well.
At this point I drained the dried fruit, so the so the orange juice that wasn't absorbed didn't change the texture of the cake. 
Beat the chocolate into the butter mixture, then tip in the rest of the ingredients and stir until they're all coated with chocolate.
Spoon the mixture into your baking tin and press down firmly with a wooden spoon to make it as flat as possible.
Put in the fridge for a few hours until it has set solid, then lift the paper out, and cut into squares with a sharp knife.
Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Ginger and Five Spice Roast Duck

This is a Chinese-flavours-inspired way of roasting duck that tastes really good and is very simple. I was cooking a special meal for two, and originally had in mind making a stuffing with apples and chestnuts. After a long day a work I was in the mood for something simpler, both in terms of cooking and stuffing. I certainly wasn't looking forward to peeling the potatoes that I would need to roast to go alongside this stuffed duck. So I went for this altogether easier dish.

Place a rack in the sink and sit the duck on top. Fill the kettle to the maximum limit of water and put it on to boil. Pierce the duck with a skewer or fork all over the breast and legs, and when the water has boiled pour the water slowly over the duck. Leave the duck to dry off for at least an hour.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Make sure the duck is properly dry inside and out, dab it with some kitchen roll if necessary. Slice a piece of ginger root, and rub the cut side over the duck's skin. Put 2-3 slim slices of duck inside the cavity. Take 1tsp of 5 spice, and rub it all over the duck.
Put the duck in a roasting tin, on a rack. Roast for an hour and a half. Let it rest, and serve.

We ate this with plain rice and pak choi stir fried with some chilli bean sauce, and chinese barbecue sauce, which you can find the recipe for here (near the bottom of the page)