Puddings and Cakes

Brûléed Cheesecake

This is lovely, light, fluffy and quite luscious in the middle; with an extra bit of pizzazz provided by the crunchy, sweet brûléed topping – sinfully delicious and therefore very easy just to keep digging into for just that little bit more! And then of course, there’s the quite necessary opportunity to play with a blowtorch – great fun and very easy to get carried away! Give it a go!

Serves 10-12

What you need…

1 x 20cm round spring-form cake tin, lightly buttered and bottom lined with parchment paper/Bake O Glide

1 x kitchen blowtorch!

for the biscuit base

100g unsalted butter, melted

250g digestive biscuits

4 tablespoons demerara sugar

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 egg yolk, beaten

for the filling

Zest of 1 lemon

500g full fat soft cheese

125g golden caster sugar

1 tablespoon cornflour

1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

3 eggs, beaten

200ml full fat crème fraiche

for the brûlée topping

2 tablespoons golden caster sugar

What to do…

Preheat the oven to 200°c / 400°f / gas 6.

Roughly break up the biscuits and chuck them in your food processor (with the blade attachment). Whizz until they look like chunky breadcrumbs.

Thoroughly mix together the digestive crumbs, sugar, butter and ginger. Tip into the cake tin and, using a straight-sided glass, firmly press the mixture evenly across the base and 3cm up the sides. Pop in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Brush over the egg yolk and pop back in the oven for a further 3 minutes to seal.

In a large bowl, use a spatula to mix together the lemon zest, cheese, sugar, cornflour and vanilla. Using a handheld electric whisk, work in the eggs until smooth and then, returning back to the spatula, fold in the crème fraiche.

Pour the filling over the base, pop in the oven and bake for 10 minutes; then reduce the temperature to 140°c / 275°f / gas 1 and bake for a further 45 minutes or until set to a gentle wobble. Turn the oven off but leave your brûléed cheesecake in for 1 hour, with the oven door left ajar. Cool completely and then pop in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.

Release your cheesecake from the confines of its tin (I didn’t dare to remove the tin bottom for fear of total collapse). Scatter over the golden caster sugar and arm yourself with the blowtorch! Brûlée the top until the sugar turns a deep coppery brown – for a bit of theatre, do this at the table! Serve and enjoy the unique combination that is the crunchy sweet brûlée topping with the lovely light and fluffy cheesecake filling! Utterly delightful!

Inspired by…

My Waitrose magazine

How easy…

Very easy. The digestives need bullying into place but even if there’s a bit of crumbling going on, it just adds to the homemade appeal!

Espresso Panna Cotta

It’s OMG time again! Made this on a bit of a whim this morning, mainly to see how hard it would be to extract from the mould and also whether my allocation of gelatine was sufficient to maintain the ‘w’ factor (wobble) whilst being set. Both tests worked and then obviously, we had to test the finished product. OMG AGAIN! This espresso panna cotta is light and silky smooth but the combination of vanilla and coffee produce a simply exquisite flavour. The only problem is that they are so light, we felt obliged to try another one! Try it – it’s easy, quick and simply sensational.

Serves 4 – 6 depending on the size of your moulds

What you need…

6 dariole moulds or ramekin dishes

285ml double cream

210ml full fat milk

1 vanilla pod, split in half (but retained) and seeds scraped out

4 gelatine leaves

150g caster sugar

4 teaspoons good quality instant coffee granules (I used Lavazza)

What to do…

Fill your moulds up with cold water. (I have always done this in the belief that it helps in the ultimate extraction of jellies, mousses etc. I can’t find any actual authentication of this – it may be an old wives’ tale – but I’m not taking the chance just to see – it’s always worked for me!)

Tip the cream and milk into a heavy-based saucepan and, over a moderate heat, bring to a simmer. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved.

Add the vanilla seeds and the pod, then remove from the heat. Set aside for 5 minutes, allowing the mixture’s flavours to infuse.

Meanwhile, soak the gelatine leaves in a bowl of cold water for 3 – 4 minutes. Then, squeeze out the extra water and add the gelatine to the warm cream/milk mixture. Stir until dissolved.

Add in the coffee granules and stir until they are dissolved. Strain the mixture through a sieve into a jug, discarding the vanilla pods and leave to cool for 5 minutes.

Empty the moulds of their water. Don’t wipe them out but simply fill the moulds up with your panna cotta mixture. Pop in the fridge and leave to set for at least 3 hours.

When you have your spoon poised and you’re ready to indulge, dip each mould into a small bowl of hot water (poured from the kettle) for just 10 – 15 seconds – you will see the edge of the panna cotta coming away from the mould – leave it not a second longer but quickly invert it onto your serving plate. It will come out beautifully glossy and speckled with the vanilla seeds. And the taste is all rich, smooth, cool coffee – simply sensational! I’m going to have to make some more really soon!

Serving suggestion…

You could serve this with a chocolate sauce or perhaps a couple of Amaretti biscuits but to be honest, I think any accompaniments would detract from this little pud’s natural loveliness. It needs nothing – enjoy!

Inspired by…

Paul Merrett, www.bbc.co.uk

How easy…

Very, very easy and really quick and next to no mess and….there isn’t a single reason why not to try it!

 

 

Crêpes Suzette and Other Pancakes

Who can resist? Shrove Tuesday – the perfect excuse to indulge in delicious, naughty pancakes, stacked high and topped traditionally with the sweet and tart marriage that is sugar and lemon or filled with some luscious alternatives. It doesn’t matter, whatever you choose, enjoy your crêpes Suzette and other pancakes!

Makes batter and sauce makes enough for 8 crêpes/pancakes

What you need…

for the crêpe/pancake batter

175g plain flour, sifted

2 large eggs

175ml milk

110ml water

Rapeseed oil

Greaseproof paper

for the classic crêpes suzette sauce

50g unsalted butter

150ml orange juice (3 large oranges)

Grated zest 1 orange

Grated zest and juice 1 lemon

1 tablespoon caster sugar

3 tablespoons Grand Marnier

What to do…

To make your crêpe/pancake batter (let’s refer to them as pancakes from hereon in – I’m getting fed up typing ‘crêpe/pancake’) tip the flour into a large jug together with the eggs, milk and water, and using an electric hand whisk, vigorously whisk the ingredients so that they are thoroughly blended, creating your batter.

Put a small frying pan on the highest heat with 1 teaspoon of rapeseed oil. When the oil is just smoking, add 1 ladle of batter and swish it around the pan so that the pan is evenly coated. Cook for about 1 minute. You’ll know when the underside of the pancake is cooked – just shake the frying pan and the pancake will easily move about. At this point – the fun part – remove the pan from the heat and tilt it so that the pancake slips to the furthest edge of the pan. Then, a quick flick of the wrist and flip that pancake…….how high depends on how confident you’re feeling!!!!! Cook for a further minute and then tip it out onto a piece of greaseproof paper.

Repeat this process until all the pancake batter has been used and you have a stack of pancakes, each separated by greaseproof paper.

In a medium-sized frying pan, melt the butter. Then add the sauce and gently warm. Place the first pancake into the pan and gently warm it before folding it in half and then in half again to make a triangle. Slide it to the edge of the pan and then tilt the pan so that the sauce runs back into the centre. Repeat this process until all the pancakes are reheated, folded and drenched in sauce.

Serve these delicious pancakes immediately on warmed plates and thoroughly enjoy this naughty dessert in the name of Shrove Tuesday! Yummy!

Alternative toppings and fillings…

Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice and a Smattering of Caster Sugar

The classic pancake topping. After squeezing and smattering, roll up and indulge. Simple and simply lovely.

Rhubarb and Vanilla

Rhubarb pancake w

To make enough for 4 generous pancake fillings, put 400g trimmed and sliced rhubarb into a lightly buttered ovenproof dish together with 70g caster sugar and a split vanilla pod. Cover with foil and pop into a preheated oven (160°c / 310°f /gas 3) and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, and discard the vanilla pod. Gently mash the rhubarb and then spoon a ladleful on one half of the pancake, folding the over the half over the top. Indulge. Light, sweet and a lovely change from the normal.

Warmed Balsamic Strawberries

To make enough for 4 generous pancake fillings, hull and quarter 250g sweet, ripe strawberries and pop them in a saucepan over a moderate heat together with 1 teaspoon caster sugar and 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar. Stir until the sugar has dissolved and the strawberries have been gently warmed and coated in the balsamic glaze. Spoon a ladleful on one half of the pancake, folding the over the half over the top. Just divine although a dollop of vanilla ice cream on the top wouldn’t be inappropriate!

Chocolate Spread

Ugh!!!! But the kids like it. Smother chocolate spread over the top of the pancake, roll up and eat! No comment! Don’t let them near either the knife or the jar of chocolate spread – it’ll get messy!

Inspired by…

A bit of mix really. The batter mix is one of Delia Smith’s, the rhubarb and vanilla filling comes from Lisa Faulkner and the warmed balsamic strawberries from a vanilla cheesecake recipe by Stuart Gillies.

How easy…

Pancakes aren’t hard are they? You’ve just got to decide how naughty you want to be and how high you flip ‘em!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Torta Di Cappuccino

OMG!!!! This is a totally luscious ‘tart-mousse’ – I’m not sure which category it fits in but I can tell you this – a dark chocolate digestive biscuit base is topped with something in between a cake and a mousse that is richly flavoured with coffee and chocolate – the combination is staggeringly gorgeous, I mean staggeringly!! And somehow, as much as it’s rich, it’s also light: temptation on a plate. If you feel like sharing (I’d urge against) you can make it a day in advance of a dinner party or friends coming for supper.

Serves 8 – 10 (or perhaps just 1!)

What you need…

23cm diameter spring-form cake tin, lightly buttered

for the base

375g dark chocolate digestive biscuits

3 tablespoons double cream

75g butter, melted

for the topping

500g mascarpone

140g caster sugar

3 eggs

100g chocolate (ideally 70% cocoa solids), broken up

3 tablespoons Kahlua

125ml espresso or REALLY strong coffee

Icing sugar, to decorate

Chocolate coffee beans, to decorate

What to do…

Preheat the oven to 180°c / 350°f / gas 4.

To make the base, whizz your biscuits in a food processor to create crumbs, then mix with the cream and melted butter. Tip the biscuit mix into the cake tin, spread evenly and press down so the mix is good and solid. Pop in the fridge whilst you do the rest.

Put your chocolate into a heatproof bowl and then into a steamer over a pan of simmering water to gently melt.

Using a handheld electric whisk, beat the mascarpone and caster sugar together in a large bowl until soft and light.

Break the eggs into a small bowl and beat lightly with a fork. Gradually add to the mascarpone mixture, whisking the whole time.

Go back to your melted chocolate and mix in the Kahlua and coffee. Then add to the mascarpone mixture, whisking continually to ensure that all the ingredients are evenly blended.

Pour over the biscuit base and bake in the oven for 50 minutes or until the centre is set (no jiggling) and the top is evenly brown.

Leave to cool and when cold, transfer from the cake tin to a pretty serving plate. Decorate with sifted icing sugar and chocolate coffee beans, either scattered haphazardly or in a ring around the edge of the dessert. Take one slice of your Torta di Cappuccino, just to make sure that it’s OK. Enjoy the sheer, delectable enjoyment of that moment and then decide if you like the people you’re with enough to share it with!!!!

Torta Cappuccino 2 w_1_1

Inspired by…

Rachel Allen

How easy…

It’s not difficult at all. I feel that is should have been, given the end result but no, it was very straight forward.

Heavenly Hot Chocolate Soufflés

Wow! Just wow! These chocolate soufflés are simply heavenly: light, pillowly outside and then delectably soft and melty inside. The first spoonful was tentative; after that, these soufflés were attacked with relish! If you have the time, give them a go: you won’t be disappointed.

What you need…

4 x 180ml ramekin dishes, lightly but thoroughly buttered

25g 70% dark chocolate, finely grated

for the ganache (a word that simply means whipped cream and chocolate)

4 tablespoons double cream

50g 70% dark chocolate, broken into pieces

1 tablespoon cocoa

for the crème patisserie (don’t be put off, this essentially is French for posh, flavoured custard)

2 tablespoons plain flour

2 teaspoons caster sugar

½ teaspoon cornflour

1 egg yolk

1 whole egg

4 tablespoons milk

1 tablespoon double cream

25g 70% dark chocolate, broken into pieces

for the egg whites

6 egg whites (freeze the yolks for a future Tiramisu!)

85g caster sugar

What to do…

For the ganache: gently warm the cream in a pan. Just before it boils, remove from the heat and tip in the chocolate. With a wooden spoon, stir vigorously to dissolve the chocolate, gradually adding in the cocoa to create a lovely velvety texture. Set aside to cool.

And now to the crème patisserie: mix together the flour, sugar and cornflour.

Put your egg and egg yolk into a large mixing bowl and, using a handheld electric whisk, whisk them together. Whilst whisking, add in half the flour mixture to create a smooth paste then, tip in the rest and whisk until fully incorporated. Set aside.

Pour the milk and cream into a saucepan and bring just to the boil. Remove from the heat, tip in the chocolate and, using a small balloon whisk, whisk until the chocolate is all melted and the mixture is smooth.

Gradually stir the melted chocolate mix into the flour paste. When mixed in return to the pan and cook over a moderate heat for 5 minutes, stirring continuously. Towards the end of the 5 minutes, you will notice that it is thickening up, turning into a smooth paste. Remove from the heat and set aside until cold, mixing occasionally with the balloon whisk.

Prepare your ramekin dishes by tipping some of the grated chocolate into each one, rolling the dish around and tilting it as you do to ensure that the dish is evenly coated in chocolate.

Preheat oven to 180c / 350 f / gas 4.

Whisk the egg whites to soft peaks using your electric hand whisk. Whilst still whisking, gradually sprinkle in the caster sugar and keep whisking to create stiff peaks (it’s this that will give the light volume to the soufflés)

In a large bowl, mix together the crème patisserie and ganache. With a spatula, stir in 2 tablespoons of egg white, then carefully fold in 1/3 of the rest, cutting through the mixture. Fold in another 1/3. Switch to a balloon whisk and fold in the remainder – don’t overwork it: you’ll lose the volume.

Spoon the mixture into the dishes, filling them up. Then bang the dishes on your work surface to make sure the mixture fills each ramekin evenly.

Sprinkle a little grated chocolate (left over from coating the ramekins) into the centre of each. Pop your soufflés onto a baking tray and bake for 18-20 minutes or until they are risen and are set on the top but wobble nicely when moved!

Serve on their own, with double cream or salted caramel ice cream (previously blogged). It doesn’t matter, these heavenly hot chocolate soufflés are divine!

Tips…

You could prepare the crème patisserie and ganache a couple of hours in advance, if you were having these little gorgeousnesses for dinner, leaving you very little to do just before serving. They would need to be kept somewhere cool but not as cold as the fridge.

Whenever I need good quality dark chocolate in baking, I use ‘Menier Chocolat Patissier’. It’s great chocolate, easily available and very easy to break up for the required weights listing in recipes. It also comes in 100g bars, which works perfectly for this pud.

Inspired by…

www.bbcgoodfood.com

How easy…

They’re not difficult but you need to have time on your hands to allow the ganache and the chocolate mixture for the crème patisserie to cool. There’s also quite a lot of clearing up to do. When I’d finished making them and was peering in the oven to see if they were going to rise to the occasion, I wasn’t sure that they were worth the time, effort and mess, but on tasting them, I concurred that they absolutely were!

 

Delectable Orange Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

A lovely cake exuding the zestiness of fresh orange, this gorgeous cake uses rapeseed oil instead of butter as well as almonds in the ‘sponge’ to create a dense, moist cake that keeps for ages or would do if we weren’t tempted to cut just one more slice! Topped with a frosting that is the perfect foil to the luscious cake and decorated with crispy, homemade candied orange peel, this is a sweet revelation!

Serves 8-10

What you need…

1 x 23cm spring form cake tin, lightly buttered

5 large oranges

100ml rapeseed oil

4 large eggs

450g caster sugar

125g self-raising flour

125g ground almonds

2 teaspoons baking powder

150g full fat cream cheese

150g crème fraiche

25g icing sugar

150ml cold water

What to do…

Preheat oven to 170°c / 325°f / gas 3.

Grate zest of 3 oranges into a large mixing bowl. Set aside.

Cut out the remaining flesh from the 3 oranges, chop roughly and chuck into your blender. Whizz, gradually adding the rapeseed oil until it is all thoroughly blended. Set aside.

Add 250g of the caster sugar and your eggs to the orange zest and, using a handheld electric whisk, whisk until the mixture is pale, thick and creamy.

In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, ground almonds and baking powder.

Carefully fold in half the puréed orange mixture into the egg mixture. Then fold in all of the flour mix before folding in the remaining orange purée.

Pour the cake mixture into your cake tin and pop it into the oven to bake for 1 hour or until the cake is golden brown and risen. Check it’s cooked by inserting a clean skewer into the centre: if it comes out clean, it’s done; if not, pop it back in for another 5 minutes and then check again.

Meanwhile, to make the frosting, whisk together the cream cheese, crème fraiche and icing sugar in a bowl and then pop it in the fridge until it’s needed.

For the homemade candied peel: using a vegetable peeler, peel the remaining two oranges and then julienne the zest finely (I forgot to do this last bit so my candied peel was chunky!)

Pour the water into a saucepan and stir in 150g of the remaining caster sugar. Once the sugar has dissolved, stir in the julienned orange peel, then bring the mixture to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes to reduce the liquid and make a light syrup.

Strain the zest. Don’t chuck the syrup down the sink – it would be great for an orange drizzle cake or popped in the fridge ready for those fruity cocktails that require sugar syrup!

Sprinkle the remaining caster sugar into a shallow bowl, chuck in the zest and toss it about until it’s all coated with glistening, crunchy sugar.

Retrieve your cake from the oven and cool slightly in the tin before releasing from spring form and cooling completely on a wire rack.

When the cake is cold, spread the frosting over the top and then scatter over the candied peel. Simple but absolutely lovely! Indulge in your first slice of delectable orange cake with cream cheese frosting and candied peel and enjoy as your taste buds dance for joy!

Inspired by…

James Martin, Home Comforts

How easy…

Very easy and also very relaxed because the cake is in the oven for an hour, leaving you loads of time to do the frosting and candied peel in a leisurely fashion.

 

 

 

 

Old English Port Wine Jellies with Frosted Grapes

If, like me, you grew up in the 1970s you will probably remember the regular arrival of jelly and Carnation Cream as a pudding. I can recall with relish, gently mashing up the jelly and watching with fascination as the yellow-white ‘cream’ filtered through the jelly’s cracks. These days, jelly has fallen out of fashion, but I came across this recipe in one of Delia’s books and had to give it a go! It bears no resemblance to the 1970s versions, happily!!!!

Especially after a heavy main course, this dessert is simply delightful! An oldie but a goodie, it is light, fragrant and cool, not at all what you’d expect when you see that the ingredients include port and wine.

I didn’t ruin it with the addition of Carnation (that’s got to be spectacularly bad for you!) but tried it with and without a little cream and both versions work really well. Jelly is definitely back in fashion in this house!

Serves 4

What you need…

for the jellies

Four pretty stemmed glasses to serve

75g granulated sugar

285 ml water

1 stick cinnamon

3 cloves

Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

1½ 12g packets powdered gelatine

210ml port (nothing too expensive)

75ml light red wine (I used a cheap Pinot Noir)

for the frosted grapes

Bunch seedless grapes, washed and dried

1 egg white

Caster Sugar

Bake O Glide/greaseproof paper

What to do…

Tip the sugar into a saucepan together with the water, cinnamon stick, cloves, lemon zest and juice. Cover the pan bring to the boil, then remove from the heat. Sprinkle in the gelatine and, using a balloon whisk. Gently whisk to dissolve. Let it cool for 15 minutes, gently whisking occasionally.

Strain the spices and zest from the syrup, pouring it into a jug. Stir in the port and wine and then taste. The flavour should be strong and rather sweeter than you might like but the sweetness lessens once the mixture is chilled and set, so add a little more sugar if you think it needs it (I added another 2 teaspoons) and stir it in until it dissolves. Pour the jelly syrup into your four stemmed glasses and pop in the fridge to set.

Meanwhile, onto your frosted grapes. Take two small bowls and in one, whisk up the egg white using a fork. In the other, tip in some caster sugar.

From your bunch of grapes, choose little bunches of two or three, ensuring that you leave them attached to their stalks as you separate them from the main bunch. Simply dip them into the egg yolk and then into the caster sugar, ensuring that they are evenly covered with the sugar, providing them with a frosted look. When you lift them out of the egg white, make sure there are no globules of egg white hanging off – they don’t look attractive when covered with caster sugar! Sit your bunches of frosted grapes onto a strip of Bake O Glide or greaseproof paper and set them somewhere cool and dry for a couple of hours (or overnight).

When you’re ready to serve your old English port wine jellies with frosted grapes, simply retrieve the jellies from the fridge and pop the frosted grapes on the top – so easy, so elegant, so delicious! Enjoy!

Serving suggestion…

A little jug of double cream with a teaspoon of caster sugar mixed in.

Inspired by…

Delia Smith (her Christmas book but I think this is a winner throughout the winter)

How easy…

Extremely easy, very quick and next to no mess!

 

 

 

 

Mini Baked Alaskas

 

Fabulous little desserts these! People are often a little terrified of Baked Alaska, instantly picturing an oven splattered with dripping ice cream but they’re really easy to make and they make quite an entrance when delivered to the table. You can also have great fun with them, swapping out the idea of everyone enjoying the same flavour ice cream with a ‘lucky-dip’ approach: four different flavours but who knows which one you’re getting! A further joy is passing a blow torch around the table for your fellow diners to finish off cooking their Alaskas with a bit of drama! Lest we get carried away with the presentation aspect of these little bombes, they taste pretty amazing too!

Serves 4

What you need…

1 x 7cm or 8cm cookie cutter

1 x flat baking tray

Kitchen blow torch (optional)

Chocolate cake, shop-bought or home-made (see blog recipe for 365 Chocolate Celebration Cake if you want to make your own).

4 individual tubs of ice cream – flavours of your choice – either all the same or all different. I like salted caramel, cookie dough, coffee and caramel chew chew.

4 egg whites

170g golden caster sugar

What to do…

Remove your chosen tubs of ice cream from the freezer and set aside for five minutes.

Using your cookie cutter, cut 4 thick slices from the cake and pop them on a baking tray.

Run a knife around the side of your ice creams and then ease them out onto the cake slices. Put the tray with your cake and ice cream into the freezer for at least an hour or until you are ready to finish off and serve.

Preheat your oven to 200c / 400f / gas 6.

Using an electric hand whisk, whisk the egg whites to soft peaks and then add the sugar in 4 batches, whisking as you go until you have a stiff, glossy mixture (you can also leave this to sit in the fridge for a few hours if you want to prepare in advance).

Retrieve your Alaskas from the freezer and cover each one with a thick layer of meringue, making it nice and spiky and ensuring that the ice cream is thoroughly covered. Pop in the oven for 4 minutes: the meringue will brown slightly without the ice cream melting…..honest!

Serve your mini baked Alaskas to your anticipative diners and either dive straight in or hand around the blow torch for a more dramatic and torched look! Watch as everyone enjoys the singular wonder that is a Mini Baked Alaska!

Tips…

If you are using the 365 Chocolate Celebration Cake, use half the sponge ingredients and use just one cake tin – there will be loads left over – enough to sandwich together four generous slices with chocolate butter cream – chef’s treats!!

If you didn’t fancy going down the chocolate route for these little bombes, swap out the chocolate cake for Madeira, and choose complementary ice creams, e.g. vanilla, strawberry cheesecake – there’s so much choice now.

Inspired by…

www.bbcgoodfood.com

How easy…

Ridiculously easy for something that looks and tastes so amazing!

Vanilla and Amaretti Cheesecakes with Balsamic-Infused Strawberries

I saw a version of these completely delectable little cheesecakes on Saturday Kitchen and thought that I must give them a go. Wow! The TV didn’t do them justice – the rich, smooth creaminess of the cheesecake is perfectly contrasted by the warm, sweet, lusciousness of the strawberries, their flavour emphasised by balsamic vinegar (most unexpected). They look fabulous, are so easy to make and taste out of this world!

 Serves 4

 What you need…

 4 x chefs’ rings, 5.5cm diametre x 6cm deep (easily available online)

10 Amaretti biscuits

250g cream cheese

125g caster sugar

125g crème fraiche

240ml double cream

1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped out

for the strawberries

200g strawberries, hulled and quartered

2 teaspoons caster sugar

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

What to do…

In a large bowl, tip in your cream cheese, caster sugar, crème fraiche, double cream and vanilla seeds. Whisk until smooth and thickened up so that the whisks leave a distinct trail.

Place the chefs’ rings on a flat plate, lined with Bake O Glide or parchment paper. Spoon the cheesecake mixture into each ring, pushing the mixture down to make sure there are no gaps. Smooth off the top with a palette knife and pop them in the fridge for at least 2 hours to set. If you are having friends around for dinner, you can do this bit in the morning and leave the rest until you are about ready to serve.

Just before you are ready to serve, pop your Amaretti biscuits into a plastic zip-lock bag and using a rolling pin, crush them inside the bag to create a dusting.

Remove the cheesecakes from the fridge and set aside at room temperature for 5 minutes.

Place the Amaretti crumbs on a plate and then dip each of the cheesecakes in their chefs’ rings into the crumbs, 2 – 3 times if necessary – to make sure that the end is thoroughly covered. Dip both ends in the Amaretti crumbs.

Then, hold your breath (!) and lightly shake each cheesecake from the chefs’ ring onto its serving plate. Despite your total disbelief, it will gently drop down the ring and then plop out beautifully onto your serving plate – looking gorgeous!

Meanwhile, heat a saucepan over a high heat. Tip in the strawberries and sugar and cook, stirring continually for about 1 minute. Pour over the balsamic and cook for a further 1 minute.

Spoon some of the strawberries onto the plate alongside the cheesecake. Absolutely delicious – the strawberries contrast the cheesecake perfectly, both elements enhancing the flavour of the other. Serve your vanilla and Amaretti cheesecakes with balsamic-infused strawberries together with a wee glass of Disaronno Italian liqueur or a lovely little dessert wine to complete the indulgence! Yum!

Tip…

Chefs’ rings are almost like slices of metal piping you might expect on a building site! Another description would that of a cookie cutter, double the normal depth.

Inspired by…

Stuart Gillies, with James Martin on Saturday Kitchen

How easy…

Really easy, the only nervy bit is when you’re watching the cheesecake slowly drop through the chefs’ rings but be patient, and it will be fine!

Plum and Apple Crumble Tart

Serves 8 – 10

I saw Mary Berry do this as part of the James Martin Saturday Kitchen show last month and was very taken with the lusciousness look of her version (with blackberries and apple). A pastry case together with a sweet, crunchy, nutty crumble topping and filled with the soft, sweet fruit – what a lovely combination for a dreary January day! I will just say that my tart tin is a full 5cms smaller than hers, as well as being shallower, but, as is my way, I kept the ingredients quantities roughly similar to her recipe, hence, whilst Mary’s tart was neat and flat, mine was mountainous and rather rustic-looking! That said, it tastes absolutely gorgeous and definitely fulfils the need for a little indulgent, comfort food – another one of those dishes that gets left on the side for a couple of hours after serving, with a handy spoon available just to check that it’s still ok…..

What you need…

1 x 28cm loose-bottomed, fluted tart tin, 3-4 cms deep, lightly buttered

Baking beans

for the pastry

225g plain flour, plus extra for dusting

125g cold butter, cut into cubes

30g caster sugar

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 – 2 tablespoons water

for the filling

2 large cooking apples, peeled, cored and cut into small chunks

150g caster sugar

2 tablespoons water

500g plums, stoned and quartered

for the crumble topping

175g plain flour

100g cold butter, cut into cubes

50g rolled oats

100g demerara sugar

50g chopped almonds

What to do…

For the pastry, whizz the flour and butter in a food processor until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the sugar, egg and water and whizz again until the mixture comes together as a smooth dough.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured worktop and roll it out into a circle that’s about 3mm thick and large enough to line the tart tin base and sides. Press the pastry into the base and side of the tin and make a small lip around the top with the excess pastry. Prick the base all over with a fork and then pop in the fridge for 15 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 200°c / 400°f / gas 6.

Line the chilled pastry case with baking/parchment paper and baking beans, then pop in the oven for 12-15 minutes or until the lip of the pastry is light golden-brown. Remove the baking beans and paper and reduce the oven to 150°c / 300°f / gas 2 and bake for a further 8-10 minutes or until the pastry is a light golden brown all over. Set aside to cool.

Increase the oven temperature back up to 200°c / 400°f / gas 6.

While the pastry is cooking, prepare the filling: place the apples, sugar and water into a medium saucepan and cook over a moderate heat, stirring regularly, for 5 minutes. Cover the pan, and simmer gently for a further 5 minutes. Mix in the plums, pop the lid back on and simmer for a further 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Whilst the pastry and filling are cooling, make the crumble topping by popping all the ingredients into your processor (great to use it twice in one recipe without the need for washing up!) Whizz until everything is evenly mixed together and crumb-like.

Drain your cooked fruits through a colander, collecting the juice in a bowl for later. Spoon the fruit into the pastry case. Sprinkle over the crumble topping, covering all the filling and bake the tart for 20 – 25 minutes or until the crumble is crisp and golden brown.

Serve your plum and apple crumble the tart warm, with a little of the reserved fruit juice and some double cream or custard. Simply yummy!

Inspired by…

Mary Berry, Absolute Christmas Favourites

How easy….

Very easy – like Delia, Mary Berry is very precise with her instructions. I’m always a bit nervous about pastry but this was dead easy and absolutely lovely!

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