Sunday, 27 April 2008

DB 2: A Revolution On A Stick

This is it. The Revolution has come.

They said it couldn't be done. 'Food on a stick?!' they cried. 'Don't be ridiculous. How could you eat, say, cake on a stick? Fish on a stick? Cheesecake on a stick?'

No one actually did say that, to my knowledge, but I'm sure they would have done had I proposed food on sticks.

To which I would reply airily, 'cheesecake pop?'

Yes, it's that time of the month. No, not that time of the month. Daring Baker time of the month. And because I like to start revolutions (albeit of the slightly limited, let's-eat-things-off-sticks kind, rather than the Call-in-the-Communists kind) I was ridiculously excited over it. Not least because I got to turn chocolate pink.

That wasn't in the recipe, or anything. I just saw the DB recipe and thought, 'this calls for pink chocolate'.

Now for business:

  • This called for a ridiculous amount of cream cheese, so I, er, two-fifth-ed the recipe. It seemed to work. I'll give the quantities I used below.
  • Lolly sticks were nowhere to be found round where I live, not even for ready money (customary Wilde quote slipped in there, sorry). I used cocktail sticks on a suggestion from one of my friends - this is the reason she got into Oxford, I think - and used a melon baller to size my pops. At least, I think it was a melon baller. I don't eat melon, so it could have been anything, on reflection.
  • 35-45 minutes for a water bath cheesecake? BOLLOCKS. I upped it to almost an hour, and my cheesecake was half sized, and even so it was underdone!
  • This meant I pretty much had to keep my pops in the freezer. In fact, there's no pretty much about it. I did. And I had to dip them in chocolate in batches, cause if they were out of the freezer too long they collapsed and dropped in the melted chocolate and I was forced to eat them. It was terrible. No, really.
  • No, not really. But I did eat them. Yum yum yum.

Cheesecake Pops
These are the reduced quantities I used. For the real quantities, look on the DB blogroll and you should find them on more or less any blog there. For the actual directions, below, my adaptations or metric-isations are in red.

448g soft cheese
320g caster sugar
15g plain flour
pinch salt
2 eggs
1 yolk
1 tsp vanilla
25ml double cream
180g chocolate (
in theory, but I used a huge amount, haha. About 300gish? Say 100g of each kind of chocolate, if you're doing it my way)
1 dessertspoon vegetable oil (rather than buy shortening)

Boiling water as needed
Thirty to forty 8-inch lollipop sticks/ cocktail sticks.
Assorted decorations such as chopped nuts, colored jimmies, crushed peppermints, mini chocolate chips, sanding sugars, dragees) - Optional

Position oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 180C. Set some water to boil.

1. In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, flour, and salt until smooth. If using a mixer, mix on low speed. Add the whole eggs and the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well (but still at low speed) after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and cream.

2. Grease an 8-inch cake pan (not a springform pan), and pour the batter into the cake pan. (I then wrapped this in foil to stop the water bath making it soggy; a little bit got in anyway but I'd definitely recommend using foil around the cake tin). Place the pan in a larger roasting pan. Fill the roasting pan with the boiling water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Bake until the cheesecake is firm and slightly golden on top, 45mins to an hour. It needs to be fully cooked!

3. Remove the cheesecake from the water bath and cool to room temperature. Cover the cheesecake with plastic wrap and refrigerate until very cold, at least 3 hours or up to overnight.
When the cheesecake is cold and very firm, scoop the cheesecake into 2-ounce balls and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Carefully insert a lollipop stick into each cheesecake ball. Freeze the cheesecake pops, uncovered, until very hard, at least 1 – 2 hours. I used a melon baller, which worked. But my cheesecake was so soft I had to keep the pops in the freezer full time.

4. When the cheesecake pops are frozen and ready for dipping, prepare the chocolate. Microwave half the chocolate and half the shortening on high at 30 second intervals, until chocolate is melted and chocolate and shortening are combined. Stir until completely smooth. Do not heat the chocolate too much or your chocolate will lose it’s shine after it has dried. Save the rest of the chocolate and shortening for later dipping, or use another type of chocolate for variety.

5. Quickly dip a frozen cheesecake pop in the melted chocolate, swirling quickly to coat it completely. Shake off any excess into the melted chocolate. If you like, you can now roll the pops quickly in optional decorations. You can also drizzle them with a contrasting color of melted chocolate. Place the pop on a clean parchment paper-lined baking sheet to set. Repeat with remaining pops, melting more chocolate and shortening (or confectionary chocolate pieces) as needed.

Refrigerate the pops for up to 24 hours, until ready to serve.

These did take a long time, mostly I think because I got so excited over decorating them (crushed biscuits to make it more cheesecakey, sprinkles, chocolate chips...) but they were such a hit with my family it was worth it. The crack of the chocolate and the soft cheesecake when you bit into them = total win.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

The Tempter, Or The Tempted, Who Sins Most...?

I know I'm late for St. George's day, but these cupcakes are actually from yesterday - I wasn't able to post as in the evening I went with school to see Measure For Measure (our A-Level text) in the theatre - and on Shakespeare's birthday, too! (It's a bit of a British-birthday themed week; if there are any other British icons with a birthday this week you probably shouldn't tell me, or my mother will be putting me on flour rations).

Yesterday's display of patriotism reached its crux just before the performance, when my friends ran up to me wearing party hats at jaunty angles, asking me for Measure For Measure quotes (they then wrote quotes all over the hats). This is apparently how Shakespeare's birthday is celebrated in the more elite circles.

It worked out quite well actually, when I was able to reel off a load of quotes -'ever till now, when men were fond, I smiled and wondered how'- in class today.

'Wow, have you been revising?'

'...Actually, I have it written on a party hat.'

These are just vanilla cupcakes with Union Jack and St George's Flag designs in fondant icing over blue buttercream, but I liked how they turned out. The two flags were so people could decide what they were celebrating - the St George fans went for the red crosses, and the more literate picked the Union Jacks.

I didn't tell them that was how I was categorising them at the time, of course.

Vanilla cupcake recipe
Adapted from 'Cupcakes' by Elinor Klivans
Makes 12 cupcakes

180g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
1 egg yolk
200g caster sugar
120g butter
1 tsp vanilla essence
120ml sour cream

Preheat oven to 180C and line 12 muffin tin cups with paper liners.

1. Cream the butter and sugar together in a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Add the egg & yolk, stopping the mixer and scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. On low speed, mix in the vanilla and sour cream until no white streaks remain.

2. Sift (ha!) the flour, baking powder, bicarb & salt together and mix into the batter slowly until it is incorporated and the batter is smooth and pale. Bake at 180C for about 20mins, until a toothpick stuck into the centre comes out clean.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Happy Birthday, Your Majesty!

Picture the scene. The Queen walks into her drawing room early tomorrow morning (does she have a drawing room? Don't spoil the magic with particulars) and sits down, picking up her china teapot to pour herself a nice cup of earl grey. She pulls her favourite teacup towards her (she definitely has a favourite teacup. The Queen and I, we're like this), glances down - and instead of a cup of tea, she sees .... a muffin of tea?

Don't panic, Ma'am! This isn't any old commoner muffin - this is an earl grey and white chocolate muffin, especially for your birthday!

In fact, the Queen should probably panic anyway, because for me to do this I'd have to break into Buckingham Palace some time tonight, probably hotly pursued by the Royal guards, all shooting to kill - but for the Queen's (unofficial) birthday, I think it's worth it. And I think she'd appreciate it (like this, remember?), if her love for tea/cake/royalty is anything approaching mine.

So rather than a birthday cake, a muffin that could just fit in a teacup seemed perfectly fitting.

I'm taking this into school tomorrow, as my friends love the Queen almost as much as I do (almost. I think I'm a very infectious sort of person?), so we'll probably eat them with our cups of (liquid) tea in our free periods tomorrow, while cheerfully discussing how great the Queen is. Man, she is so great. I wish I was the Queen. All it needs is a birthday candle stuck in the middle of one, and things would be perfect.

Actually, I might do the candle thing. Worst case scenario is that the fire alarms go off and I miss History. Sorry, did I say worst?

I found the recipe for these on Eat Me, Delicious - my muffins look pretty different, but I think that's cause I didn't really have enough Earl Grey - I only drink proper, manly tea, so I had to flutter my eyelashes at my previously mentioned friend Alex a bit to scrounge an Earl Grey teabag off her. It seemed a bit cheeky to ask for two - not that that usually stops me - particularly as I spend a large proportion of my time mocking her for drinking flowery, girly tea. You see; the Queen's influence has me being all polite, and civilised! The woman deserves more than a muffin.

Earl Grey White Chocolate Chunk Muffins
American measurements here on Eat Me, Delicious.
Metric conversion by me.
Adapted from Baking From My Home To Yours

Makes 12 (so enough for all the corgis)

120g sugar
280g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp ground Earl Grey tea (or more)
360ml sour cream
2 large eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
115g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
100g white chocolate chunks
(I used 150g, because you can't have too much chocolate when it comes to royalty)

1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 190C. Butter or spray the 12 molds in a regular-size muffin pan or fit the molds with paper muffin cups.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and ground Earl Grey tea. In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, whisk the sour cream, eggs, vanilla, and melted butter together until well blended. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and, with the whisk or a rubber spatula, gently but quickly stir to blend. Don't worry about being thorough - a few lumps are better than over mixing the batter. Stir in the white chocolate chunks. Divide the batter evenly among the muffins cups.

3. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a thin knife inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 5 minutes before carefully removing each muffin from its mold.

Happy Unofficial Birthday to the Queen for tomorrow!

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Worth Waiting Four Years For

It's needless to say, but I don't remember everything I make. I remember Psychology revision pretty well, and I can recall conversations or emails word for word; but I can't remember important documents, where I leave things, or traumatic events. (That last one is, I think, repression; the Psychology revision comes in somewhere).

Anyway, the other day I was reminiscing with my friend Alex about the good old days of Home Ec. GCSE (well it FEELS like a long time ago), and she said, 'do you remember when we both got into the finals of that cooking competition thing?'

'Er,' I said, 'no.'

I have very cold and stiff fingers cause I've just been walking the dog so I'm tempted to say that the conversation ended there, but actually she perservered a bit: 'The 'Taste of Success' thing. We had to go into the university and you made something with chicken and shallots, and this white chocolate pudding thing which I really wanted the recipe for.'

It was beginning to sound familiar. 'I don't remember the food... did I give it you or what?'

'No.' Oops. 'You forgot. But it was in little ramekins, and there were all berries at the bottom - raspberries and stuff - and white chocolate cream and then it was like a creme brulee top that you did on the grill.'

I stared at her. 'Alex,' I said, 'I made that recipe, once, four years ago. That's almost a quarter of your life. (No, I'm not so hot at maths). Are you sure I didn't give you the recipe? Because you seem to have memorised it.'

She looked melancholy. 'I just really wanted that recipe,' she sniffed.

I think the reason I'd blanked this entire episode from my mind was that a cooking competition = pressure, and I don't perform well under pressure (I once announced in a French oral exam that my dream was to be a 'chaussure'. Chaussure means SHOE. I was trying for 'chanteuse'; singer). Alex, apparently, had not, so when I went home I started going through my mum's books to try and find the recipe I'd promised her four years ago.

This is it.

White Chocolate Berry Gratin
Adapted from one of my mum's recipes (so probably originally from Good Food).
Ready in 15 mins plus cooling.
Serves 4; 356 cals p/s

140g strawberries, hulled and quartered
140g raspberries
140g blueberries (I missed these out as my sister won't eat them, so used more of the other two)
grated zest of one small lemon
100g white choc
142ml pot double cream
2 tbsp icing sugar

1. Scatter the berries into medium ramekins. Sprinkle with the lemon zest, cover & leave to chill in the fridge until ready to serve.

2. Meanwhile break up the chocolate into a small bowl. Heat the cream in a pan until almost boiling, then pour over the chocolate. Leave for three mins then stir slowly til dissolved (Alex objected to my use of the word 'dissolve' here - she is a sciencey type - until I offered to stick the recipe up her nose, at which she relented). Allow to cool to room temp until thickened.

3. To serve, use a small kitchen blowtorch or heat the grill for a few mins until hot. Spoon the chocolate cream over the berries, sprinkle over the icing sugar and blast/grill for a couple of minutes until it starts to brown & caramelise. Remove & serve immediately.

(I copied the recipe out a couple of weeks ago and stuck it in her birthday card. How could I not, after a freakishly amazing feat of memory like that?)

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Soulmate Cookies

I'm thinking of changing the aim of this blog. Rather than being a general food blog of whatever I make, I'm thinking maybe I should just dedicate the whole thing to The Best Chocolate Cookie Recipes The World Has Ever Known. Because I just keep coming across them.

I'm not doing it on purpose. I don't even eat cookies anywhere near as much as I eat, say, cake (which is more or less my staple food group. Yes, I'm going to die young; why do you ask?). But somehow these recipes keep wandering across my computer screen, or else recipe books conveniently fall open on them, or else I'll be tidying my room (okay, I'm using artistic license on this one) and come across something I printed off aeons ago and happen to have peanut butter in the fridge that no one in our house eats.

Who am I to argue with fate?

Incidentally, yes, I am apparently incapable of taking photographs of entire cookies. I did try, and I did take a couple, but they just didn't make me happy. Boo. So then I started breaking cookies in half and eating bits and taking photos of that, and then I was extremely happy and also well on my way down the road to obesity.

Fate seems to have delivered me my soulmate. Unsurprisingly, it's edible.

So let me tell you about these cookies. It's important that you know how good these are. This information might just save your life one day. For starters, you don't even bake them, just melt a load of stuff on your stove top, so once they're cool and set the consistency is more like fudge; but it's not at all grainy, just gooey and melty and dsnkjfnjksn hang on a minute while I regain my composure. Secondly, they don't call for chocolate in the ingredients but somehow these are ridiculously chocolatey and mood-boosting. Thirdly, I was suspicious of peanut butter (I'm British, okay? Peanut butter is practically foreign to me) but it's not at all overwhelming, and the presence of oats means you can trick yourself that it's doing you good.

Can we recap here? No chocolate. Oats. I even used low-fat peanut butter (part of me obviously recognising that I would be eating about twenty in the space of ten minutes). This is practically a health food.

The recipe for these is from Fancy Toast (it hasn't been updated in ages, but I'll link to it anyway as it's far funnier than any of my blog posts and outstrips my photography by miles. You have to promise to come back, though? Don't go off marauding through Fancy Toast and forsake me, 'kay?) so obviously I've translated the recipe into metric.

No Bake Oatmeal Chocolate Fudge Cookies of Love (or just No-Bakies)
Recipe from Fancy Toast: American measurements here.
I got about 20 out of this.

115g butter
400g sugar
4 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla
120ml milk
120ml peanut butter
282g quick oats

1. In a saucepan over medium-high heat, melt butter. Add next four ingredients and heat until the mixture comes to a boil. Boil for one minute, then remove from heat. Stir in peanut butter and oats.

2. Drop mixture by the spoonful onto a sheet of waxed paper, parchment paper, or aluminum foil. Allow no-bakies to cool until firm, approximately 20 minutes.

I'm taking these to a meal with friends tonight (yes, I do take my own food to meals X__X). I'm guarranteed to have a lot more friends by the end of it.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Drip Drip Drop, Little April Showers

Dear friends,
In the tradition of yesteryear's tea party of last April, we would like to cordially invite you to take afternoon tea with us this Sunday, 6th April. The gathering will take place at ---, and will commence roughly at mid-day, finishing by about 4pm.
Regarding dress code, we hope everyone will be suitably attired in clothing dating between 1880 and 1930; for the ladies, this means tea-dresses, lace gloves, hats, parasols &c., whereas gentlemen are asked to wear suits, waistcoats, monocles, and bowler hats. Similarly, we hope to see many many moustaches.

It might just be that my friends and I really really like moustaches, but what you read above was the plan for this last Sunday; just as we'd done last year, we were going to all congregate at a nearby park dressed in period clothing for an outdoor tea party, weather permitting.

'Weather permitting' should really be emphasized in that sentence, because weather did not permit. Weather really was not bloody permitting anything. If it had drizzled, we might have persisted. Heavy rain could have been fairly depressing. SNOW BLIZZARDS, IN APRIL - I spit upon you, Weather. Pchuu.

Actually, I suspect the reason for this was that I'd organised the tea party (last year, Boy and I shared responsibilities, but he was away for the planning stage this year), so the weather was just being sadistic. People tend to like to torture me, I don't know why. Apart from the obvious reasons.

Our invitations did include an extensive list of tea party food (scones, Victoria sponges, strawberries and cream, cucumber sandwiches, &c. &c.), and one of the savoury things I'd planned to make were mini quiche tartlets - crisp shortcrust pastry; bright, juicy cherry tomatoes; colourful pieces of courgette; melted, tangy feta cheese just turning golden on the top... come on, it's practically summer in a pastry case.

Well it looks like summer's currently in the freezer, kids, and with snow this morning it may take a while for us to dare reschedule our annual tea party.

Watch there be a heatwave this weekend, now. Pchuu.

These quiche tartlets are pretty much my own recipe, if by 'my own recipe' you mean 'ripping compartments out of here, here, here, and oh, here'. I take the cheerful view that I've bastardised other people's recipes to the extent that they probably won't recognise them anymore. Plagarism for the win. On the other hand, this does mean that measurements are fairly approximate; sorry about that.

I wasn't sure if I had to bake the pastry shells blind, especially with them not being full sized, so I spent hours googling it, and then eventually stumbled across the beautiful sentence, 'if you have an Aga, there's no need to bother baking pastry blind'. I have an Aga. The rest of you can work it out for yourselves, suckers.

Courgette, Feta & Tomato Quiche Tartlets
Recipe adapted from above sources

Made 8 tartlets and one 7.5" tart for me. You could halve the ingredients if you didn't want a larger quiche, or if you have more than 8 tartlet tins (that was my downfall) make more tartlets. But you might need more pastry if you do.

1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 courgettes
200 g of feta cheese
cherry tomatoes, halved
3 eggs100ml milk
100ml single cream
fresh mint & basil, chopped
ground nutmeg
grated lemon zest
500g pack of bought shortcrust pastry

Heat oven to 200Cish.

1. Roll out the pastry and cut to fill small tartlets. Use fingers to mould the pastry into the cups, before pricking them with a fork and refridgerating

2. Meanwhile, fry the onions and courgette over low heat, till softened (5-7 mins) Mix egg, milk, cream, salt and pepper and the chopped herbs. Pour it over the courgette.

3. Pour the egg and vegetable mixture on top of the pastry cases. Crumble feta and add halved cherry tomatoes individually over the tops. Make sure all ingredients are evenly spread.

4. Bake until the filling is set and a knife comes out clean, about 12-15 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving. I don't really know how long it took to cook, so keep an eye on them. The larger tart needed something like 25-30 mins.

Anyone know the weather forecast for a week on Sunday? April is indeed the cruelest month. Pchuu.