Monday, 27 April 2009

My first Daring Bakers challenge!

The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.

So I have two firsts in this post, my first cheesecake and my first daring bakers challenge! It turned out pretty well I think! Here's the recipe with my alterations in bold, I thirded it as it would have gone to waste otherwise.

Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake:

2 cups / 180 g graham cracker crumbs 2/3 cup hobnob light crumbs
1 stick / 4 oz butter, melted 40g pure soya spread
2 tbsp. / 24 g sugar 1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract 1/2 tsp vanilla

3 sticks of cream cheese, 8 oz each (total of 24 oz) room temperature 225g cream sheeze
1 cup / 210 g sugar 1/3 cup sugar
3 large eggs 1/4 cup blended silken tofu
1 cup / 8 oz heavy cream 1/3 cup soyatoo
1 tbsp. lemon juice (omitted to add other flavours, see later)
1 tbsp. vanilla extract (or the innards of a vanilla bean) 2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp liqueur, optional, but choose what will work well with your cheesecake (omitted to add other flavours, see later)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (Gas Mark 4 = 180C = Moderate heat). Begin to boil a large pot of water for the water bath.

2. Mix together the crust ingredients and press into your preferred pan. You can press the crust just into the bottom, or up the sides of the pan too - baker's choice. Set crust aside.

3. Combine cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a stand-mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand-mixer) and cream together until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next. Make sure to scrape down the bowl in between each egg. Add heavy cream, vanilla, lemon juice, and alcohol and blend until smooth and creamy.

4. Pour batter into prepared crust and tap the pan on the counter a few times to bring all air bubbles to the surface. Place pan into a larger pan and pour boiling water into the larger pan until halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan. If cheesecake pan is not airtight, cover bottom securely with foil before adding water.

5. Bake 45 to 55 minutes, until it is almost done - this can be hard to judge, but you're looking for the cake to hold together, but still have a lot of jiggle to it in the center. You don't want it to be completely firm at this stage. Close the oven door, turn the heat off, and let rest in the cooling oven for one hour. This lets the cake finish cooking and cool down gently enough so that it won't crack on the top. After one hour, remove cheesecake from oven and lift carefully out of water bath. Let it finish cooling on the counter, and then cover and put in the fridge to chill. Once fully chilled, it is ready to serve.

Pan note: The creator of this recipe used to use a springform pan, but no matter how well she wrapped the thing in tin foil, water would always seep in and make the crust soggy. Now she uses one of those 1-use foil "casserole" shaped pans from the grocery store. They're 8 or 9 inches wide and really deep, and best of all, water-tight. When it comes time to serve, just cut the foil away.

Prep notes: While the actual making of this cheesecake is a minimal time commitment, it does need to bake for almost an hour, cool in the oven for an hour, and chill overnight before it is served. Please plan accordingly!

Some variations from the recipe creator:

** Lavender-scented cheesecake w/ blueberries - heat the cup of heavy cream in the microwave or a saucepan until hot but not boiling. Add 2 tbsp of lavender flowers and stir. Let lavender steep in the cream for about 10-15 minutes, then strain the flowers out. Add strained cream to cheesecake batter as normal. Top with fresh blueberries, or make a quick stovetop blueberry sauce (splash of orange juice, blueberries, a little bit of sugar, and a dash of cinnamon - cook until berries burst, then cool)

** Cafe au lait cheesecake with caramel - take 1/4 cup of the heavy cream and heat it in the microwave for a short amount of time until very hot. Add 1-2 tbsp. instant espresso or instant coffee; stir to dissolve. Add this to the remainder of cream and use as normal. Top cheesecake with homemade caramel sauce (I usually find one on the food network website - just make sure it has heavy cream in it. You can use store-bought in a pinch, but the flavor is just not the same since its usually just sugar and corn syrup with no dairy).

** Tropical – add about a half cup of chopped macadamias to the crust, then top the cake with a mango-raspberry-mandarin orange puree.

** Mexican Turtle - add a bar of melted dark chocolate (between 3 and 5 oz., to taste) to the batter, along with a teaspoon of cinnamon and a dash of cayenne pepper (about 1/8 tsp.). Top it with pecan halves and a homemade caramel sauce.

** Honey-cinnamon with port-pomegranate poached pears – replace 1/2 cup of the sugar with 1/2 cup of honey, add about a teaspoon or more (to taste) of cinnamon. Take 2 pears (any variety you like or whatever is in season), peeled and cored, and poach them in a boiling poaching liquid of port wine, pomegranate juice/seeds, a couple of "coins" of fresh ginger, a cinnamon stick, and about a 1/4 cup of sugar. Poach them until tender, then let cool. Strain the poaching liquid and simmer until reduced to a syrupy-glaze consistency, then cool. Thinly slice the cooled pears and fan them out atop the cooled cheesecake. Pour the cooled poaching syrup over the pears, then sprinkle the top with chopped walnuts and fresh pomegranate seeds.

Some variations from Jenny (from JennyBakes):

**Key lime - add zest from one lime to sugar before mixing with cream cheese. Substitute lemon juice, alcohol, and vanilla with key lime juice.

**Cheesecakelets - put in muffin tins, ramekins, or custard cups. Try baking 20-35 minutes, or until still a little jiggly, and cool as before.

Bashing up my hobnob biscuits for the crust

Mixing in the soya spread... just realised I forgot to melt it, I wondered why it was so hard to mix in!!!

Putting the crust into my muffin pan, I chose to do the cheesecakelet version as I couldn't decide on a single flavour! Gotta love the old school oven facilities in my flat!!

Here I am mixing the cream sheese and sugar

My vegan adaptions (silken tofu not shown)

Ready for the oven, clockwise from top left, Tirimasu, Black forest gateau, Chocolate, Caramel, Chocolate and caramel, Cherry.

And out of the oven cooling...

Cherry version
For the cherry version I used a plain unadultered cheesecake and topped with a sour cherry sauce made by defrosting some sour cherries, stirring in arrowroot and sugar to taste. Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer, chill before using.

This is a combination of my two favourite cheesecakes as a child. The cheesecake mixture has melted chocolate and caramel sauce added to it and it is topped with a simple ganache, caramel sauce and chopped fudge. The caramel sauce didn't really work as planned and separated in the fridge, I still used the top thick layer and discarded the bottom. Since it didn't work I won't bother with the recipe but if anyone really wants it let me know!

Choco-caramel birdseye view

This variation worked best I think, a really sophisticated way to get your chocolate! This has Tia maria liquor in the cheesecake mix and is topped with the simple ganache with a small glug of tia maria, on top of that is soyatoo and a sprinkle of cocoa powder.

This cheesecake had caramel sauce in the mix and is topped with yet more caramel and chopped fudge

Melted chocolate in the cheesecake mix and topped with ganache. Simple but yumm!

Black Forest Gateau
This was my least favourite, and least photogenic.. a case of piling on far too many toppings I think! The cheese cake mix was marbled with melted chocolate and topped with a sour cherry sauce, soyatoo and drizzled ganache.

This was a yummy challenge and I will definately make this recipe again!

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Summery food

It's been so warm and sunny the past few days all I've been craving salady type foods, I made a really yummy salad platter today! A HUGE lunch! Mike didn't think I would manage it all but I did (with only a teeny bit of help from him hehe...didn't want any til he saw it!!). I love a plate of food which has lots of variety on it! This plate had spicy couscous (shop bought), penne vodka (from vcon, homemade minus the vodka), roast veg, mixed seasonal baby leaf salad, and tabouli, everything was homemade except the couscous.

Penne Vodka

Roast veg and baby leaf salad

Spicy couscous

Tabouli (recipe follows)

My tabouli recipe is based on the one my local vegetarian restaurant cooks and doesn't have mint or spring onion as other, perhaps more traditional recipes do but it is really yummy, Mike doesn't like tomatoes and he ate loads hehe
1 cup bulgar wheat
1 cup boiling water
1 scant Tbsp lemon juice
1 small red onion
3 smallish cloves of garlic
3 big vine tomatoes
big bunch of parsley
salt to taste

What you do!
Measure out a cup of bulgar wheat into a large mixing bowl, pour over the boiling water, a teaspoon of salt, crushed garlic and a few drops of lemon juice. Next finely chop your red onion and pour over the rest of the lemon juice, the acidity in the lemon juice will cook off the red onion a little bit and take the edge off. This step is not necessary but I don't like a strong onion flavour so I like to do it this way. Leave the bulgar mixture to soak up the water for about half an hour and the onion to cook down in the lemon juice if you are using this step. When all the water is absorbed and the mixture has cooled add in your chopped up vine tomatoes and parsley, check the seasoning and add more salt and lemon juice if necessary, enjoy!

Mango, Pineapple and Strawberries = yum!


It's competition time at Life, love violin's blog for a yummy bar and peanut butter giveaway so head over to enter and have a read of a fellow musicians blog!

Monday, 20 April 2009

Pizza Night!

What two posts in one day after nothing for so long?! Yeah... I know! I've been meaning to upload these pictures for aaaages! These are the pizzas Mike and I made about a week and a half ago now!!
Veg ready for roasting (in the oven at 200c for about 20 minutes then 230 for 20)

Wholemeal and yeast free pizza dough
Makes 2 mini pizzas (thin crust)

1cup wholemeal flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup water

Mix the dry ingredients then add the water, roll out into one big pizza or two mini pizzas and pre-bake the base for about 10 minutes just to help it cook, top with your choice of toppings and put it back in the oven for another 10-15 minutes until the base is crispy and yummy!

The topping station!
Grilled tofu
kalamata olives
sundried tomatoes
red pepper
not pictured but used;
hummous (me)
fake tuna (Mike)

The base with tomato puree, oregano, rosemary and onion powder

add some mushrooms

and sweetcorn

Mike added mushrooms, sweetcorn, red pepper and fake tuna

He couldn't help but lick the spoon (caught ya!)

Next up for mine was some grilled tofu

Sundried tomatoes, kalamata olives and red pepper

Almost ready for the oven (mine had a few dollops of hummous added before cooking but I forgot to take a pic oops!)

Roasted veg from the oven

Being served up by Mike, served with some homemade ketchup. We were going to have these with the pizza but someone couldn't wait..not me haha!

The kitchen was pretty messy by this point!!

Finished pizzas

Managed to snap a quick pic of Mike's as he impatiently waited to eat it!

And here's mine


If anyone remembers me stressing a few posts back about a clarinet exam I got my results this week, I passed with distinction :) what a relief! I didn't think I had played my best, I never do, I'm always so nervous!!

Some workouts

I seem to start every blog entry with an apology for being so rubbish at updating! I don't know why it's been so long since my last entry.. I have no excuse! Anyway... here's a few workouts I've done since I last updated, I've been interval running twice and done the barbell complex twice, with dumbbells as Mike uses the barbell but you've heard about those before so I'll tell you about some new ones!

This workout absolutely fried my legs, I was out of action for three days!!!! If you do this I would recommend lowering the number of squats if you struggle with them like I did otherwise you will not be able to get down onto a chair for the next three days (not a good look..) anyway here's how it goes, you do it in the order written;

50 chair dips
200 resistance band slams
200 squats (we were going to do 300!!! silly idea!)
200 crunches
50 chair dips

Amazingly only my legs were sore after this, I was really surprised as I normally think of squats as a fairly easy exercise! Oh I did three planks to finish too! just in case I hadn't done enough..?!

Magic 50
This is a workout by Ross Enamait see his website ross training for lots more useful workout info he also has three books out, all of which have great workouts for strength, endurance and conditioning and are well worth buying. For this workout I did Clean and Press instead of Snatch which slowed me down a bit but not too much. I used a dumbell with 11kg and finished the workout in 10.55.

10 Burpees
5 Clean and Press each arm
5 Swings each arm
repeat 5 times... it's harder than it sounds!!

After this I did a deadlift hold with 40kg three times for as long as I could.. then Mike wondered if he could deadlift me... he could of course! So I decided to see if I could deadlift him and to my surprise I could!!!

Max strength
Push press with the barbell 25kg 4x4
Wall band press
Calf raise using resistance band
Ab Rollouts
Tabata punchouts as a finisher

This was a pretty rubish workout, I was completely bored and I hurt my wrist so I don't think I really did as well as I should have done but never mind.. win some lose some..

10 Medicine ball Burpees (aka hell on earth)
20 Lateral jumps
30 Star jumps
20 Knee push-uos
10 Burpees
I managed 4 rounds in 14.01 and Mike did 5, I was a bit dissapointed at not keeping up with him but the medicine ball I used was the same weight as his so way too heavy for me considering he usually lifts more than double what I lift. I was still frustrated though, I don't like getting behind!!
After this we did a finisher
55 chair dips
70 resistance band slams
210 chinnies

On top of these workouts I've been working at my pushups and chinups, I can now do 2 chinups in one set and my max pushups in one go is 10 with good form not on my knees like I do in some workouts!

Friday, 3 April 2009

Penne... vodka?

We had absolutely no idea what to have for tea tonight so I pulled out my copy of veganomicon and started flicking through, after several meal ideas we couldn't agree on we settled on trying the Penne Vodka. I've been wanting to try this for a while as I was interested to see how the almonds worked in the sauce. We only had one problem, no vodka... I've probably comitted some cooking blasphemy here but we went ahead anyway, it's unlikely I will ever have vodka in the house, neither of us like it or drink it so I figured it couldn't be bad without. It was really yummy! Since I'd already ignored the recipe and omitted the vodka we decided to ignore it a little more and add spinach and sweetcorn to get a bit more veg action into the tea! It was really good and reeeeaaally filling, we'll definately make this again!

This is the pasta we used, it's yummy and v. healthy!

I haven't done much baking lately :( I need some willing guinea pigs! I'm going to make Mike some truffles later that'll have to do for now!

I mentioned in my previous post about the 20 pull-up challenge and the 100 push up challenge, see links for more info. I'm starting the push ups tonight and I'm in week -2 of the pull-ups, the only thing I don't like about it is that it starts at -2, that's kind of annoying to have to start before week one! It would have been better to just add 2 weeks IMO, but that's just me being penickety! According to these websites I should be doing 100 push ups in 6 weeks and 20 pull-ups in 8!! I'll keep ya posted, I hope I get these results it does seem a bit optimistic but I'm gonna give it a go.

We've been having a back-off week this week to let our muscles recover, on Wednesday our workout consisted of 100 chair dips, 100 push ups (girly style on my knees!), 100 squats and 100 sit-ups.. doesn't sound too bad does it... it was!!! I'm still aching! I didn't even feel too bad when I'd finished but I woke up on Thursday sooo sore!

On Thursday I played badminton with Mike and my dad, they both always beat me but it's still fun, anyway this week I beat my dad, amazing lol I'm not sure if he was being kind though I told them not to let me win though, it's not so sweet that way hehe

Today, Friday I did the Randy Couture circuit I've mentioned before, I did it light and had 3.5 kg on each dumb bell as opposed to my usual 6kg so it gave me a light workout without stressing my muscles too much, my legs still hurt today and I'm hoping to go running tomorrow so I didn't want to burn out..