Wednesday, 24 September 2014

My Cheesecake Mountain

I made a cheesecake. I climbed the mountain, and conquered. For the last five years, I’ve tried a multitude of recipes and different ways to make cheesecake, hoping that each one will be the best one. They’ve all failed. The no bake cheesecake was promptly distributed amongst my 4 dogs who were going crazy with the smell, the quick and easy 6 ingredient one was manfully eaten and never mentioned again, and I don’t even want to talk about the others.

The recipes that seemed worth attempting all included using a water bath, which is by far the most intimidating thing I’ve ever done. If you know me (and you should by now), you’ll know that I’m inordinately clumsy. Over the last few weeks, I’ve cut myself in three different places on my hands, burnt my fingers on my shiny new frying pan, sliced a finger on glass and dropped countless knives a hairs breadth away from my toes. Pouring boiling hot water into a pan and then gently easing it into an oven is something I should not do without supervision!

Being a Parsi, we get 2 birthdays. One is of course the day we’re born, and the other is the day we’re born according to the Parsi calendar. Double presents, double the fuss, double the cake. My Parsi birthday was on the same day as my husband’s grandmums birthday, so I decided to bake her (us) something using some sweet and sharp flavours.

It was time to test my new kitchen and hopefully improved skills out. I found a relatively easy looking recipe online, which didn’t include using a gargantum amount of cream cheese and decided to go for it. The results were surprisingly yummy, if I do say so myself.

Raspberry & Lemon Cheesecake 

Oh lordy
Adapted from here 

You will need
For the Crust:
2 cups crushed digestive biscuits
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon or cinnamon powder
½ cup melted butter

For the Filling:
1 pound softened cream cheese, 2 (8-ounce) blocks
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
2 cups / 500 grams sour cream
1 lemon, zested
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

And your Topping:
A handful fresh or frozen raspberries
A few tablespoons raspberry coulis
A few mint leaves

Preheat the oven to 160 ° C.

Assemble your ingredients 
Step 1
In a big mixing bowl, crush the digestive biscuits - I use my hands to break them up, it’s vaguely therapeutic. Add the melted butter & cinnamon powder to your biscuits and keep crushing. It will look like wet sand and taste incredible. I am not too fussy about the size of the pieces, as long as they're small they don’t need to become too fine.

Like the branding shot? 
Biscuit crumb, Ready to be devoured!
Step 2
Lightly coat the bottom and sides of an 8-inch springform pan with non-stick cooking spray (if not cooking spray, use some butter).

Step 3
Pour the crumbs into the pan and, using the bottom of a measuring cup or the smooth bottom of a glass, press the crumbs down into the base and 1-inch up the sides. Refrigerate for 5 minutes. (I struggled with getting my crumbs evenly up the sides, and then eventually decided that it was a labour of love, and I was not being judged on perfection, so let it remain wavy.)

Doesn't that look awesome?

Step 4
Using your trusty kitchenaid (or a regular hand mixer) beat the cream cheese on low speed until smooth and free of any lumps.

Step 5
Add the eggs 1 at a time and continue to beat until combined. Add sugar in three parts and beat until creamy, for 1 to 2 minutes.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl

Step 6
Add the sour cream, lemon zest, and vanilla and continue to mix for a few minutes. This will take more time to do if you’re using a hand held mixer. The batter should be well-mixed but not overbeaten. Make sure you taste the mix, if you feel like you want it more lemon-y, add the zest of another half lemon.

Switch on your electric kettle, and put the water to boil.

Have you seen my awesome new bookstand? 
Step 7
Set the cheesecake pan on a large piece of aluminum foil and fold up the sides around it. Place the cake pan in a large roasting pan.

Pour the filling into the crust-lined pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Feel free to lick the spatula, beaters, mixing bowl after!

Ready to pour captain
Step 8
Pour boiling water into the roasting pan until the water is about halfway up the sides of the cheesecake pan; the foil should keep the water from seeping into the cheesecake. Clumsy me dropped a teeny bit of water into the foil, and then had to pray madly that it didn’t make a difference.

On its way into the oven
Step 9
Bake for 1 hour. The cheesecake should still jiggle (it will firm up after chilling), so don’t overcook. I was paranoid that my oven was too hot, so I took it out after 50 minutes, which worked just as well.

Eat your yummy dinner while you wait
Step 10 – making the coulis
Take 100 grams (or thereabouts) of raspberries, add 75 grams of sugar and the juice of a lemon or 2 limes into a bowl. Let it sit for 20 minutes, the sugar will draw the liquid out of the raspberries.

Put in a blender and mix till smooth.

You can then use the coulis as is, or pass it through a sieve to get a smooth, silky sauce.

Refridgerate until needed.

Step 11
Let the cheesecake cool down in the pan for a while, around an hour, till the tin is not so hot.

Chill in the refrigerator, loosely covered, for at least 4 hours. I made this night before, and so it stayed in the fridge for about 12 hours which is also a perfectly acceptable thing to do! 

Super excited to see it looking so yellow
Another angle

Step 1
Take the cheesecake out of the fridge ten minutes before you want to unmould it. Loosen it from the sides of the pan by running a knife around the inside rim. Release the spring mechanism and Voila! Le Cheesecake!

Oh happy day
Step 2
Un-mold and transfer to a cake plate. I find this the most difficult to do, infact this to me is the moment of truth. I have a giant cake spatula which is very painstakingly eased under the cheesecake, careful not to break too much of the biscuit. IT HELD!!!

Pretty fretty cheesecake
Step 3
Spoon raspberry coulis on top of the cheesecake and smooth it out. It should be a lovely even bright pink.


Place your raspberries here and there (I have NO eye for decoration, so do as you please!) and strew a few mint leaves to finish.

Halfway through decorating

Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Dig in! The cheesecake is soft and crumbly, the biscuit crunchy and delicious and the raspberry zinging through makes the entire thing absolutely delicious. 

Couldn't resist a close up

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Jimmy Jammy

The amazing part about my new house is that the kitchenaid gets pride of place on a countertop, which means that I can bake ANY TIME I WANT without the hassle of lugging it from my room to the kitchen, unpacking, washing and repacking. I’ve gone a little crazy the last few weeks and made everything from crème anglais (for an ice cream that failed), to pizza dough, to meringues, to a variety of other baked goods, all with my trusty blue mixie (mixie, nixie, twixie… get it??). I’ve tried this jam tart a few times (thank you Smitten Kitchen) and have made some adjustments based on material availability in India as well as what was in the house when I decided to cook.

Last slice anyone?

Jimmy Jammy Tart adapted from Smitten Kitchen

What you need
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup semolina
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
130 grams room temperature butter, cut into cubes
1/2 cup sugar
1 large whole egg
1 large egg, separated
2 tablespoons (30 grams) granulated sugar
1 jar of jam (around 450 grams) (I used Bhuira jam for this – made with love by a friends mum up in the mountains - and it was delicious. You get a whole variety of flavours to try, not necessarily just in dessert, but also on toast or even on its own.)
So good

Step 1
Mix the butter and sugar together until its smooth. (I use very coarse sugar, so it takes a few minutes more than it takes other people to mix. The butter should be a lovely pale yellow before you move onto the next step.)
Step 2
Add the egg + second yolk to the butter-sugar mixture once its smooth. If you’re using a stand mixer, this process becomes super easy because you just pour things into the bowl and watch it work. Make sure this has combined before adding the dry ingredients.
Step 3
Whisk your flour, semolina, baking powder and salt together before adding to the
Gradually add the flour mixture and mix until the dough just comes together. This is a sticky, fall apart dough that’s absolutely yummy if you want to keep picking at it (I did!).
Step 4
Take a third of the dough and transfer to a lightly floured counter. Roll the dough into the shape of a log that’s roughly 2 inches thick and 7-8 inches long. Wrap tightly in clingflim and put in the fridge.
Step 5
Put the rest of the dough in a pie or tart dish. The original recipe says to use one with a removable bottom, but I never seem to be able to find one when I’ve decided to make this. I always end up using a glass pie dish and it comes out just as well. Use a dish that’s got a 9-inch diameter, any smaller and you will have too much dough left over.
Using your hands, press the dough evenly into the bottom and up the sides. Put it in the fridge for at least an hour. (If you’re using a glass pie dish, make sure you take it out ten minutes before you put it into the oven or it will shatter when cold meets hot.)
Dough chilling, waiting to be baked
Step 6
Preheat your oven to 190 degrees C.
Take your jar of jam and slop it around on the pie base. Make sure it's spread out evenly.
Even enough?
Step 7
Take the dough log out of the fridge and using a very sharp knife, quickly cut it into thin circles. I’m incredibly impatient and not at all precise, so mine varied in thickness and size. It doesn’t really matter all that much it tastes delicious no matter what.
Waiting to be carved
Arrange them in concentric circles over the jam to form a top. You need to them to overlap slightly. Any leftover bits of dough can be stuck and squashed into gaps when you’re finished being artistic. 
So many gaps to fill!
Whisk the remaining egg white with a teaspoon of water in a little bowl until frothy; and then brush onto the tart lid. Sprinkle the top with sugar and bake it for 25-30 minutes, until the top is golden.

Let it cool completely and serve with ice cream, or simply on its own.


Thursday, 26 June 2014

Pizza Pan

Have you ever watched a random TV show that suddenly gets you completely hooked? I spend the first hour after I get home from work lounging on my bed watching random TV, and talking to my dad through the door, who is in the identical position on his bed. We both happened to be watching Gordon Ramsey’s Ultimate Cooking Course one evening, and couldn’t stop watching after.

My husband (oooh I said husband!) and I love making pizza. We love eating it even more, but hey who doesn’t! We bought ourselves a pizza book from Italy, as well as a wooden pizza tray and it makes things so so so fun. If you haven’t figured it out already, I’m an over excited cook, and I can’t make something without having ten people over to try it (even though it may bomb completely the first time). Queue pizza and ice cream night….

I’ve obviously not been working much, so I had a day to spend at home with my trusty kitchen aid (Mixie loves being on the counter all the time).

Sausage pizza, ready for the oven
Gordon’s Pizza Dough

You will need
500 grams flour
1 tbsp. sea salt (or fine salt, or any salt)
14 gms. yeast
1 tbsp. caster sugar
4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
325ml lukewarm water

If you’re using a stand mixer, this is the easiest dough in the world, it kneads itself! If not, there’s always something extremely therapeutic about pummeling dough.

Step 1
Mix the flour and salt together and make a well in the middle.

Step 2
Put the yeast, sugar & oil into a glass with water and leave it to prove. This will become foamy, bubble and extremely yeasty to smell, that’s when you know it’s done. (Should take around 7 to 10 minutes)

Step 3
Slowly add the liquid to your dry ingredients, keeping the mixer on slow. You are using the dough hook, and not any paddle. If using your hands, bring the flour in from the sides with a fork and swirl it into the liquid until it starts to come together.

Step 4
Work the rest of the flour with clean hands, kneading till you have a smooth, springy dough.

Step 5
Put the ball of dough in a large flour-dusted bowl, sprinkle with flour and cover with a damp cloth. Place in a warm room for an hour until doubled in size.

Step 6
Tip the dough onto a flour-dusted surface and knead it around (i.e. PUNCH IT UP) a bit to push the air out with your hands. You can either use it immediately, or keep it, wrapped in cling film, in the fridge (or freezer) until required.
(Timing-wise, it's a good idea to roll the pizzas out about 15 to 20 minutes before you want to cook them. Don't roll them out and leave them hanging around for a few hours, though - if you're working in advance like this it's better to leave your dough, covered with cling film, in the fridge.)

While you’re waiting for the dough to rise, why don’t you start working on the sauce? It’s the world’s simplest sauce and takes no time at all.

My homemade Pizza sauce

This recipe can double up as a pasta sauce as well. It’s simple, easy & requires the least amount of monitoring I've ever seen. 
You will need
2 400gm cans of peeled tomatoes
1 large onion, finely chopped
5 or 6 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped
50ml tomato puree
Mixed Herbs to season
Salt & Pepper to season
Olive oil

Step 1
Add some olive oil into a pan and sauté the onions & garlic. You want them to become soft, but not burnt & brown. This should take between 5 & 7 minutes.

Step 2
Add both cans of peeled tomatoes to the pan. You need to pulverize these to make a sauce. I like using a potato masher and really squishing them up. If you’re so inclined, you could put the tomatoes into a mixer and blend them first. That makes the sauce much smoother.

Step 3
Let the tomatoes bubble and boil, and allow the water to evaporate. Season with salt & pepper to taste, and add a handful of herbs. I use rosemary and thyme, but there is really no restriction when it comes to herbs, any and all are wonderful. The pizza sauce should not take more than 25 to 30 minutes to cook, and you don’t really need to stand over the pan. Go take a shower, wipe down your kitchen counters, and maybe lay the table for dinner. It’s not going anywhere. 

A whole lotta passata

Making the Pizza

Pre heat your oven to 180degrees, and get rolling!

All set up and ready to roll
Once you're ready to make the pizzas, divide the dough into balls & keep them covered. The original recipe asked for 4 balls, I made them smaller (owing to the size of my pan & oven) and turned out maybe ten pizzas that day.

Production line begins

The original recipe asks for ovenproof pans, which unfortunately I don’t have. I did the next best thing and slipped the pizzas from my pans onto a silicon baking mat. It worked just fine.

Pizza Toppings

You will need:
2 balls fresh mozzarella, shredded (I was so excited to do this, that I bought 3 different kinds of mozzarella to try out. I wanted to measure the melting point of each, compare tastes, look & feel. If you’re like me, feel free, it makes things much more fun in the kitchen.)
Basil leaves
Olive oil
5 or 6 English breakfast sausages (I took the sausages out of their skins, sliced them into thin discs and lightly fried them, making sure they stayed soft)


Step 1
Roll one ball out on a floured work surface until it's the same size as your pan. (If you have 2 pans, you can do 2 pizzas at the same time, it works like magic).

Roll, roll, roll your dough

Step 2
Add a little olive oil to the pan and add the pizza base, pressing it into the pan. Cook it over a medium heat until the base crisps and the dough starts to cook through and bubble up, about 5-8 minutes. (If you’re Indian, this is going to look very much like bubbly naans while cooking)

Wrinkly old pizza base
Double time

Step 3
Spread 2 tablespoons of the tomato sauce on them, and a heaping handful of shredded mozzarella. You can also add any other topping you want. I mixed things up and served my friends margarita pizzas as well as something I’d loved in Italy - salsiccia aka sausage! 

Sausage pizza, ready for the oven

Step 4
Put the prepared pizza on your baking mat and put into the oven until the toppings bubble and the cheese really starts to ooze everywhere. This should be another ten minutes. 

Waiting for the oven
Step 5
Drizzle with more olive oil, top with either basil leaves or rocket lettuce & serve on a wooden pizza tray.

I'm getting hungry again
Not plated yet!

A bit over exposed, but you get the picture
I served the pizza with simple salads to accompany:  Asparagus from a tin, marinated mushrooms, pasta salad and a rocket & iceberg lettuce salad.

Happy helper making the pasta salad
We approve

So I usually sign off with a bad pun or two. Want to hear a joke about pizza? Never mind, it's too cheesy.