Sunday, 31 July 2011

berry and chocolate cheeseless chesecake

Yes, yes, I know.  "A cheeseless cheesecake?" I can hear you all saying.  Well it is true.  With a biscuit base, cakey middle, creamy chocolate topping and berries somewhere in between, this cake resembles every kind of cheesecake in texture and composition.  But without the cheese.  So tell me, when something is neither cake nor tart, nor pie nor loaf, nor biscuit nor muffin, what is it?  Well on this occasion it is a cheeseless cheesecake - and that is the best description I have come across.   All other suggestions are welcome!

Three layers, each with their own texture and taste to contribute, this hearty and rich dessert is an ensemble of super flavours and, if you're lucky, it may just count as one of your five a day!
This is not the easiest cake to make, but it is exceptionally worth it.

Ingredients for the base
200g digestive biscuits
85g melted butter

Ingredients for the cake
30g plain flour
15g cocoa powder
100g dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids)
35g butter
30ml double cream
4 eggs (to be separated)
75g soft brown sugar, or golden caster sugar
250g of raspberries, blueberries or a mixture of both

Ingredients for the icing
100g dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids)
50g butter
50ml double cream
25g icing sugar (sifted)

Line the base of a 23" clip cake cake with parchment or greaseproof paper.

Biscuit Base:
Place the biscuits in a plastic freezer bag, or similar, and prepare yourself for a pounding!  loosely hold the open ends of the bag and bash the biscuits with a rolling pin, or some other heavy object - but not a glass.  Do not tie a knot in the bag, as it will explode when you hit the air inside.  Once obliterated into something resembling bread crumbs, place the smashed biscuits into a mixing bowl.  Add the melted butter and mix until combined and the crumbs have soaked up all the butter.  Spoon the biscuit mixture into the cake tin and press down firmly to form an even base, with either the back of a wooden spoon or your hands (I find making a fist and pressing down firmly does the trick).

Place in the fridge to allow the biscuit base to firm up.

Cakey middle bit:
Pre-heat the oven to Gas Mark 2.

Sieve the flour and cocoa powder into a small bowl and set to one side.
Break the chocolate into pieces and melt in a bain-marie or over a low heat in a non-stick saucepan - keep a close watch to make sure it doesn't burn.  Once melted, take off the heat and add the butter.  Let the butter melt in slowly, then add the cream and mix together until combined and delicious in appearance.

Separate the eggs.  You want the whites in a mixing bowl, ready to whisk (electric mixer if you have one) and the yolks in a large mixing bowl as this is where all the ingredients will be bought together.
Whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks (much easier and quicker in an electric mixer).  Add the sugar and mix again until stiff peaks are formed.

Beat the egg yolks, add the melted chocolate and lightly beat until combined - the mixture will start to thicken so don't over beat it.  Fold in the flour and cocoa, a little at a time.  Add a dollop of the egg whites to the chocolate mixture to lighten, mix until combined.  A few dollops at a time, add the remaining egg whites, gently folding them in as you go - we don't want to knock all that lovely air out of them!

Once fully combined set to one side, for a moment or two whilst we deal with the berries.  Remove the biscuit base from the fridge.  Sprinkle the berries of your choice over the top of the biscuit base.  I like to make sure that no berries meet the edge, so that they are a surprise when the cake is cut and served.  If you feel that there are too many berries, then save some for the topping.  Delightful either way.

Once the berries are in place, slowly and gently, pour the cake mixture over the top of them and smooth with a spatula.  Take extra care to make sure that no berries are popping out of the top, otherwise they might burn in the oven.

Place the cake in the oven for 40-45minutes of until a skewer, inserted into the centre of the cake, comes out clean.  Leave to rest in the tin for 10 minutes, then remove and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

For the icing:
It is best to prepare the icing once the cake has cooled completely, otherwise it will not harden.
Melt the chocolate as before, in a bain-marie or non-stick saucepan.  Once melted, remove from the heat.  Add the butter and allow to melt of its own accord.  Mix the icing sugar with the cream and pour onto the chocolate.  Mix together until everything is combined and the chocolate is glossy.  Have a little taste. If you think it is too bitter (which may be the case if you have used a high percentage cocoa chocolate) then add a little more icing sugar.  Do be careful not to make it too sweet though - the cake provides the sweetness in this recipe.  Once you are satisfied.  Pout the icing over the cake and allow to harden, at room temperature, for an hour or so.  Do not refrigerate as the chocolate will turn from glossy to matt.

Serve with cream or ice cream, lavender if you have some.  Vanilla if not.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Apple and Rum Frangipane Tart

"make a cake with rum in it" said a comrade,
"aye" said I.
And so, I did.

A frangipane is much like a sponge, and in fact the ratio of ingredients is exactly the same.  The only difference is that instead of flour, you use ground almonds.  This gives the tart filling incredible depth, flavour and texture.  It is dense, but not rich, and sticky, but not sickly.  The shortcrust pastry holds the frangipane in place, the rum provides a reassuring scent, whilst the apple gives a soft, sweet and utterly welcomed intermission to this heavenly tart!

Ingredients for the pastry base
6oz plain flour
3oz butter, room temperature
1 1/2oz of icing sugar
pinch of salt
1 free-range egg

Ingredients for the frangipane filling
4oz butter
2oz golden caster sugar
2oz light muscovado sugar (or other soft brown sugar)
2 free-range eggs
1 tbsp of dark rum
4oz ground almonds

Other Ingredients
1 large cooking apple
a little lemon juice
knob of butter, melted
golden caster sugar to sprinkle

First, we start with the pastry - the recipe for which I have used before in the pumpkin pie recipe.
Sieve the flour into a large mixing bowl.  Dice the butter and add to the flour.  Rub the flour and butter together, using your fingertips, until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs.  It may take a few minutes to get to this stage, but trust me, it will happen.  Sieve in the icing sugar and mix with a wooden spoon.  in a separate small bowl, lightly whisk the egg and a pinch of salt.  Make a well in the flour mixture, pour in the egg and bring the mixture together, using your hands, until you form a round dough.  Place on a surface a flatten slightly with your hand.  Wrap in cling film and leave in the fridge for 1-hour - overnight if you are able to.

When ready to make the tart, pre-heat the oven to Gas Mark 4.  Unwrap the cooled pastry and place on a floured surface.  Sprinkle flour onto a rolling pin and roll out the pastry to an even thickness and large enough to fit the base and sides of a 23" fluted loose base tart tin.  Once rolled, roll the mixture onto the rolling pin and then place over the tin.  Push the pastry into the corners of the tine, lightly using your fingertips.  If the pastry falls apart, don't panic - this happens to me all the time - a little too much icing sugar, not enough patience with the cooling process.  Just arrange the broken pieces in the tin, no one will know and I won't tell anyone, promise!

Poke the pastry base with a fork a few times and place a layer of grease proof paper over the pastry.  Fill the pastry with ceramic balls.  If you don't have any of these, you can bake the tart blind, as it is.  The ceramic balls help the pastry to bake evenly and stop the sides from falling in, but they are not essential.  Consider them a future investment!

Place the pastry base in the oven for 20 minuntes, remove and leave to cool on a wire rack.

1,2,3......lets frangipane!  In an electric mixer, if you have one, or with a wooden spoon if you don't, cream together the butter and sugars.  In a separate small bowl, lightly whisk the eggs with the rum.  Don't get too enthusiastic with the rum, if you add to much the mixture will be too wet and won't rise.  With the mixer on a slower setting to begin with, add the egg, a little at a time, to the butter and sugar mix.  Once started to combine, turn the mixer up to a higher speed to get as much air into the mixture as possible.  Whilst it is whizzing, sieve the almonds into a bowl.  Turn the mixer to a slower speed, add a tablespoon of the almonds and combine.  Then, by hand with a wooden spoon, add the remaining ground almonds, a spoonful at a time, to the mixture, gently folding in to combine between additions.

Pour the fragipane mixture into the pastry base and spread to an even level with a palette knife or spatula.  Slice 1 large cooking apple into slices, sprinkle a little lemon juice over it, to stop it going brown, and arrange as you wish on top of the frangipane mixture.  Brush a little melted butter over the apple and dust with golden caster sugar.

Place the tart back into the oven, on gas mark 4 for 30-35 minutes until the frangipane is set and an inserted skewer comes out clean.  Dust with a little more golden caster sugar and leave to cool completely in the tin before serving with, my preferred accompaniment of greek yogurt.

Katie xx