Happy 2013! It might already be a little late for wishing people a happy new year, but I think its better late than never!
This year will be very exciting for the bandit household – the end of student life, the start of married life and no doubt a whole load of baking adventures in between. However, the next few months are going to be a bit hectic, as I finish my PhD, start work and try and plan our wedding, so there might not be too many posts between now and Easter. To keep you all going, I thought a retrospective post about a little experimental cheesecaking (a new word for a new year) was in order.
Now the first time I made this cake (on New Years Eve) it didn’t work entirely to my liking; the bananas weren’t quite right. So a week later I tried it again, changing up the banana part and making it in cupcake form. This method would easily work in a normal cheesecake shape as well, and I’ve included a photo of version 1 to show you what it would look like. The great thing about the mini versions is that they are easily transportable and far less messy – always a good thing with cake!
This recipe is for 12-14 mini cakes. If you would like to make one large cheesecake (in a deep 20cm round tin) you will need to DOUBLE all the quantities.
INGREDIENTS: 8-10 digestive biscuits (you might find you have leftovers), 30g butter, 1 tbsp golden syrup, 300g cream cheese, 50g caster sugar, 1 tbsp plain flour, 2 tsp vanilla extract, 75ml sour cream, 150g white chocolate, 2 very ripe bananas, can of carnation caramel (or equivalent).
- Heat the oven to 160 (fan, centigrade) and get a muffin tray ready with paper liner inserts.
- Put the butter and the golden syrup in a small pan and melt together over a low heat. Meanwhile, either put the biscuits in a freezer bag and beat the living daylights out of them with a rolling pin, or put them in the food processor. If doing the latter, when the butter mixture is melted, add to the food processor and give the whole lot a whizz. Otherwise put it all in a bowl and mix well.
- Line the base of each muffin case with some of the biscuit mixture and press down well. You want a reasonable layer in each case, but not too thick, certainly less than a centimetre. Then pop the tray in the oven for ten minutes. After ten minutes, take the tray out and use the back of a teaspoon to flatten the mixture again (while still warm). Leave to cool and turn the oven down to 140.
- Melt the white chocolate. I do this in 20 second intervals in the microwave but you can use a bowl over a pan of water if you prefer.
- With a mixer, beat the cream cheese, sugar, flour and vanilla until as smooth as possible. Add one and a half of the eggs (but keep the other half – and don’t worry about not being too exact), the melted chocolate and sour cream and beat again until really smooth.
- In the food processor whizz up the two bananas, adding in two tbsp of the cream cheese mixture, and the other half of the egg. It will be sloppy but don’t worry – it all works out great! NB: If you are making this as one large cake, just mash the bananas with the back of a fork until really mushy and mix in the egg – don’t whizz until completely liquid as the cake is too large and it may not set properly. It will still taste exactly the same!
- Take the cooled biscuit bases, and pour a layer of the banana mixture into the base of each case. Don’t do this until you’re ready to put them in the oven as if you leave it to sit, you’ll have a soggy bottom!
- On top of the banana mix, put a full tablespoon of the thick cream cheese mixture. You want the case to be about 3/4 full at this stage, so add a bit more or less depending on the size of your spoon. Don’t worry if the banana mixture comes up around the sides, it sorts itself out in the oven. Smooth other the mixture as best you can, but there’s no need to be too neat about it.
- Next comes the caramel. I find it best to put the caramel into a bowl and heat in the microwave for about 20 seconds, before beating quite hard with a fork. This gets out all the lumps that form when you use it from cold. Put a generous teaspoon of caramel in the middle of each cake.
- Finally, pop them in the oven for about 25 minutes. You want the tops to be slightly wobbly in the centre (although this can be a bit hard to see through the caramel!), as they finish cooking at they cool, so keep an eye on them and take them out early if they are looking a bit hard. They shouldn’t go golden/brown.
- If you are making this as one large cake, I recommend baking without the caramel, and covering the cake onces it has cooled. Alternatively, you could swirl the caramel through the cheesecake mixture before baking. When making a large cake, leave in the tin for about 10 minutes to cool slightly before removing to a plate. Don’t leave it to cool completely in the tin, as it will keep on cooking!
The mini cheesecakes can be eaten whenever but if you peel them out of the cases, they look really lovely with the different layers, and would make a great dessert with some ice-cream and hot caramel sauce!
For the full cake version, I didn’t take my own advice, and failed to warm the caramel, which is consequently a little on the lumpy side, but nevertheless delicious!
Well my baking friends, back wearing my non-baking, academic ‘hat’ for the foreseeable future.
See you on the other side…..
Sometimes you want a cake to celebrate a special occasion and sometimes you need a dessert at the end of a celebratory meal – so why not make something that covers all bases? This Amaretti and Apricot cake fulfilled both tasks at a recent family celebration, and the leftovers made an excellent accompaniment to brunch the following morning!
This cake is moist and sweet, and with the addition of some stewed fruit, maybe some cream or even a dollop of vanilla ice cream, is transformed into something heavenly to end a meal with. It also feeds about ten people, so is perfect for a large gathering. Best of all, it is a really easy cake to make!
This recipe is adapted from http://www.bbcgoodfood.co.uk
INGREDIENTS: 200g butter or Stork (I used the latter as this cake needed to be dairy-free), 200g caster sugar, 200g self raising flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 4 large eggs, 1tsp almond essence, 410g can of apricot halves, 120g amaretti biscuits (for anyone else wanting to make this dairy free, check the ingredients of the amaretti biscuits – some include milk powder but good ones shouldn’t).
- Heat the oven to 160 (fan) and butter and line a 23cm loose-bottomed cake tin.
- Cream the butter and sugar and then mix in the flour and baking powder. It will be quite thick at this stage.
- Add in the eggs one at a time. I suggest breaking them into a smaller bowl first, just to make sure you don’t get a dud one!
- Add the almond essence and mix it all quite hard – it should be smooth and creamy and a bit fluffy.
- Take a quarter of the mixture and set it aside.
- Drain the apricots and chop them up roughly, then add them to the larger portion of cake batter.
- Bash the amaretti biscuits into chunky pieces. Add 1/4 of the pieces to the apricot batter.
- Put the apricot batter into the tin and smooth over. Pop it in the oven for 25 minutes.
- While the cake is in the oven, add half of the remaining crushed amaretti biscuits to the remaining portion of batter.
- When the cake has had 25 minutes in the oven, take it out and quickly spread the remainder of the batter over the top. It is easiest to dollop on blobs of the mixture and then work them together. Do this quickly though so that the cake doesn’t sink.
- Sprinkle the remaining amaretti crumbs on top of the cake and pop back in the oven for another 20 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.
Your finished cake should be two-tone, with a lighter crust from the late addition of the second batch of batter. The top layer had an almond-y crunch and the bottom layer is full of moist fruit.
This was such a winner I think it is going to become a dinner party staple!
Some alternative ideas could include:
- For more of a pudding feel, save half the apricots and pop the whole halves on the top with the second batch of batter so that they form little igloos on the top of the cake.
- Toast some almonds and sprinkle them over the top
- Sprinkle the top with a mixture of icing sugar and gold glitter for a real wow-factor effect.
I hope you enjoy this little gem of a recipe!
Its nearly Christmas folks, so I’ll try and get in a recipe for the holiday season before the end of the year – if anyone has any requests let me know!
Bake well my friends,
Recipe adapted from the BBC Good Food Magazine.
I discovered this weekend that when it comes to baking, no doesn’t always mean no (although at 2am when I’m trying to sleep and Mr. Bandit comes in reeking of booze and kebabs it certainly does). Having told me not to bake anything for a while because he was enjoying the cake a bit too much, this weekend, in his hour of cakey need, I was told that just because he said don’t make anything doesn’t mean I should have listened. So I sent him off to the shops and moments later was busily making chocolate and raspberry brownies.
I love soft fruits and at this time of year and generally find brownies a bit cloying so a hit of lovely tangy fruit was just what the doctor ordered. Mr. Bandit likes white chocolate with raspberries so I adapted the recipe a bit for him.
Now I was debating whether or not to blog about these brownies, because, frankly, things didn’t go to plan. But baking doesn’t always go to plan and even when things aren’t quite right, they are often salvageable. That’s what happened with these, so here’s what happened….
- For the brownies you need 200g dark chocolate, 100g milk or white chocolate, 250g butter, 350g soft light brown sugar, 4 large eggs, 140g plain flour, 50g cocoa powder, 200g raspberries.
- Heat the oven to 180 degrees and line a tin about 20 by 30 cm with baking paper. Or, for ease, use two smaller tins.
- Put the sugar, dark chocolate, half the white chocolate and butter in a pan and heat gently until the sugar has disolved and everything else melted.
- Remove the pan from the heat and when its cooled a little, add each of the eggs one by one and whisk them into the mixture. Don’t do this when the mixture is too hot or you’ll get scrambled eggs.
- Sift in the flour and cocoa and stir with vigour!
- Stir in half the raspberries and then pour the mix into the tin/s. Scatter the rest of the raspberries over the top and do the same with the remaining white chocolate (but chop it into chunks first!).
- Pop in the oven for 40 minutes and then check. There should be a spring in the brownies, you don’t want them too cakey, but they shouldn’t be runny either. If they’re still too runny, put them in for another 10-15 minutes but keep an eye on them.
So here’s what happened to mine. The original recipe said to cook for 30 mins. This was WAY too short a cooking time for the size of the tin. So the middle was still totally raw. However, I wasn’t paying attention, took them out the oven and left to cool, assuming they’d harden as they cooled. It was not to be – when I cut into it an hour later it was still totally runny in the middle. 😦
So, back into the oven it went, and 15 minutes later – because I’d let it cool in between – it still wasn’t completely cooked. However, by this point we’d been smelling the amazing chocolatey goodness for too long and we were too impatient. So out it came and we decided to dig into the hot, squidgy sort of finished brownies for a dessert.
So, although this didn’t quite work initially as brownies, they made the most amazing dessert. The image doesn’t quite show but the middle of the piece is still a wee bit too gooey. However, the eggs are cooked so its totally ok to eat. This was like a giant chocolate fondant and would make an amazing pud with some ice cream or creme fraiche.
I then put the rest of the brownie tin back into the (now switched off) oven for 20 minutes and then they were cooked perfectly.
So, these brownies didn’t quite work initially, but I’m pretty sure that 40 minutes in the oven followed by a check and then possibly another 10-15 minutes would work perfectly, or just 40 minutes if you fancy them as a dessert. Remember that even when cooked, they don’t properly harden until cool. I will have another go at these in the future and will update this post on cooking times once I’m 100% sure what works best. If you placed the mix in two smaller tins, 30-40 mins would be fine. These will keep in the fridge for a few days.
And the most important thing? It worked in the end and I discovered a very nice dessert in the process! And I also learned that in baking, no doesn’t always mean no. Having said that, Mr. Bandit is off to France next weekend, so I might have a weekend off baking then.
I hope everyone had a lovely weekend.
Bake well my friends