July 11, 2016

BLUEBERRY CHEESECAKE

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I don’t make cheesecake very often, once a year if that, but I can’t think why I don’t make more of them.  Except that of course they are not on our diet sheet.  I dread to think how many zillions of calories there are in a single slice.

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I recently went on a blueberry picking trip with some friends and came back with 4½ kilos of the most gorgeous, plump and tasty blueberries, most of which are now in the freezer.  With other friends coming round for a bbq I knew exactly what I should do with the ones I kept back.  Cheesecake.

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It was hardly any effort to make and delicious.  I used a recipe from the Delicious Magazine website that you can see here, except that as usual I adapted it to what I had in stock.  Here in France you can get digestive biscuits, called Sablés Anglais, but I have never seen gingernuts in the shops, and I didn’t have a vanilla pod but used vanilla paste which I brought back from the UK.

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I even made a blueberry compote to serve with it.  You can see the recipe for that here.  As I was making it, it didn’t seem to be thickening much and I wondered when to stop cooking so that I ended up with coulis not jam.  Jam it was.  But with a bit of a stir It still worked when dolloped onto a slice of the cake.

Definitely a recipe I will do again and easily adaptable for other fruits I think.

Ingredients

50g butter, melted

200g ginger biscuits, crushed (or digestives)

1 vanilla pod (or one teaspoon vanilla bean paste)

400g mascarpone

350g cream cheese

125g caster sugar

2 tbsp cornflour

3 large eggs

Grated zest of 1 small orange

300g blueberries

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Preheat oven to 280°C / 160° fan / gas mk 4.  Grease a 24cm, deep springform tin.

Mix the biscuit crumbs with the melted butter and spoon into the tin. Pat down evenly and firmly and chill for 10 mins or while you prepare the filling.

Put the vanilla seeds (or vanilla bean paste) into a large bowl with the mascarpone, cream cheese, sugar, cornflour, eggs and orange zest. Beat with an electric whisk until well blended.

Put a handful of blueberries aside and stir the rest into the mixture. Pour into the tin. Place the tin on a baking sheet then scatter the remaining berries on top of the mixture, pushing them in slightly.

Bake for 45-60 mins until golden brown and almost set. (Mine was done after 45.)  Open the oven door and leave the cheesecake inside to cool.

Chill in the fridge for several hours or overnight, run a knife around the tin to release and dust with icing sugar before serving.

For the blueberry compote  (optional)

Put 250g blueberries into a pan with 100g caster sugar and cook until thickened.  Serve cool, spooned over each slice of cake.

Cuts into at least 12 servings.

July 1, 2016

SOLACE IN BAKING. BANANA AND COCONUT CAKE.

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This year seems to be turning into our own personal “annus horribilis”.  Life is full of ups and  downs but the downs seem to be winning so far.  I won’t bore you with the list but the latest tragedy to befall us is the loss of our dog Lulu.

She has featured occasionally in this blog, ever present in the kitchen to see what titbits might come her way and even had her own biscuits in a post.  She was our “best girl”, a beautiful, well behaved and delightful dog who deserved to live longer than barely eight years.  It would have been her birthday in the middle of this month.

Getting used to life without Lulu will take some doing and with her passing being so recent, we are all at sixes and sevens.  All the dog lovers out there will know what I mean and how we feel.  Nick has been out riding his bicycle and shoveling mountains of gravel as a distraction.  I have been doing housework, in a chaotic and disorganised fashion, with a constant feeling that I have forgotten to do something.

Baking is as good a distraction as any, very therapeutic, and I could resist the urge no longer this afternoon.  I wasn’t up to tackling a challenging recipe but looking at two bananas way past their best, chose a very simple, chuck it all in the food processor recipe on the Good Food website, simply called “Banana Cake”.  You can see it here.

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I added some desiccated coconut and a handful of halved strawberries and it was remarkably good.  Not fantastic and not as good as other banana cakes, but very good for such a quick and simple recipe.

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It was nice and moist, had that slightly boingy texture that banana cakes often have, you could taste the coconut but it could have done with more strawberries to taste those properly.  I shall add it to my repertoire of very quick and easy cakes, handy for when getting a home made cake on the table fast is more important than how memorable it is.

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The baking helped.  Words cannot describe how much we miss our best girl and time will heal, I know.  For the moment it hurts.  You can read more about Lulu in her own blog here.

Banana and Coconut Cake

2 overripe smallish bananas

170g golden caster sugar

170g self raising flour

170g Flora Buttery

3 eggs

a few drops vanilla extract

50g desiccated coconut

a handful of small strawberries, halved

Method

Preheat the oven to 160° C / 140° fan / gas mk 3.  Put a paper liner into a 2lb loaf tin, or grease well.

Put all the ingredients except the coconut and strawberries into a food process and blend until well combined.  Add the coconut and strawberries and blend briefly to mix in.

Pour the mixture into the prepared tin.  Bake for 1 hour or until done. 

Cool in the tin for 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to finish cooling.

Cuts into 10-12 thick slices.