Sunday, April 26, 2009

Daring Bakers' Cheesecake

Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake
April's Daring Bakers' Challenge Recipe

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

Time to get creative!
The real challenge in this month's was to take the basic recipe and play with it. Make it UNIQUE. Make a show-stopper of a dessert. Add flavour, sauces, decorations – dress it up and show it off and make it our own.

WOW POW WHANG what a response Jenny got from the Daring Bakers nearly every flavour combination under the sun and every topping beautifully presented. The Daring Baker's really went to town using Abbey's very easy and very forgiving recipe. I just love the thin batter which combines with any flavour base and the cheesecake is light and fluffy unlike the usual dense cheesecake that inhibites some cafés and restaurants. The cheesecake is soft with shiny crisp crust and not too sweet. They are better at room temp.

Ode to the cheesecake
Cheesecake, that's one I can't make.
Makes me salivate.
Makes me grovel, mate.
Don't hesitate - give me the cheesecake!
I will celebrate and I will dedicate.
My last bite of cheesecake.
To my taste buds, which I will placate.
With your fine cheesecake.
by J. G. Fort Knox, KY

It seems that the batter is too thin but it sets beautifully. I did a whole selection of flavours since I had high-tea (silver service) to do and I gave the guests their choice of flavourings (it had to be three flavours) and I got some great combinations. My choice was carrot, honey and coconut. I would of keep the recipe very simple if it was for myself but it is nice to have special treats for friends at a party it adds to the excitement. I did muffin sized cheesecakes and they took 30 minutes to set in the oven and one hour of cooling. The colours are all natural I used purées or shavings of the flavourings. I did 2/3 of the recipe this made 12 muffins.

Here are the flavours I did for the high tea there where six tasters and the following is in order of preference we judged out of ten and I averaged them

10/10 Dark 85% cocoa chocolate, coffee beans & molasses
9.5/10 Sour cherry, a touch of raspberry & champagne essence
9/10 Coffee latte, Baileys Irish Cream, caramel
9/10 Lime, kiwi fruit and star fruit
9/10 Coconut, honey and carrot
8.5/10 Blueberries, peaches and almond

10/10 Roasted garlic, honey and lemon-grass
9.5/10 Salmon, poached pear and dill
9/10 Caramelised onion, roasted tomatoes and chives
9/10 Crab, walnut and Stilton cheese
8.5/10 Mushroom, soya sauce and oyster sauce
8.5/10 Beetroot, potatoes and spring onion

When you are doing cheesecakes think of there being three layers - the crust, the filling and the top - each can be used to flavour the final result. For example the savoury "crab, walnut and Stilton" cheesecake I used a walnut crust, crab and cream cheese filling and a Stilon cheese topping.

In the above photo
Red is sour cherry, a touch of raspberry & champagne essence
Light green is lime, kiwi fruit and star fruit
Bottom brown is coffee latte, Baileys Irish Cream, caramel
Blue is blueberries, peaches and almond
Light yellow is coconut, honey and carrot
Top brown is dark 85% cocoa chocolate, coffee beans & molasses

Here are the other flavours I did which where savoury.

1st Left Roasted garlic, honey and lemon-grass
2nd Left Caramelised onion, roasted tomatoes and chives
Central "left over" batter from the sweet versions
Behind central multi-coloured cupcake Beetroot, potatoes and spring onion
Extreme Right Mushroom, soya sauce and oyster sauce

Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake:
2 cups / 180 g Graham cracker crumbs
1 stick / 4 oz butter, melted
2 tbsp. / 24 g sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 sticks of cream cheese, 8 oz each (total of 24 oz) room temperature
1 cup / 210 sugar (for savoury 1/4 cup sugar)
3 large eggs
1 cup / 8 oz heavy cream
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. vanilla extract (or the innards of a vanilla bean)
1 tbsp liqueur, optional, but choose what will work well with your cheesecake
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!
**Cheesecakelets - put in muffin tins, ramekins, or custard cups. Try baking 20-35 minutes, or until still a little jiggly, and cool as before.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Chicken stock from roasted chicken tips

How to make a good chicken stock

You can turn roasted chicken wing tips (usually discarded when making chicken wings) into excellent chicken stock very easily. As you can see the stock is like very firm jelly (jello) because chicken stock is made more from bony parts in this case roasted chicken tips, whereas chicken broth is made more out of meat. Chicken stock tends to have a fuller mouth feel and richer flavor, due to the gelatin released by long-simmering bones. You can use raw wing tips but you will get a lighter (in colour and taste) stock. In the recipe below you can use the left over bones from a roast chicken also. Wing tips contain a lot of gelatin and flavour so not many are needed to make a good stock.

12 Left-over chicken wing tips that have been roasted (or raw)
2 litres of water
1 cup of chopped onions, celery, carrots
fresh thyme, bay leaf, and peppercorns

Place wing tips in a clean large stockpot. Fill with cold water to cover the tips. Add carrots, onions, celery, carrots, thyme, bay leaf, and peppercorns. Bring to a simmer, immediately reduce the temperature to low. Partially cover and keep the stock cooking at a bare simmer, for 1 hour for roasted tips (or 2 hours for raw tips). Occasionally skim any foam that may come to the surface. Uncover, increase the heat slightly to maintain a low simmer with the pot now uncovered. Continue to cook for an hour or two. At this point you are reducing the stock so that it is easier to store. Strain the stock through several layers of cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer (ideally both) into a pot.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Two ways with octopus

Two ways with octopus
I have been hankering to eat octopus during the Easter Break. Since the weather has been very changeable hot and dry one day and the next wet and cold I thought why not try dishes that suit each of these kinds of days, so it doesn't matter what happens on the day.

There are only two ways of cooking octopus and they are
1. Slow and long or
2. Fast and furious
or else the octopus will be tough and taste of nothing.

Below are my two most favourite recipes they are super simple and always give a great result

Slow and long
Sweet Chilli Octopus
1/2 kg cleaned baby octopus (chopped into small pieces)
2 cups of tomato pasta sauce (use the kind with onions and herbs)
1/2 tablespoon of chilli sauce (hot)

Place all ingredients into a medium pot, simmer for 2 hours or until sauce is very thick. For some reason when octopus is slow cooked with tomatoes and chilli they became very sweet and soft and the sauce becomes intensely red. Makes about 2 cups of sauce since the octopus shrinks a lot.

Fast and furious
BBQ octopus with oyster sauce and red wine
1/2 kg cleaned baby octopus (chopped into halves)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon of oyster sauce
3 tablespoons of red wine
2 tablespoons of chopped parsley,

Heat a large heavy saucepan until the oil just starts to smoke. Place octopus pieces with the oyster sauce into pan and stir constantly until tentacles are curled and the flesh is dark golden brown (about 4 minutes). Remove from pan and add red wine reduce until thick sauce forms (about 1 minute). Pour over BBQ octopus and sprinkle parsley on top. Serve immediately.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Lamb Shanks (Slow Cooked)

Slow Cooked Lamb Shanks

I was delighted that my friend Cherie rang me and invited me to help her do lamb shanks. Wonderful I thought one of my autumn favourites lamb shanks are so tender and so filling when slow cooked with vegetables and beans. I like them to be slow cooked with red wine, stock, beans and root vegetables.

She has two dogs called Starsky & Hutch and a husband called Michael. They are my best friends and I always enjoy their company and their house located in a bush land setting.

We really savoured the chance to do this recipe which is simple yet yields a superb supper dish. I browned the meat while Cherie did the stock while the dogs watched with bated breath. After the stock had simmered for 2 hours we place the lamb shanks, stock, vegetables and beans into a slow cooker and let it do it magic for 4 hours.

What a treat for us it was tender and delicious. Time spent well.


Ingredients (serves 4)

* 1 cup seasoned plain flour
* 4 large French-trimmed lamb shanks
* 2 tablespoons olive oil
* 2 large onions, unpeeled, cut into 1cm slices
* 2 garlic cloves, crushed
* 2 chicken carcasses
* 2 cups soup vegetables chopped (celery, carrots, onions, etc)
* 2 cups carrots chopped
* 2 cups potatoes chopped
* 2 cups broad beans peeled
* 2 cup red wine (such as merlot)
* 1 can of crushed tomatoes


Add onions and garlic to large stock pot. Cook over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes or until soft. Add chicken carcasses and soup vegetables. Add 2 litres of cold water. Stir to combine. Bring to the boil then lower heat and simmer for 2 hours. Strain you should have about 4 cups (1 litre) of chicken stock.

Place flour and salt and pepper in a shallow dish. Lightly coat shanks with flour. Heat oil in a saucepan over high heat. Cook shanks, in batches, for 3 to 4 minutes or until browned. Transfer to a large slow cooker with the other chopped vegetables and beans. Pour stock, wine and tomatoes over shanks cover. Cook for 4 hours on low.

Lamb Shanks (French Cut)

Floured Lamb Shanks

Browned Lamb Shanks

Making soup stock

Slow Cooking the shanks

Finished Shanks

Starsky & Hutch watching the slow cooking