Old Style Baked Cheesecake (credit to Nigella)

With one thing and another (actually at least one new crisis every day for two weeks) there hasn’t been much time for cooking and baking. To look at my kitchen, you’d think that I have a flock of laying hens in the garden. About 18 eggs, gratefully received over two weeks ago with the good intentions of having a baking frenzy, and then not baked. Not fried. Not coddled. Nada.

That’s all changed a little today. I didn’t really want to bake, but I forced myself into it. Apart from anything else, the process of cooking is important to my wellbeing. So I did enjoy it, despite my weird ennui.

old style lemon cheesecake

Old Style Baked Cheesecake with grateful credit to Nigella Lawson since it’s her recipe which I reduced because I didn’t have 725g curd cheese. I had 227g. I added some cream cheese (Philly-style) and the total cheese came to 281g. This resulted in some very peculiar quantities, but if you want to read the original, please check out Nigella’s Kitchen (US Nigella Kitchen) page 173.

So that I could see how large (or small) a tin I would need (a 7 inch round loose-bottomed tin), I mixed the topping first, though Nigella logically stipulates the base before the cheese.

Set the oven going at 170 deg C.

The Topping

Take 281g curd and cream cheese, bash it about with a wooden spoon to soften it, and add about 60g vanilla caster sugar. Beat that in, and follow it up with 2 free range egg yolks (save the whites). Beat in about 20g cornflour – yes, sieving it is usually essential, but I didn’t, and there were no icky lumps in the mix. Add in about 3 teaspoons of lemon juice (and at this point I should have added the zest of one lemon, not instructed by the recipe but with 20-20 hindsight), a pinch of salt, and fold in about 100ml softly whipped double cream. Put everything to one side.

Line the tin with foil. (I did so with difficulty. Do not ask how.)

The Base

About 90g self-raising flour (Nigella wisely says plain but I didn’t have any because I keep buying self-raising when really I need plain flour) whizzed in the machine along with 20g vanilla caster sugar, 14 g soft butter (should’ve been about 10g, but I like living dangerously), and 1 whole egg, until everything looks breadcrumby. Then splash some whole milk (I said a splash) and whizz it on a pulse setting till it clings together like dough. Dump it onto the bottom of the foil lined tin, smooth it out (I used wet fingers) and shove it in the oven for around ten minutes.

If you make it with SR flour, it rises. That would be obvious. I just pressed it down with the back of a spoon. It made for a very light base, which was nice.

Whisk the saved egg whites into soft peaks (no prizes for throwing out the original egg whites and having to crack open two new eggs at this point), firmly beat a large dollop of froth into the topping mixture, and fold in the rest.

Fold thoroughly. Just be gentle. Once I was a coward and didn’t incorporate whisked egg whites properly; my cake rose on one side and not at all on the other. Just saying.

Pour the mix onto the base and place in the oven. The original recipe said 1 hour, but that was nearly 3 times the size, so I whipped it out within about 35 minutes, and it was pretty darn perfect. Set and scorched on the top, wibbley-wobbley beneath.

Nigella says the surface may crack, but that makes it more authentic. Presumably because I’d messed around with her recipe, it wasn’t remotely authentic and didn’t crack. It isn’t overly sweet or rich at all because the curd cheese is low fat and I probably underguessed the quantity of sugar. It wasn’t lemony enough by far, so next time I will get that zest in.

And there will be a next time. It’s got a great mouthfeel, firm and unctuous at the same time.

Trifle Anyone?

I didn’t achieve a lot today, but I felt good. The daily waterfalls are kicking in and my outlook has cheered up. Today I wish there was some trifle left, because my day would be topped with a cherry.

The sherry soaked sponge soaked, sharp raspberries stabbing the silky smooth custard; lightly whipped cream and jewelike cherries competing with toasted flaked almonds. It’s busy but simple.

Well, that’s how my mum’s trifles turn out. There’s an air of finesse, in a dish that isn’t very sophisticated. Each layer should be distinct but also meld with its mates to make one amazing pudding.

This baby was my first ever, and it got eaten right up, so the hitter it was, however there were a couple of mistakes that I would want to do better next time.

1) A very large slug of sherry was added by Himself because he thought it was funny, so the dessert was overwhelmingly sherry flavoured.

2) I used a flat whisk (with the spiral loop) which whipped the cream too stiffly, without warning, so that wonderful softness was lost.

Mum’s Trifle

As many “Lady’s Finger” trifle sponge biscuits as will fit on the bottom of the chosen dish. Two layers if the dish is deep enough to take it. Soak them in sherry, one slug at a time; soaked is not soggy.

Lay a thick layer of raspberries (fresh or frozen –  no need to defrost) over the sponge and make the custard.

Custard: I keep old vanilla pods in my sugar, so I have vanilla sugar available – just as well since I forgot to buy a pod this time. Using the ratio of 1 egg yolk per 100ml cream and milkwhisk together the yolks and 1 tbsp vanilla caster sugar. Add 1 tsp cornflour (I put slightly more to be certain). Mix in a combination of milk and double cream and set on a low/medium heat. Stir with a wooden spoon until it thickens. Do not boil. Keep stirring after it’s taken off the heat.
Scratch custard is so much nicer than Birds.

Pour the warm custard over the raspberries and allow it to set overnight in a cool place. Put the oven on 180 C and toast a layer of flaked almonds on a heatproof dish. Whip the double cream lightly and cut 8-10 cherries in half.

Dollop the cream over the set custard so that it covers it – a pallette knife is a good tool for this – and set the cherries into the white stuff under a covering of nuts.

Lemon Thing

I always thought ‘Chocolate Surprise’ would have been a great name for this pudding – the surprise being that it is lemon. I liked the idea that the person making it for the first time, despite adding nothing vaguely related to chocolate, might on one level expect it to turn into chocolate in the oven.

But to be loyal to my mum, its real name is Lemon Thing; and I could eat a whole one, no matter what size.

Take 20z butter and 4oz sugar and cream together till light and fluffy.
Add 2 egg yolks to the mix and reserve the whites in a dish.
Mix vigorously, as you pour half a pint of milk into the mixture and stir in the zest and juice of 1 lemon. The pale yellow mix will curdle a little.
Fold in 2oz self-raising flour and pour in another half pint of milk and the zest and juice of 1 more lemon.
Whisk the 2 egg whites until you get a lot of foam and fold into the mixture.

You want a preheated oven at 180 deg C.

Pour the mixture into a baking dish and bring it back out 1 hour later with a spongey top and a precarious wobble. At it’s best, you get a lemon custard sauce under the cake; at worst the custard gets a little more eggy, but nonetheless, delectable.


Meal of the Week: the Kings Head, Ravenstonedale.

The Decisions:
Me: Ham hock terrine, (because I am always insanely jealous when other people order it) and rib eye steak (because the steak and ale pie was sold out), and chocolate creme brulee.

Garden Pea Soup in good hands
Garden Pea Soup Gone

Himself: Garden Pea Soup (more for the bread than the soup, I suspect) followed by the rib eye again (for the same reason as above), and sticky toffee pudding.

Mother of Himself: Salmon fillet, and sticky toffee. Salmon because she didn’t want a lot of food at that time of night and sticky toffee because they’d sold out of strawberry cheesecake.

I can only speak for myself, though the pictures do say it too.

The terrine was succulent, substantial shreds of ham populating a well seasoned jelly. Plenty of ham. It came with what was described on the menu as picallili. Cadmium yellow cauliflower florets, two tiny onions and a piece of carrot. Not picallili as I thought I knew it, though the pieces tasted like it.

As I ate it all up, I realised that the dry pickles were essential for the balance with the succulent terrine. They foiled the richness and didn’t add extra goop to the plate. An edge of sweetness was added with a swirl of molasses-sweet syrup, just hinting. And though I pined for thickly buttered, brown bread, it couldn’t have been possible. The portion was quite substantial enough for a greedy starter. It is the greedy person’s continual lesson that their eyes are bigger than their stomachs.

The rib eye steak came exactly as I had asked (medium-rare, erring on the rare) with more than enough giant wedge chips and hidden beneath the steak was half a Portobello and some roast cherry tomatoes with their stalks still in.

Rib Eye

No green veg to take your mind off the prize. More importantly, no side salad cluttering up the plate. The steak juices that lightly washed the plate gave each mouthful a warm, spicy suggestion. The tomatoes were sweet and juicy and the mushroom seasoned just so.

Chocolate Creme Brulee

The chocolate creme brulee was divine; heady, addictive and lucious on the tongue. Its accompanying homemade shortbread biscuits crisply broke and then melted in the mouth. The combination of the rich chocolate and a slight malt cream basenote was a hedonist’s luxury. Added to which, the portion was generous. So often creme brulee is presented in a wide, shallow ramekin. It could have been 150ml, maybe even more.

It was a rocking meal. Big flavours with modernism and tradition at its core. The Kings Head in Ravenstonedale is a must-eat for any who haven’t been yet.

A Lesson in Following Recipes… or, Disaster Strikes in Coffee Pudding Fiasco!

Foodista.com is a varied food blog with a lot of different writers. It has a very American style and a good mix of people who write on it. Serious Eats is a bit more classy (has a beautiful foodporn page, too).  There are some foods and recipes on there that seem quite foreign to Magpie’s limited view and the urge to try them out grew too much this afternoon.

Alas, Magpie’s greed tends to interfere with her cooking.

The Thai Coffee Bread Pudding looks completely fabulous on the image. The imaginary mouthfeel is distinctly present at the front of the hard palate and curious to see if it would turn out, Magpie converted the quantities and halved them. (The recipe serves 8-10 people!) The temperature throughout was 160deg C which was surprising. I have been baking bread&butter pudding in too high a heat for years!

Two bread buns (oven baked, not steam – crusty bread unless a sweet one), cubed, weighed in at about 6oz. Dry them out in the 160deg C oven for about 10 mins and stick them in the baking dish you’re going to use.

Heat the required and STIPULATED quantity of coffee powder (that is, 3 tblsps) in 360ml milk (more on this later) till dissolved. Set aside to cool.

Whisk together:
2 egg yolks
1 whole egg

less than 1 teaspoon (tsp) each of cardamon and cinnamon.
120g light brown sugar

Whisk into the above mixture:
the coffee milk
200ml condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp almond extract

Pour over the bread into the baking dish and leave to soak for at least 20 minutes.

Paint 2oz melted butter over the top of the pudding, sprinkle it with white sugar and place in the oven for 30-40 mins. The idea is to eat it with orange zesty chantilly cream.

Unfortunately as you’ve probably guessed, Magpie thought the coffee taste wouldn’t be strong enough (having an odious view of freeze dried coffee granules), so dumped an extra 2-4 (can’t even remember, so stupid an idea it was) tablespoons of coffee into the milk.
It may not have been the £4 espresso powder stipulated, but it sure was strong. The look on Himself’s face as he consumed the first spoonfuls was the same one you’d expect accompanying a mouthful of lemons! The overload of coffee made it bitter, despite the dish’s aspirations to be a sweet, rich pudding. What a shame.

Always encouraging, Himself allocated a score of 9 out of 10 for effort and what Magpie suspected was a very generous 4/10 for ‘taste’.

It looked really lovely though.