Sunday, 24 June 2012

Baked Strawberry & Lime Mascarpone Cheesecake

This is such a delicious baked cheesecake, fluffy and creamy with that crunchy biscuit base and the sweetness of strawberry undercut by a soft citrus tang. There's nothing more to say really except dig in!

Adapted from Olive Magazine July 2005, listed at BBC Good Food Online. See the recipe here.
Serves 8

8 or 9 digestive biscuits
600g mascarpone cheese or other cream cheese
50g butter
175g caster sugar
2 tbsp plain flour
2 eggs and 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
quarter of a teaspoon vanilla extract
300g strawberries total: 150g for cake, 150g for topping
zest and juice of 1 lime
142 ml sour cream
1 tablespoon icing sugar

1. Turn the oven to 180C (160C fan) and get out a 20cm cake tin.

2. Crush the biscuits by putting them in a sealed plastic bag and attacking them with a rolling pin (this is very enjoyable, a good way of getting rid of any grievances of the day).

3. Melt the butter in a small pan over a low heat. Mix the crushed ground biscuits with the butter.

4. Press the biscuit butter mixture into the cake tin, making sure it covers the bottom evenly. Cook in the oven for 5 minutes, then take out and leave to cool.

5. In a large bowl mix the flour, sugar, cream cheese, sour cream, lime zest and juice, eggs and egg yolk. Beat until fluffy.

6. Add half the berries (150g), stirring them gently into the batter.

7. Pour the batter into the tin, making sure it covers all the biscuit base, and smooth down the top.

8. Bake for approx 40 minutes. You'll know it's done when the cheesecake is set but still a bit wobbly in the middle. Leave the cake in the tin to cool. Ideally, once the cheesecake is cool, you can put it in the fridge to help it set overnight, before adding the topping the next day when ready to serve.

for the topping:
the rest of the strawberries (150g)
handful wild strawberries and their flowers, optional

9. However if you want to serve the cake on the same day, then you can get straight on with the topping. Slice the remaining strawberries thinly. When the cake is cool, place the slices in concentric circles over the cake, ending in the middle.

10. Add a few wild strawberries and their flowers to decorate if you like, then keep in the fridge until serving.

This cheesecake was idly baked while listening to Florence & The Machine play Ceremonials

Invitation to a Mad Tea Party!

I am thrilled to have been invited by the delightful Vanessa Valencia to a wonderful Mad Tea Party to be held by bloggers across the world. Vanessa is an artist and sculptor based in Arizona, well known for her fantastic annual mad tea parties which she photographs for her blog. She takes her inspiration from Alice in Wonderland to create beautiful images of her own crazy, gorgeous tea parties, and this year I've decided to join her in inviting you all to a Mad Tea Party of my own!

Mad Tea Party 2012 Flyer

Please come join us for a fanciful and delightful tea party on Saturday the 28th July, held in my garden, Vanessa's, and the gardens and homes of many others including YOU if you so wish to participate!

Visit Vanessa's previous tea parties, which are on the left side bar of her blog, to see just how much fun they are, and I do so hope they'll inspire you to create your own or simply to check out our blog party posts on the day. I look forward to seeing you at my unique wonderland party which is primed to involve cake, existential enquiry, a masked madwoman let loose, a questing kitten, and even more cake!

Curiouser and curiouser....

Monday, 18 June 2012

Gluten Free Coffee & Cherry Bundt Cake

As yesterday was Father's Day I decided to treat my Dad to this gorgeous rich bundt cake, coffee flavoured with sweet cherries nestling in the batter and more decorating the top. He loved it so much he had several slices for tea, then we each had another slice sat at our beach hut by the seaside, along with a glass of bubbly, before ending the evening with a fish and chip supper. We're such gluttons in my family it's a good thing for our waistlines that Father's Day only comes once a year!

My own. Inspired by the cappucino bundt recipe given by Chrysta Wilson in her lovely book Kiss My Bundt.  Buy the book on Amazon here.

Serves 10-12

325g gluten free plain flour (Dove's Farm or M&S recommended)
50g ground almonds
185g caster sugar
2 and a half teaspoons gluten free baking powder (Barkart recommended)
3 large eggs, room temperature
165g unsalted butter, room temperature
1 and a half teaspoons vanilla extract
360ml whole milk, room temperature
5 tablespoons instant coffee granules
200g fresh cherries, pitted

1. Heat oven to 180 (160C Fan) and thoroughly grease a 25cm bundt tin. It can be hard to release cakes from bundt tins, but I've discovered that spraying the tin with Lakeland's 'Cake Release' lets them slip smoothly.

2. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, for about 3 minutes.

3. Add the first egg, and beat well before adding the second and then the third into the mixture. Beat again, before throwing in the ground almonds and vanilla extract.

4. Next sieve in half the flour and baking powder, and stir gently with a metal spoon until combined. Then sift in the rest of the flour, and stir again.

5. Mix the milk with the coffee granules in a measuring jug, stirring until the coffee has disolved.

6. Gently stir the coffee milk into the cake batter, until just combined.

7. Pour half the batter over the base of the greased bundt tin, before placing the pitted cherries evenly over the top. Then add the rest of the batter ontop, spread and smooth down with a spatula. Make sure that all the cherries are covered by the batter.

8. Put in the oven to bake for approx 40 minutes. You'll know it's done when a skewer comes out clean.

9. Leave to cool in the bundt tin for at least 10 minutes, before gently and carefully turning the cake out on to a wire rack or plate to cool further.

for the coffee icing:

250g icing sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon instant coffee granules
2 tablespoons hot water
approx 80g fresh cherries, with stalks and stones intact

10. Sift the icing sugar into a mixing bowl.

11. Combine the coffee with the hot water, and stir until dissolved and cooled a little.

12. Then add a tablespoon of the liquid to the icing sugar, beating it in before adding enough to create a firm but runny consistency. I added a little more liquid than you may wish to, because I really love a runny glace icing!

13. When the cake is cool, spoon the coffee icing over the top of it, letting it drip down the sides, and quickly, while the icing is still wet on the cake, place fresh cherries over the cake, pressing them into the icing to keep them in place. Put the bundt in the fridge to allow the icing to harden for about 20 minutes.

14. Serve with coffee and perhaps a little cream.

This bundt cake was idly baked whilst listening to Portico Quartet's album Knee Deep in the North Sea

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Lime, Nectarine & Basil Cake

This is a delicately flavoured citrus sponge cake, topped with sticky sugared nectarines and just a hint of basil. I made it gluten free this time, but it can be baked with normal plain flour if you prefer, and take out the ground almonds if you have a nut allergy. Fresh tasting and light, this pretty cake tastes scrummy with any juicy plums, peaches or nectarines circling the top.

My own
Serves 8-10

4 nectarines, cored, halved and thinly sliced
170g gluten-free mix self-raising flour (I use Dove's Farm gluten-free)
freshly squeezed juice of 1 lime
2 tsps grated lime peel
150g & 3 tbsps caster sugar
3 tbsp ground almonds
170g unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 eggs
1 latge handful of fresh basil, torn or chopped finely, plus one sprig left whole for decoration
Grated peel of another lime, for decoration, optional

1. Turn the oven to 180C (160C fan oven). Grease and line a 20cm round spring form cake tin.

2. Beat the butter in a large bowl until fluffy. Add 150g of the sugar and beat until smooth.

3. Whisk in the eggs one at a time, then add the lime peel, lime juice, most of the basil and all ground almonds. Add the flour and mix until well combined.

4. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin. Arrange the nectarine slices on top in concentric circles to cover the top of the cake and press them lightly into the batter.

5. Scatter the left over 3 tbsps sugar, evenly over the top of the cake.

6. Bake for approx 1 hour until golden. You'll know it's done when the top bounces back under your thumb and a skewer comes out clean. Let it cool in the tin for 15 mins before carefully cutting around the cake and placing it on to a plate or wire rack to cool further.

7. Sprinkle the grated lime over the top and place a sprig of basil in the middle. Serve at room temperature with tea, or while still warm with ice cream or cream as a dessert cake.

This cake was idly baked while listening to PJ Harvey's album To Bring You My Love

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Sour Morello Cherry & Hazelnut Loaf

Sour morello cherries and roasted hazels: its a flavour combination that makes me think picnics in the orchard with the hammock swaying in a warm breeze and a bonfire burning into the dusk. I get a childish pleasure from pushing the cherries higgledy piggledy into the top of the batter, and seeing how the pattern changes when it grows as it bakes. A delicious sweet-sour cake, and popular even with cats. Nico interupted the photo shoot, not to pose for the camera but in a cunning attempt to eat the warm loaf! She was thwarted yet again the poor minx. She's dreaming of the day when she'll get to the freshly baked cake before I do.

My own.
Serves 6-8

150g unsalted butter, room temperature
150g light muscovado sugar
3 eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
100g chopped roasted hazelnuts, plus more for optional decoration
150g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon greek yoghurt, room temperature
100g sour morello cherries

1. Turn the oven to 170C (150C fan ovens). Grease and line a small 1lb loaf tin.

2. Cream the butter and sugar together for about 3 minutes, until light and fluffy.

3. Add the first egg and the teaspoon of vanilla extract, and beat well.

4. Add the other 2 eggs, beating after each addition.

5. Gradually add the flour and baking powder in 2 stages to the batter. Beat the batter until smooth.

6. Fold in the chopped hazels, before adding the greek yoghurt, and half the sour cherries and stirring gently until combined.

7. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf tin, smooth down the top and then dot the rest of the sour cherries into the top of the batter, pressing them in lightly.

8. Bake for 45-50 mins. Bake until the top bounces back under your finger and a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

9. Leave the cake to cool in the tin for 10 mins before placing on a wire rack or plate to cool further.

10. Serve warm or cold, sprinkled with some more roasted chopped hazelnuts if you like. Serve cream or creme fraiche on the side. Keep away from cats.

This cake was idly baked while listening to the Tori Amos album Under The Pink

Monday, 4 June 2012

Eggless, Gluten Free, Nut Free: Banana & Cinnamon Ice Cream

It was sod's law that as soon as I'd decided to make my first ever ice cream the weather changed from hot and sunny to cool and rain splattered. Humph. But I pressed ahead anyway, and boy am I glad I did, for it surprised me with its utter simplicity and scrumptiousness. Gorgeous rich banana marries with the smoky sweetness of cinnamon to create something wonderful. The sun may be hiding but this ice cream brings it back to me with every mouthful.

Adapted from the one for Banana Ice Cream at Ice Cream Recipes website, click to see it here
Serves approx 6

375ml double cream
3 and a half large ripe bananas, or 4 small ones
75g sugar
1 heaped teaspoon cinnamon
1 squeeze of lemon
cinnamon sticks to decorate, optional

1. Chop the banana into small chunks, before placing in a large bowl and mashing well with a fork.

2. Add the cream, sugar, cinnamon and lemon juice, stirring until well combined.

3. Chill the mixture in fridge for an hour.

4. Then pour the mixture into an ice cream maker, and freeze following the maker's instructions. If the finished icecream is still a little runny for your tastes, pop it into the freezer for a few hours.

5. If you don't have an ice cream maker, then pour the mixture into a plastic container, cover with a lid and place in the coldest part of your freezer  to set. After an hour, take out and churn with a fork every 40 minutes or so until the ice cream has frozen in a smooth, soft-set way.

6. Take the ice cream out of the freezer and place in the fridge about 15 minutes before serving. Add a cinnamon stick to each serving if you like for decoration.

This icecream was idly churned while listening to Io Echo's Doorway

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Minty Lemonade with Blossom Ice Cubes

When the sun comes out there's nothing like a refreshing cool drink to keep me happy. Homemade minty lemonade is just the thing. It's thirst quenchingly good, remarkably easy to make and looks especially delightful served with some frozen blossom ice cubes.

Serves 4-6

for the blossom ice cubes:
small whole unsprayed edible flowers or petals (such as scented geraniums and roses)

1. To make these you'll need an empty ice cube tray. Gently quarter fill each cube hole with water.

2. Place a small flower or petal into the water of each cube hole.

3. Cover the cube holes with more water, being careful not to overfill and spill the tray.

4. Carefully place the filled icecube tray in the freezer and freeze for at least 3 hours until firmly set before serving with a cold drink such as the minty lemonade.

for the minty lemonade:
freshly squeezed juice of 4 lemons
85g caster sugar
1 litre of boiling water
4 mint leaves
lemon slices and blossom ice cubes, to serve

5. To make the lemonade, combine the lemon juice, sugar and boiling water in a large pan, and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Taste to check the sweetness, allow to cool and then carefully decant it into a large glass jug.

6. Crush the mint leaves roughly with your hands and stir into the lemonade. The longer you leave the mint to steep in the lemonade the more fresh flavour it will bring to the drink. Leave to chill in the fridge for at least 3 hours.

7. Serve the lemonade in glasses topped with lemon slices and blossom ice cubes. Drink it outdoors, listening to birdsong and feeling the warm sun on your face.

The icecubes and lemonade were idly made while watching the classic film Some Like It Hot, Marilyn Monroe's finest work.
Here's the original trailer for your delectation:

In Bloom

I thought you might like to see some photos of our garden. It's growing more wildly lovely by the day.