27 April 2011

Cranberry New York Cheesecake

New York Cheesecakes are by far my favourite kind of cheesecakes. I like that they are dense and cheesy, and when combined with chocolate,  deliciously fudgey.  A ruby red cranberry topping just takes it over the top.

I adapted a recipe from Smitten Kitchen by (1) adding in whipping cream to lighten up the texture of the cheesecake, (2) incorporating chocolate into the bottom layer of the cheesecake; and (3) giving the cake a cranberry topping. I do love how the bright red topping spills dramatically down the cake when you cut it.
Recipe for Cranberry New York Cheesecake
(adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

Crumb crust
8 ounces (227g) finely ground graham crackers or digestives

8 tablespoons (1 stick or 4 ounces or 113 grams) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

Very tall cheesecake filling:
5 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened (or 1134g) (I used Elle Et Vire, great quality and cheaper than Philadelphia. Pick it up from Euraco finefood, next to TOTT Store)
1 3/4 cups sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
5 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup whipping cream
200g dark chocolate

Make crumb crust: Stir together crust ingredients and press onto bottom and up the sides, stopping one inch shy of the top rim**, of a buttered 9 1/2-inch (or 24 cm) springform pan. Pop it into the freezer so it quickly sets while you prepare the filling.

Make very tall cheesecake filling: Preheat oven to 550 degrees***. Beat together cream cheese, sugar, flour and zest with an electric mixer until smooth. Add vanilla, then eggs and yolks, one at a time, beating on low speed until each ingredient is incorporated. Scrape bowl down between additions; I cannot stress this enough as if you do not, you’ll end up with unmixed stripes of cream cheese. I always find at least one, despite my best efforts. Stir in whipping cream and mix until evenly blended.

Melt dark chocolate in a double boiler or microwave, taking care not to burn it.  Divide cheesecake filling in half.  Mix one half with the melted dark chocolate, until even.

Put springform pan with crust in a shallow baking pan (to catch drips). Pour chocolate filling into crust, smoothen the top, then pour the remaining cheesecake mixture in the pan. Bake in baking pan in the middle of the oven for 12 minutes or until puffed. Please watch your cake because some ovens will top-brown very quickly and if yours does too fast, turn the oven down as soon as you catch it. Reduce the temperature to 200 degrees and continue baking until cake is mostly firm (center will still be slightly wobbly when pan is gently shaken), about one hour more.

Run a knife around the top edge of the cake to loosen it and cool the cake completely in springform on a rack, then chill it, loosely covered, at least 6 hours.

Recipe for Cranberry Topping
(adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum)

1 cup (100g) fresh or frozen cranberries

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (75g) sugar
2.5 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 cup (59g) water

(Note: If you like more topping, you can use 1.5 recipe like I did) 
In a small saucepan, combine the water, sugar, cornstarch and cranberries and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Stop stirring, reduce the heat, and simmer for 1 minute, swirling the pan occasionally. The mixture will be thick but pourable. Allow it to cool to room temperature.  Spread topping over chilled cheesecake.

17 April 2011

Earl Grey Sticky Date Pudding, with Salted Toffee Sauce

I've tried several sticky date pudding recipes in the past, and while none of them were too bad (after all, it is not difficult to like anything served with toffee sauce), they were not particularly memorable either.  Some may consider what I am about to say next rather sacrilegious, but to be very honest, I don't like the 'pudding' texture of sticky date pudding.  What some recipes promise to be "moist" have often turned out for me to be too cloyingly sweet, gummy, sticky and dense.  My memories of most sticky date puddings are that they are sweet in a very one-dimensional, toothache-causing kind of way.

I like this recipe by Rachel Allen very much, because it manages to be very moist without being gummy or overly sticky.  This more open crumb texture means that the cake still has room to soak up the generous lashings of toffee sauce that you will inevitably be pouring over it.  But the best part of this recipe is the addition of black tea, which has a wonderful way of balancing out its sweetness and adding some complexity to its flavour.

I have adapted the recipe very simply by using Earl Grey tea, which complements the naturally-honeyed Medjool dates beautifully with its bergamot notes.  And to bring even more depth of flavour to the sticky date pudding, I salted the toffee sauce, which makes a most amazing difference.  From simple to extraordinary. More toffee sauce, anyone?

Earl Grey Sticky Date Pudding with Toffee Sauce
very slightly adapted from a recipe by Rachel Allen

Ingredients 225g (8oz) Medjool dates (stoned weight), chopped
250ml (9fl oz) earl grey tea (not too strong)
100g (3 ½ oz) unsalted butter, softened
175g (6oz) brown sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp cinnamon powder
1/4 tsp nutmeg powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
225g (8oz) self-raising flour
¾ tsp bicarbonate of soda

Toffee sauce
110g (4oz) butter
250g (9oz) soft light brown sugar (or half brown and half caster sugar)
275g (10oz) golden syrup
225ml (8fl oz) double cream
½ tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp fleur de sel/salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F), Gas mark 4. Butter and flour the sides of a 20cm (8in) diameter spring-form/loose-bottomed tin, or a 20 x 20cm (8 x 8in) square cake tin and line the base with greaseproof paper.
  2. Place the chopped dates and tea in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Cook for a few minutes to soften the dates, then remove from the heat and set aside.
  3. Beat the butter in a large bowl or an electric food mixer until soft. Add the sugar and beat until the mixture is pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then beat in the spices and vanilla extract. Fold in the date mixture. Sift in the flour and bicarbonate of soda and fold in gently until mixed.
  4. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for about 45 minutes or until the top is just firm to the touch and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
  5. Allow to stand in the tin for about 5 minutes before removing and transferring to a serving plate. While the cake is cooking, make the toffee sauce.
  6. To serve, cut into slices (or squares if it is in a square tin) and serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream and a very generous drizzle of warm toffee sauce over the top!

Toffee sauce

Place all the ingredients in a saucepan set over a high heat and boil for approximately 4–5 minutes, stirring regularly, until it has thickened.


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