Archive for the ‘Desserts’ Category

When I found out about the Tea Time Treats challenge hosted by Lavender and Lovage and What Kate Baked I had to enter. This months challenge is hosted by Karen at Lavender & Lovage.

The theme is ‘bonfire’ and ‘ginger’ which immediately conjured up images of flames in my head. I just had to think about how I could create an edible bonfire.

I have always loved bonfire night. The whizz, bang, pop of the fireworks, the oohs and ahhs of the crowd, the way the smoke drifts across the sky and the smell of gunpowder. It’s one of my favouritist smells… ever! After the excitement of the firework show comes the rush to the bonfire to warm your hands and feet. Then the rapid retreat as your face stings with the heat.

I always associate butternut squash soup with bonfire night so this challenge presented the perfect opportunity to create a bonfire themed tea time treat using butternut squash which I’ve been wanting to do for a while. The colours are perfect. Butternut squash cake, pumpkin pie and pumpkin meringue pie were considered before I settled on cheesecake. But while the colour was ideal, how was I going to make it look like a bonfire?

I started by cutting flame shapes in very thinly slice butternut squash and edging the tin with it so that is cooked as the cheesecake baked.

When I took it out of the oven the tops had chared a little and started to curl which looked really effective. The areas of squash that touched the cheesecake however, had not coloured but while you could omit this stage, I still think it adds to the overall effect.

I decided more flames were needed and I wanted them to be crisper, adding a further texture. Caramelised slices of butternut squash worked really well as the colours developed giving a mottled effect reminiscent of flames. Smaller flames were gently pressed into the edge of the cheesecake and larger ones were arranged on top in the middle. I’m pretty pleased with the effect, not so with the photography. The cheesecake had been burning away at us for over 24 hours at that point so it was a case of gobble first, think later.

It was delicious! You would not necessarily be able to identify the presence of butternut squash but it adds its own unique rich sweetness, almost like caramel without being too sweet. It was complemented perfectly by the warm spices. My testers gave it 10 out of 10 and have demanded I make it again.

I accidently picked up a tub of light cream cheese as well as one of full fat so ended up using 300g of light and 150g full-fat to no detriment, so you can feel slightly healthy eating this cheesecake. Well that’s what I told myself as I went back for my third slice.

Serves 8 – 12 (honest)

200g ginger biscuits
50g butter, melted
350g butternut squash which should yield 155g pureed (or use tinned pumpkin puree) plus extra for ‘flames’
2 tbsp double cream
450g cream cheese
1 egg
1 egg yolk
8 tbsp icing sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
pinch ground ginger
pinch ground cloves

Heat the oven to 18o degrees. Chop the bottom end of the butternut squash off, cut into quarters and remove the seeds. Lay flesh side down in a roasting tin. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes until soft. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

Grease an 8 inch springform tin with butter. Line the bottom and sides with baking paper.

Place the ginger biscuits in a plastic bag and bash with a rolling pin until they resemble breadcrumbs. Pour into a bowl and mix with the melted butter until it all comes together. Press the biscuit crumbs into the tin base and chill in the fridge for 10 minutes, then bake for 10 minutes and leave to cool.

Turn the oven down to 150 degrees.

Peel the skin away from the butternut squash flesh. You need 155g of the the flesh. Puree in a liquidiser with the double cream.

Beat the cream cheese until smooth and stir in the icing sugar and spices. Gradually add the egg and egg yolk until fully incorporated. Add the puree. Taste and add more sugar or spices as necessary.

Optional: Brush the baking paper that lines the sides of the tin with butter using a pastry brush. Gently press half of the smaller flames (for method see below) around the edges of the tin so that they go all the way round.

Pour the cream cheese mixture into the tin and bake in the lower half of the oven for 30-40 minutes until it is set. Leave the cheesecake to cool in the oven. This is to stop the top from cracking. Chill overnight in the fridge.

30 minutes before serving, remove the cheesecake from the fridge. Remove from the tin and very gently peel away the baking paper. Gently press the small caramelised flames on to the sides so that they overlap. Make a bonfire with the larger flames in the middle of the cheesecake.

To make the flames:
Heat the oven to 110 degrees. Using a mandoline or very sharp knife, slice the stem end of the butternut squash very thinly. Using a small knife cut 10 -12 large flames about 5cm wide at the base and 8cm high. Cut some smaller flame shapes about 2cm wide at the base and 4cm high. You will need enough to go around the tin twice – about 6 slices depending on the size of your squash. Half of the small flames are used to line the tin.

Place the large flames and the remaining small flames on a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Sprinkle generously with caster sugar and bake for 1 hour.

Leave to cool on a wire rack and transfer to an airtight container.


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Blackberries are available in our supermarkets throughout the year and you may just find some British ones on the shelves throughout the summer. Sadly, the majority of them are tart and lacking in sweetness and fruity flavour. Come September and the hedgerows are laden with ripe blackberries ready for picking by people and birds alike. There is no better time to enjoy this delicious fruit and I tend not to eat it at any other time of year for fear of disappointment.

I was not organised enough this year to be ready in hand with tupperware and a non-white top at the point the blackberries reach plump and juicy ripeness but fortunately my parents were. On the hottest weekend in September, which has turned out to be our summer, they brought me some foraged blackberries and some deliciously sweet raspberries from their allotment. As they were beginning to go squishy and the temperature hit 28.5 degrees, a sorbet seemed an ideal celebration of our Indian summer.

Having thoroughly confused myself attempting to work out the correct ratio of berries to water and sugar using the Leiths method – I’m sure it will all become obvious when I get there – I turned to google for a sorbet recipe.  Most recipes are pretty similar but have slightly different methods. In addition to berries, the ingredients usually include water, sugar syrup, lemon juice, and occasionally alcohol or liquid glucose. Egg white can be added to prevent the formation of large ice crystals, slow the melt and give the sorbet a smoother texture. If you are adding egg white eat within 24 hours and do not feed to the young old, infirm or pregnant. I opted for a simple version and the result was refreshing and intensely flavoured. It could have been a little smoother, which is where an ice cream maker would come in handy.

I had a couple of egg whites that needed using up and this seemed the perfect opportunity to practice swiss meringues. Swiss meringues are made with twice the weight of caster sugar to egg white and are the simplest of the three types of crisp meringue, the others being Italian (made with a sugar syrup and more stable) and Meringue Cuite (made with icing sugar, finer, chalkier and even more stable).

#1 were crisp and chewy but wept a little sugar which according to the “what went wrong section” either means the oven was too high or they were overcooked. I’m slightly perplexed by this as they began weeping long before they were cooked. Maybe I should get an oven thermometer.

Served with raspberry and blackberry sorbet the meringues were the perfect end to our unexpected summer weather. Delicious!

Intense raspberry and blackberry sorbet

450 g of raspberries and blackberries
150g sugar
150ml water
juice of 2 lemons

Heat the water and sugar over a low heat and slowly bring to the boil. Simmer gently for 2 minutes until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat and leave to cool. Pop the berries in a food processor and whizz to a puree. Strain through a sieve to remove the seeds and pour into a shallow container. Stir in the sugar syrup, then add the lemon juice to taste.

If you are lucky enough to have an ice cream maker, churn according to the manufacturers instructions. If not (and I’m not), place the sorbet in the freezer. Stir the frozen crystals that form around the edges with a fork every hour for four to five hours to break up the ice crystals and then leave to freeze completely.

Remove from the freezer 15 minutes before serving.

Swiss Meringues #2

Fast forward a couple of weeks and the temperature has dropped by more than 10 degrees. I made swiss meringue #2 on a slightly damp day which may explain why the meringues absolutely refused to dry out even with extra cooking time – and still they wept sugar! Even so, they tasted rather lovely with greek yogurt and apples caramelised in brown sugar and a touch of lemon juice.

BBC Food: Apple tart with blackberry sorbet
Woodlands.co.uk: Blackberry sorbet
Leiths Techniques Bible: Susan Spaull & Lucinda Bruce-Gardyne

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