Chocolate and Orange Cheesecake

As we had family coming for lunch yesterday, I decided to follow this week's GBBO theme and make a cheesecake. I'm not a great fan of the usual biscuit bases, so decided to make mine like a chocolate crumble mixture. I also wanted a thicker base layer, so would make a decent amount of the crumble. I love the flavours of chocolate and orange together, so the topping would be orange flavoured.

I used a 23cm springform tin, so it made about 12 good sized slices.

Preheat oven 180C/gas4 and line the 23 cm springform tin with some baking parchment.

For the base:

Cut 175g of chilled butter into cubes, then melt another 50g of butter and put aside. Put the butter cubes into a processor with 150g light muscovado sugar, 3 tbspn cocoa powder and 250g plain flour. Blitz till it becomes breadcrumbs. Pour in the melted butter and pulse till it's mixed.
Spoon into the bottom of the tin and smooth the top using the back of a spoon.
Bake for about 35 mins till risen a bit, but don't overbake. Take it out of the oven and leave to cool.

Reduce the temperature to 150C/gas2

For the topping:

Grate the zest of 2 large oranges then squeeze out the juice - you need 150ml.
Put 800g cream cheese, 250g mascarpone cheese, 4 eggs, 225 caster sugar, orange zest, 2 tbspn cornflour and 1/2 tspn vanilla extract into a big bowl and beat together with an electric hand beater till mixed together. Add the seeds from a vanilla pod and the orange juice and keep beating till the mixture is nice and smooth.

Pour filling over the cooled base then bake for about 1hr 30 mins or until the cheesecake is light golden, just set round the edge, but is still wobbly in the middle. Turn the oven off and leave the cheesecake inside with the door ajar to cool for about an hour, . Take it out and cool completely then put in fridge to chill in the tin.

Remove from tin and decorate the top with some dark chocolate curls - I used some Green and Black 80% chocolate.

I was really happy with the result. A good third of the cheesecake had a nice crunchy chocolate texture, then the smooth orange flavoured creamy filling, very rich, but not sickly. The dark chocolate curls gave it another texture and the bitter chocolate was a good contrast to the filling.
It was a great success with the family, and there was some left over for them to take home.


Chocolate and Pecan Loaf

In keeping with last week's GBBO 'Bread' theme, I decided to make a loaf ; I didn't want a traditional bread loaf, so decided to make this chocolate and pecan one, which I'd made ages ago on a bread-making course.

It's not difficult to make - after the dough has risen its rolled out into a square, sprinkled with chocolate, nuts and sugar then rolled up like a Swiss roll. You need a big loaf tin, 1.8l  twice the size of a normal one [or you could divide the dough, chocolate and nuts in two before you roll it into the square and then use 2 x 900g tins.]

Preheat oven 200C/gas6        Grease a 1.8l loaf tin or 2 x 900g tins

In a big bowl put 500g of strong white bread flour and 3 tbspn butter and rub in till it looks like breadcrumbs. Stir in 1/2 tspn salt, 50g caster sugar and 11/2 tspns fast action yeast.
Add 2 beaten eggs and gradually add 175ml of warm milk to make a soft dough ball.

Lightly flour a surface or board and knead the dough well  till it's smooth and elastic. Put it back in the bowl, cover loosely with some oiled clingfilm and leave in a warm place to rise till doubled in size.

*Tip dough out onto lightly floured surface, knead well again then roll out into a 27cm square.
Sprinkle this with 80g of finely chopped plain dark chocolate [you need 120g of chocolate, but keep the rest till later], 80g roughly chopped pecans [you also need 120g of nuts, but keep the rest for later] and 2 tbspn caster sugar.

Roll the dough up like a swiss roll and put into a greased tin. Cover loosely with oiled clingfilm and again leave in a warm place for 30 mins or till the dough is just above the top of the tin.

Take off the film and brush the top with 1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tbspn water and sprinkle with the rest of the chocolate [40g] and nuts [40g].

Bake for 35-40 mins till the bread is well risen and sounds hollow when the bottom is tapped. Cover the top with foil after 10 mins to stop it burning.

Turn the bread out onto a wire rack to cool.

You could use a breadmaker to make it - add the milk, eggs and butter to the tin. Spoon in the flour then add the salt and sugar. Make a little dip in the flour and sprinkle in the yeast. Set the breadmaker to sweet dough and start. At the end of the programme, take out the tin and tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and carry on as above from *.

The bread has a good crumb, not too dense, with the lovely chocolate and nut filling running through it which gives it more texture.Then you have the extra hit of chocolate and nuts on top. A nice treat.


Blackberry and Almond Cake

There's a good crop of blackberries around this year, so I've managed to pick a few kilos. This is a bit of a red herring as I didn't actually use any of them in my cake! I wanted to make a cake using some kind of blackberries, and found this one ages ago on an American baking blog which seems to have disappeared. Luckily I'd printed off the recipe - so thank you anyway to 'CakeyJo'. You don't use the blackberries whole, you make them into jam. In the original recipe you had to make this first, but I had a couple of jars of homemade blackberry jam I bought in a local fete, so I used those . It's a cake with a difference in that it has a cakey -pastry base, a layer of jam, and finally another cakey-pastry layer.

You need a 23cm springform cake tin lined with baking parchment

Preheat oven 180C/gas4

In the bowl of a stand mixer beat together 180g butter and 225g caster sugar till white and fluffy. Using 2 large eggs, keep one white to egg wash at the end and add the other egg and the yolk to the bowl and beat again. Add zest of 1 lemon, seeds from a vanilla pod [or tspn vanilla extract] and 1/4 tspn almond extract and beat together on medium speed.

Fold in 320g plain flour which has been mixed with 1 tspn baking powder and 1/2 tspn salt. beat mixture slowly till well blended. Take bowl off stand and make the pastry into a ball. Divide in 2 and wrap one piece in clingfilm and put in fridge to chill.
Press the other piece into the base of the cake tin and about 2cm up the sides.
You need 2 x 340g of blackberry jam [2 jars] which you put into a bowl and mix with 2 tspn lemon juice.
Spoon this mixture into the pastry shell in the tin and spread with a spatula.
Get the other pastry from the fridge and roll out on a sheet of parchment paper or a silicone sheet into a 26cm round. Carefully put it into a freezer for about 10 mins till it's almost hard.
Put the pastry on the top of the cake tin and leave to soften. When it has, press it down carefully till it touches the layer of jam. Pinch the edges together.
Beat the leftover egg white lightly and brush over the top of the pastry. Sprinkle with about 30g of flaked almonds and some demerara sugar.
Bake till golden - about 40-50 mins.
Leave cake in tin for 10 mins then turn out onto a wire rack.

It's quite a large cake, so I froze half of it - it freezes really well. As I said earlier, the shortbread pastry is very short and melts in your mouth, a great contrast to the jam, then another layer of the lovely pastry. It really is delicious, and a cake with a difference. My daughter brought me this pretty cake stand back from her holidays, so am showing it off!


A Biscuit Duo

Following on from the Madeira cake from week 1 of the GBBO, I decided to make some biscuits from week 2.

I'm not a fan of biscotti, or making fancy biscuit  holders, so decided to have a go at Paul's Artlettes. I cheated  and used ready made butter puff pastry and was pleased with the results. You'll find Paul's recipe here. The whirls aren't as good as his, but you could taste the cinnamon, and they were nice and crisp, and they had a good snap!!

After making these I decided that I hadn't put enough cinnamon and sugar in them so made them again with bought butter puff pastry. My second attempt was much better; they're not as oval, but the spiral filling is better.

Honey Biscuits

I also made some honey biscuits as I was given a local jar of honey to try. These are orange and walnut flavoured biscuits which are dipped in honey to glaze.

Preheat oven 180C/gas4

Line 2 baking trays with parchment paper.

In a bowl put 125g butter, finely grated rind of 1 orange and 80g caster sugar. Beat well then slowly beat in 80ml sunflower oil till batter is fluffy.
Stir in 300g plain flour, 150g sr flour, 25g finely chopped walnuts and 160ml orange juice. Mix it together to make a soft dough.
Use 2 tablespoons to make the dough into ovals [like quenelles] and put onto the trays.
Bake for 15-20mins till light brown in colour.
Heat 250ml honey in a saucepan till warm. Dip the biscuits into the honey to coat, using a tongs. Put on a wire rack to cool then sprinkle some chopped nuts [about 2 tbspn altogether].

These aren't the prettiest biscuits, but they are delicious. Nice soft biscuit with a slight crunch from the walnuts and a lovely orange flavour, not too much, then the crunch on top from the nuts.
Make sure that the honey glaze has dried before you put them in a tin. The recipe makes about 30 biscuits, and I think it was originally a WI recipe, but my late mil gave it to me, so am not sure.


Chocolate Prune Cake

I went to a charity coffee morning recently and this traybake was one of the delicious cakes on offer. I asked for the recipe, and was kindly given it.
It's another plain cake, but it has a great flavour. You can never have too many chocolate cake recipes! I rarely use prunes except for a sticky toffee pudding or cake, but I had some left and this is a good way of using them up.

Grease and line a 24x33cm baking tin - it's useful to have the paper hanging over the ends of the tin to help get the cake out easily.
Preheat oven 180C/gas4 
Put 250g of dried prunes in a saucepan with 250ml of strong coffee and simmer for about 10 mins. When they're cool, whizz in a processor or use a stick blender to make a purée - if it's very thick, add a little water or fruit juice.

Melt 250g butter in the microwave or on a low heat. Stir in 250g dark brown sugar and the prune mixture. Add 200g sr flour with 1 tspn baking powder added,  50g cocoa powder, 3 eggs and whisk together. Pour into the tin and bake for 25 mins till the cake is springy to touch. Leave the cake to cool in the tin, then take out and cut into squares.

It's a dense but very moist cake with a delicious, moreish flavour. It's tastes even better if you keep it for a couple of days - not much chance of this in our house! It's a great plain cake, but I made a chocolate ganache to make it even more delicious.


Madeira Cake

I've been a follower of the GBBO since it started, but have rarely made anything I've seen. This series I thought I'd try and made something from each week [or two!]'s programmes and decided on a Madeira Cake. My Mum used to make it frequently, sometimes in a round tin and sometimes in a loaf tin. I decided on the latter as it's easier to cut.
I looked at recipes from Mary Berry, James Martin, the WI baking book, the Good Food site and the BBC food site, and the recipes all had the same amount of butter, sugar, flour and eggs. The only difference was that a couple added ground almonds, a couple added milk and some added lemon zest.
Mum's recipe in her much-used notebook had the same quantities as the others, but used plain flour with baking powder. It's a very plain version  - no ground almonds, milk or lemon zest.

Preheat oven 160C/gas3          Grease and line a 900g loaf tin or a 18cm round cake tin.

It's such a simple recipe - you need 175g of soft butter and caster sugar, 225g plain flour plus 11/2 tspn baking powder [or 225g sr flour], 3 eggs and 2 thin strips of lemon peel.

Beat all the ingredients together, except the peel and spoon into the tin. Put the peel on top in the middle and bake for about 95 mins. leave the cake in the tin for about 5 mins then cool on a wire rack.

I was pleased with my cake - it had risen and had the famous 'crack' in the top. I can't see the lemon peel, but it was there!

I wanted a bit more sweetness so I drizzled some icing over the cake when it was cool - made with lemon juice and icing sugar.

There are so many variations to this cake; Mum made a fantastic orange coconut cake using the basic cake mixture and adding coconut and orange juice to it. Then she cut the cake in half and filled it with an orange butter icing. She covered the cake with a thick icing and then dessicated coconut for our family 'Snowball Cake', a great favourite for birthdays.

I was so eager to write about Mum's 'Snowball Cake', that I forgot to say that the cake was very light, a nice even crumb and a a soft buttery texture. I found the lemon peel - it had sunk down into the cake! It's a good plain cake.


Coconut and Nectarine Cake

  • I've nearly finished using up odd packets and jars in my cupboard, but found some dessicated coconut. I also had some nectarines to use up, so decided to use both in a cake. My daughter makes this recipe often with whatever fruit she has - raspberries, peaches, apples - sometimes she uses coconut and sometimes just makes a plain cake; it's such an easy recipe. The only extra addition is some vanilla yoghurt.

  • Preheat oven 180C/gas4. Grease and base line a 24cm springform cake tin.

    It's the all-in-one method - put 180g butter, 215 g caster sugar, 3 eggs, 225g sr flour, 55g dessicated coconut and 175g vanilla yoghurt in a food processor and blitz till smooth. Pour into the cake tin.
    Arrange 4 halved and stoned nectarines on top and bake for about an hour. Take the cake our of the oven and sprinkle about 25g dessicated coconut on top then return to the oven for another 5 mins till the coconut is golden.
    A lovely moist cake with a soft texture. The coconut flavour isn't strong - just there in the background and is reinforced by the topping. The nectarines are soft and melt in the mouth. A good way of using up excess fruit.

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