HARRIET'S VANILLA CHEESECAKE

When she got married, my daughter, Harriet quite rightly thought it was of paramount importance her wedding cake was actually made of cheesecake, which happily gave us the  perfect excuse for many enthusiastic tasting sessions in search of optimum flavour and texture.

 

This recipe was eventually chosen as the best and fortunately, it is extremely easy to make. The wedding cake tiers were surrounded with dark chocolate curls and topped with raspberries; very good it was too.

HARRIET'S VANILLA CHEESECAKE

The cheesecake will rise dramatically as it cooks and then settle down in an attractively wobbly way as it cools.  It is extremely light so any cracks in its top are a badge of honour, testament to its fragile airiness.  Strawberries in Lipstick (more of which below) are the perfect partner.

175g digestive biscuits, crushed

75g unsalted butter, melted

175g cream cheese (full fat)

100g caster sugar

100g créme fraiche

1 tsp. plain flour

2 tsps. vanilla essence

2 whole eggs

2 eggs, separated

Oven 180c, gas 4.   20cm spring release cake tin, lined - see Helpful hints, below

  • Mix the crushed biscuits with the melted butter and press into the lined cake tin.

  • In a small bowl, whisk the 2 egg whites (from the separated eggs) until firm peaks

  • In a larger bowl whisk together the cream cheese, créme fraiche, flour, 2 whole eggs, 2 egg yolks and vanilla until smooth

  • Add a tablespoon of the whisked egg whites and whisk it in slowly and gently

  • Fold the remaining egg white into the mixture

  • Pour into the cake tin with its collar in place

  • Bake 50 minutes to an hour.  The cheesecake will have risen dramatically and should still wobble a little

  • Allow to cool completely before removing the collar and tin.

Helpful Hints and Avoiding Stumbles

To prepare the cake tin:  Grease and bottom line the tin with baking parchment.  Take a piece of foil approximately 65 cm long, fold it in half three times and lightly oil it on both sides. 

 

You should now have a long triple thickness of foil which can be curled inside the cake tin to create a collar.  There is no need to fasten it, the filling will hold everything in position.

It's best to allow the cheesecake to cool and firm up overnight in the fridge before removing the collar.

Don't use your freshest eggs when whisking egg whites, slightly older whites at room temperature whisk more easily.  A teaspoon of cream of tartar added when whisking gives extra body.  Avoid using a plastic bowl if possible.

A wedding cake made of cheesecake needs dowels to give sufficient strength to the layers.

Chocolate Amaretto Meringue with Cherries

There are times when only a full blown blousey trollop of a pud. will do and this is it!  It's a rolled Chocolate meringue filled with whipped cream, crushed amaretti biscuits,  cherries, or other fresh fruit of your choice and a slosh of Amaretto.   I thought the amaretti biscuits would magically reduce the general sweetness somehow.  I was wrong.

 

6 egg whites

pinch of cream of tartar

320 grams caster sugar

3 tbsps. cocoa  

300 ml double cream

Glug of Amaretto (optional)

About 10 amaretti biscuits

Good handful of cherries, stones removed

8"x 10" approx roulade tin, lined with baking parchment

Oven 160c

  • Whisk the egg whites with the cream of tartar until stiff peaks

  • Little by little, a spoonful at a time, whisk in the caster sugar until you have a robust meringue

  • Turn your whisk to its slowest setting and gently beat in the cocoa, again a spoonful at a time.

  • Your meringue will lose a little volume, but that's fine.

  • Turn the meringue into the lined roulade tin and spread so that it fits in the corners, etc.

  • Bake 160c about 25 minutes until it has a crisp and quite likely cracking crust

  • Remove from the oven, put the tin on a cooking rack, cover the meringue with a another

  • sheet of baking parchment and then cover the whole lot with a tea towel.  Leave to cool

​      completely.  The meringue roulade may be made a day in advance but it must be filled on the day it is to be eaten.

  • Keeping the baking parchment on top of the meringue quickly flip it over so that you have the crunchy crust of the meringue downwards and the soft bottom of the meringue with baking parchment stuck to it facing upwards.  This sounds a tricky manoeuvre, but it is much easier than you expect and the meringue is fairly forgiving.  Remove the baking parchment

  • Whisk the double cream until it is spreadable but floppily voluptuous.

  

  • Make sure the meringue is sitting centrally on top of the loose sheet of baking parchment;

      you will find you can push it around if you need to

  • Spread the whipped cream evenly over the meringue but leave a small margin - about a cm -around the edges as the cream will ooze into this area when you roll it

  • Roughly crumble the biscuits all over the cream then dot with the cherries.

  • With the short side of the roulade towards you and using the baking parchment to help you roll up the roulade.  Again, this is far easier than you expect and you can poke, push and prod to begin the rolling process without too much concern.  You can also ease and push the roulade into shape using the parchment to help you as you roll and the parchment will also help you lift the roulade onto your serving dish.

  • Decorate as your mood dictates, I have added white chocolate drizzle and shards and berries.

Helpful Hints and Avoiding Stumbles

Meringue roulades are, I think, easier than others to roll

It is an unavoidable fact that however generous you are with the fruit you put inside the roulade

it just never seems enough.  I'm afraid this just has to be accepted, if necessary offer extra fruit with it.

A meringue roulade must be eaten on the day it is rolled.  Tomorrow it will be mush.

Unconventional Raspberry Cranachan

This is a simple assembly job.

Substitute the raspberries with cooked rhubarb and use all yoghurt in place of cream and you have something wonderful for breakfast.  Possibly best to omit the whisky though?

200ml double cream

100ml Greek yoghurt (full fat), then sprinkle over some of the granola and pistachios

25g icing sugar

Glug of whisky (approx. 25 ml)

250g frsh raspberries

65g granola

Handful of pistachios, roughly chopped

Sprinkle of freeze-dried raspberry powder (opt.)

  • Whisk together the cream, icing sugar and whisky to soft, gently falling over peaks

  • Fold in the yoghurt

  • Pop some raspberries in a bowl, dollop in some of the cream

  • Repeat the layers finishing with granola and pistachios

  • Sprinkle over raspberry powder, if using.

Helpful Hint and Avoiding Stumbles

The yoghurt lightens the cranachan considerably, but you could substitute it with ready made  custard - the sort you find in the chiller cabinet at the supermarket is ideal.  All cream is too heavy.

In fact, I like this best made entirely with yoghurt and, if doing so, sprinkle the icing sugar and whisky over the raspberries as you layer it up.

If you can get hold of freeze-dried raspberry pieces, a few mixed in with the fresh raspberries  enhances the flavour.  I think Waitrose have them, but if not, Amazon certainly do.

Mocha Milk Chocolate Mousse and White Chocolate Mousse

 Mocha Milk Chocolate Mousse

For those of us who love milk chocolate, this is a treat and a bit light relief from the more usual dark chocolate, without any loss of chocolate sensation because coffee mysteriously accentuates the flavour.

The cream swirls into the chocolate giving a marbled effect so no decoration is really necessary, but a handful of raspberries or strawberries cast carelessly on top never go amiss.  As far as I am concerned, any excuse to bring in a chocolate flake should not be missed.

3 tsps. Gold Blend (or similar quality) coffee granules

250g milk chocolate (I used Green & Black, 37%)

2 tbsps. Brandy or Tia Maria (or water)

375ml double cream

  • Dissolve the coffee in 2 tablespoons of hot water

  • Melt the chocolate in a bowl suspended over a pan of hot water

  • Whisk the cream to soft peaks

  • Add the coffee to the chocolate

  • Stir the brandy/Tia Maria/warm water into the chocolate

  • Stir in a spoonful or two to loosen the mixture

  • Swirl in the rest of the cream, stopping before the white swirls disappear

  • Pour into small cups or little pots and put to set in the fridge.

Helpful Hints and Avoiding Stumbles

Milk chocolate melts really quickly and easily; too much heat will make it grainy so make sure the water in the saucepan doesn't touch the bowl of chocolate and that the saucepan is off the heat.

Stir the cream into the chocolate whilst the chocolate is still warm

White Chocolate Mousse

I have, of course, been preparing all my recipes, partly to check I'm not making mistakes

and ensuring that they really do work still and  partly so that I can photograph them. 

 

Of all the many puds., this is the one which lures me to the fridge for a sneaky spoonful more than any other.  It is as light as a feather, frothy almost - but still calorific, of course.

Start early as the chocolate and cream mixture needs a thorough chilling in the fridge.

This quantity makes about 4 medium to small pots.

100g good quality white chocolate

150ml double cream

2 egg whites

25g caster sugar

  • Melt the chocolate with the cream in a

      saucepan over gentle heat, stirring until

      smooth

  • Cool the mixture in the fridge for 2-3 hours

  • Whisk the egg whites to firm peaks

  • Add the sugar and whisk well to soft peaks

  • Whisk the white chocolate and cream mixture 

      until it also forms soft peaks

  • Fold in the egg whites

  • Spoon into pretty dishes.

Helpful Hints and Avoiding Stumbles

The steps don't sound as easy as they are in practice.  Although this has to be put together in two stages, it is extremely quick.

Best not to try putting fruit on top of this one as it will sink and be lost in the mousses's frothy depths.  Raspberries on the side are a lovely, slightly sharp contrasting flavour.

Strawberries in Lipstick

Good for breakfast with thick Greek yoghurt, good any time really.  The raspberry puree even makes the tasteless strawberries available in winter delicious. 

 

Surprisingly, I am often asked what the sauce is because the raspberry taste enhances rather than dominates. 

 

It is, needless to say, wonderful on peaches and nectarines too.

  • Defrost a few frozen raspberries

  • Press through a sieve to remove pips

  • Add a tickle of icing sugar if you wish

  • Toss strawberries in the purée.

Whenever I can't quite summon up energy to prepare a pud., I go for a posset.  It can be prepared two or three days ahead and honestly, truly

it requires extraordinarily little effort whilst being rich, elegant and pretty.

This quantity makes 8 small pots and

small is enough!

340 g raspberries, fresh or frozen

100g caster sugar

400 ml double cream

  • Press the raspberries through a sieve to give you a puree without seeds

  • Put the cream and sugar into a saucepan and stir whilst warming gently until the sugar melts

  • When the sugar has melted bring the cream mixture up to a rolling boil for 2.5 minutes.  Watch to ensure it doesn't boil over.

  • Combine the cream and raspberry puree.  Pour into small pots and refrigerate 2-3 hours until set.

Raspberry Posset (with Meringue)

Blueberry Compote

Please don't confuse this with jam, this is very much less sweet - not very sweet at all in fact, it's fruit in a delicious juice and one of those versatile things which can be eaten for breakfast with porridge or pancakes; I'd love it for lunch (or breakfast) swirled through thick Greek yoghurt, any time of day with ice cream or as the top layer of a pavlova filled with whipped cream.

500g frozen blueberries

zest and juice of 1 lemon

40 g caster sugar

pinch of salt

  • Put everything into a saucepan and simmer gently for 4-5 minutes

  • Using a slotted spoon, scoop the blueberries into a bowl, leaving the juices in the saucepan

  • Rolling bubble the juices for about 5 minutes to reduce and thicken slightly (it will thicken further on cooling)

  • Pour over the blueberries

The compote will keep for about a week, possibly more (assuming you can resist eating it) if kept in the fridge in a sterilised jar

The Ultimate Moist and Dense Chocolate Cake

Decadent (but delicious) with a cup of tea or coffee but even better as a pud. served tepid or very slightly warm with thick cream.   

 

Not glamorous to look at, the cake has a cracked and slightly crisp top concealing dark unctuousness

beneath.  

100 g chocolate, preferably Bournville

100 g butter (block, not baking marg.)

4 eggs

125 g caster sugar

80 g ground almonds

15 g plain flour

3 tbsps. Amaretto or strong coffee (liquid)

20 cm or 8" spring release cake tin well greased and  bottom lined with baking parchment

Oven 180 c

  • Melt the chocolate and butter together in a bowl suspended over a pan of hot water

  • Whisk the eggs and sugar together until, very thick and pale in colour

  • Mix the ground almonds and flour together and whisk them slowly into the egg mixture

  • Stir the amaretto or coffee into the chocolate mixture

  • Slowly whisk the chocolate mixture into the eggy almond mixture

  • Pour into the prepared tin and bake for approximately 40 minutes by which time the cake should have formed a cracked pale crust and a knife inserted should come out with moist dark crumbs sticking to it.

  • Cool in the tin.