I recently ran a poll on my Twit-stream in connection with #NationalPopcornDay asking for votes for which recipe people would like to see from a selection of three. Each of the recipes used popcorn in an alternative way. Not that there’s anything wrong with just munching on a bag in front of a good movie! But you know me and how I like to mix it up a bit!
Think of this, if you will, as a “deconstructed” cheesecake. Literally flipping everything your familiar with about cheesecake on it’s head. “Salty taste in a cheesecake?”, you say, “That’s a bit unusual”. “The crumb layer is ON TOP!?!…well that’s just crazy!” Welcome to my world.
Sweet ‘n’ Salty Upside Down Cheesecake
200g Feta Cheesecake
300g Cream Cheese
130ml whipped cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
210g of sugar
120ml double cream
14g Sweet and Salty popcorn, crushed
90g digestive biscuit crumb
50g unsalted butter
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
To make the cheesecake:
In a stand mixer bowl, beat the feta cheese until smooth.
Add in the cream cheese, half of the whipped cream and the salt, and mix until combined.
Add in the remainder of the whipped cream and mix again until fully combined.
To make the caramel sauce:
In a large saucepan, heat the sugar over a moderate heat. Continue to heat until the sugar turns a deep amber color. DO NOT STIR! If needed you can swirl the pan.
When the deep amber color has been reached add in the butter and stir until melted.
Once the butter has melted, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cream. Take extra care here as adding the cream will cause the mixture to foam up and steam. Continue to whisk until the foaming subsides and the sauce is smooth.
Leave to cool fully before proceeding.
To make the crumb topping:
Over a medium heat melt the unsalted butter in a frying pan.
Add in the biscuit crumb and crushed popcorn. Toss to coat in the melted butter.
Mix in the brown sugar and stir to evenly coat.
Continue to stir until the crumb mixture gently browns and caramelises.
Remove the crumb mixture from the pan and allow to cool on a plate or bowl until needed.
In an oblong pie dish, spoon the cheesecake mixture and smooth.
Pour over the caramel sauce and spread to smooth.
Liberally sprinkle over the crumb mixture and lightly press down.
Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.
So this recipe originally started as an idea to create smaller “bite-size” brownies with a difference. Sadly after a quick Googling (!) I found someone else had beat me in creating the concept. Oh well, imitation is the best form of flattery as they say. Brownie Fries or “Fruffles” (a portmanteau of Fries + Truffles) as they appear to be called in some places Stateside have been around for a while. Usually they’re served with a berry compote “ketchup” and yogurt “mayo” but not one to let a chance for experimentation go by I decided to mix up the flavours a bit.
Berry ketchup and yogurt mayo? Oh no, no- not for me! So all aboard the “Flavour train” for a raspberry dipping sauce with fresh and spicy notes thanks to basil and black pepper, paired with rich, creamy and zingy mascarpone dip. Here’s my take on Brownie “Fries” and they’re deep-dipping, lip-smacking good!
185g unsalted butter, cubed
185g 70% cocoa dark chocolate, broken into pieces
275g caster sugar
85g plain flour
1 tbsp Espresso powder
50g dark chocolate chips
50g milk chocolate chips
100g pecans, lightly roasted and roughly chopped
125g 70% cocoa dark chocolate, broken into pieces
125g milk chocolate, broken into pieces
Coarse sea salt to sprinkle
Freshly ground vanilla (Dr. Oetker do a wonderful grater/grinder)
75g fresh raspberries
Handful fresh basil leaves, torn
½ tsp black peppercorns
250g Mascarpone cheese
100ml single cream
1 tsp agave syrup
2 tbsp Yuzu juice
Set your oven to 180C/gas mark 4 and line a deep 12″x9″ baking tray with baking parchment, or 9” x9” brownie tray (with short dividers removed).
Melt the butter and chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (or bain-marie), stirring occasionally. Once melted, remove from the heat and allow to cool.
Beat the eggs and sugar until the mixture is thickened and fluffy, then, in a separate bowl, combine the flour and Espresso powder. Fold the cooled chocolate mixture into the egg mixture. Sieve in the dry ingredients, and fold together until just uniform in color.
Fold in the chocolate chips and chopped pecans until fully incorporated.
Pour your mixture into the lined tray, or brownie pan, and gently spread to level the surface. Place in the oven for 20-25 minutes, then leave to cool completely in the tin before removing.
Start by cutting the brownie slab in to 3” wide strips. If you’re using a brownie pan the long dividers will already have done this for you. Next, rotate the strips 90 degrees and cut strips approximately ¾ inch wide. Arrange on a sheet of baking paper with about 1 inch space between.
To finish, melt the dark and milk chocolates in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (or bain-marie), stirring occasionally. Once melted, remove from the heat and allow to cool. When cool enough to handle, pour the melted chocolate into a piping bag and snip a small piece from the end to make a fine nozzle.
Pipe the melted chocolate over your brownie fries so that it drips down over the sides, forming the “batter coating” to your “fries”.
Leave to cool for about 15 mins then sprinkle lightly with seas salt and grind over fresh vanilla.
Leave to finally set.
To make the Raspberry “Ketchup”
In a bowl combine the fresh raspberries, basil leaves, and black peppercorns.
Using a hand blender, blitz until a fine pulp.
Pass through a sieve to a bowl below.
Set aside until serving.
To make the Yuzu “Mayo”
In a bowl combine the mascarpone cheese, cream, agave syrup and yuzu juice.
Beat until fully combined.
Spoon in to a bowl for serving.
Arrange the brownie fries alongside the ketchup and yuzu mayo.
Okay- I’ll come clean. I don’t actually like hot cross buns. Well- hot cross buns in the “traditional” sense. Dried fruits of sultanas, currants and raisins do absolutely nothing for me and hot cross buns I place firmly in the same category as Christmas Cake. I’ll accept them to be civil, I’ll bake them to experiment and I’ll eat them under duress. So it only seems fitting that this Easter season I come up with something a lot more palatable, even to the those of us prone to outbursts of “inyaphobia” (yes, it’s a thing I jest you not…Google it).
I can’t quite put a finger on where my malaise with dried fruit comes from. It probably has its roots, like all else culinary for me, in my childhood and my mother’s kitchen. Each festive season, whether it be Easter, Christmas or Halloween was heralded with a routine palette of sensory ticks…the flat clanging of baking trays on kitchen surfaces, the heady scent of dried fruit steeping in brandy, cold tea or whatever liquid was to hand, and the frequent blistering blasts of heat from oven. It’s the smell of the dried fruit steeping that sticks with me, permeating memory as much as clothing. Like anything in life familiarity breeds contempt, and boy did my mother like a fruit cake!
Hence my deviation from hot cross buns with their traditional sultana/mixed peel combination. Instead I give you an almost “regal” combinaton of cranberries and pear (yes, I’m aware they’re dried too but far more tolerable in my view) laced with dark chocolate studs. Chocolate makes everything better. Except fish- that’s just wrong! So best you stick to making these hot cross buns instead.
500g strong white flour
85g caster sugar
2 tsp mixed spice powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
10g fine salt
14g fast-action dried yeast
1 tbspn vanilla extract
300ml whole fat milk
1 egg, beaten
65g dried cranberries
65g dried pear, chopped into small pieces
65g dark chocolate chips
50g plain flour
80ml cold water
50g plain flour
80ml cold water
2 tbsp golden syrup
Line a baking sheet/ tray with baking parchment and set aside for later.
Combine the flour, sugar, spices, salt and yeast into a large bowl. Make sure the salt and yeast are on opposite sides of the bowl.
In a pan combine the milk, vanilla extract and butter. Heat over a medium/low heat until the butter has melted. Allow the mixture to cool until tepid.
Add 1/3 the tepid milk mixture to the dry ingredients, along with the beaten egg. and use your hands to bring the mixture together. Add in the second 1/3 of the milk mixture and continue forming a dough, taking any stray flour from the sides of the bowl.
Finally, slowly add the remaining milk until you form a soft pliable dough. Take note here as you may not need all of the milk.
Tip the dough out on to a lightly oiled work surface. Knead by hand incorporating the fruit and chocolate chips into the dough. Lightly knead for 10 minutes until silky and elastic and the dough is smooth. (This part can also be done in a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment, this usually takes about 8 minutes.)
Lightly oil a bowl and place the dough in it, covering with oiled cling film and leave to rest in a warm place for about 1½ hours or until doubled in size.
Tip the dough on to a lightly oiled surface and divide into 12 balls. (I usually do this by rolling it into a thick sausage shape, apx 40cms long. Divide into 2, then divide each half into 6 equal pieces and roll them into balls.)
Place the balls on the tray, placing them fairly close together and flattening them slightly.
Cover the baking tray with a clean polythene bag and leave for an hour until the balls have doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 170 degrees.
For the cross marking, combine the flour and water in a bowl. Mix together to make a paste and spoon into an icing bag.
When the buns have risen remove the tray from the bag, snip the end of the piping bag (making a hole about 3mm) and pipe a cross on each bun. Bake for 15-20 minutes until pale golden-brown, turning the baking trays round halfway through.
Warm the golden syrup in a pan and while the buns are still warm, brush the buns with a little syrup to glaze. Return to the wire rack and allow to cool.
Serve with fresh butter. They can be lightly warmed in an oven for tasty seasonal breakfast treat. Enjoy!
So I’ve (eventually) gotten around to posting this recipe- massive apologies for the delay. This cake first started out as an experiment using black garlic and was finished with a salted caramel sauce and served with forest fruits. I wanted to create something that looked and tasted indulgent but had a slight edginess to it- nothing too frou-frou! For me it was a Gothic romance in cake form. Time moved on and so did the recipe development. I replaced the salted caramel with a chocolate glaze but wanted to still keep my (signature) twist. And so liquid smoke was added. Depending on how much you use, this wonderful ingredient adds a tasty smoky flavour and in this case married really well with the black garlic of the bundt. It’s availble online or from good food ingredient stores.
The original version of the Chocolate, Guinness & Black Garlic bundt cake
Bundt cake mixture
375g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
70g unsweetened cocoa powder
225g butter, softened
110g unsalted butter, chopped and softened
600g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
125ml Guinness stout (from a bottle as opposed to a can)
6 cloves black garlic, chopped
100g dark chocolate chips or pieces
12 Tablespoons icing sugar
4 teaspoons whole milk
1 tablespoon liquid smoke
*this mixtures makes enough for a very ample bundt cake (using a 25cm tin) or 2 standard sized ones (I used Nordicwares Fleur De Lis and Anniversary tins)
To make the bundt cake
Preheat the oven to 170 C. Grease and flour your Bundt cake tin(s)- or if your like me spray the inside with cake release spray.
Sift flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa together into a bowl and place to one side.
In a jug combine the milk and the Guinness. Set
In the bowl of your stand mixer, cream butter, margarine, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. (A tip here is to keep beating until you can no longer feel the sugar grains between you fingers).
Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each. Add flour mixture alternately with the milk/Guinness mixture. Mix to combine.
Add in the chopped black garlic cloves and chocolate chips. Mix well.
Pour into your prepared Bundt tin(s). Bake in the preheated oven for 70 minutes or until a skewer inserted into cake comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes in the tin, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely before glazing.
To make the glaze
Combine all the ingredients in a jug and mix well to combine until smooth. The mixture should fall easily from your whisk and leave a slowly sinking trail in the bowl. If you find the mixture too stiff add some more milk in 1/2 teaspoon increments.
Place the cake on a cooling rack with some foil or baking parchment underneath to catch the drips.
Drizzle or paint the glaze onto the fully cooled cake until coated.
Whilst you may think that there is always cake available in my house (and to be quite honest you wouldn’t be wrong) there is also always a hearty supply of fruit- perhaps to ease my conscience for numerous bakes? An influx of bananas of late has lead to a near constant presence of the over-ripening fruit. So much so that my husband commented the other evening, “Why is this place turning into the house of black bananas?!?!” Fair enough- he has a point. I however think it’s not necessarily a bad thing to have some fragrant, burnished fruit lying about. They make for much more interesting and tasty bakes once the process of almost “self-caramelisation” is under way. An earlier post of mine gave the recipe for Banana Bread– a firm memory of mine from the kitchen of my childhood. Having only just finished off out latest batch of this I needed something different to make use of the over-ripe bananas now taking up residence on my butchers trolley. So what better way than muffins- that versatile, anytime treat (but not a treat) bake.
Going slightly off track, I recently made some cookies, Maple Butter Cookies with prosciutto dust, using Moose Maple Butter. I am in fact chomping on some as I type- their gloriously maple sweet crumbs littering the keyboard here- oh dear! However- I digress. As a result of this still have some of the said maple butter left and wanted to try other bakes to use it in. So my muffins to be were to provide the perfect excuse for this as well. Kill two birds with one stone – or bake two pans in one oven (to sound a little less brutal about it all).
Banana Bran Muffins (feat. Moose Maple Butter)
250g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/4 tsp pinch of salt
1/2 tsp mixed spice
115g caster sugar
75g melted Moose Maple butter (if can also use regular unsalted butter)
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 medium, over-ripe bananas
2 medium eggs
Heat the oven to 190C electric/ 170C fan.
Melt the (maple) butter and allow to cool.
Mash the bananas well.
Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt, and mixed spice together in a large bowl, add caster sugar and oatbran, stir through to combine.
In a separate bowl, beat together the eggs, vanilla extract, melted (maple) butter and milk. Add the mashed banana and mix well.
Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and add the egg mixture, stirring roughly with a fork. Be careful NOT to overmix at this point. You just want it mixed enough so that no pockets of dry ingredients remain. It should look lumpy and pastey – like how a cake batter ISN’T supposed to look!
Line a 12 (or 2 x6 ) muffin tray with 9 muffin cases. Fill the cases to the top .
Bake for between 2o- 25 minutes, until muffins are springy to touch. Rest the muffin tray on a wire rack for five minutes then remove the muffins and leave to cool.