Friday, December 19, 2014

sour cherry cheesecake - 5 days of Christmas

Welcome to the final day of the 5 Days of Christmas 2014. I know I've made a lot of cheesecakes this year but this one is a special one just for Christmas. About a year ago I featured pictures of a Sour Cherry Cheesecake on the blog but I wasn't happy with the end result and promised I’d work on the recipe before sharing it with you. It's taken a year but here it is.

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The cheesecake I made last year tasted fine but it didn’t look so special. If you notice, there have been a few crumble topped cheesecakes during the year as I've been working on perfecting ‘the look’. In the end I came up with a cheesecake topped with a nutty crumble, a dusting of icing sugar and a bit of cream to hold the whole thing together! There were plans for it to be crowned with fresh cherries but in the end I decided to go with something a little more simple and achievable for those people not blessed with cherries at this time of year.

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I like to use a mixture of soft white cheese for this cheesecake but you don't have to. You could use all farm cottage cheese or all cream cheese or even well drained ricotta cheese if you like. I grew up making a European cheese cake where we always separated the eggs so I like the soft texture produced by folding in the beaten egg whites at the end. If the whole egg separating business is too much for you, just whizz all the filling ingredientsin a food processor, apart from the cherries of course and the end result will still be lovely.

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For all my recipes I use a 250 ml cup, a 20 ml tablespoon and 60 gm eggs. The quantities listed will make a 16 cm (6½ inch) cake but if you want to make a 23 cm (9 inch) cheesecake, just double all the ingredients and bake for the same length of time. I'm not keen on over sweet desserts, so the quantity of sugar is a suggestion. Please taste as you go and add sugar to taste.

Here’s the recipe for you -

Sour Cherry Cheesecake
Base
110 grams (4 oz) unsalted butter
½ teaspoon vanilla essence
¼ cup caster sugar
1 cup plain flour

Crumble Topping
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tbl brown sugar
60g (2 oz) pecans or walnuts, coarsely chopped

To make the crumble, line a baking tray with baking paper. For the cheesecake, grease, flour and line the base of a 16 cm spring-form tin with baking paper.

In a food processor, combine the butter, vanilla and caster sugar until softened. Add the flour and vanilla and process until a soft dough forms around the blade. Take out half the mixture and gently knead in the cinnamon, the brown sugar and chopped nuts and chill the mixture for an hour. This will form the crumble. Press the remaining mixture into the base of the greased spring-form tin, bringing it slightly up the sides.

Preheat the oven to 180⁰C.

Bake the shortbread base in the preheated 180⁰C oven for 20 minutes or until the edges are lightly golden. Set to one side and allow the base to cool.

Coarsely scatter the crumble mix over the prepared baking sheet and bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until golden. You can do this at the same time the cheesecake base is cooking. Allow the crumble topping to cool on a tray. When cool place in an airtight container until serving time. You won't need all the crumble for this recipe so store in an airtight container to use later.

Filling
250g (8 oz) cream cheese
125 g (4 oz) farm style dry cottage cheese
⅓ - ½ cup caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
2 tsp plain flour
⅓ cup cream or sour cream
2 eggs, separated
⅓ cup halved drained, pitted sour cherries
additional 2 tble caster sugar

Lower the oven temperature to 160⁰C.

Process the cheeses with the sugar and vanilla and flour in a food processor and whiz until smooth.

Add the egg yolks and the sour cream and again process until the mixture is smooth. Pour the filling into a medium sized bowl and add the cherries and gently fold through the cheesecake mixture.

Whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gradually add the remaining sugar to form a meringue then mix in a few tablespoons of the egg white into the cheesecake mixture to lighten. Carefully fold through the remaining egg whites until well combined. Test for sweetness and add a little extra sugar if needed. Pour the filling over the cooled base.

Bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour until the filling is almost set. Turn off the oven and allow the cheesecake to cool in the turned off oven. Remove the cake from the oven after 1 hour. When cool, the cheesecake can be stored in the fridge.

To serve
1 cup sour cream, whipped cream or double cream
Crumble topping
Icing sugar

Bring the cheesecake to room temperature. Spread the cream over the top of the cooled cheesecake leaving a 1-2 cm rim. Sprinkle the icing sugar over the edges of the cheesecake. Lavishly sprinkle the crumble topping over the cream and dust with a little more icing sugar if you like.

Serves 8

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I just love this flavour combination. I hope you love this recipe as much as I do.

Following a 12 hour drive, I'm currently in Brisbane for the Christmas break. It's been a long year; I'm tired and I have a bedroom to paint when I return to Sydney so I'm planning to take a 2-3 week break from blogging.

I might drop by next week to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year but for now I have a batch of mince pies to make.

See you all again soon,

Jillian

Thursday, December 18, 2014

sour cherry panforte - 5 days of Christmas

Hi every-one and welcome to Day 4 of the 5 Days of Christmas. Last year I made candies for the 5 days of Christmas. Some items were a great success, like the Peppermint Bark, whilst others (white chocolate and rosemary nougat and pan pepato you know I’m talking about you) were a bit of a disaster. I recently remade the white chocolate nougat and it was much more successful the second time around. 

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Last year the pan pepato although delicious would not set no matter how long I baked it in the oven. I don't like to be defeated by a recipe so I decided to find another recipe and slightly adapted the Siena Cake recipe from the Australian Women’s Weekly Italian cookbook

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I changed some of the fruits and added a pinch of black pepper to the mix and decided to bake the cakes in four 10 cm tins. I toasted the hazelnuts but forgot to lower the oven temperature when the time came to bake the cakes. Then I forgot to reduce the baking time so although the cake tastes delicious it's a little dry. Next time I’ll cook the mini panforte for about 20 minutes.

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For all my recipes, I use a 250 ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon. All eggs are 60 grams and my oven is a conventional oven not fan forced, so you may need to reduce your oven temperature by 20°C.

Here's the adapted recipe for you -

Sour Cherry Panforte - makes one 8 inch (20 cm) cake

Ingredients
125g (4oz) blanched almonds
125g (4oz) roasted hazelnuts
60g (2oz) dried figs
60g (2oz) dried sour cherries
60g (2oz) candied orange peel
⅔ cup plain flour
2 tablespoons cocoa
1 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch black pepper
60g (2oz) dark chocolate
⅓ cup sugar
½ cup honey
icing sugar or cocoa

METHOD
Spread almonds on an oven tray, put into a moderate oven (180°C/350°F) for 5 to 7 minutes, until lightly golden. Chop hazelnuts and almonds roughly, combine in a bowl with the chopped figs, the dried sour cherries, the chopped candied orange peel, the sifted flour, the sifted cocoa and cinnamon then mix well.

Cut a strip of greaseproof paper 8cm (3in) wider than depth of 20cm (8in) round cake tin and long enough to go around tin. Fold over 2.5cm (1 in) of paper strip on long side, cut this folded piece into 2.5cm (1 in) diagonal pieces to enable paper to fit around curve of tin. Cut a piece of greaseproof paper to fit in base of tin, grease before placing paper in tin, press firmly on base over the cut paper.

Melt chocolate in top of double saucepan over simmering water. Put sugar and honey in separate saucepan, stir over low heat until sugar has dissolved, brushing down sides of saucepan with brush dipped in hot water to dissolve any sugar crystals. Bring to boil, reduce heat, simmer uncovered approximately 5 minutes or until syrup forms a soft ball when a few drops are dropped into a glass of cold water. Add syrup and melted chocolate to fruit and nut mixture, mix them well.

Spread mixture quickly and evenly into prepared tin. Bake in moderately slow oven (
170°C/325°F) for 35 minutes, remove from oven and cool in the tin. Turn out, remove paper then wrap the panforte in aluminium foil. Leave at least one day before cutting. Before serving, sift icing sugar or cocoa thickly over top.

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These would make lovely little Christmas gifts but I decided to be selfish and have kept all four for myself. I've already eaten one panforte and I have a few stored away for those moments when you need a piece of something sweet to go with a cup of tea. 

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See you all again tomorrow with something special for the last of the 5 Days of Christmas.

Jillian

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

sour cherry chocolate roulade - 5 days of Christmas


Welcome to Day 3 of the 5 days of Christmas. Today I have a sour cherry chocolate roulade recipe to share with you. I've been making this chocolate roulade recipewhich originally came from the Australian Women's Weekly, for many years. Usually I fill it with whipped cream and fresh strawberries or raspberries. 

I'd planned to make a sour cherry version for last year's Delicious Bites Christmas post for decor8 but when a very similar roulade recipe appeared in Delicious magazine about the same time, I decided to put it on hold. Who knew it would take a year before the recipe finally made it to the blog?

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This is a flourless chocolate cake and although it's quite simple to make, it's a little tricky to roll. As it's flourless, the texture is very delicate and the roulade will crack as you roll it. Here's my advice - don't try to fight the cracks. Just embrace them and move on.

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The filling is very simple, just some unsweetened whipped cream topped with drained sour cherries. I was concerned the cake was quite sweet and any extra sugar in the filling would end up being sugar overload. If you like, you can dust the roll with cocoa rather than icing sugar.

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I think the roulade is best served the day of making but it keeps quite well for a day or two in the fridge. The roulade is rich so small slices will do.

For all my recipes, I use a 250 ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon. All eggs are 60 grams and my oven is a conventional oven not fan forced, so you may need to reduce your oven temperature by 20°C.

Here's the recipe for you. 

Sour Cherry Chocolate Roulade - serves 8

Ingredients
125g (4 oz) dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 tbs boiling water
Four 60 gm (2 oz) eggs, separated
¾ cup caster sugar

For the filling
300ml cream
1 cup drained sour cherries
chopped pistachios
icing sugar or cocoa to dust
additional sour cherries

Method
Grease and line a 23x33cm Swiss roll tin with baking parchment. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F.

Melt the chocolate over a pan of gently simmering water. Add the boiling water and stir to combine. Put to one side and allow to cool slightly

Place the egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl. Whisk until the eggs are fluffy and thick enough to leave a trail when the whisk heads are lifted from the mixture. Stir in the chocolate mixture. Place the egg whites in a large grease-free bowl and whisk them until they form soft peaks. Gently fold the whites through the chocolate mixture until well combined.

Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for about 20 minutes or until the top of the cake is dry and the centre springs back when lightly touched with your finger.

Transfer pan to a rack. Cover top with 2 layers of damp paper towel and a tea towel. Place in the fridge for 20 minutes then remove towels (the dry top of the cake will come away with the paper) and allow to cool completely. Loosen edges with a sharp knife and sprinkle the top of the cake with icing sugar or cocoa. Lay a sheet of baking parchment out on the work surface and thoroughly sprinkle with icing sugar. Tip the roulade out onto the paper and carefully peel away the lining paper.

Whip the cream until it forms soft peaks. Spread the cream mixture over the roulade, scatter over the drained sour cherries. Score a mark 2.5cm (1 inch) in along the short edge, then roll up very tightly like a Swiss roll, using the paper to help. Don't worry if the roulade cracks as it rolls, it's supposed to. Transfer the cake to a serving plate and refrigerate until ready to serve. If the cake collapses a little, gently mould it back together with your hands. Here's a handy video featuring Mary Berry describing how to roll the roulade.

Decorate the roulade with some cherries, chocolate shards, chopped pistachios and an additional dusting of icing sugar or cocoa.

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I took this into work last week and I can tell you if you bring this roulade along for dessert, your guests will be very, very impressed.

See you all tomorrow with Day 4 of the 5 Days of Christmas. 

Bye for now,

Jillian

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

toasted nut cherry cassata - 5 days of Christmas

Welcome to Day 2 of the 5 Days of Christmas. Today's post is for all my fellow Southern hemisphere readers. Although I love a traditional Christmas pudding (and I'll be making our pudding tomorrow) sometimes it's a bit hard going on a hot Christmas Day. Something iced would make so much more sense in our climate. Many years ago my workmate Jane brought this cassata along to a work break-up party. It was lovely so I asked her for the recipe, which is tucked away somewhere in my recipe box. It comes from the very old Australian Women's Weekly Dinner Party Cookbook, a much thumbed copy of which I have on my bookshelf. I've not made it in years but I thought as we're having a bumper cherry crop this year, this would be the perfect dessert for Christmas Day.

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I made the cassata 2 weeks ago and left it in the freezer to set. I took the cassata out last Sunday morning to photograph and well who would have thought photographing it would prove such a challenge. 

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The past few weekends have been ridiculously hot and even at 7.00 a.m. it was close to 25°C. The cassata melted as soon as I took it from the freezer even though I'd stored the serving platters overnight in the freezer. I guess I just didn't work fast enough!


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I changed up the recipe a little. I used an oblong pan instead of a round one and added some fresh cherries along with the mixed glace fruit. I ditched the coconut biscuits for some toasted shredded coconut but pretty much left the recipe much the same.

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Here's the recipe for you

Toasted Nut Cassata

Ingredients
½ cup mixed glace fruit, chopped
2 tablespoons brandy
300 ml (1¼ cups) cream
2 teaspoons caster sugar
125 g (4 oz) dark chocolate
15 g (½ oz) butter
2 litres (2 quarts) vanilla ice cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons cocoa
60 g (2 oz) almonds, slivered
60 g (2 oz) coconut biscuits
300 ml (1¼ cups) cream, extra

Directions
Line base of 20 cm (8") spring form pan with aluminium foil.

Combine glace fruit and brandy, mix well, let stand 10 minutes.

Whip cream and sugar until thick, fold in fruit and brandy, spread cream mixture over base of spring form pan, freeze.

Put chopped chocolate and butter in top of double saucepan, stir over gently-simmering water until melted; cool.

Combine half the softened ice-cream and vanilla, add approximately half a cup of this ice-cream to melted chocolate mixture, mix well and add chocolate mixture to ice-cream, mix well; the melted chocolate gives the ice-cream a "chocolate chip" texture.

Stir in sifted cocoa, mix well; spread chocolate ice-cream over cream layer; freeze.

Spread remaining half-softened ice-cream over chocolate layer.

Place almonds in moderate oven 5 minutes or until light golden brown; crush coconut biscuits lightly; sprinkle combined biscuits crumbs and almonds over top of cassata; press crumbs and almonds lightly into ice-cream; freeze until firm.

Pipe extra whipped cream decoratively around top.

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Even though it was a bit melty, the cassata was still delicious, just perfect for a hot Australian Christmas Day.

See you all again tomorrow for Day 3 of the 5 Days of Christmas.

Bye for now,

Jillian

Monday, December 15, 2014

plate 2 plate - sour cherry chocolate almond biscotti

Welcome to this year's edition of The 5 days of Christmas. This year's theme is cherries and chocolate and today I'm also bringing you the second Plate to Plate column. A few months ago, Juliana and I decided that we were going to bake and style a Christmas themed recipe for our second Plate 2 plate blog post. Juliana suggested a few things and in the end we chose a Williams Sonoma chocolate cherry almond biscotti recipe. 


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Now I've only made biscotti once before and they weren't a great success, so I was keen to try another recipe. One of the key ingredients in this recipe, sour cherries, are a bit hard to find in Sydney but I eventually found them in the local health food store. As it's Christmas, I couldn't help myself and added some chocolate chips to the biscotti mix just to make the cookies a little more festive. Here's my take on the biscotti double baking process. 

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Here's Juliana's.

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I got myself into a little bit of trouble. I don't know if Australian flour is less absorbent than US flour or if my eggs were a bit larger but the biscotti dough came out very, very sticky. I was covered in biscotti dough; the bench top was covered in biscotti dough and I could barely scrape it out from the bowl. 

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I kept adding flour until the dough was a bit more manageable but I was concerned all that extra flour would affect the final result.

Juliana also had problems with the recipe, though her problem was a bit different from mine. Here's her story.

Here's the recipe for you.

Ingredients
1¾ cups plain flour
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup Dutch process cocoa powder, sifted
¼ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. baking soda
¾ cup dark chocolate chips
¾ cup dried sour cherries 
¾ cup toasted blanched almonds, coarsely chopped
3 whole eggs, plus 1 egg white
1 tsp. vanilla extract
 
Method
Position racks in the upper third and lower third of an oven and preheat to 325°F/170°C. Line 2 baking sheets, preferably insulated sheets, with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, granulated sugar, cocoa, brown sugar, baking powder and baking soda until well mixed. Add the chocolate chips, the cherries and almonds and toss with your hands to distribute them evenly. 

In another bowl, whisk together the whole eggs, egg white and vanilla extract. Pour into the dry ingredients. Using a fork, mix together the dry and wet ingredients, taking care to work all the bits of dry ingredients into the dough. This will take about 5 minutes. The dough will be dense and sticky. Divide the dough in half.

Place a piece of plastic wrap 18 inches long on the countertop. Transfer half of the dough to the plastic wrap. Lightly moisten your hands with cold water to prevent the dough from sticking to them, then shape the dough into a flattened log 12 inches long by 2 1/2 inches wide by 1 inch high. Lifting the plastic wrap and cradling the dough, flip the dough onto the centre of one of the prepared baking sheets. Repeat with the remaining dough, flipping it onto the second prepared baking sheet. 

Bake the logs until they are dry to the touch and firm in the centre when pressed with your fingers, about 30 minutes. They will spread considerably and may crack slightly on top. Transfer to wire racks and let the logs cool on the pans for 30 minutes. The logs will still be slightly warm to the touch. Leave the oven on.


Carefully transfer the logs to a cutting board and set the parchment-lined pans aside. Using a serrated knife, cut the logs crosswise on the diagonal into slices 1/2 inch wide. Arrange the slices, cut side down, on the lined baking sheets, placing them close together but not touching. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and, using tongs or a spatula, turn the biscotti. Continue to bake until dry and crisp, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer the biscotti to wire racks to cool completely. Store the biscotti in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 weeks. Makes 4 dozen cookies.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma, Essentials of Healthful Cooking, by Mary Abbott Hess, Dana Jacobi & Marie Simmons (Oxmoor House, 2003).


Here's how Juliana styled her biscotti.


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Here's how I styled mine.

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The lovely gold garland is from here.

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Juliana's look so festive, don't they?

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These taste great straight from the oven when the chocolate chips are still all melty but actually taste even better when they're a few days old. I always dunk my biscuits (I can't help myself) and these are perfect for dunking as they're quite sturdy. I've made these biscotti  twice now and the second time I made them in my stand mixer using the dough hook. I increased the flour to 2 cups and was more prudent adding the eggs and had no trouble the second time around.



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The cookies all packed ready to distribute to my neighbours for Christmas.

See you all again tomorrow with some more Christmas Baking!

Jillian

Monday, December 08, 2014

pasta shells with tuna and artichoke - pronto

I'm always looking for quick and easy recipes to make when I come home from work. When it's winter I cook all Sunday so I have a casserole or two to reheat during the week. When it's summer I usually make something quick and easy like a pasta sauce or stir fry.

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A few months back I was hunting for a tuna and artichoke sauce recipe I used to make all the time but had misplaced. During my search I found this one instead and was intrigued. I had all the ingredients in my cupboards apart from the artichokes so off to the shops I went. I didn't have any pasta shells so I used penne instead.

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Eventually I found the recipe I was looking for but this one is so much better I might have to misplace it again. This recipe a revelation, really fresh tasting and zingy and way too good to keep to myself. I think I've already made it 4 times though usually with penne or spirals.

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Here's the recipe for you -

Pasta shells with tuna and artichokes
340g (12 ounces) medium pasta shells
2 168 g (6oz) cans tuna in olive oil
1 168g (6oz) jar artichoke hearts, drained, bigger pieces sliced in half lengthwise
¼ cup capers, drained
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 large garlic clove, crushed
½ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of water to boil to cook pasta. 
When water comes to boil, salt it generously, then cook pasta according to package directions, until al dente. 

While the water is coming to the boil, mix the remaining ingredients in a large bowl, big enough to hold the pasta once it's cooked. Break up larger chunks of tuna into bite-sized pieces but do not drain the tuna, as the olive oil becomes part of the sauce.

Drain the pasta, add to the tuna sauce and toss.


Serves 2 - 4.

Recipe from here but probably adapted from this Epicurious recipe.

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To all those people visiting the blog because of this Nigella Lawson recipe for spelt spaghetti with olives and anchovies (10,883 to date and and counting), personally I think this recipe is even better. If you do give it a try, I'd love to know what you think.

See you all again next week for 5 days of cherry and chocolate flavoured Christmas goodies.

Until then,

Jillian

Monday, December 01, 2014

lemon cheesecake with a ginger crust

Sometimes recipe ideas whirl around in my head and there they remain until the cake or tart is made. I woke last Sunday determined to make a lemon cheesecake with a ginger crust. Don't ask me why. On Saturday night I made a ginger crust using crushed up ginger biscuits, which just wouldn't set, so into the kitchen I went early Sunday morning to make a new crust from scratch.

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I made a classic shortbread base but jazzed it up with some chopped glace ginger and ground ginger.

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The filling was adapted from an Ottolenghi recipe for lemon cheesecake tartlets and the idea for the candied lemon slices came from an Antonio Carluccio recipe in Delicious magazine.

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It can be a bit of a risk making something new. Each item might work on it's own, but when put together???? I used my cute little 16 cm tin but if you want to make a 23 cm (9 inch) cake just double all the cheesecake ingredients. You won't need to make any more candied lemon slices though.

The cheesecake is very gently set, so you might want to use an extra egg. For the larger version I would definitely use 3 - 4 eggs. Please note, for all my recipes I use 60 g eggs, a 20 ml tablespoon and a 250 ml cup. My oven is a conventional gas oven so if your oven is fan forced, either turn off the fan or drop the temperature 20 - 30°C.

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Here's the recipe for you.

Lemon Cheesecake with a Ginger Crust

For the base
55 g (2 oz) unsalted butter
25 g (1 oz) raw caster sugar
1 tsp grated lemon rind
1 tsp finely chopped glace or crystallized ginger
½ cup plain flour
1 tsp ground ginger

Filling
250 g (8 oz) cream cheese
⅓ cup caster sugar
1 60 g egg
⅓ cup sour cream
1 tbsp grated lemon rind
50 ml lemon juice

To serve
Cream, ginger biscuit crumbs to finish or candied lemon slices

Method
Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C.

Grease a 16 cm spring form tin and line the base with baking paper. Cream the butter, sugar, lemon rind and chopped ginger in a bowl until light and fluffy. Sift together the flour and ground ginger and add to the mixture to form a soft dough. Press the dough into the base of the 16 cm spring form tin (but not up the sides). Bake until the edge of the crust is lightly golden, about 10 minutes. Set to one side.

Reduce oven temperature to 160°C/352°F. Place a baking tin of hot water on the lower rack of the oven.

Blend the cream cheese and sugar until smooth then whisk in the egg, the sour cream, the lemon rind and the juice. Pour the filling into the prepared tin then place on the middle shelf in the oven.  Bake cheesecake until filling is just set, about 1 hour. Turn off the oven and leave the door ajar. Let the cheesecake stand in the oven for an 1 hour. Remove the cheesecake from the oven and cool cheesecake completely on rack before covering and refrigerating overnight.

Candied Lemon Slices
1 small lemon thinly sliced and seeds removed
⅔ cup caster sugar
⅔ cup water

In a frying pan, combine the sugar and water, place over a low heat stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a gentle boil and cook for 5 - 8 minutes or until the toffee starts to turn golden. Add the lemon slices and turn frequently until the lemon slices are golden and well coated about 3 - 5 minutes. Remove the slices and place on baking paper. Allow to cool at room temperature.

Serve with whipped cream and candied lemon slices. Decorate just before serving.

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It was a workmates birthday on Monday, so I brought this in for morning tea. The verdict from my test audience - this cheesecake is good, very, very good, so good that the birthday girl threw caution to the wind and had 2 slices. This recipe is definitely a keeper. 

I hope you had a nice weekend. I can't believe I have less than 3 weeks work left for 2014. Bring it on!

Jillian