Sunday, 31 March 2013

Easter cheesecake


I know Easter time is associated with many flavours in baking – spices, almonds, dried fruit etc as illustrated by Mr CC’s fine hot cross buns...but let’s be honest, the dominant flavour for most of us at this time of year is chocolate.

The cheesecake recipe comes from the latest in the series of “30 best loved recipes” books, which features Bahlsen Choco Leibniz biscuits.  It intrigued me because the cheesecake topping is so simple: just cream cheese, sugar and chocolate.  Normally with non-bake cheesecakes there’s some cream in there too.  The absence of cream made this a rich, dense almost truffle-y cheesecake.

As this was my celebration easter Sunday bake I jazzed up the cheesecake with mini chocolate eggs and fluffy chicks.  This type of fluffy chick has been around all my life and – every year – I buy at least one box...and then only use about three of the chicks.  I put the rest in a drawer or cupboard safe for next year, by which time I have forgotten where I put them and buy another box.  I suspect I have most of the world’s production of small fluffy easter chicks stashed in my kitchen cupboards; they are a veritable battery farm of easter chicks.

Using chocolate biscuits for the base meant that the base felt and tasted far more integrated into the cheesecake.  I liked the extra hit of chocolate; the only downside was that the base was less solid than a normal cheesecake base.  It was more delicious but difficult to cut and plate nicely...there is always a price to pay in life, or as Curiosity Killed The Cat sung so profoundly: there’s a bind for every kind.

Happy easter everyone!


For the cheesecake base:
4 125g packets of Bahlsen Choco Leibniz biscuits – I used a mix of milk and dark
100g unsalted butter, at room temperature

For the cheesecake topping:
300g chocolate – I used a mix of milk and dark
700g Philadelphia cream cheese, at room temperature
100g icing sugar

For the ganache nests:
300ml double cream
200g chocolate – I used a mix of milk and dark

To decorate: easter chicks and mini eggs!


Start with the cheesecake base:  Place a 21cm ring on the plate you wish to serve the cheesecake from.  An adjustable dessert ring is perfect but a springform tin with the base removed will also work.  I like to line the ring with baking paper to ensure I can de-tin it easily.

Start by making the base: blitz the biscuits in a food processor until you have crumbs.  It will look like you have too much but it presses down pretty firm.

Blitz in the butter – no need to melt it if you’re doing it in the food processor.  If your crushing the biscuits by hand i.e with the bag and rolling pin method, it’s easier to melt the butter.

Press the crumbs onto the plate ensuring that you have an even layer pushed right up to the edge of the mould.

Refrigerate while you make the topping.

Melt the chocolate – I favour short bursts in the microwave, stir, another short burst until the chocolate is melted but if you prefer melting in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water that’s fine!

Let the chocolate cool for about five minutes.

In a large bowl beat together the cream cheese and icing sugar.

Gradually beat in the melted and cooled chocolate until evenly incorporated into the mix.

Spread the topping over the chilled biscuit base and refrigerate for at least two hours.

Now make the ganache: heat the cream in a pan until just starting to bubble.

Remove from the heat and break the chocolate into squares and drop into the cream.

Leave to stand for a couple of minutes before stirring. 

Keep stirring until all the chocolate has melted and is incorporated.

Leave to cool (refrigerate if you’re in a hurry) and then whisk to thicken – it needs quite a high speed to thicken it so best to use an electric whisk if you have one.  If it doesn’t thicken enough to pipe, spoon into the piping bag and pop back in the fridge for 5-10 minutes.

Pipe nest shapes on top of the cheesecake and put back in the fridge.

Remove from the refrigerator about 15 minutes before serving and decorate with the eggs and chicks.

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.


Friday, 29 March 2013

Hot cross buns – Mr CC guest blogs…..

A rare guest post on my site in which Mr CC puts me to shame and shows his mastery of yeasted buns...OK, now I've typed that it just sounds weird, so I'll say no more and hand over to Mr CC:

Inspired by the “Great British Bake Off” Easter masterclass show on BBC2, I decided that I would make Hot Cross Buns this Easter, as they have always been a favourite of mine.  I used Paul Hollywood’s recipe on the programme’s website and followed the recipe’s instructions.  As both Mrs CC and I aren’t big fans of mixed peel I left it out of the recipe, but everything else is the same.

All the ingredients were mixed, kneaded and left to prove in warm room for an hour, but I was disappointed to find that there was very little rise in the dough and it was nowhere near the doubling in size that the recipe suggested would happen. Leaving it for another half hour made little difference, but I decided to carry on regardless. I divided the dough into 12 roughly equal parts and placed on a baking tray to prove for another hour.

Again, there was very little increase in size after an hour and my patience was beginning to wear quite thin at this point. Assuming that something terribly wrong had occurred in my preparation and in a fit of pique, I tore the recipe into satisfyingly small pieces and binned them…then I had my lunch and forgot about the buns.

I looked in on them about an hour later and, by some miracle, they had risen and were getting quite friendly with each other on the baking tray.

I piped the crosses (not the neatest of jobs, I like to think of them as being impressionistic) and put them in the oven. They seemed to darken quite quickly and had to be removed after 19 minutes to stop them from burning. Whilst still warm, melted apricot jam was bushed on them to give a shiny glaze.

Despite my efforts and the problems encountered, the buns came out fine and went down very well with a cup of tea.

So what went wrong with the dough? Answers found whilst searching around on the Internet seemed to suggest that the milk was too hot when I added it to the mix. This might have had the effect of killing some of the yeast, which would have reduced the rise in the dough. That might be why it took so long to rise.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Chocolate chip oat biscuits

Where have these biscuits been all my life?  They take the buttery deliciousness of shortbread and add an oaty crunch – imagine shortbread, crossed with hobnobs, with some chocolate chips added for good measure....yes, that good!

When I make these again (in about a day or two!) I will swap the chocolate chips for sultanas.  I’m a sultana addict and think they’ll work really well with the buttery oat texture.

I made these reasonably small – normally my biscuits could be used as dinner plates – and I advise you to do the same as the biscuit is densely textured and rich.  When I try and make small biscuits (i.e. normal sized) I start with good intentions then look at the tray when I’ve finished only to see the later biscuits are twice the size of the earlier ones...I can’t help myself!  So this time, I weighed the first ball of dough, and made sure all the others were the same (44g, if you’re interested).  For the first time ever I have created normal biscuits!

These are lovely warm from the oven (well, you have to check, don’t you?) and also lovely cold and crumbly.  For the work of minutes they are quite wonderful!


225g unsalted butter, at room temperature
110g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
275g plain flour
30g porridge oats
100g chocolate chips – I used milk


Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan oven 180°C/400°F/gas mark 6.

Line two baking sheets with baking paper or non stick foil.

Beat the butter in a bowl until soft and whippy.

Beat in the sugar and vanilla.

Stir in the flour, oats and chocolate chips.

Take small balls of mix, roll then place on a baking sheet leaving about 1cm for spreading whilst baking.  I got 16 biscuits, each weighing 44g uncooked.

Flatten the balls.

Bake for approximately 15 minutes or until golden and starting to look biscuity at the edges.

Leave to cool on the baking sheet before transferring to an airtight container.

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.


Sunday, 17 March 2013

White chocolate tart with rhubarb and mini eggs


I saw a recipe for white chocolate pots with rhubarb in the Sainsbury’s magazine (in my opinion, the best of the supermarket magazines) and used it as the basis for this tart.  I added a biscuit case and simplified the rhubarb element and came up with a rather smart dessert.  The ring of rhubarb makes it look like the tart is wearing a flamboyant feather boa!

I think the flavours would work well for an Easter dessert so decided to decorate it with an Easter theme using my Lakeland egg moulds for which I have provided a link but am sad to see they are a discontinued item.  What a shame.  Oh well.

The filling for the tart is sweet so I decided to leave the rhubarb on the tart side for contrast.  The filling and rhubarb are both soft so the biscuit base and the chocolate eggs add some welcome texture.

This is a pleasing tart which would work well as dessert for an Easter dinner.  I chose to serve it with a cup of tea as a mid-afternoon treat but that’s always my preference for cakes and bakes!  I think next time I might add another leaf of gelatine to get a cleaner slice.  It would be lovely without any fruit topping...

...but I can’t resist rhubarb:

I could probably have made it look neater by cooking the rhubarb less – when you’re baking things and blogging you often have a trade off between making it look nice for the photo/presentation and making it how you like it.  Here, I went for how I like it and it does look a bit untidy.  Never mind, thankfully I don’t come from a family who look at food for too long!


For the base:
300g hobnob biscuits – use digestives if you prefer
60g unsalted butter

For the filling:
150ml milk
600ml double cream
75g caster sugar
1 vanilla pod, split and seeds scraped out
3 leaves of gelatine – I used 3 but would advise using 4
100g white chocolate

For the rhubarb:
500g rhubarb, trimmed and cut into short pieces (about 2cm)
30g caster sugar, add more to taste
2 tablespoons water
Optional: 1 teaspoon grenadine

For the eggs:
100g white chocolate, plus a little extra to stick together


Start by making the base: blitz the hobnobs and butter together in a food processor.  If you don’t have a processor, put the biscuits in a bag and beat with a rolling pin then stir into melted butter.  Either way, you’re aiming for a grainy wet sand feel.

Press the crumbs into a 25cm pie plate or flan tin.  I used a disposable foil pie plate that was 3cm deep.  Take care to bring the biscuit mix up the sides of the tin or plate as you need it to be bowl shaped to hold the filling – this filling will be runnier than cheesecake and you need a good structure to retain it!


Now make the filling: place the milk, cream, sugar and vanilla seeds along with the vanilla pod into a saucepan and bring to almost boiling point.

While you are waiting for the milk to heat, place the gelatine leaves in a bowl of cold water to soften.

When the milk is almost at boiling point remove from the heat and add the white chocolate.  Use a whisk to ensure it melts.

Squeeze all the water from the softened gelatine leaves and whisk into the milk mixture. 

When you are happy that both chocolate and gelatine have completely melted, leave the pan to cool for 20 minutes.

Stir the mixture before pouring into the chilled biscuit case.  Don’t worry if you can’t fit all the filling in – simply pour any extra into glass dishes for a bonus dessert!

Once you have filled the case return to the refrigerator rapidly – the biscuit crust is not completely watertight and you want the filling to start setting as soon as possible.  Setting will require a minimum of 4 hours but ideally overnight.

Prepping the rhubarb can be done at the same time, but I don’t advise putting it on the tart until you’re ready to serve as the juices might seep and look messy.

Place the chopped rhubarb into a saucepan along with the sugar and water.  Heat gently until the rhubarb starts to break down and soften.  Take care to watch this process as you don’t want the rhubarb to become mushy.  I like the rhubarb to become a little pulpy but with some pieces kept whole – but do it how you like it.

When the rhubarb is ready, drain it before returning to the pan and stirring through the grenadine (if using).  If you have grenadine I advise using it as it adds a sherbet flavour.

Taste the rhubarb at this point and add more sugar if needed.

Keep the rhubarb in the fridge until ready to finish the tart.

To make the easter eggs simply melt the chocolate and spoon into the egg moulds.

Refrigerate until set then turn out of the mould and use a little extra melted chocolate to stick the halves together.

To build the finished tart spoon the rhubarb chunks over the top and dot the eggs all over.  If the rhubarb has oozed a lot of liquid it is advisable to strain it again before putting it on top of the tart.

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.


Thursday, 14 March 2013



Regular readers will know that I am not a coffee drinker and do not like coffee flavoured anything, other than perhaps a Revel (but only if there’s another choccy left in the bag to take the taste away!)  However, Mr CC loves coffee as does everyone else in my family.  Therefore, when I was asked if I would like to sample a Puro Coffee goodie bag my altruism shone through and I accepted!

What a goodie bag it was too; three large packs of coffee, hot chocolate, sugar, a cafetiere and two coffee cups and saucers.   I know many other bloggers have already mentioned it, and reviewed the coffee, but look at how gorgeous the cups are (they even have a little coffee bean embossed on the back!)

What is Puro Coffee I hear you ask? Puro is a leading brand of Fairtrade coffee that works in partnership with the World Land Trust to purchase and protect areas of precious rainforest in South America. Enjoy your favourite drink while saving the planet?  It’s never been easier!
While it’s perhaps not a familiar name (yet) many of you will have sampled the coffee without knowing - every National Trust site uses Puro coffee, as do all the Royal Parks in London (the Queen actually had to sign off that snazzy cup design to allow it in the parks), and a number of café/restaurant chains, such as Le Pain Quotidien and Leon.

I asked Mr CC to make me up a batch (he chose the Noble – a blend of Arabica and Robusta beans) ensuring he made enough for my tiramisu, and for him to have a couple of cups.  I tried to get his tasting comments but Mr CC either likes stuff or he doesn’t, he’s not known for his Jilly Goolden-esque flowery reviews.  He did however say that he liked how strong and rich it was without being at all bitter...and he left the cafetiere out so he could make more (a very positive sign!)

Tiramisu is a hugely popular dessert, and because of that many food writers and critics have turned against it, much in the same way that the glorious black forest gateau was derided as naff a few years back.  But things become hugely popular for a reason – normally that they taste good.

This dessert couldn’t be simpler to make but my one tip is don’t let the biscuits sit too long in the coffee because they will absorb it all.  I learned this lesson the hard way and had to make up more coffee!

If you are envious of my lovely goodie bag and would like to win one, simply visit Puro Coffee’s Facebook page, where there is a monthly competition to win a gift box just like mine.  Good luck!


These quantities will provide four generous portions – scale up if you need more portions!

4 tablespoons kahlua liqueur – if you don’t have this masala, rum or brandy work too
200ml dark, strong coffee – make it strong to counter the richness of the cream
2 egg yolks
4 tablespoons caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
170g mascarpone
300ml double cream
170g sponge finger biscuits – they are usually called
Savoiardi or Boudoir sponge fingers in the UK
cocoa powder or crumbled Flake for decoration


Start by making the coffee and pouring into a bowl along with the kahlua.

Put to one side to cool a little.

Place the egg yolks, sugar and vanilla in a bowl and whisk together until thick and fluffy.

Add the mascarpone and cream and beat until well combined and thick.

Take four dessert bowls – any glass dish that you might make individual trifles in will be fine.

Dip sponge fingers, two at a time, into the cooled coffee mixture.  Don’t leave them in for more than a couple of seconds or they will absorb too much liquid and make the dessert wet.

Place the sponge fingers in the bottom of a dish – you only need enough to cover the bottom of the bowl.

Cover the biscuits with a thick layer of the mascarpone mix and level.

Dip the remaining sponge fingers and place over the mascarpone.

Use the remaining mascarpone mixture to cover the biscuits.

Either dust the top with cocoa powder or a crumbled flake.

Refrigerate until you wish to serve.

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.


Sunday, 10 March 2013

Rum and raisin cupcakes


Rum and raisin is a classic combination.  I remember in my youth pretending to like it because it had rum in it and it was very grown up...truth was I hated it!  As my taste buds have matured rum has become my favourite alcoholic flavour – I’m not really into wine or beer and most spirits leave me cold...but rum, oh those sweet caramel overtones do it for me!

I have recently discovered the delights of spiced rum.  Normally, with drinks, the addition of the word ‘spiced’ makes me run a mile (I blame mulled wine for this – just typing the name has made me shudder!  Seriously, who enjoys hot wine with cinnamon sticks and other remnants of the spice cupboard floating in it?) But spiced rum draws predominantly on vanilla with a hint of cinnamon and it works so well. The rum has a creamy dessert quality to it – thus is perfect for baking!

The golden rule for any bake where you soak fruit in alcohol is: the longer the better.  I decided mid week I was going to make these cupcakes at the weekend and started soaking the fruit straight away.  I have read that if you don’t have time to pre-soak, gently heating the fruit and booze in a microwave can speed up the absorption but I haven’t tried it personally.

These cupcakes are potent!  Hard to believe they contain so little rum.  I think it’s because the rum is stored in the raisins thus juicy little pockets explode on your tongue.  At first the rum isn’t that obvious but it builds throughout the eating...especially if you eat two (or so I’ve heard).

A simple cream topping is all these cakes need; I think that means they would make a good dessert too.  The cream actually needs more of a mention than that – it was lovely.  So often the buttercream can turn a cupcake into quite a substantial eat; the cream kept it light and whippy. I will definitely be topping more cupcakes with whipped sweetened cream.


For the cupcakes:
160g raisins
3 tablespoons dark rum – I used Capt Morgan spiced rum
150g unsalted butter, at room temperature
150g caster sugar or light brown sugar – I used 75g of each
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs, at room temperature
150g self raising flour
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons milk

For the cream topping:
300ml double cream
2 tablespoons icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


As far in advance as possible (ideally over a day) put the raisins and rum in an airtight container to allow the raisins to soak up the rum.  Stir occasionally.  The longer in advance you soak the fruit, the less liquid you’ll have left in the bottom of the pot.  I soaked mine for three days.

Preheat the oven to 160°C/fan oven 140°C/320°F/gas mark 3.

Line a 12 hole cupcake pan with paper cases.

Beat together the butter and sugar until light and whippy.  Don’t skimp on this stage.

Beat in the vanilla extract.

Beat in one egg.

Beat in a second egg.

Beat in half of the flour and all of the cinnamon.

Beat in one tablespoon of milk.

Beat in the remaining egg, followed by the remaining flour and milk.

Weigh out 140g of the raisins that have been soaking in the rum.  Keep the remainder for decoration.

Fold the raisins into the batter.

Spoon into the cupcake cases and bake for approximately 25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the sponges comes out clean.

Leave to cool on a wire rack, removing the cupcakes from the pan as soon as it is cool enough to do so.  Leave them to cool completely on the wire rack.

Now make the topping: Whisk the cream, icing sugar and vanilla until it forms peaks and is just firm enough to pipe – don’t go too far or the cream will go lumpy.

Spoon into a piping bag and pipe onto the cupcakes.  If you don’t like piping, simply place large spoonfuls of cream onto the sponges.

Spoon the remaining raisins on top of the cream.

Refrigerate up until an hour before serving.

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.


Sunday, 3 March 2013

Creme Brulee tart

I come from a family whose passion for custard knows no bounds.  I married a man whose passion for custard frankly makes me think we were just playing at it.  Mr CC’s ‘dairy stomach’ is the stuff of legends and can be called into play after any huge meal meaning that dessert can be enjoyed.  In truth, I envy it!

When I found this recipe for crème brulee tart I knew it was a winner.  If there is crème brulee on a dessert menu Mr CC never reads beyond it.  Therefore, I knew I couldn’t waste his time and make only one tart that he’d have to share with my family...I made two meaning that he has enough to see him through the next few days!

There is nothing intrinsically tricky in this recipe but what it needs is time, and that might not be apparent from a quick scan of the recipe.  The pastry has to be chilled twice (total of 1 hour fridge time), the custard has to be left to cool (30 mins), the tart bakes at a low temperature (at least an hour), and the baked tart has to cool before you can brulee it (yet another hour).  Don’t make this one if you are pushed for time!

Also, the pastry is incredibly short.  I consider myself pretty experienced in the ways of shortcrust pastry but found this a tricky one to roll and handle.  However, it does patch and I don’t want to put you off it because it is yummy with its inclusion of custard powder.  Don’t do what I did and chill it for an hour and then watch it turn into crumbs when you start rolling it out – 30 minutes is plenty! 

Here’s the tart fresh from the oven, pre brulee:

I prefer a thin brulee topping as I don’t like my teeth getting gunged up with a thick layer of sugar.  I like a brulee that needs a sharp tap to get in, but then eats nicely adding a little crunch without dominating the custard.  If you like a thick brulee then simply increase the amount of sugar you sprinkle over the top of the tart.

I struggle with getting a nice even brulee topping – my grill isn’t powerful or even enough in its heat, and my blow torch started to die part way through.  What I’m trying to say is...the topping tasted better than perhaps it looks!


For the pastry:
225g plain flour
2 tablespoons custard powder
125g unsalted butter – cold
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon cold water – you may need more
An extra egg yolk for patching – if needed

For the filling:
5 egg yolks
75g caster sugar
1 vanilla pod
450ml whipping cream
80ml milk

For the topping:
2 tablespoons caster sugar


Start by making the pastry: put the flour, custard powder and butter into a food processor and blitz until you have bread crumbs.

Add the egg yolk and blitz again and add enough water until the pastry forms clumpy crumbs. (NB. You could make the pastry by hand using the rubbing in method i.e. rub the butter into the flour, then stir in the custard powder, egg and water).

Tip the pastry out onto a sheet of clingfilm and handle as little as possible to form a fat disc.

Wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate.  Normally I’d say chill for an hour but this is a very short pastry and would be unworkably crumbly.  Chill for 30 minutes only.

Roll out the chilled pastry between two sheets of clingfilm – this saves having to add any flour.

Use the pastry to line a 24cm loose bottomed flan tin.  No need to grease the tin as the pastry is buttery enough not to stick.

Don’t panic if you need to patch the dough – it is very short and will crumble, but it does patch and there’s enough spare pastry to do this.

Pop the pastry back in the fridge for a further 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan oven 180°C/400°F/gas mark 6.

Line the pastry case with either non-stick foil or baking paper and use baking beans to weigh the pastry down i.e. so it won’t rise.

Bake for 10 minutes, then remove the paper and beans and bake for a further 10 minutes or until the pastry is lightly golden.

NB. If at this point you notice cracks or holes in your pastry it is important to deal with them otherwise the custard will fall straight through.  I painted on whisked egg yolk to close up any tiny cracks and put the pastry back in the oven for a further 5 minutes.  It did the job!

While the pastry case is cooling, make the filling: In a large bowl whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until they are pale and thick.

Meanwhile, slice open a vanilla pod and scrape out the seeds.  Put the pod and seeds into a saucepan and pour over the cream and milk.

Warm the cream and milk over a gentle heat until approaching boiling point.

Remove the vanilla pod.

Pour over the whisked egg yolks and continue to whisk to ensure the egg doesn’t scramble.
Pour through a sieve into a jug or pan and leave to cool a little.

Preheat the oven to 150°C/fan oven 130°C/300°F/gas mark 2.

Pour the cooled custard into the pastry case and bake for approximately 1 hour or until the custard is set.  You can tell if you gently shake the baking sheet and the custard has only a faint wobble.  Mine took just over the hour.

Leave to cool completely.

Now make the topping:  Sprinkle the sugar evenly over the tart.

There are two options for creating the brulee topping:
  • You can put your grill to the highest setting and pop the tart under it for 2 minutes or until the sugar has melted and turned brown.  It might be sensible to cover the edges of the pastry with a collar of foil to stop it burning.  If the sugar hasn’t melted completely sprinkle some water on top and pop it back under the grill.
  • You can use a blow torch – this is what I did.  I prefer this method as my grill never seems to get hot enough to melt sugar, and I feel more in control holding the torch!

Leave to cool before putting in the fridge.  It will need to go back into the fridge for at least 30 minutes before serving as the heat from the brulee-ing process will soften the custard.  If you want to cut nice clean slices it needs to re-set.  I made and bruleed my tart the day before serving and that was too far in advance and the brulee lost some of its be warned!

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.