Monday 29 June 2009

Srawberry Cheesecake Muffins

I was browsing through the blogs the other day. I always love to visit Rosie's as she is a wonderful baker and always has delicious delights to tempt. Do pay her Blog a visit if you haven't been. You are in for a treat I promise. She had a recipe for these muffins. I have never had much success with muffins, cupcakes and the like but when I saw these I just had to try again. I was confident if Rosie had made them she had followed a good recipe. I had everything to hand and off I went. Such a delicious treat and they worked perfectly. I just managed a photograph before they all disappeared..I was on a roll and decided to make another batch but this time replacing the strawberry with lemon. Also delicious. The lemon gave a lovely tang with the sweetness of the filling. You really need to try these. Of course if you don't it doesn't matter but you will never know the heaven you have missed.

With thanks to Rosie

Strawberry Cheesecake Muffins
(Adapted from 101 Cakes & Bakes Goodfood)

Makes 12

350g (12 oz) plain flour
1½ tbsp baking powder
150g (5 oz) caster sugar
½ tsp salt
2 eggs
250ml (9 fl oz) milk
75g (3 oz) butter, melted
For The Filling
175g (6 oz) soft cheese
3 tbsp caster sugar
6 small strawberries, halved

You will need a 12 holed muffin tin lined with 12 paper muffin cases


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

Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl, add the sugar and salt and mix through with a wooden spoon or whisk then leave aside.

In another bowl beat the eggs and milk together, and then stir in the melted butter. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the liquid ingredients, now gently mix, it is quite normal to have a few lumps remaining in the mixture. Do not over mix or the muffins will not be light and airy. Mix the cream cheese and sugar for the filling together in a small bowl. Half fill the muffin cases with the muffin mixture, and then push half a strawberry into each muffin case. Place a teaspoonful of the sweet cream cheese on top, and then finish by spooning over the remaining muffin mixture to cover and fill each muffin case.

Bake in the preheated oven for 15 -20 minutes until well risen and golden on top. Leave to cool for 5 minutes before turning out on a wire rack to finish cooling.

To make the lemon version, leave out the strawberry. Finely grate the zest of a lemon and use the juice of half of it. Put about a third of the zest into the cheese mix along with about a teaspoon of juice. Put the rest of the zest and juice into the muffin mix.

Saturday 27 June 2009

Daring Bakers Challenge - Bakewell Tart

The June Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar. They chose a Traditional (UK) Bakewell Tart... er... pudding that was inspired by a rich baking history dating back to the 1800's in England.

A big thank you to Jasmine and Annemarie for hosting this month's challenge. I was delighted to see these little tarts. It was a trip down memory lane for me. My mother made these when I was a child. For some obscure reason they were called cheese cakes. I don't know why as there is no cheese involved in the making. Strangely I had been thinking of them recently and had promised myself I would look up my mother's recipe and make them again when this challenge popped up. Up until this point I had no idea they were Bakewell tarts. I chose to do individual tarts rather than one large one. I used patty tins and an 88mm fluted cutter for the pastry. The recipe made 18. I thoroughly enjoyed making them. I did not use the frangepane. My husband does not do nuts and, as he would be the major eating machine involved in the finished product, I decided to go with a sponge mixture. I used soft brown sugar in the mix to give a little caramel flavour. My Mother was a great jam maker and used all sorts of fillings in these. My favourite is lemon curd. Alas I did not have enough lemons to make my own. Very disappointing as I have a very easy microwave recipe. I did however have some cranberry jam I had made at Christmas. This is what I used. The slight tartness seemed to go very well with the sweet pastry and sponge. I used icing sugar in the pastry as that is what I always use in my sweet pastry.I was a little sorry I hadn't used my own pastry recipe as it is much crisper but 'rules is rules'

Bakewell Tart…er…pudding

Makes one 23cm (9” tart)
Prep time: less than 10 minutes (plus time for the individual elements)
Resting time: 15 minutes
Baking time: 30 minutes
Equipment needed: 23cm (9”) tart pan or pie tin (preferably with ridged edges), rolling pin

One quantity sweet shortcrust pastry (recipe follows)
Bench flour
250ml (1cup (8 US fl. oz)) jam or curd, warmed for spreadability
One quantity frangipane (recipe follows)
One handful blanched, flaked almonds

Sweet shortcrust pastry

Prep time: 15-20 minutes
Resting time: 30 minutes (minimum)
Equipment needed: bowls, box grater, cling film

225g (8oz) all purpose flour
30g (1oz) sugar
2.5ml (½ tsp) salt
110g (4oz) unsalted butter, cold (frozen is better)
2 (2) egg yolks
2.5ml (½ tsp) almond extract (optional)
15-30ml (1-2 Tbsp) cold water

Sift together flour, sugar and salt. Grate butter into the flour mixture, using the large hole-side of a box grater. Using your finger tips only, and working very quickly, rub the fat into the flour until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Set aside.

Lightly beat the egg yolks with the almond extract (if using) and quickly mix into the flour mixture. Keep mixing while dribbling in the water, only adding enough to form a cohesive and slightly sticky dough.

Form the dough into a disc, wrap in cling and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.


Prep time: 10-15 minutes
Equipment needed: bowls, hand mixer, rubber spatula

125g (4.5oz) unsalted butter, softened
125g (4.5oz) icing sugar
3 (3) eggs
2.5ml (½ tsp) almond extract
125g (4.5oz) ground almonds
30g (1oz) all purpose flour

Cream butter and sugar together for about a minute or until the mixture is primrose in colour and very fluffy. Scrape down the side of the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. The batter may appear to curdle. In the words of Douglas Adams: Don’t panic. Really. It’ll be fine. After all three are in, pour in the almond extract and mix for about another 30 seconds and scrape down the sides again. With the beaters on, spoon in the ground nuts and the flour. Mix well. The mixture will be soft, keep its slightly curdled look (mostly from the almonds) and retain its pallid yellow colour.

Assembling the tart
Place the chilled dough disc on a lightly floured surface. If it's overly cold, you will need to let it become acclimatised for about 15 minutes before you roll it out. Flour the rolling pin and roll the pastry to 5mm (1/4”) thickness, by rolling in one direction only (start from the centre and roll away from you), and turning the disc a quarter turn after each roll. When the pastry is to the desired size and thickness, transfer it to the tart pan, press in and trim the excess dough. Patch any holes, fissures or tears with trimmed bits. Chill in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 200C/400F.

Remove shell from freezer, spread as even a layer as you can of jam onto the pastry base. Top with frangipane, spreading to cover the entire surface of the tart. Smooth the top and pop into the oven for 30 minutes. Five minutes before the tart is done, the top will be poofy and brownish. Remove from oven and strew flaked almonds on top and return to the heat for the last five minutes of baking.

The finished tart will have a golden crust and the frangipane will be tanned, poofy and a bit spongy-looking. Remove from the oven and cool on the counter. Serve warm, with crème fraîche, whipped cream or custard sauce if you wish.

When you slice into the tart, the almond paste will be firm, but slightly squidgy and the crust should be crisp but not tough.

Tuesday 23 June 2009

Chocolate Caramel Shortbread

I don' think there's a person on earth who doesn't like these or hasn't made them at some point. I see they sell them in the shops now too. They are fairly gross as they don't use chocolate but rather chocolate flavoured topping. Normally I use just plain or milk chocolate to cover the top but this time I thought I would be creative and try a mix of three chocolates. I had some white chocolate in the house that needed using but became a bit unstuck as I overheated the white chocolate and it went lumpy. A lesson to be learned. When buying white chocolate make sure it contains cocoa butter. Cheaper varieties don't and so won't melt properly. Bring a pan of water to the boil. Remove it from the heat and place the bowl of white chocolate over this and melt it it stirring all the time. It won't overheat then. It burns and clumps very easily.

This recipe needs a large baking tray 33cms x 23cms/13inches x 9 inches. If you don't have this size you could use two 20cm x 20cm / 8inch x 8 inch brownie pans. The recipe yields around 24 biscuits depending how you cut them.

For the Base

250gms/9ox plain flour
75gms/3oz caster sugar
175gms/6oz butter cubed
A little milk


90gms/3 1/2 oz butter
90gms/3 1/2 oz light brown sugar
2 x 397gm/14oz cans condensed milk


100gms/4oz dark chocolate
100gms/4oz milk chocolate
50gms/2oz white chocolate (or just use all dark or milk if you can't be bothered with the marbling)

Grease and line the baking trays.
Preheat the oven to 180.C/350.F/Gas4

I do my shortbread in the Food processor by putting everything in and whizzing together then cheat a bit by putting a little milk in at the end to bind. It works perfectly and rolls out much more easily.

By Hand

Put the flour and sugar in a bowl and rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Work with your hands until the mixture combines and forms a dough.
I find it easier to roll it out a bit on a floured work top before placing in the tin then using the back of a spoon spreading it out in the tin until it fits and is smooth on top. It's far too footery trying to press the dough to fit the tin from a big lump.
Prick all over with a fork and pop in the oven for about 20 mins until light golden brown.
Set aside to cool.


Put brown sugar butter and condensed milk into a pan.
Bring to the boil stirring until the sugar has dissolved.
Reduce the heat to a simmer and stir constantly for about 5 -1o minutes until the mixture has thickened. It will be a caramel colour. It may take a minute or two longer. Just use your judgment.
Take care not to let the mixture stick to the pot and burn.
Remove from the heat and pour over the shortbread base. Spread it evenly and leave to cool.


Melt the chocolates in different bowls. Pour the dark and milk on the set caramel to form broad stripes.
Drop small spoonfuls of white chocolate over the top and using a skewer trail it through to make a marbled effect over the top.

Thursday 18 June 2009

A Really Good Ragu

Everyone has their favourite recipe for Ragu. It can be done quickly of course but I find it is worth the effort to do it the slow way using good ingredients. The long slow cooking really improves the ragu giving it that Mmmm quality. It is the better for keeping for a few days. The flavours really intensify. I tend to make a large quantity and freeze it in portions. I use it for Lasagne, Spaghetti Bolognese and another pasta dish which is a sort of quick lasagne but is so tasty. It's also very good on it's own served with fresh crusty bread for mopping up and a salad if you want your greens.
If making lasagne, measure your milk for the bechamel sauce the day before making. Add a quartered onion about a dessertspoon of black peppercorns, two torn bay leaves and two crushed cloves of garlic. Leave in the fridge overnight and strain before making the sauce. Wonderful flavour.


500 gms/1lb approx good quality minced beef,lamb,pork or a mixture if you like.
Six slices of smoked streaky bacon chopped up into small pieces (This really gives a lovely flavour)
Two or more cloves of garlic finely chopped
Two onions
Two tins of San Marzano tomatoes if you can get them. If not, do use good quality tomatoes as it really does make a difference.
Two tablespoons of tomato puree
200mls red wine
100 mls milk
One desertspoon dried Oregan (the flavour is better than fresh)
A good handful of torn basil leaves
Fresh nutmeg grated
Black pepper
A little lard,butter or oil. I prefer lard as I think it gives a sweeter flavour to the onions but you must do as you wish
A liitle (about 50mls) Marsala or other fortified wine. Whatever you have in your cupboard will do.


Melt your chosen fat/oil in a heavy based casserole or saucepan. A cast iron pot is ideal for the slow cooking if you have one.
Chop the onions very finely with the garlic
Stir gently into the pot and cook gently until soft an translucent
Add the marsala/fortified wine
Turn down the heat and place a peice of oiled foil over the onions right down into the pot until it is just in touch with the onions. Leave to soften and cook for about an hour.
Remove the foil and turn up the heat adding the bacon.
Stir for a few minutes until the bacon is cooked.
Add the mince breaking it up with a fork and strirring it so it browns and separates.
Season with freshly ground black pepper. You should not need salt with the bacon but can add it later if you want more.
Keeping the heat up add the wine and let it bubble away for a few minutes so the meat absorbs the wine and the alcohol evaporates.
Add the milk and let it bubble for a few minutes. The milk coats the mince removing the grittiness that sometimes happens with mince.
Add the oregano and about half of the basil leaves
Add the tomatoes and the tomato puree stirring everything well to amalgamate.
You can let this simer very slowly on the hob for a couple of hours or cook in a very slow oven.
Don't forget to taste as you go. Not a hard thing to do.
If it gets too dry add a little water.
Don't add any more salt until the end of cooking. It gets quite concentrated so you don't want to spoil it
When it is cooked, stir through the rest of the basil and grate in some fresh nutmeg.

A Few Other Tips

If making Lasagne I find the dried sheets work better than the so called ' fresh' from the supermarket. Even though the instructions say not to, I find better results by softening the sheets first by putting a roasting pan on the hob with simmering water. Place the sheets in for a few minutes . Rinse in cold water and leave on a tea towel until using.
layer up with bechamel sauce mozzarella cheese and pecorino cheese. Lovely

Another quick baked pasta dish is to boil up some macaroni or other dried pasta, mix it with some of the ragu. Place in a dish and splot some bechamel over the top with mozzarella and grated pecorino/parmesan cheese. Bake in the oven until golden and bubbling.

I favour Pecorino cheese but it is more expensive so any fresh Parmesan can be used. Do use the mozzarella. It makes a wonderful difference to the finished dish.