Thursday, July 24, 2014

Lemon meringue cheesecake

I have a serious soft spot for lemon meringue pie but not because of the coconutty crust or the velvety smooth filling (made with condensed milk please!) or even the puffs of crispy-marshmallowy meringue that adorn the top. Nope, it's not because of any of those things. In fact it doesn't even have anything to do with the pie. It's because it's my dad's ultimate favourite dessert and that makes it special in our family. 

This version, made with a baked lemon cheesecake filling, combines the best of both pie and cheesecake worlds and the layer of tangy lemon curd that oozes out the bottom when you cut it, adds an extra heavenly dimension. And if you'd like to go to a little extra effort, I think cute little mini versions of this (made in ring moulds or even clean tins!) would make a memorable dessert! 

Lemon meringue cheesecake
Serves 10-12

400g biscuits, crushed
100g butter, melted
540g full fat cream cheese, softened
150g castor sugar
3 eggs
20ml double cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
juice and finely grated zest of 1 lemon
½ cup store-bought lemon curd (optional)
4 egg whites
120g castor sugar 

Preheat the oven to 160C. Grease and line a 22cm springform cake tin with baking paper.
Combine biscuits and butter and press into the bottom and up the sides of the tin to form a crust.
Beat the cream cheese until soft and smooth then add the castor sugar, eggs, double cream, vanilla, juice and lemon zest. Spread a thin layer of lemon curd over the crust then pour in the cheesecake filling.
Whip the egg whites until soft peak stage then add the castor sugar gradually until the meringue is glossy and the sugar is dissolved.
Top the cheesecake with the meringue mixture, using a spoon to create soft peaks.
Bake for 1 hour then leave the door slightly ajar (or place a wooden spoon in the oven door to keep it open), switch the oven off and allow the cheesecake to cool completely.
Refrigerate until set then serve.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Peanut Butter and Cocoa Nib Granola

Breakfast doesn't get any better than homemade designer granola. It's so darn easy to make and I love how you can tailor it to your own taste. If you've ever read the back label of a pack of muesli or granola, I won't need to tell you why you should be making your own. But incase you don't know, glance over the amount of sugar in your favourite so-called 'healthy' granola next time you're in the cereal aisle; you might as well be eating cake for breakfast - and let's be honest cake will ALWAYS win over granola!

 At least with making your own,  you can control just how much sugar is going in. Nothing is hidden in a sneaky back label.  You can add as much of the good stuff as you want and leave out all the stuff you don't like (here's looking at you raisins and banana chips!) 
If you’re not keen on peanut butter, then swop it out for any nut butter – cashew, almond; although it’s fat, it’s good fat. I wouldn't skimp on the cocoa nibs though, they are a fantastic source of antioxidants and really give you an energy kick first thing in the morning and basically it means you're eating chocolate for breakfast, but without the guilt! 

Peanut Butter and Cocoa Nib Granola
Makes 6 cups

3 cups large flake oats (not instant oats)
1 cup mixed seeds (flaxseeds, sesame, poppy and pumpkin - whatever your heart desires)
4 tbsp brown sugar (you can reduce this if you like)
pinch of salt
4 tbsp honey
4 tbsp smooth peanut butter
½ cup extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil
2 tsp water
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup raw almonds, toasted and chopped
1/3 cup cocoa nibs*

Preheat the oven to 180C. In a large bowl, combine the oats, seeds, brown sugar and salt. In a separate bowl, mix the honey, peanut butter, olive oil, water and vanilla together. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix well, making sure everything is coated well. Spread onto a lined baking sheet in an even layer and bake for 20-30 minutes, stirring well every 5-10 minutes so the granola toasts evenly. Remove from the oven and stir in the almonds and cocoa nibs. Once completely cool, store in an airtight container.

*Cocoa nibs are available at health shops.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Chocolate tiramisu cake

Tiramisu, meet chocolate cake. 

Photograph by Gunther Schubert of Vorsprung Studio
Why it's taken me this long to introduce these two decadent desserts to each other is beyond me because they are sweet soul mates. Meant to be. BFF's. You get the point.
The secret to making ANY cake special (and I'll even go out on a limb and include box cake mix here) is to soak the cake in a simple syrup - even the driest sponge can be magically transformed with a slathering of flavoured (and liquored) syrup. And of course, tiramisu has sponge soaked in espresso syrup - coincidence? I think not. All that's missing is the light and fluffy mascarpone which I transformed into a not-too-sweet frosting and a generous dusting of cocoa powder and it's like the two were destined to live happily ever after...   

Photograph by Gunther Schubert of Vorsprung Studio

Chocolate tiramisu cake
Serves 10-12

3 large eggs
3/4 cup (180ml) melted butter or oil
3/4 cup water
1 tsp vanilla
375ml (1 1/2 cups) cake flour
180ml (3/4 cup) cocoa powder
7,5ml (3/4 tsp) bicarbonate of soda
pinch of salt
410ml (1 2/3 cups) brown sugar

Espresso syrup
250ml sugar
250ml water
125ml espresso coffee, cooled
80ml coffee liqueur (optional)

Mascarpone frosting
250ml cream
1 tub (240g) mascarpone cheese
½ cup icing sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla extract

Cocoa powder, for dusting

Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease and line 2 x 22cm springform cake tins.
Beat the eggs and oil for 3 minutes on high speed. Add the water and beat for 1 minute on high speed. 
Sift the flour, cocoa, bicarbonate of soda and salt together. Add the sugar and mix into the wet ingredients. 
Divide the batter between the tins and bake for 55 minutes or until cake is cooked when tested with a skewer. If the skewer comes out clean, the cake is cooked.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes.
Remove from the tin and place on cooling rack, cool completely before cutting each cake in half horizontally with a sharp knife.
To make the syrup, gently heat the sugar and water together and stir until melted then bring to the boil and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool slightly before adding the coffee and liqueur. Allow to cool completely.
To make the frosting, whip the cream and mascarpone together until stiff peaks then whisk in the icing sugar and vanilla. Place in a piping bag with a fluted nozzle.
To assemble the cake, place a cake layer on a serving plate or cake stand, soak the cake in the espresso syrup then pipe frosting on top. Repeat the layers with the cake, syrup and frosting finishing with a layer of frosting on top. Pipe dollops on top of the cake to decorate and dust with a little cocoa powder.