vanilla cheesecake with salted caramel topping

Go on, wipe the drool off your keyboard – I don’t want to be responsible for your computer malfunctioning. But I do want to be responsible for the delight you’ll shreek when you make this cheesecake. It’s TDF (to die for) and even, as my uncle would say, to KILL for (because really, who wants to die when you could live and still eat cheesecake?). So, where was I…oh yeah, right. This dessert brought the house down – I didn’t have a negative or even so-so response after everyone had licked their plates clean. It came about as I asked my brother, who just so happens to share my birthday albeit 6 years younger, what type of birthday cake he’d like me to make – and he suggested a cheesecake, and I then jumped over the moon. With excitement! I thought, YES I can make that delicious creation I found on tastespotting the other day, combining my favourite, all-time flavour, vanilla, with a touch of salted caramel .

It really was the perfect end to a perfect birthday week of wining, dining and catch-ups. It’s definitely a week I save up for, as it is not only our birthday but also my husbands birthday two days beforehand. Crazy huh? But its a common thing, partners sharing similar, if not the same, birthdates…kinda cool I think. Soulmate material, for sure.

Tangent…and we’re back. So, I love chocolate, cheesecake, vanilla and caramel, and in this creation, these stars perform a fantastic show. I was going to make my own biscuits for the base, as the recipe suggests, but do you think i found the time to?! Hello Arnott’s choc ripple, you made my day!

All in all it was simple to make, just a bit time consuming, but I would do it all over again if i had the chance (and I say that because I really need a reason to make this – its just too rich to eat all on my own!). UPDATE: The filling overflowed as the biscuits didn’t come high enough up the sides of the tin – I have made this again since, and it turned out perfectly, but of course, I have no photographic proof for you!

choc-crusted vanilla cheesecake with salted caramel topping (adapted from The Former Chef)

you’ll need…

(for crust)

500g buttery, chocolate biscuits (i used Arnott’s choc ripple)

1/2 cup flour

120g butter (i found i needed a bit more to make the crust bind)

(for filling)

900g cream cheese @ room temp

1 cup sugar

4 eggs (always use free range)

1 tsp vanilla bean paste

1/4 cup milk

(topping)

1 cup sour cream

1 tbsp sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla paste

(salted caramel)

1 cup sugar

1 cup cream

60g butter

1tsp fleur de sel (or use sea salt – i finally purchased the fleur de sel and man, does it make a difference)

here’s what you do…

1. grind biscuits in food processor until nice and fine. add the flour and pulse to combine, then add butter and continue to pulse until it reaches the consistency of wet sand.

2. press the crumbs into the bottom of a 9 inch springform pan (i lined mine with foil) and then up the sides to form an even crust.

3. preheat fan-forced oven to 150 C.

4. for filling, put the milk in a saucepan with the vanilla and bring just to the boil before turning off. let the milk sit for 15 minutes for the vanilla to infuse.

5. put cream cheese into a bowl (i used my stand mixer) and add the sugar, beating until combined and smooth. add the eggs one at a time, with the mixer on, stopping to scrape down the sides and incorporate ingredients. add the milk/vanilla mix and beat until free of lumps.

6. pour the filling into the pan with the crust, placing the pan onto a lined cookie tray (to catch any buttery drips). bake for 50 min – 1 hour, or until set on top but soft and jiggly in the middle.

7. while that’s happening, mix the sour cream, sugar and vanilla. when the cheesecake is cooked, let it cool for 10 minutes, leaving the oven on, then pour this mix on top and bake for another 10-15 minutes. remove, and let it cool for 1 hour before refrigerating for at least 4 hours.

8. for the topping, melt the sugar in a heavy-based pan, stirring constantly to avoid burning the sugar (i omitted water from my caramel as i found it prevented the sugar from caramelising). once it has all melted and is rich amber/mahogany coloured, pour in the cream and put on very low heat, constantly stirring to melt all the caramel that has hardened from the cream. once all melted, whisk in the butter and salt, and allow to cool.

9. the caramel will be VERY thick and sticky, and i ended up melting it a bit just to liquify it so it could be poured over the cheesecake. it will set quite quickly as it hits the cold cheesecake. then top with a bit of extra fleur de sel, but only right before serving, as the caramel will soak it up if left on there for prolonged periods. enjoy!

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choc-banana oat cookies

mm there are so many more delicious, eye-catching ingredients in these biscuits but i didn’t want to overload you all – you will find out about them soon enough. these babies are the result of extensive googling, as i was craving something to have my with cuppa but didn’t want to fall into the trap of the buttery, sugary headache that is commonly called the ‘3pm slump’ – that and the fact that it was only 9.30am and thought that title to be most ill-fitting. so, google i did, and found a few nasties parading as healthy (i.e. ‘healthy oat cookies’ – ok just because they have oats in them doesn’t make up for the 1 cup of white sugar) but eventually tripped over these. light, crunchy, full of goodness – i was cured of my cravings by 10.30am. and again at 3pm, then once more at 4pm. so good! couldn’t resist, and felt that was ok because they were sorta-good-for-you-cookies .

the recipe itself didn’t include the chocolate drizzle on top – but man, it really took the deliciousness to another level. a level on which you are bumping shoulders with the cocoa bean, but not reeeeally getting to know him, because remember, we are trying to be healthy here (although dark chocolate is considered, especially in my books, to be great for your health). i totally recommend getting your hands on some good cold pressed, unrefined, virgin coconut oil, as it’s one of the oils that has a high smoking point – meaning you can fry, bake, do whatever you please, and it won’t go all free-radical on you. its great to use on your skin also, leaving you feel like you’ve just left the beach (remember the tanning oil with coconut in it?).

so alas, here is the super easy recipe – no eggs, no flour…just dried fruit, some seeds, oats and coconut…all bound together with the wonderfruit, bananas!

choc-banana oat cookies (adapted from The Healthy Chef)

you’ll need…

150 g mashed ripe banana
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
200g/2 cups rolled oats
50g desiccated coconut (i used 25g coconut and 25g chia seeds – the crunch the seeds imparts is great)
60g sultanas (or any other dried fruit – i used dried figs, chopped up)
90g honey
60 ml (1/4 cup ) olive oil

~100g dark chocolate, melted (for drizzling on cookies once baked)

here’s what you do…

1. preheat oven to 150 C (fan forced – if not fan forced, maybe 160-170C)

2. mix all ingredients until it comes together – then make go ball sized biscuits and flatten them slightly on the baking tray.

3. bake for 30 minutes or until brown.

4. drizzle chocolate onto cookies in whichever fashion you so choose – then resist the temptation to gobble them up. enjoy!

lime cheesecake cupcakes

goodness me, what a week of delicious food its been! so delicious i haven’t had the time to blog about it – lucky my camera has a photographic memory. so as you know, i’ve been baking cupcakes like mad, and i generally get a call from my mum around 9pm on her work tea-break aka ‘cupcake testing time’. so when the phone rang at 9pm on this fine Tuesday night, the night i sent her off with a batch of these babies, i was eager to hear what her co-workers, and in turn my new customers, thought. well…it was a resounding ‘MMM’ – they loved them! the best flavour yet. this makes me glad, as i thoroughly enjoyed making each component of the cupcake, mainly because it involved me taste testing along the way. it was also nice to deviate from the stock-standard red velvet with sugared icing-esque flavours that you commonly find (not that theres anything wrong with that or any other generic flavour, i just like a bit of individuality and experimentation).

hey there limey lime

they are a bit of work to assemble/prepare, but oh-so-worth-it, trust me, especially when you bite into the cupcake and find the little lime curd ‘surprise’ inside (quote unquote the Aussie Post employees). the simple, buttery vanilla cupcake from Magnolia, the tart lemon curd, and the cracker-crumb cream cheese frosting altogether is like a party in your mouth, and really only you are invited. i sorta mushed together recipes from all over the shop to end up with the perfect little lime cheesecake cupcake – enjoy.

i promise to include a cross section photo next time! they just got snapped up too quickly (can you blame ’em)

(for the lime curd from shemakesandbakes)

you’ll need…

-1/4 cup lime juice

-zest from 2 limes

-1 egg @ room temp

-2tblsp + 2tsp caster sugar

-60g butter, softened

here’s what you do…

1. whisk all ingredients except for the butter together in a heatproof bowl on top of a simmering saucepan of water (this double-boiler method ensures no lumps, and a smooth, creamy consistency). keep whisking until mixture thickens and can coat the back of a wooden spoon.

2. remove from heat and whisk in the butter, straining into a bowl and covering immediately to avoid a skin forming. place into the fridge to cool down.

(for Magnolia’s ~24 cupcakes – i halved the recipe and it still made around 16 cupcakes)

you’ll need…

-1.5 cup self-raising flour

-1.25 cups plain flour

-225g butter, softened

-2 cups caster sugar (give raw caster a shot)

-4 large eggs, at room temperature

-1 cup milk

-2 tsp pure vanilla paste (don’t scrimp on this part)

here’s what you do…

1. preheat oven to 170°C (my oven is new and strong – 160 was hot enough) and line your cupcake/muffin tin with liners

2. in a small bowl, sift both flours and set aside.

3. in a large bowl, cream the butter until smooth. add sugar gradually and beat for ~3min, or until fluffy.

4. add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. add the dry ingredients in 3 parts, ensuring you split the 3 additions up with the milk and vanilla mix in between (so it should go flour, milk, flour, milk, and end with flour) NOTE: do not overbeat, whatever you do! beat on low speed and only beat until ingredients are just incorporated.

5. spoon the mixture into the cupcake liners, either using a large ice cream scoop, or do what i do and measure out 3 tblsp per liner, making sure they are evenly filled. this will ensure even baking! bake until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean, around 15 minutes.

6. remove the cupcakes from the tin immediately to avoid the buttery-goodness seeping through the liner and place onto wire rack to cool completely.

(for the cracker-crumb frosting from thecupcakeproject)

you’ll need…

-60g butter @ room temp

-225g cream cheese @ room temp

-2 cups pure icing sugar

-2 tsp vanilla paste

-1 1/3 cup wheaten biscuits, finely processed (or graham crackers, or any other biscuit you like as a cheesecake crust)

here’s what you do…

1. mix butter and cream cheese with beaters until light and fluffy.

2. mix in the icing sugar gradually, followed by the vanilla and then the crackers.

to assemble cupcakes…

1. using a melon baller, cupcake corer or just your everyday paring knife, cut a small section of the cupcake out from the middle, and either trim it down to replace it once the cupcake is filled, or do what we did and eat little mouthfuls of it with the left over curd/icing

2. spoon a tiny amount of lime curd into the hole you’ve just made, making sure you dont overfill as we are also piping icing onto the cupcake and you want it to stick down nicely.

3. pipe the icing onto the cupcake as you please – and top with a bit of lime zest to finish it off. voila!

creamy thai-inspired coconut + pumpkin soup

i love a good soup. it has to have guts, a real depth, and generally it has to pair well with a nice red. that’s what winters all about right? this soup probably wouldn’t go with a nice glass of red, but that didn’t stop me from indulging in a few sips. i bought some pumpkin last week to make for my 6.5-month old son who is now making his way through the various purees life has to offer. well, turns out i forgot about it, and ended up using up some sweet potato i found in the cupboard instead, so this poor little chap was in the fridge, begging to be used.

if i was to attempt to make a classic pumpkin soup, i would forever be picking at it, criticising it, for i know that my Nonna makes one of the best pumpkin soup’s around, and i just didn’t have it in me to fight for the winning title, so i thought i would try another cuisine that she wouldn’t dare attempt – thai food. easy to make, good for the soul, give this cracker a try on a cold, stormy night. oh, and i know you probably wouldn’t find much crusty bread at a Thai restaurant, but it really did the trick with this gem…especially when you scoop the spongy middle out and let it hang out in the soup for a while, soaking up all the flavours!

Image

inhale deeply and savour the flavour…

thai-inspired coconut + pumpkin soup (adapted from delicieux’s recipe)

you’ll need…

-coconut oil for the pan (or olive oil if you don’t have any)

-1 brown onion, roughly chopped

-2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

-1.2kg of pumpkin, peeled and roughly chopped

-2 tsp ground coriander

-1tsp ground cumin

-1-inch piece of ginger, chopped roughly

-1 bunch coriander roots, washed and roughly chopped

-4 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock)

-270ml good-quality coconut cream (or use 400ml coconut milk and omit the water below – this is just what i had on hand)

-1/2 cup water

here’s what you do…

1. heat a small amount of oil over medium heat, then add the onion and garlic, cooking until onion is translucent.

2. add the ground spices, fresh ginger and coriander roots, cooking until aromatic.

3. add the pumpkin, coating in the spices before adding the stock. bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes or until pumpkin is soft.

4. add 1/2 of the chopped coriander, reserving the remainder for garnishing (i love a lot of coriander as my garnish but feel free to add more at this step if you don’t feel the same way)

5. using a hand mixer, blend away until desired consistency is reached. mine ended up being beautifully smooth with flecks of green coriander through it. you may also pour it into a blender to blend if you don’t have a hand mixer.

6. returning the soup to the saucepan, add the coconut cream and water, and season to your liking.

7. served laced with coriander and a few chilli flakes, and of course some beautifully fresh bread.

smokey brown sugar + vanilla ice cream

smokey vanilla + brown sugar ice cream

gosh i love a good vanilla bean. especially when combined with cream, sugar and eggs – what could be more heavenly? i have toyed around with a few different vanilla recipes, and i think i can finally settle with this one for a while. running your spoon through the creamy landscape, latching onto beans as you go – it seriously feels like a soft cloud at your fingertips. the vanilla i’ve used can be purchased from Vanilla Plantations and is A-Grade Ground Bourbon Vanilla Powder – so basically its the whole vanilla pod ground up with the beans and all. now, this makes your ice cream look speckled and slightly grey-tinged, but the taste is the same, if not better – you get a certain smokiness from the vanilla that i haven’t been able to attain through using the paste. and, this stuff works out to be a LOT cheaper considering a few teaspoons of the paste can cost you over $10! i love this stuff – it makes its way into my morning oats, into smoothies, desserts…it has rustic visual appeal. the original recipe calls for caster sugar, but try it with the raw stuff – you’ll get a more earthy flavour. my latest batch, i made with brown sugar and oh my! it imparts a subtle caramel flavour that really is something else. it is the perfect marriage with a rich brownie or even a lemon pudding.

smokey brown sugar + vanilla ice cream

freshly churned

smokey vanilla + brown sugar ice cream (adapted from Ice Cream – The Perfect Weekend Treat)

you’ll need…

600ml whipping cream (or half single cream and half double cream – from experience, the former tastes better)

1 vanilla pod (or equivalent in powder/paste)

4 egg yolks

100g brown sugar (or raw caster sugar)

here’s what you do…

1. pour the cream into a large heavy-based saucepan with the vanilla. if you’re using the whole pod, scrape the beans into the pan and place the pod in there also. bring almost to the boil, then remove from heat and leave to infuse for 20 minutes.

2. put the egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl, whisking together until mixture is pale and eggs leave a trail when whisk is lifted. remove the pod if using, then slowly add the cream to the egg mix, constantly stirring with a wooden spoon.

3. strain the mix back into the saucepan, and cook over low heat for 10 or so minutes until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon. take care, as the mixture could curdle if left to boil.

4. remove custard from heat and immediately pour into ice-cream maker (my machine is one that doesn’t require the mixture to be cooled down beforehand – you may need to check yours is the same). churn, churn, churn (according to the manufacturer, of course). alternatively, freeze the mix, uncovered, for 1-2 hrs, or until an edge begins to form. turn the custard into a bowl and stir with a fork or beat until smooth, returning to the freezer for another 2-3 hours until firm.

5. enjoy many times over.

Magnolia’s vanilla cupcakes + a lemony surprise: lemon curd cupcakes

as if I didn’t think my husband could possibly love me more, I went and did something silly like fill a cupcake with lemon curd. and by silly, I mean omghowfrigginamazing. he loves anything citrus, you see. recently I have been baking cupcakes like they’re going outta fashion, when in fact, they are so in vogue. kinda like Madonna with the pointy-cup bras, but a little more delicious.

I started with a classic vanilla cupcake – seeing as vanilla is my secret lover and one day I hope to immerse myself in a bath filled with it’s tiny little beans. I offered to bake 50 cupcakes for my cousins’ twins who turned 1 last week. so all last week, leading up to the party, I practiced and practiced and almost gave my family diabetes so I could perfect the recipe and technique and produce a most lip-smackingly, vanilla-rich cupcake, and I can proudly say I am well on my way! I used
Magnolia’s famous vanilla cupcake recipe
, and teamed it up with a pink and blue-tinted vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream from Pick Yin that was to die for (TDF). I ended up throwing in some white chocolate towards the last few batches just to spice things up, and I’m glad I did as it complemented the vanilla cupcakes beautifully.

Magnolia’s vanilla with tinted white chocolate buttercream

morecupcakes

my laziness paid off! failing to clean the piping bag between colours gave this two-tone effect

next flavour destination – lemon land. as I mentioned earlier, I discovered the sneaky notion of hiding lemon curd in cupcakes. how inventive! I simply used the basic vanilla cupcake I had been working with, and once baked, I cut out a tiny insert in the middle (making sure not to hit the bottom of the cupcake liner) just big enough for me to spoon some fresh curd into. I topped  it with a lemony-vanilla buttercream (I simply added lemon curd at the end until my heart desired), and called it a day. my apologies, but I forgot to take a photo of the cupcake cut in two – you’ll just have to take my word that there was indeed lemon curd inside!

mm gotta love that little zing you get from the freshly zested lemon

next stop – lime cupcakes with a graham cracker-crumbed frosting. stay tuned!

raspberry, white chocolate and coconut ice cream

I must say, I’m a little nervous. One click of the button and my thoughts and tastes are published world-wide. Maybe that’s why it has taken me this long to start a blog and get it up and running…’will my writing be witty?’, ‘will my recipes blow up someone’s kitchen?’. The answers to these and many more questions are yet to be answered…oh what fun the future holds!

Now, only the most epic recipe can take place in the first epic post of my epic blog…but who’s to say which recipe is more epic than another? Some days, my faithful brownie turns me on in more ways I could imagine. And on others, its juicy figs stuffed with gorgonzola, drizzled with honey, that takes me to that special place. It’s all relative, so I’ll start with what’s been making me smile today.

Lo and behold, one of my best-yet ice cream endeavours – raspberry, white chocolate and coconut – HELLO LOVER. creamy as all hell, and the first white choc/coconut IC recipe I’ve come across that doesn’t use condensed milk! am I the only one that feels funny about using condensed milk due to its high level of processing? especially if you can get around it. I only made this ice-cream a few hours ago, and with an impatient taste-testing husband, and an even more impatient/over-excited blogger wanting to post a photo, I couldn’t wait until it set perfectly to show you – the slightly melted, oozing deliciousness is all there, believe you me.

texture like silk, tastes like creamy-chocolatey-goodness

Raspberry and Coconut White Chocolate Ice Cream (adapted from wickedicecreamrecipes.com)

Ingredients:

  • 500ml whipping cream
  • 80g white chocolate (use good quality chocolate for best results – something sexy like greens & co white chocolate with Madagascan vanilla)
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 3/4 cups raw caster sugar (or normal white caster sugar)
  • 1/2 cup fresh/frozen raspberries chopped roughly
  • 1/2 cup moist coconut flakes

Directions

Step 1

Whisk 400ml of the cream with the egg yolks in a bowl until they are well combined.

Step 2

Add the white chocolate, the rest of the cream and the sugar to a saucepan and stir it on low heat until everything has melted and its well combined (keep stirring stirring stirring to prevent white chocolate from seizing)

Step 3

Put the cream and egg yolk mixture into the saucepan with the white chocolate mixture and put the heat on low. Stir until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.

Step 4

Pour the mix into your ice cream-machine, along with the raspberries and coconut, and churn according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Step 5

If you don’t have an ice cream maker, then you should seriously think about getting one. But for the time being, chuck the mixture into a baking tray and pop into the oven, stirring the mix hourly to prevent ice crystals forming.

Step 6

Enjoy by delectably licking the spoon.