Monday, 25 July 2011

A day at the park followed by Cheesecake Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

The weather was beautiful yesterday and perfect for a get together with friends in the park. Though as you can see from the following photos, my outdoor photography has a long way to go!

We had a picnic, involving a mish mash of food we had individually chosen to bring to eat, to fuel our energetic efforts on the tennis court.  

In order to work our cerebral muscles, a game of Scrabble followed the tennis.

Can you spot the food related words? 

We Dietitians, plus one Personal Trainer, cant help but always have food on the brain.

It was a fun day and i was really hungry when i got home. Ideal as i had also planned to make these Cheesecake Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars. I've had this recipe book-marked for awhile now. I'm so happy I came across it on the fabulous blog 'Traceys Culinary Adventures'. A day in the fridge after baking and these cheesecake and choc chip cookie hybrid bars were irresistible. I had three in a row and will be taking the rest into work to stop me from polishing off the lot.

Recipe - Cheesecake Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars 

Yield: Approx 28 bars


Cookie Dough
64g unsalted butter, at room temperature
64g cup shortening
128g packed light brown sugar
64g cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 egg
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
256g plain flour
256g semisweet chocolate chips

227g/8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
64g caster sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 F.  13 inch x 9 inch baking tray buttered or sprayed with cooking spray.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, shortening, both sugars, vanilla and salt on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. I used a hand held beater.

Beat in the egg until well combined.  With the mixer on low, add the baking soda and flour and beat just until incorporated.  Stir in the chocolate chips.  Press half of the dough into an even layer over the bottom of the prepared pan (I found it easiest to use my fingers to do that).  Set aside the other half of the dough.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese on medium until smooth and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.  Again, i used a hand held beater.

Add the sugar, egg and vanilla and beat just until incorporated. (I rinsed the bowl of my stand mixer & used it here but you could also do this with a hand mixer in another bowl if you'd rather.)

Pour the cream cheese mixture over the cookie dough layer in the bottom of the pan and spread to the edges.  Use the second half of the cookie dough (that you set aside earlier) to top the cream cheese.  The easiest way to do that is to grab pieces and flatten them into discs between your hands then place them around the cream cheese layer.  You don't have to cover the cream cheese layer completely as the cookie mixture does spread abit.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the top is brown and cooked through (the bars will begin to pull away from the sides of the pan slightly). Transfer the pan to a wire rack and cool for 30 minutes then store in the fridge for at least 2 hours before slicing into bars. Store covered in the fridge.


Sunday, 24 July 2011

Key Lime Pie at Cake Club

For those of you that read the blog regularly, you will know that I often refer to Nigella Lawsons recipes. I have been an avid fan of hers since watching her Nigella Bites tv series serveral years ago. Her recipes have always been reliably good and are often hard to improve on.

So when my friend Caroline and I chose to bake Key Lime Pie from her wonderful book 'How To Be A Domestic Goddess' at our Cake Club, i had no qualms about how well it would turn out.

The method was simple enough, a basic pie crust made of a mixture of digestive biscuits and butter. The filling involved abit of lime zesting and egg white whipping.

During the baking, the smell of limes tantilisingly enveloped the kitchen. When it came out of the oven alittle burnished on the top, we werent worried, because it was a Nigella recipe and it would be delicious.

As promising as the pie turned out in smell and appearance, taste-wise it did not live up to our Nigella expectations. The base was nice enough, very much like that of a cheesecake. However the filling was what i would imagine lime flavoured scrambled eggs to taste like. It was also difficult to eat without pulling a face from the sourness of the lime juice. We were very disappointed but these things happen occassionally at Cake Club.

I will always remain an advocate of Nigellas recipes, but i wont be recommending or revisiting this one.

Recipe - Key Lime Pie from Nigella Lawsons How To Be A Domestic Godddess

Serves 6-8 people


For the base:
200g Digestive biscuits
50g softened unsalted butter
23cm springform tin

For the filling:
5 large egg yolks
397g can sweetened condensed milk
zest of 3 limes
150ml lime juice (of 4-5 limes)
3 large egg whites.


Preheat oven to 160 degrees C/gas mark 3 and put in a baking sheet. Put biscuits and butter into the food processor and blitz until it has all reduced to oily crumbs. Press these into the tin, lining the bottom and going a little way up the sides, and chill in the fridge.

Using an electric whisk, beat the egg yolks until thick, add the can of condensed milk, grated zest and the lime juice. Pour into the lined tin and place on baking sheet in oven. Cook for 25 minutes, when the filling should be firm. It may puff up and then on cooling, fall. 

Leave to cool on a rack before unmoulding, and chill well.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Orange Custard Cream Cupcakes

British people are well known for their preoccupation with the weather. If you randomly listen in on conversations here in shops, at the bus stop and places of work, the likelihood is that someone will be talking about it. Here i am, on a food blog, talking about the weather. 

I think this is largely due to the fact British weather can be so unpredictable and for me strongly dictates what i want to do and eat. When its raining hard and the sky is grey, i enjoy nothing more than to listen to some music and spend time over a cake recipe in the kitchen.

These Orange Custard Cream Cupcakes were perfect for a day like today, where the sky has been dominated by persistent rain. In an unhurried fashion, I happily laboured over the various stages, making the cupcakes, followed by the custard and then the icing.

It was definitely time well spent. The orange extract in it is lovely and the orange zest and juice in the icing provide a summery, aromatic lift to the cupcake. The custard is heavenly, lightly filling the cupcake centres. 

These were a pleasure to eat, as well as bringing alittle bit of sunshine into the home.

Recipe - Orange Custard Cupcakes 
by Dan Lepard from The Guardian

Makes 10-12 cupcakes
175g caster sugar
50ml sunflower oil
50g unsalted butter, softened
3 medium eggs
1 tsp orange extract
100ml double cream
250g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder

For the icing
225g icing sugar, ideally the fondant sort
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 orange

For the custard cream
2 egg yolks
200ml double cream
3 tsp cornflour
2 tsp vanilla extract
25g caster sugar

Line a muffin tray with muffin cases and preheat the oven to 160C (140c fan-assisted)/320F/gas mark 2½. Beat the sugar, oil and butter until light in colour, then beat in the eggs one at a time until smooth. Add the orange extract and cream, beat well, then add the flour and baking powder, and beat again until smooth.

Fill each muffin case about two-thirds full with the mix and bake for 20-25 minutes, mine needed 25 minutes. Remove and leave to cool on baking rack.

To make the custard cream, beat together all the ingredients in a saucepan, bring to a boil, whisking often, then beat until smooth and thickened slightly. Cover and leave until cold, this took about 10 minutes.

Then with a plain 8mm nozzle, pipe the custard deep through the top crust and into the cupcake heart; alternatively, scoop out a little of the cake with a small knife, spoon in a little custard and top with just a slice from the cake plug.

Beat the icing sugar, zest and enough juice (probably 25ml) to make a thick icing and drizzle over the top of the cupcakes, thereby covering your tracks. (Alternatively, omit the cream filling altogether and just ice the cupcakes as they are.)


-I used an apple corer to scoop out abit of cake in the middle of the cupcake then spooned in the custard rather than using a piping bag.

-The icing comes out very runny and theres alots of it, possibly due to there being too much orange juice. Next time i will probably halve the amount of juice and icing sugar and add in extra icing sugar to get the right consistency.


Sunday, 10 July 2011

Birthday Brownies

Last year my friend Caroline and i set up Cake Club, a monthly meeting where we both bake and eat cake. And yes it is as fun as it sounds! At Cake Club we've practised making creme patisserie, macroons and scones, all a first for me. 

In honor of her birthday tomorrow, Caroline threw a birthday barbeque last night. Wanting to bake something that could feed alot of people, i made Nigella Lawsons Chocolate Brownies for the occassion. They turned out to be lightly crispy on the outside and fudgy and gooey in the middle, just the way i like them.

Have a great birthay Caroline!




Recipe - Brownies - Nigella Lawson How To Be a Domestic Goddess


Makes approx 48 brownies


Prep Time: 20 mins
Total Time: 45 mins

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  2. Line your approximatley 33 x 23 x 5 1/2cm brownie pan with foil or baking paper.
  3. Melt the butter and chocolate together in a large heavy based saucepan.
  4. In a bowl beat the eggs with the sugar and vanilla.
  5. Measure the flour into another bowl and add the salt.
  6. When the chocolate mixture has melted, let it cool a bit before beating in the eggs and sugar mixture, and then the nuts and flour.
  7. Beat to combine and then scrape out of the saucepan into the lined brownie pan.
  8. Bake for about 25 minutes.
  9. When its's ready, the top should be dried to a paler brown speckle, but the middle still dark and dense and gooey.
  10. Keep checking the brownies as they cook; remember that they will continue to cook as they cool.
Note - the brownies in the middle of the baking pan are particularly gooey, let them rest in the fridge for an hour or so and they will firm up a bit.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Basil Pesto and Bruchetta

The plan was to bake and do a post on a Chocolate and Peanut Butter Bundt cake but after spending a day out in the glorious sunshine having a long lazy lunch with a friend i cant quite summon up the energy. The fact that, after a lovely smoked haddock salad, i ate a huge slice of one of the most delicious carrot cakes i've had in a long time at the cafe Folk in Didsbury, also means i'm way too full and satisfied to contemplate more cake.

So instead of saving this bruchetta post for later, i'm employing it now until i can summon up the appetite to make the bundt. Quite frankly though, I dont think there will be a very long wait.

I love the simplicity and rustic nature of Bruchetta with its strong fresh flavours and different textures. Its also very adaptable to your personal preference. I particularly enjoy it spread with pesto, which i made using the remaining basil i had left over from the Salmon and Broccoli bake. I referred to a Jamie Oliver recipe which encourages you to dabble and mix the pesto to your taste.

Recipe - basil pesto and bruchetta

Pesto - Jamie Oliver recipe

• ½ a clove of garlic, chopped
• sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 3 good handfuls of fresh basil, leaves picked and chopped
• a handful of pine nuts, very lightly toasted
• a good handful of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
• extra virgin olive oil
• a small squeeze of lemon juice
Pound the garlic with a little pinch of salt and the basil leaves in a pestle and mortar, or pulse in a food processor. Add a bit more garlic if you like, but I usually stick to ½ a clove. Add the pine nuts to the mixture and pound again. Turn out into a bowl and add half the Parmesan. Stir gently and add olive oil – you need just enough to bind the sauce and get it to an oozy consistency.

Season to taste, then add most of the remaining cheese. Pour in some more oil and taste again. Keep adding a bit more cheese or oil until you are happy with the taste and consistency. You may like to add a squeeze of lemon juice at the end to give it a little twang, but it’s not essential. Try it with and without and see which you prefer.
Loaf of crusty french bread
Selection of tomatoes
Salt and pepper

Cut slices of bread at a diagonal. Heat a table spoon of olive oil in pan and lightly fry slices of bread on a low heat, until both sides are toasted. Spread one side of each slice of bread with pesto. Cut tomatoes in half, season if required with salt and pepper and place on top of pesto. Drizzle with alitte olive oil and serve.