Sunday, 28 October 2012

Chocolate Chip Raspberry Cheesecake

I've been itching to try out this recipe for a while now. The only thing different was that I replaced it with raspberries and drizzled white chocolate on top and here you go Chocolate Chip Raspberry Cheesecake with White Chocolate Drizzles *swoon*. Cherries aren't in season yet in Australia although summer is coming in a month-ish time and I was not going to go out and get myself an expensive batch of cherries. I like recipes that are relatively easy and economical. I mean if you want to compare baking a cheesecake to a standard cake which mainly contains butter, eggs and flour, then of course the cheesecake is more pricey. However, you definitely get more value out of it by baking it yourself rather than buying one from the cake stores.
My mother creeped out when she saw me pulling out the frozen raspberries for baking this cheesecake. She has low tolerance for sour berries especially, but this cheesecake surely did not disappoint her. The sourness of the raspberries compensated for the sweetness of this cheesecake and the white chocolate drizzles on top made it a perfect combination. Insanely delicious. I wouldn't omit the white chocolate for this recipe. Never! I would love to try the original version as well once the cherries are cheaply available in the market.
Baking this cheesecake was the death of me because I did another late night baking session - the ninja style. It was wayyyy past my bedtime by the time I finished baking and cleaning up my mess. Although I could've easily taken my time to bake this cheesecake on the following day, time constraints did not permit me to do so. It is my little sister's sweet 16th birthday and sadly I had to pop into uni on the same day to do some work for my weekly meetings.

My little sister loves her cheesecakes. Actually we all do. My papa once bought a kilo's worth of marie biscuits from Costco just for me to bake a stash of cheesecakes. No I'm not exaggerating here. This cheesecake is a winner, I mean how could you not love the refreshing taste from the raspberries, the tangyness of the cheesecake and the chocolate amongst everything? Less than a quarter was left by the end of the night amongst 7 people. Many went for seconds and one went for a third...
One of the troubles I had with this cake was cutting it and the crumbs would fall apart easily. I should've made more biscuit crumbs for the base on the corner of the tart tin to be more thicker and bake it in the oven for more stability. I placed it in the freezer instead thinking it'll do the same thing...I guess was wrong.

Chocolate Chip Raspberry Cheesecake

(presentation inspired by Eat, Little Bird and recipe adapted from raspberri cupcakes)

2 cups (about 200g) of crushed digestive biscuits (I used arrowroot biscuits)
1 tbsp sugar
100g butter, melted
150g raspberries (fresh or frozen)
1 tbsp sugar
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tbsp cornflour (cornstarch) + 2 tsp cold water
150g finely chopped dark chocolate, or 3/4 cup mini dark choc chips (I blitzed my chocolate in the food processor to make the pieces really tiny)
300g cream cheese, softened
60g (about 1/2 cup) icing sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla extract
250ml thickened cream
50g white chocolate

1. Preheat oven to 160°C/140°C fan-forced . Line the base of a 20 to 22cm loose-base flan tin or tart tin with baking paper. Mix crushed biscuits and 1 tbsp sugar together in a medium bowl. Add the melted butter and stir until well combined. Press the mixture into the base of the tin forming an even layer, then using your fingers to gently push the mixture up to the sides of the tin, leaving a sufficiently thick border. Bake the biscuit base for 15–20 minutes. Place the tin on a wire rack and allow it cool completely.

2. Place raspberries, lemon juice and 1 tbsp sugar in a small saucepan. Stir over medium-low heat. Crush the raspberries until they're pureed and stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the cornflour mixture to the saucepan and continue stirring over heat until mixture starts to thicken, then set aside to cool.

3. Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese, icing sugar and vanilla at high speed until it becomes smooth and creamy. At low speed, gradually add the finely chopped chocolate and beat until it is evenly distributed. Add the raspberry mixture to the cream cheese filling and stir until combined.

4. In a separate mixing bowl, carefully beat the cream to stiff peaks (keep a close eye on this as the thickened cream is easy to overbeat). Fold cream into the rest of the mixture and then pour over the cooled crust. Chill in the fridge for at least 3 hours or overnight.

5. Melt the white chocolate either in a small bowl over a pan of simmering water or carefully in the microwave. Pour the melted chocolate into a small plastic zip-lock bag, snip off a corner and slowly drizzle the melted chocolate over the cheesecake. Return the cheesecake to the fridge to set for about 15 minutes before serving.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Devil's Food Raspberry Layer Cake

This post is a special one as I'd like to dedicate it to my brother (cousin). Happy birthday! Although we are oceans apart, your presence is still muchly missed. I would sometimes address older guys that I know as ‘brother’ out of politeness (as it’s common in our Asian culture to do so) but I’ve always naturally called him brother since a little girl. I never call someone 'brother' as effortlessly as I do with him. We may have only seen each other no more than 10 times in our life, but we would always hit off when we see each other. I miss our casual stroll down to the park on a nice sunset evening, sitting on the swings and talking mindlessly about anything that comes to mind. I felt safe and secure during those timeless moments. I also miss the deep and meaningful conversations that we had which could've possibly lasted till 5am in the morning if our parents didn't nag us to get some sleep.
I was inspired to do this cake when I stumbled upon it on Gourmet Traveller. Despite how amazing it looks, the recipe looked overwhelming and impractical due to my diet restrictions. I can't imagine cutting a slice from an 8-layered cake, although I'm confident that I could finish a slice myself, hehe. In my mind I was imagining how the layers will fall apart as I'm cutting it and that would be my worst nightmare. So then, I thought I'd come up with my own smaller version of that chocolate raspberry layer cake.
I was tempted to try David Lebovitz's recipe for the first time. What not better to start off with his Devil's Food Cake that is full of chocolatey goodness. The cake is smooth and delicate in texture and is not overbearingly sweet in taste. However, I guess I could've used milk chocolate ganache or even buttercream instead of dark chocolate ganache to marry the sourness of the raspberries since the cake is not that sweet to begin with.
There are so many things that I wished I could've done differently to the assembly of this cake. The first mini kitchen disaster was leaving the cake a little bit longer in the oven as I didn't hear the alarm ringing the second time round. It certainly would not do any justice to a cake that's meant to be moist in the first place. The next few events didn't go as well as I had planned. I probably shouldn't have made a 4-layered cake but just keep the 2 layers of cake as it is and have one generous slab of whipped cream in between. Next the frozen raspberries starts dripping out on the cream as they thaw. Lastly, the chocolate ganache on top drooped down in quite an ugly way. It wasn't even meant to droop down in the first place. Gahhh what could get worse here on.
Well, given that my brother is not around to see me hang my head in shame on the appearance of this cake, I do however have one last message for him: "Please come back to Australia again! Although it should be my shot to come visit you overseas this time round" =P

Devil's Food Raspberry Layer Cake

(adapted from David Lebovitz's Devil's Food Cake Recipe)

9 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1½ cups cake flour (It's not self-raising flour! I used plain flour)
½ tsp salt
1 tsp bicarb soda
¼ tsp baking powder
112.5g (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1½ cups caster sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
½ cup strong coffee (or water)
½ cup whole or low-fat milk
Optional: 1-2 punnets of raspberries

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan-forced. Grease and flour two 20cm cake pans; line bottoms with circles of baking paper.

2. Sift together the cocoa powder, flour, salt, bicarb soda, and baking powder in a bowl. Using an electric mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar about 5 minutes until smooth and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time until it's fully incorporated.

3. Mix together the coffee and milk. Stir half of the dry ingredients into the butter mixture, then add the coffee and milk. Finally stir in the other half of the dry ingredients.

4. Divide the batter into the two prepared cake pans and bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.

Dark Chocolate Ganache
Please refer to the original recipe if you want to cover the whole entire cake with ganache.

100g dark chocolate, finely chopped
¼ cup water (or cream)
50g unsalted butter, chopped

In a mini saucepan, bring the water to boil with small-medium heat. Add in the chopped chocolate to the water, stirring occasionally till it's completely melted. Remove the saucepan from heat and add in the butter. Whisk them into the chocolate until completely melted and smooth in texture. Cool ganache at room temperature for approx. 1 hr or wrap up with cling wrap and leave in the fridge to set.

Whipped Cream
300g thickened cream
1 tbsp icing sugar

Beat the thickened cream with electric mixer for approx. 2mins and then add in the icing sugar. Continue to beat the cream until stiff peaks start forming.

Assembling the cake
For both of the cakes, slice them horizontally across into two equal parts to get 4 layers (you may want to trim the tops off a bit if you want straight even layers). Crumb coat the first layer of cake with cream, then cover the cake with some more cream, smoothing out with an offset spatula. Distribute some raspberries on top. Add the next layer of cake on top. Repeat the same steps for the second and third layer of cake. The cream should be fully used up by the third layer. For the fourth layer of cake, spread the dark chocolate ganache on top using an offset spatula and top up with some raspberries.

Serve immediately. Store in an air-tight container at room temperature and keep it away from sunlight.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Chocolate Fudge Brownies

TGIF: I wasn’t feeling too well. My head felt drowsy and heavy. My arms and legs felt tingly. The weather was crap with the sky coloured grey and accompanied by rain. On top of everything, I was tired and it took me more effort listening to people talking and to register all the information. But there was a concert that I’ve booked months in advance to attend. Was I going to give up so easily on my first ever concert to go and see Maroon 5? Hell no.
First time experiences always leave the biggest impression. For the first time, I went crazy like everyone else. Waiting with excitement, constantly smiling for no reason like a smitten fan girl, screaming louder and louder through each song, waving my hands as Adam Levine instructs, standing and grooving to the songs I loved, clapping my hands till it got numb, clicking away with numerous snapshots until my camera nearly went out of battery and getting deafened from all the screams and whistles. Adam Levine and the rest of Maroon 5 delivered such an outstanding performance. It was more than a sensation to listen to the live shows than watching it on-screen. On a stage with no airy-fairy props but just raw talent, sexiness and humour ;)

I was impressed by how I managed to survive through the whole night but more interestingly, I was surprised by the girl who sat behind me. She was asleep throughout the whole performance. I was struck in awe of how she still managed to sleep through that level of noise.
These chocolate fudge brownies are just as sexy as Adam Levine. The gush of aroma coming out of the oven was already irresistible. It was not reach out to the oven. Desires were strong but these brownies are best to be sliced and eaten once completely cool. Oh gosh, how was I supposed to wait?! Even my papa wanted a slice straightaway as well.

I started having doubts about this recipe when the first bite I took was quite bitter. It wouldn't be too surprising since they were chock loads of dark chocolate in this recipe. But then I realised the flavour didn't mature until the next day. That was when the true texture and flavour of a brownie came about. So I would suggest that you bake brownies a day in advance...but who really does that these days? 

I've never really eaten brownies. Even when I used to work at Mrs. Fields, I never bothered trying their brownies for which they're popular for although it was within my reach the whole entire time. Even the times when my lady boss had me to take some home, I gave it all to my family. Now I look back, I tend to ask what was wrong with me back then? I know this sounds wierd, but I don't normally eat or buy things from the place I work at (although it's free or discounted) unless I really needed it. I guess I just like to keep work and personal life completely separate from each other.

Chocolate Fudge Brownies

(adapted from Women's Weekly MIX)

150g butter, chopped
300g dark eating chocolate, finely chopped
1½ cups firmly packed brown sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten with a fork in a small bowl
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup plain flour
3/4 cup dark Choc Bits or chocolate chips
½ cup (120g) sour cream
3/4 cup roasted macadamias, chopped coarsely (I used ½ cup almonds instead since I didn't have macadamias)

1. Preheat oven to 180°C/160°C fan-forced. Grease 19cm x 29cm slice pan. Line base with baking paper, extending paper 5cm over long sides.

2. Stir butter and dark chocolate in medium-large saucepan over low heat until smooth. Cool 10mins.

3. Stir in sugar, eggs and vanilla extract into chocolate mixture, then sifted flour, Choc Bits, sour cream and nuts. Spread mixture into pan.

4. Bake brownies for 40 minutes. Cover pan with foil; bake for further 20 minutes. Cool in pan before cutting.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Basic Scones

I have been craving something plain for days now. Something that is soft and breadlike and goes well with something sweet and creamy. But I just couldn't figure out what I wanted. On the Saturday afternoon, mum suddenly called me to come and watch Poh's cooking show with her. For anyone who doesn't know Poh, she was the runner-up for Masterchef Australia Season 1. It was my first time watching her show and that episode was quite a meaningful one. She had gone to help the victim's of Black Saturday by teaching the children in that neighbourhood how to cook a feast for their family. Most of these kids have zero experience with cooking but did a fairly good job out of it, under the supervision of Poh of course. One of the things that my mum brought up to me was that the scones they made looked delicious. I could literally imagine saliva dripping out of her mouth as she kept on saying how nice it looked. By that time everything clicked and I knew what I was craving. I told her that I knew how to make those scones too. I obviously couldn't just talk myself out of this. I had to prove myself here.
I haven't made scones ever since from it has been a long while! I've always been a cake person because I love cake but more importantly, you didn't need to get your hands dirty as you just throw everything into the bowl and beat with your electric mixer, bake it in the oven and voila! But I guess it never hurts to try something new. Especially when you and a family member is craving for scones and coincidently you don't have enough eggs to go and bake a cake. It's such a simple recipe and requires little butter. I like that. Scones are a must when you have High Tea and jam and cream is always the ultimate companion. You can never divorce them!
Here I go with my rusty skills in making scones. They are really un-photogenic as I forgot to brush some milk on top of the scones before placing them into the oven although that didn't matter as much. What mattered was that I didn't put them close next to each other (where they're just touching) as I should've. I realised that until it had came out unevenly shaped as the scones were meant to act as a team to support each other to give you a nicely shaped scone. There is definitely no 'I' in team! Despite that, my cravings were satisfied :)

Basic Scones

(adapted from Women's Weekly MIX)

2½ cups self-raising flour
1 tablespoon caster sugar
30g butter, chopped
3/4 cup (180ml) milk
½ cup (125ml) water, approximately

1. Preheat oven to 220°C/200°C fan-forced. Line oven tray with baking paper or grease 19cm squared-cake pan. If you like your scones crunchy then use an oven tray, and if you like it soft then use a cake pan.

2. Sift flour and sugar into a large bowl; rub in butter with fingertips. It should look like bread crumbs in the end.

3. Make a well in the centre of flour mixture; add milk and almost all of the water. Using a knife, "cut" the milk and water through the flour mixture to mix to a soft, sticky dough. Knead dough on floured surface until smooth.
Cut means to not stir. Lightly draw the knife through the flour to moisten the dry ingredients as lightly as possible.

4. Press dough out to a 2cm thickness. Dip 4.5cm cutter into flour and cut as many rounds as you can from the piece of dough. Gently knead the scraps of dough together and repeat cutting the dough.

5. Place scones side by side, just touching, in pan/tray. Brush tops with a little extra milk.

6. Bake scones about 15minutes or until browned and scones sound hollow when tapped firmly on the top with fingers. Serve with jam and a dollop of cream as you desire.