The renovations at my rental are finally coming toward an end. I’ve spent much of it being without a kitchen or a computer or much of any of my belongings really. Half of my house is still in boxes, and with full time work spare time is definitely at a minimum. Which has meant I’ve been doing little to no cooking most nights, let alone anything fancy. I’ve definitely been missing it, and missing having usable space. But we’re slowly reclaiming the house and getting everything into some semblance of order. I have some usable spaces now, and no more yellow benches and green walls — massive yay! I’m definitely going to try to spend more time in my [new — more yay!] kitchen and in turn make more time for sharing it with you guys.
Speaking of work, though, over the last few months we’ve had a number of people being shifted to new locations or moving on to other things. We’ve celebrated last days with sadness and, of course, with cake. I’m fairly sure I’m getting a ‘the cake lady’ reputation now. A few weeks ago I made a ferrero rocher cake and had a pile of biscuit crumbs and hazelnuts that needed to be used up. The easiest thing to use a pile of biscuit crumbs on is definitely cheesecake (if not truffles), and the hazelnut definitely leant itself to another favourite: nutella.
The fact that it’s endlessly simple definitely helped in the decision making process. You don’t even need to bother with gelatine for this one!
My summer blogging hiatus has lasted a lot longer this year than usual. The reasons for which are much less exciting than the trip to New Zealand and much less dramatic than the threats of bushfire seasons the summers prior. While our summer heat has certainly kept me out of the kitchen, I’ve also begun a new full time job which has left me with little time to do anything other than sleep. Today marked my third month at the new job, and for the most part I’m not sure where the time has gone. How exactly is it February already? I’m still stuck somewhere in September 2014.
Alas, time marches on and all the annual events are arriving with it. And what is an event without cake? So back in the kitchen I go!
This dessert was partly inspired by the Valentine’s holiday fast approaching, but mostly by my fruit shop. They’ve been selling boxes of 20 mangoes for $10. We have been going mango crazy. We’ve been binging on mango lassi and milkshakes and ice cream and all those wonderful summer desserts that help you beat the heat. This cheesecake is a really quick and easy dessert that doesn’t require you to turn on the oven. Perfect for my air-con-less house.
Baked cheesecakes are one of Cam’s favourite things in the world, but something I bake incredibly infrequently. I’d never had cheesecake at all before I met him, and certainly not baked cheesecake. For some reason I always assumed I’d hate it, but the more I have it the more I fall in love with them. It really is the best of the cheesecake world: there’s that gorgeous flavour, but the baking of it brings a lightness to the texture that makes it far too easy to eat a giant slice of it.
The only hard part is choosing a flavour! I was baking this for his dad’s birthday so I asked cam to choose one. He narrowed it down to about 5, so I then turned to his mum for back up. Eventually we settled on apricot cheesecake.
Every so often I’ll invite Cameron’s parents over to my place for dinner, wherein I unleash a three coarse feat upon them. Aside from just enjoying their company, it’s also a little way of saying thanks for everything they do for me in the best way I know how. I also just love cooking for Cam’s immediate family in general because they love such a wide variety of cuisine and will try just about everything, quite unlike my family. This time we moved the dinner to lunch time, as it’s the middle of winter here and the long drive between my place and theirs is less appealing of a night time. So when it came to planning the dessert portion, I started hunting for something that would feel more on the refreshing side. Dessert-induced food comas are just less fun at lunch time.
I immediately decided on something citrus-ey. The rest of the dessert followed from there and focussed largely on taking quite sweet things and balancing them to make them feel much less so.
It’s been quite a long time since I’ve played around with a joconde. I have a terrible habit of getting stuck on one idea: I’ll bake almost nothing but that for weeks, and then forget it ever existed for a year. So when my birthday rolled around and I had the opportunity to make whatever I wanted with no restrictions, I decided it was time to return to this awesome cakey medium.
So far I’ve mostly used decorating combs for making patterns in the joconde paste. I’ve been wanting to use the sponge as more of a canvas for unusual designs. You always see them with uniform designs on the sides, but I wanted something a bit more picturesque. I had a number of food stencils, but all were a bit bland for what I was thinking. I hit up my favourite cake decorating store and started rummaging through the stencils until I finally found something that was more ‘me’.
Earlier this month it was my boyfriend’s 31st birthday. As the recipient of practically all the goodies I bake, it can be hard to come up with something special for his birthday dinner and dessert and/or cake. This is exacerbated by the fact that his idea of special and mine exist on opposite sides of the planet. I like busy and complex multi-layered cakes of ridiculousness with fancy decorations, he likes chessecake. I started quizzing him on things he’d like me to make for him and got nothing except requests to make cakes I’d made for previous birthdays. Unsatisfied with that answer I sent him to rummage through my recipe books for ideas.
He returned with an A4 list of cakes. He’s about as decisive as I am.
They were almost all cheesecakes and tea cakes, save for the bread and butter pudding he’d very subtly circled. I resigned to banishing any idea of spectacular gateaux from my mind and baking him a cheesecake instead (whose birthday is it anyway, right?).
I took a basic baked cheesecake recipe and decided to load it with a few of his favourite things.
It’s hard to pick a favourite cuisine. There’s so much amazing food offered from all corners of the globe. But Indian food is definitely one of them. Growing up, my family was very anti-Indian food. They were really anti-anything that wasn’t pasta, schnitzel or cooked on a BBQ. It wasn’t until I was out with Cam’s family celebrating a birthday that I tried it for the first time, and it was love at first bite. These days I cook a lot of it at home. I love learning about the different dishes from different regions and trying to recreate them. [And I’ll totally take up any suggestions you guys have for favourite Indian dishes to try at any time!]
Cam and I also often go out to Indian restaurants, looking for the most authentic-tasting food we can find. We have a few favourite places we find ourselves at. We’re never good at just ordering one curry, so we usually pick the banquet option and have a couple between us.
The dessert options at every place appear to be the same two options: gulab jamun or one of a variety of kulfis. By the time we’ve made it through the curries (during which I’ve usually made Cam finish off my plate too) the thought of squeezing in anything that requires chewing feels completely beyond me. I always go for the kulfi. Cam, on the other hand, simply engages what he calls his ‘dessert’ stomach and goes for the gulab jamun.
Invariably, they always serve one. Invariably, he is always disappointed by this. And invariably, I’m always left wondering how he could stomach more than one.
Since he loves them so much and always wants more, it was more than enough of an excuse to try making them at home. I was also keen to find out what all the fuss was about myself.