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.
There’s this thing people at my fruit shop seem to do in abundance that I’ve never understood. Maybe they do it at yours too, or maybe you are even one of these people and can explain it to me? When buying a bunch of bananas, these people become dissatisfied with the number of bananas on the bunch. Maybe there’s 5, but they wanted 4. So instead of just buying the whole bunch of bananas and eating an extra banana, they’ll tear one or two off until it’s the number they want. Nobody else wants the solo rejected bananas, so they sit there, ripening until they’re too ripe to sell.
Fortunately my fruit shop is one of those that has a whole section devoted to the less desirable fruit sold for a large discount, and here’s where these rejected bananas finally find a home. You can usually get a bag of a dozen assorted over-ripe bananas for $2. They’re perfect for baking banana cakes and bread, or for mashing up and adding to a pancake flour mixture for something a little different. If I’m not using them straight away, I’ll pop them in the freezer for when the opportunity to bake arises. But since we’re in the middle of such a hot summer, baking is a no go at the moment. But there was an idea I was introduced to by one of my deviantART watchers during the winter that I’ve been dying to try out: making ice cream using only frozen bananas.
I love making tiny desserts. No matter what it is, making it into tiny, single serves always makes it better in my opinion. I also love making lots of desserts, so making them tiny means more people can have more variety. Whenever I have people around for a party or just for dinner I usually crack out as many teeny desserts as I can.
Recently, I bought a set of teeny tart pans and just could not wait for the chance to use them. So when I invited Cam’s parents around for dinner one night I leapt at the chance to bake these.
This was the post I was going to bring to you last week, but then I got really sick and haven’t been anywhere near my computer since the last post. So if you need a pumpkin puree recipe for the pumpkin cupcakes, you’ll find the follow up to that here.
While I making mountains of pumpkin puree and throwing them in desserts for the first time ever, I knew I couldn’t escape the pumpkin fest without baking pumpkin pie. This seemingly staple American dessert is practically non-existent here. Any time I’ve told an American friend I’ve never eaten pumpkin pie, I’ve received a reaction more akin to what I’d expect if I’d just confessed to being a centaur. Cam tried one on holiday in Canada some 8 years ago, loved it, and occasionally asks me to make one for him. I suppose it was about time I finally jumped in to see what all the fuss was about.
I’m the kind of person who never read recipes first. I’ll be flicking through a cook book, see a picture of something that looks good, quickly browse the ingredients and if I have most of them get started straight away. If it’s a standard thing I’ll have trouble even following the recipe, I’ll just use the quantities and the general order of ingredients as a guide.
About three years ago I saw this recipe for apple confit and needed to make it. After dinner was done and people were washing up I started on this recipe. It obviously wasn’t a standard thing so I followed the recipe as I went along. I put the confit in the oven and referred to the next step to see what I had to do once it was out of the oven. Then I saw it: “Refrigerate overnight until firm”.
I announced we were eating it warm, unfinished and accompanied and resolved to return to it properly prepared one day. One day took quite a while to come around again. But when it did, I was prepared this time.