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.
This was a cake I made when I needed an alternate vegan option alongside my very not vegan birthday cake some time ago. I wanted something that didn’t feel like the vegan option, just something that’s accidentally vegan. Substituting most ingredients in a cake is usually fine, but there’s two I sometimes struggle with: eggs and butter. I deal with the first one by avoiding any cake recipe that relies on eggs for its structure. But butter can be harder. Non dairy spreads are hit or miss sometimes, and I sometimes feel like they give an odd flavour to the cake. It just kinda tastes fake. But one awesome way of substituting butter (or even non-dairy fats) is with a fruit or vegetable puree.
Veggie purees can be used in most cakes to substitute out half the fat content (or all if you’re trying to be super health conscious). Once I’d made the decision to go the veggie puree route, the choice was immediate: pumpkin cake.
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’.
It’s no secret that I have about 300 fandoms too many. Ever since I was three years old I’ve had my head in a book. Novels have always been a favourite form of escapism: if I don’t have a book on the go I feel completely lost. Every so often a gripping story comes along that spirals quickly into an obsession. An obsession I feel the need to talk about. Constantly. A Song of Ice and Fire, better known as Game of Thrones, is one such obsession.
My other half isn’t so big on reading. Mostly he feels like he doesn’t have enough time to read and never gets around to it. I know dragging him into my favourite worlds via the written word is a lost cause, so when a great adaptation comes along there is much prodding and poking to get involved. He’s endlessly lovely about it, so he always placates me by sitting through it. Often he enjoys it, sometimes he loves it. But rarely does he match my level of obsessive addiction. Until Game of Thrones.
By the time he watched it with me, all three seasons were out. His constant plot questions indicated he was getting into the show, and then randomly quoting his favourite lines. But I really knew he was hooked when he began requesting to watch the next episode until we were watching 6 in a row. And then when he wanted to watch all the seasons over again. And again. For someone who is usually a casual one-episode-a-week-is-plenty kind of fan, it was a huge deal. Now we watch it together all the time and chat about it constantly: it’s become our ‘thing’.
Yesterday, the first episode of season 4 premiered. The wait had been agonising and we were endlessly excited. It also happened that the episode was airing in Australia on my birthday. The occasion called for some celebratory cupcakes.
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.
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 mentioned in my previous post that I’ve never tried pumpkin in a sweet dish before. With Halloween around the corner I decided it was a good change to change all that. I bought a stack of pumpkins on the weekend and started having some fun.
My first stop was incorporating pumpkin into cake. I absolutely love all the spices that make up pumpkin pie spice, so I just knew I was going to love these. But I also wanted to incorporate some of Halloween into them as well. Here’s where the ghosts come in.
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.