Black bottom ricotta cheesecake

IMG_2954

It was Patrick’s birthday last weekend. So, to soften the blow of ageing and the unwelcome reminder of mortality, ten of us packed ourselves into cars and ambled out of Sydney laden with food and booze. Four people just barely managed to squeeze into my station wagon around the case of beer, many rolling wine bottles, guitar and mound of groceries packed into it. We headed to a house in Wollombi, near the Hunter Valley, to play a million board games and roam the countryside tasting wines.

IMG_2894

IMG_2904

We had amazing meals, which everyone contributed to; found some amazing wines; and tackled the Game of Thrones board game, among other things. Saturday night was the party night and my night to cook. I bought sausages, chicken wings, vegetables and haloumi and grilled it all up goooood on the BBQ with much help from East. After a quick clean up it was time for cake, which we lit up like a medieval alarm signal and gathered around to sing Single Ladies, instead of the traditional birthday jam.

IMG_2968 IMG_2980

The cake was of my own devising. A ricotta cheesecake with a chocolate biscuit base and a layer of rum-spiked ganache. It was light and rich at once. Fragrant vanilla and lemon laced cheese atop a thin layer of punchy chocolate goo. Patrick loves ricotta cake, but I always find them a little too bland, so this was my compromise. If you can ever call adding chocolate and rum to something a compromise.

IMG_2952

After cake we played our own version of the New Girl drinking game True American – True Australian. It was truly ridiculous. This took about four hours, after which, we retired for hectic dancing.

IMG_3004

It was a wonderful weekend. Full of silliness, geekiness and shenanigans. Ordinary life just isn’t the same.

IMG_3116

Thank god there’s always cake.

Ingredients:

For the base
250g (1 packet) chocolate ripple biscuits
125g melted butter

For the ganache
250g chocolate
shot of rum
1/2 cup cream

For the ricotta filling
750g ricotta cheese
1/2 cup cream
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
rind of one lemon

Directions:

Process together biscuits and butter. Press into base of springform tin. Combine chocolate and cream in bowl and either place above saucepan of boiling water to melt or melt in microwave. Add rum. Pour this on top of base and set aside. Put in fridge if you want a really even coverage of ganache. Combine ricotta filling ingredients in food processor or blender. Carefully add this on top of ganache. Bake for 20-30 mins until cooked through and firm in middle. Let cake cool and serve with fresh berries.

Advertisements

Three (or more!) ingredient Nutella Brownies

IMG_1596

I’m pretty skeptical about “three ingredient” anything. Besides, I know I’ll never stick to it. And why would I? Most recipes are improved by the addition of some easy detail. Fresh herbs or a sprinkle of spice. A squeeze of citrus. One of my favourite Aussie food blogs Stonesoup is all about five ingredient recipes. I’ve made a bunch of things on there that have been great, but a lot of time I end up adding three or four more things to the mix. What can I say? I bore easily. I can’t leave well enough alone.

IMG_1577IMG_1578

When I first turned to these Nutella brownies it was mostly out of desperation. I was ill and craving baked goods and there was no sugar in the entire house. None. But there was… chocolate spread. Anyway, I didn’t think it would yield a terribly exciting result, but I went for it anyway.

IMG_1583IMG_1579

I’m glad I did, because actually these are pretty excellent brownies. Soft and gooey and chewy, with that crackling effect on the top that I like so much (which, I suspect has something to do with the eggs). I only made a half batch and they were gone in two days. They were so good I made them again later in the week, so I could photograph and share. Of course my brownies ended up with five ingredients instead of three, but they’re still super simple and suuuuper good. I added hazelnut chocolate to my second batch, but you can add whatever you like.

IMG_1590IMG_1606

Ingredients:

1 cup Nutella
heaped 1/2 cup of plain flour
2 eggs
pinch salt
extras

 

Method:

Combine ingredients! Bake at about 180 degrees for around 20 mins.

Maple chilli hot chocolate

IMG_0076

Today I have double the reason to need warming and cheering. Not only has it been cold enough that we’re breathing steam inside gaddayum house over here. Not only has it been cold enough that I have been baking just to get warm. But now, to top it all off, there’s a Red Wedding quantity of blood coming out of me.

Sorry/not sorry. I had to go there. Because this recipe is completely perfect for when your pants look like something from Hannibal. Luckily enough, it’s also great for when you are deep-down-to-your-core cold from sitting still too long, or have just escaped from the torrential downpour outside and put your slippers on. Will Sydney ever stop raining? From the looks of it, probably no.

IMG_0080

To me this is the perfect hot chocolate recipe because you can make the chocolate flavour as strong as you like without it getting too heavy. This recipe also doesn’t have any cane sugar, which makes it (a) better for you (b) easier to dissolve the ingredients (c) more complex in flavour. Win, win, win. Plus there are only three ingredients! The chilli is totally optional anyway – you could add some ground cinnamon, nutmeg or ginger instead for a less intense variation. And – AND – if you go for cacao powder instead of your regular processed cocoa it’s actually super good for you.

IMG_0077

If you’re fatigued and in need of some serious comfort like me, this’ll pick you up. Or if your hands are purpled and the nerve endings in your nose feel like they’re on death’s door, it’ll sort that out too. Happy no-baby day, everyjerk! Let’s hope, having showed it means business, winter will back off a little.

PS: check out my crochet

IMG_0087

Ingredients:
3 tbsp good quality cocoa or cacao
3 tbsp  hot water
1 ½ tbsp. maple syrup
pinch of ground chilli
milk

Directions:
Combine chilli, cocoa, water and maple in bottom of mug. Stir well. Add the milk of your choice bit by bit, stirring extremely well with the first few additions. Place mug in the microwave and heat in 30 second burst for 1-2 minutes until warm.

You Stay Classy White Christmas

IMG_6290

My sister and I have an unofficial Christmas tradition. Every year, sometime around the end of December, at some un-allocated moment, we burst into full Bing Crosby impersonation, belting out a version of White Christmas that could rival Christmas lunch for mass ham per capita. To be honest, Sarah is the one who usually upholds the Bing end of the deal. I do the “doo doo, doop de doop” bit.

IMG_6278

Let’s face it, even if you like Christmas, it’s weird and tacky, often either too sweet or not sweet enough. Which is why this white Christmas recipe uses only the sugar of a block of white chocolate and switches out the generic mixed dried fruit in favor of more interesting and, frankly, more festive things. Because, really, the best way to enjoy Christmas is to do whatever the hell you want. There’s a lot of pressure around this time to be at a certain place or buy a certain thing, to the extent that a lot of people find it difficult to enjoy themselves. I think it works a lot better without the pressure, when you finally decide to throw Copha to the wind and invest in some coconut oil. Which is a metaphor, baby. A metaphor for seasons-fucking-greetings. And it’s all for you.

IMG_6284

Disclaimer: this is softer than your usual white Christmas, because the coconut oil isn’t as hard as Copha. You gotta store this shit in the fridge yo. It’s also not as sweet and, hey, maybe you like things super sweet, so keep that in mind.

Ingredients:

250g coconut oil
220g white chocolate
3 cups puffed rice
1 cup desiccated coconut
1 1/2 cups of powdered milk
2 cups of mixed dried fruit (I used a combination of pineapples, craisins and figs)
pinch salt

Directions:

Add chocolate and coconut oil to bowl and allow to warm, either over a pot of hot water or in the microwave, until chocolate is melted. Leave to cool slightly and chop up dried fruit into small pieces. One by one add all other ingredients and stir until combined. Line a large baking tray and pour in mixture, flattening and evening until all space is filled. Put in the fridge for a few hours, remove and cut into pieces. Store in the fridge until ready to put in your mouth.

Dark chocolate cashew spice cookies

IMG_6091

Last night I realised it’s actually only a few weeks away from Christmas and holy crapsticks I have a lot of stuff on in December/January and I’m going to have to be on top of that. Luckily I’m spending this weekend at my mum’s place, where things are quiet, because from here on in it’s all Christmas parties, Christmas lunches, music festivals and travel. There are cocktails to drink, costumes to assemble and several flights to successfully catch. There’s also a bunch of boring administrative stuff I have to get done. Oh, and I’m going hiking.

IMG_6068

Which brings me rather clumsily to these cookies. Because, look, there’s no clear segue between my holiday plan freakout and the cookies or between the individual holiday events themselves. Both the cookies and these next two months are packed full of complex events. As complex as my feelings about the word “cookies”, as complex as my attitude towards this calm spell and the possibility of its ending. There are a lot of exciting things on the horizon, but at present I’d just as much enjoy a morning curled up with my kindle. This is all tied in with the fact that I’ve almost finished book four of A Song of Ice and Fire and the idea of finishing the series (thus far) fills me equally with eagerness and dread. The best thing about catching up to what’s been published will be knowing I can’t go any further, meaning I’ll have to get back to important real-life things. At least when the next book finally comes out, I’ll have a payoff for all the work I’ve been forced to do in its absence.

IMG_6080

If I could hand these cookies over to George R. R. Martin as encouragement to please write faster I would. And if he were as much the Santa Claus of fantasy epics as he appears, I’m sure these would make an ample offering. But I know first-hand that these things can’t be rushed, no amount of cookies will get me that elusive sixth book. This year I wrote not even a quarter of the length of one of his books and called it an accomplishment. Tenuously this brings me back to cookies. I only made four from this batch and squirrelled the rest away, because right now I have the calm and space to make unwarranted baked goods. The rest of the dough is rolled up in a piece of baking paper in the freezer, waiting to be thawed out when things get too hectic and baked goods become warranted again. In the meantime I guess I’ll begin the printing of boarding passes and wrapping of gifts, knowing that very soon I won’t have any time to bake or read or bemoan the time it takes to write a book. Christmas is coming.

IMG_6083

Ingredients:

125g butter
½ caster sugar
1 egg
2 cups plain flour
1 tbsp milk
1 tbsp finely ground coffee beans
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp ground ginger
200g dark chocolate
½ cup roughly chopped roasted cashews (salted or unsalted)

Directions:

Cream butter and sugar. Combine with egg. Gradually mix in flour, spices and coffee. Finally, add dark chocolate and cashews. Either form into balls and squash onto lined baking tray right away or roll into a tube of baking paper and store in freezer or fridge until needed. If using baking paper method you can unwrap dough as needed and slice into rounds. Bake for 12-15 minutes at 160 degrees fan forced. Leave to cool for ten minutes before moving from tray.

Boozy Cherry Brownies

Beginnings can be daunting – so why not begin with brownies? Not that these are exactly your average slab of chocolate slice kind of deal. Yeah, they taste a hell of a lot like chocolate and, yeah, they’re awesome, but there’s no chocolate (per-se) in them, or butter, and they’re not so much like a comforting crocheted blanket pulled up to your chin on a winter’s night as they are like a comforting kick in the face.

Really the only reason I made these was because my mum came to stay with me after a trip to Canberra. She’d been to Costco while she was there – adventure city that our national capital is – and bought me a huge bag of dried cherries. I hadn’t been baking much at the time, because I was pretty busy, kinda poor – oh, and my oven sucks. Then the cherries arrived and I decided brownies were in order.

These are boozy, dark and full of tart-sweet kahlua-soaked cherries. Given the only fat in them is half a cup of oil, they aren’t as heavy as most brownies. However, they are very intense and also rather shiny, like a gilded chocolate breastplate (I’ve been reading A Clash of Kings). If for whatever reason you can’t/won’t use dried cherries, you could use craisins. Or even substitute the kahlua for rum and the cherries for raisins for rum ‘n’ raisin brownies. Do what you like. I’m not your mother.

Ingredients:

1 cup dried cherries
1/3 cup kahlua (or some other liqueur)
3 eggs
1 cup loosely packed brown sugar
½ tsp vanilla
½ cup vegetable or nut oil
1 cup cocoa
½ cup plain flour
½ cup desiccated coconut
½ tsp salt

Directions:

Soak cherries in kahlua overnight (or you can put them in the microwave for a few minutes until they soak up some of the liquid). When your cherries have plumped up, combine eggs, oil, sugar and vanilla in a large bowl. Stir in flour, cocoa, coconut, salt. Then add the cherries and kahlua. Pour mixture into lined brownie tin. Cook in moderate oven for about 30 minutes or until the top of the brownies looks set. If you wobble the tray and nothing moves of its own accord: they’re done. Let the brownies cool and cut them into squares.