Mixed Berries Cheesecake

INGREDIENTS:

Crust:

  • 1 cup crushed graham crackers or malt crackers
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped

Toppings:

  • 1 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1 cup raspberries
  • 3 punnets strawberries
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch

for the cheesecake:

  • 3 packs cream cheese, softened
  • 2/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups thickened cream or whipped cream, chilled
  • 4 tsp unflavoured gelatine
  • 1/4 cup hot water

METHOD:

  1. Combine all ingredients and make sure it’s mixed well and butter is evenly spread throughout the crushed crackers, press it in a 9 in pie pan.
  2. Bake in a preheated oven at 180C for 10 minutes (this makes the crust more firm, but you can omit this process if you wanted to)
  3. Chill in fridge for around 20 minutes.
  4. Topping: Place 1/2 cup of blueberry, 1/2 cup of raspberries, 2 punnets of strawberries and all other ingredients in a saucepan and cook in medium heat until all berries have broken down. Using a hand blender blend the berry sauce until smooth in texture, cook for 5 more minutes.
  5. Set aside and let it cool down before using.
  6. Place softened cream cheese in a bowl together with sugar and vanilla extract, now using an electric mixer beat the cheese until thoroughly mixed.
  7. Dissolve gelatine in hot water then let it cool for a while.  Once cooled down add into the cream cheese mixture, continue to beat until mixture becomes fluffy.
  8. Now add thickened cream and fold until it’s evenly mixed.
  9. Pour over the prepared crust.
  10. Then top it with the berry sauce and mixed berries. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours before serving.
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Rum & Raisin Dark Chocolate Truffles

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INGREDIENTS:

Makes about 20 truffles

  • 200g of good quality dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa) – broken into pieces
  • 1/4 cup raisins – chopped
  • 1/4 cup rum
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste (or 1 tsp of vanilla extract)
  • 1 tsp of strong espresso or instant coffee granules (optional)
  • 2 tbsp of cocoa powder

Coatings:

  • Cocoa powder
  • Finely chopped nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans or almonds)
  • Shredded coconut
  • Spices like cinnamoncayenne pepper, orange zest, etc

METHOD:

  1. In a bowl, soak the raisins in rum for one hour (at room temperature).
  2. In a saucepan, over low heat, bring the cream to a simmer. Then add the butter and stir with a plastic spatula until melted.
  3. Next, add the chopped chocolate, and when it begins to melt, turn the fire off and continue to stir until the chocolate is completely melted (be careful not to burn the chocolate).
  4. Then mix in the cocoa powder, vanilla paste, and espresso, and stir until smooth. Finally, stir in the raisin rum mixture, and transfer to a bowl.
  5. Once the chocolate ganache has cooled on the counter, cover the bowl and place it in the fridge. Chill for an hour until the ganache is firm.
  6. Lay out a sheet of non-stick baking paper. Prepare coatings in separate bowls. With your palms or a small spoon, form the chocolate into balls, then roll each one in the coating and place them on the baking paper. Transfer the truffles, along with the baking paper, to an airtight container and refrigerate.
  7. Truffles can be refrigerated for a couple of weeks or for a few months in the freezer. Before serving, let the truffles sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes.

Tips on making truffles: 
– It’s important to keep the ganache mixture cool after it is removed from the refrigerator, so it doesn’t melt too much when you are forming the balls and coating them. Try placing the small bowl of ganache on top of a bigger bowl layered with ice. (Also, coat your hands with some cocoa powder to prevent your warm fingers from melting the chocolate)
– If the ganache gets too soft for shaping, just pop the ganache back in the freezer for five minutes. If you are making a bigger batch, divide the ganache into separate containers.

Cinnamon Apple Macaroons with Apple Butter Buttercream & Tart Green Apples

INGREDIENTS:

Apple Butter
makes ~20 oz. apple butter, far more than you’ll need for apple butter buttercream, but delicious to have around for other uses!

  • 2 lbs. apples, peeled, cored, and in chunks
  • 4 cups unfiltered apple juice
  • 1/2-2/3 cup light brown sugar*
  • 1 tspn cloves
  • 1 tspn ground cinnamon
  • juice of half a lemon

METHOD:

  1. In a large pot over medium high heat, combine the apples and apple juice and cook until the apples are completely tender, about 15-25 minutes, depending on the size you chop the apples. If a foam forms, you may skim it off if desired.
  2. Remove the pot from the stove and let cool briefly. Puree the apples and apple juice in a food processor or blender until completely smooth.
  3. Return the puree to the pot and add the brown sugar, cloves, cinnamon, and lemon juice.
  4. Return the pot to heat and simmer on medium/medium-low heat, trying to maintain 105 degrees C. Cook for 1-2 hours, stirring regularly, until mixture really thickens and darkens and bubbles/splatters. Remove from heat when desired consistency is reached.

*Add only 1/2 cup sugar for a less-sweet apple butter. I used 2/3 cups sugar and while still really good, it was a little on the sweet side for me.

Cinnamon Apple Macarons
makes ~50 small macarons or 20-30 large macarons
INGREDIENTS:
for macaroon shells*:

  • 200 gr powdered sugar
  • 120 gr blanched and slivered almonds
  • 10 gr freeze-dried apple
  • 1 heaping Tbspn ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tspn green powered food coloring, if desired
  • 30 gr granulated (superfine, opt) vanilla sugar
  • 100 gr egg whites, aged 1-2 days at room temperature or a week in the refrigerator, at room temp
  • 1/4 tspn cream of tartar

METHOD:

  1. Prepare two baking sheets lined with silpats or parchment paper and a pastry bag with a large round piping tip.
  2. Combine the powdered sugar, almonds, dried apple, cinnamon, and green food coloring, if using, in a food processor and grind until a fine powder. Sift thoroughly through a fine mesh strainer and set aside.
  3. In a small bowl, have ready the granulated vanilla sugar.
  4. In a separate mixing bowl, combine the egg whites and the cream of tartar. Using a balloon whisk, quickly stir the mixture until the entire surface is covered with foam. Then, start whisking the egg whites, gradually adding in the granulated vanilla sugar. Whisk until you reach glossy, almost-stiff peaks.
  5. Gently fold the sifted almond and powdered sugar mixture into the egg whites in three to four stages, just until the ingredients are incorporated and the batter slowly re-absorbs peaks.
  6. Transfer the macaroon mixture to the prepared piping bag and pipe rounds on to the lined baking sheets. Tap the baking sheets on the table a few times to release air pockets.
  7. Rest the macaroons for at least 30 minutes (and up to 60), until the outside shells are no longer tacky and sticky to a light touch.
  8. Preheat oven to 150 degrees C, with the oven rack in the bottom third of the oven.
  9. Bake the macaroons in the oven, one sheet at a time, for 24-28 minutes total, rotating the sheet half-way through the baking time to insure even baking.
  10. Remove from oven and let cool.

*Note: the resting and oven temperature and times are adjusted to what works in my kitchen and oven (which, to my knowledge and according to two oven thermometers, is quite accurate). Please note that you may have to adjust according to what works in your kitchen and oven.

for apple butter buttercream:

  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup apple butter

METHOD:

  1. Whip the egg yolks until light and shows definitive streaks when you move your whisk through them.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and water and stir until the sugar is completely wet. Cook over medium high heat, without stirring, until the sugar reaches 114 degrees C. Immediately remove from heat and (carefully!) gradually pour into the egg yolks while whisking, being careful not to hit the whisk wires.
  3. Continue whipping the egg yolks on medium high until the the outside of the bowl is no longer hot or warm to the touch.
  4. Add the butter in while beating, one tablespoon at a time.
  5. Once the butter is incorporated, beat in the apple butter. Use immediately to fill the macaroons (or, if you refrigerate the buttercream, bring to room temperature and beat to restore texture before using).

for assembly:

  • 1 small tart green apple, in small, thin chunks (thick enough to still have crunch, though!)
  • lemon juice
  • ground cinnamon

METHOD:

  1. Toss the apple chunks with a light coating of lemon juice. Then, sprinkle with cinnamon.
  2. Fill the macaroons with the apple butter buttercream and apple chunks. Let the macaroons “cure” in an airtight container in the refrigerator overnight before serving.

Berry, Apple, and Rosemary Shortbread Bars

INGREDIENTS:
makes one 9 x 13″ pan, about 24 squares
for shortbread:

  • 4 cups (560 gr) AP flour
  • 2 tspn baking powder
  • 1/4 tspn salt
  • 1 1/2 tspn freshly grated meyer lemon zest
  • 2 – 4 Tbspn fresh rosemary, finely chopped*
  • 4 sticks (1 lb.) butter
  • 2 cups (400 gr) sugar
  • 4 egg yolks

for filling:

  • ~330 gr crisp tart apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
  • 1 tspn lemon juice
  • 2 tspn sugar
  • 1 tspn AP flour
  • 1 cup blackberry + wild blueberry jam (Recipe Below)
  • powdered sugar, optional

METHOD:

  1. Make the shortbread. Whisk to combine the flour, baking powder, salt, lemon zest, and chopped rosemary. Set aside.
  2. In a separate bowl, cream the butter until light. Gradually add the sugar and continue to beat until fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add the egg yolks to the butter and sugar one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  4. Gradually beat in the dry ingredients until just combined. Do not overmix.
  5. Divide the shortbread dough in half. Wrap each half in parchment paper or plastic wrap and freeze until hard, at least 2 hours or preferably overnight.
  6. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Line a 9×13″ baking pan with foil, leaving overhang at the sides.
  7. Prepare the filling. Toss the chopped apples, lemon juice, sugar, and flour together and let sit for a few minutes.
  8. Heat the jam briefly until it reaches a somewhat liquid, spreadable consistency.
  9. Remove half of the shortbread dough from the freezer. Grate using a coarse grater or the grater plate of a food processor. Spread the grated dough evenly over the bottom of the prepared baking dish.
  10. Spoon the jam over the first layer of shortbread dough and distribute the apple chunks in one layer on the jam.
  11. Remove the second half of the dough from the freezer and grate. Pour the grated dough evenly over the jam and apple layer.
  12. Bake for 50-60 minutes, until the edges and top are golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool completely on a wire rack.
  13. Using the foil, lift the shortbread out of the pan. If using, sprinkle with powdered sugar. Cut into squares.

Note: for a strong rosemary taste, use up to 4 Tbspn of chopped rosemary. For a more subtle rosemary flavor, use just 2 Tbspn.

Blackberry and Wild Blueberry Jam
makes about one cup of jam
INGREDIENTS:

  • 125 gr wild blueberries
  • 195 gr blackberries
  • 17 gr freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 160 gr sugar

METHOD:

  1. Place a few spoons on a plate in the freezer.
  2. Mix the berries together in a bowl and add the lemon juice. Let sit for a few minutes to macerate. Divide the berries in half, and set half aside.
  3. In a non-reactive saucepan over medium low heat, combine half of the berries with the sugar and cook, stirring frequently, until the juices run. Increase heat to medium high until the berries boil. Boil for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently.
  4. Add the remaining berries. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil and stir every thirty seconds or so. Cook for 10-15 minutes more, testing for doneness after 10 minutes.
  5. To test for doneness, remove the pan from the stove. Retrieve a spoon from the freezer and scoop a small amount of liquid and berries. Return the spoon to the freezer for a few minutes. Once cooled, hold the spoon vertically. If the jam does not run off the spoon and is a thick, spreadable consistency, the jam is done. If not, return the pan to the stove and continue to cook for a few more minutes before testing again.
  6. Cool the jam completely, preferably overnight in an airtight container in the refrigerator, before using in the bars recipe.

Pumpkin pie with caramel brandy hard sauce

INGREDIENTS:
makes two 4.5″ piesfor pumpkin puree:

  • 1 small pumpkin

METHOD:

  1. Preheat oven to 165 degrees C.
  2. Split the pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds. Discard the seeds.
  3. Place the pumpkin halves face down on a baking sheet with sides.
  4. Bake for 1 hour until fork-tender. Remove from oven and let cool.
  5. Puree the pumpkin pulp in a food processor until smooth.

for pastry:

  • 1 1/2 cups AP flour
  • 1/4 tspn salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, cold, in small cubes
  • 4 Tbspn water, cold

for pumpkin filling:

  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 Tbspn dark brown sugar
  • white sugar, to taste
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • pumpkin pie spices, to taste (try: ginger, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cardamom, white pepper)
  • heavy cream, opt., for crust
  • turbinado sugar, opt., for crust

METHOD:

  1. Combine the flour and salt in a bowl.
  2. Using a pastry cutter, cut the cold butter into the flour until the size of small peas.
  3. Gradually add the water, 1 Tbspn at a time until, when you press the dough between your fingers, it holds together. Do not overmix!
  4. Wrap the dough in parchment paper or plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour.
  5. Meanwhile, make the pumpkin filling. Combine the pumpkin puree, brown sugar, white sugar (if using), eggs, 1/4 cup heavy cream, and 1/4 cup whole milk into a bowl and mix thoroughly. Set aside.
  6. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C.
  7. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll it out, about 1/8″ thick. Place the dough into the pie plates and crimp the edges. Using a fork, pierce the bottom of the crust several times.
  8. If the dough has become soft from rolling, place in the freezer for about 5-10 minutes.
  9. Line the inside of the pie crusts with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dry beans.
  10. Bake for 15-17 minutes, then remove from oven. Remove the beans and parchment paper and, if desired, line the edge of the pie crust with foil. Return to the oven for 5-7 more minutes until the crust is golden. Remove and fill with pumpkin filling.
  11. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Bake the pumpkin pies for 30 minutes, then brush the exposed crusts with heavy cream and sprinkle with turbinado sugar, if using. Return the pies to the oven and continue to bake for ~10-15 additional minutes until pie is mostly set but jiggles just slightly in the middle when gently bumped.
  12. Remove from oven and let cool briefly. Serve warm with caramel brandy hard sauce (recipe below).
Caramel brandy hard sauce

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 Tbspn butter
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1-2 Tbspn brandy, to taste

METHOD:

  1. Have all ingredients pre-measured and ready next to the stove.
  2. In a small light-colored saucepan (with tall sides, preferably), wet the sugar with just enough water to make it the consistency of wet sand (~1 – 1 1/12 Tbspn water).
  3. Cook the sugar on medium heat.  Do not stir once the sugar starts boiling–swirl the pan around gently instead to insure even cooking. Cook until the sugar is a deep amber color. Immediately add the butter and whisk thoroughly. Be careful–this will splutter!
  4. As soon as the butter has completely melted, remove from heat and carefully add the heavy cream, whisking continuously.
  5. Once the cream has incorporated, pour the caramel into another heat-resistant container to cool, straining through a fine mesh sieve to remove unevenly cooked sugar, if necessary. Let cool briefly and whisk in brandy to taste. Caramel will continue to thicken as it cools.

Strawberry and Rosemary-Caramel Buckwheat Tart

INGREDIENTS:
makes one 9″ round tartfor tart crust:

  • 100 gr buckwheat flour
  • 160 gr AP flour
  • 50 gr sugar
  • 7 Tbspn butter, cold and cut in pieces
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 3-4 Tbspn cold water

METHOD:

  1. Using a food processor or pastry cutter, mix the buckwheat and AP flours and sugar until combined. Cut the cold butter into the flour mixture until the size of small peas.
  2. Add the egg yolk and gradually add the water just until a dough begins to form when you press it between two fingers. Do not overmix.
  3. Form the pastry into a ball and refrigerate for at least one hour.
  4. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C.
  5. Remove the pastry dough from the fridge and press the dough into the tart pan. Prick the bottom of the dough all over with a fork, cover with parchment paper, and weigh down using dry beans or pie weights. Return to freezer/refrigerator for a few minutes if the dough has softened.
  6. Bake for ~13-15 minutes until the edges just begin to turn golden. Remove the beans and the parchment paper and continue to bake for 3-5 minutes more, until the crust has completely turned golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool.

for rosemary-caramel:

  • 100 gr sugar
  • ~2 heaping Tbspn fresh rosemary leaves (~1 1/2 large sprigs of rosemary)
  • 3 Tbspn butter
  • 1/2 tspn coarse salt
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 tspn freshly squeezed lemon juice

METHOD:

  1. Have all ingredients pre-measured and ready next to the stove.
  2. In a small, light-colored saucepan, wet the sugar with just enough water to make it the consistency of wet sand (~1 – 1 1/2 Tbspn water). Add the rosemary leaves.
  3. Cook the sugar and rosemary on medium heat. Do not stir once the sugar starts boiling–swirl the pan around gently to insure even cooking. Cook until the sugar is a deep amber color, right before it is about to burn. Immediately add the butter and salt and whisk thoroughly. Be careful–this will sputter!
  4. As soon as the butter has completely melted, remove from heat and carefully add the heavy cream, whisking continuously.
  5. Once the cream has incorporated, pour the caramel into another heat-resistant container to cool, straining through a fine mesh sieve to remove unevenly cooked sugar, if necessary. Let cool briefly. Stir in the lemon juice. Let cool briefly, and spread a thin layer onto the bottom of the tart crust. Save any extra caramel for other uses. Let the caramel cool to set.

for cream:

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 egg
  • 150 gr sugar
  • 2 Tbspn AP flour
  • 1 tspn vanilla extract

METHOD:

  1. Bring the milk and cream to just a simmer.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg and sugar. Whisk in the flour.
  3. Using the simmering milk, temper the egg mixture by adding a little bit of the hot liquid at a time, whisking constantly.
  4. Return the milk and egg mixture to heat, stirring and scraping the bottom of the saucepan until the mixture thickens and can thickly coat the back of a spoon.
  5. Immediately remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.
  6. Let cool. Once cool, pour on top of the caramel in the tart crust and smooth. Refrigerate for at least an hour to let it set.

for strawberry syrup and final assembly:

  • 12 oz. (~285 gr) frozen strawberries, thawed with juices
  • 1 tspn (~5 gr) lemon juice
  • 1-2 Tbspn sugar, to taste
  • fresh strawberries, sliced or whole

METHOD:

  1. Extract all the juice from the frozen strawberries by pressing them through a fine mesh strainer. You should have a little more than a 1/2 cup of juice. Set the pulp aside for other uses.
  2. Boil the strawberry juice until it has reduced by more than a half (~3-4 Tbspn left).
  3. Stir in the lemon juice and then stir in the sugar to taste. Let cool briefly.
  4. Arrange the fresh strawberries on top of the prepared tart. Brush the strawberries with the slightly warm strawberry syrup.

Passionfruit tapioca and lemon cream tarts

INGREDIENTS:
makes six 4.5-inch tarts

for tart shells:

  • 9 Tbspn (4.5 oz/127 gr) butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (100 gr) sugar
  • 1/8 tspn salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 3/4 cups (250 gr) AP flour

METHOD:

  1. In a mixer bowl, combine butter, sugar, and salt. Beat on medium until smooth.
  2. Mix in egg and beat until smooth.
  3. Add flour to the bowl, mix on low just until incorporated.
  4. Wrap the dough in parchment paper or cling wrap and chill for at least two hours or overnight.
  5. Preheat oven to 165 degrees C.
  6. Working quickly, roll out the dough to 1/8-inch thick. Press down into six 4.5-inch tart pans and prick the bottoms all over with a fork. Keep the dough cold, and if necessary, place in freezer for a few minutes before baking.
  7. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes, rotating once half-way through for even baking, until the crusts are golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool completely.

for passionfruit tapioca filling:

  • 1/2 cup + 2 Tbspn (5 oz.) passionfruit puree
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 3/4 cup (170 gr) sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup tapioca pearls (not instant tapioca)

METHOD:

  1. Prepare a double boiler, with water simmering in the bottom half.
  2. In the bowl of the double boiler, whisk to combine the passionfruit puree, eggs, egg yolk, sugar, and salt. Whisking constantly, cook in the double boiler over simmering water until the mixture becomes very thick and reaches 85 degrees C.
  3. Remove from the stove and whisk to cool, until 60 degrees C. Place the mixture in a blender or a food processor. While the blender/food processor is running, add the butter one tablespoon at a time, allowing each addition to fully incorporate into the curd before adding the next tablespoon.
  4. Meanwhile, fill a small pot with two inches of water. Bring to a simmer and add the tapioca pearls. The pearls should be well-covered with water. Simmer and stir for about 12-15 minutes, until the tapioca pearls are al dente, with a mostly translucent outside. Drain in a mesh strainer.
  5. Stir the drained tapioca pearls into the finished passionfruit curd. Pour into the cooled tart shells and refrigerate for at least one hour, until the filling is set.

for lemon cream:

  • 1/4 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 Tbspn powdered sugar
  • 2 tspn fresh lemon juice
  • fresh zest from 2 lemons

METHOD:

  1. In a bowl, combine the mascarpone cheese and whipping cream. Beat until very soft peaks.
  2. Whisk in the powdered sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Beat just until stiff peaks but do not overwhip.
  3. Spoon or pipe the cream onto the prepared tarts.