Chocolate & Coffee Cheesecake

Every year I try to make/bake H. something for his birthday, since he has a huge sweet tooth. 🙂 This year happened to be the first time that we weren’t together on the actual day (and the same will happen for mine, coming up soon!). As he is a huge cheesecake fan I decided to make this one a couple of days before I left for Scotland for a conference. Aside from cheesecake, coffee and chocolate are two of H.’s favourite things. 😉

I only made a couple of modifications to the recipe. Instead of 250g cream cheese, I used about 150g and substituted quark for the rest, which made for a slightly lighter cake. I also forgot to dust with cocoa powder, so mine looks shiny compared to the magazine’s photo.

This is a fairly simple but delicious cake. My only complaint is that it did not taste enough like coffee; if I make it again I will increase the quantity of coffee quite a bit.

coffee choc cheesecake

Yogurt Cheesecake with Roasted Strawberries

“Yogurt cheesecake” doesn’t really capture the deliciousness that is this simple cake. I used the base cheesecake recipe here –which is a great staple base — but made it with strawberries instead of rhubarb.

I’m not quite sure what I was doing with the strawberries– I was sort of doing this without thinking. At first I thought about roasting them but ended up just putting them in a pan on the stove and simmering with some balsamic vinegar and sugar. The result was….well, basically jam. Ha! Not really what I was going for, but it worked taste-wise. If/when I make this again with strawberries, I would simply put them on raw. I think this would work well with pretty much any fruit! 🙂

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Valentine’s Day 2015

For the past few years H. and I have had the tradition of staying home, opening a bottle (or 2) of wine and cooking something together — something more elaborate than we’d normally make. This year a was a little different because we spent the afternoon with 150+ people (most of them kids!) at a Valentine’s Day concert that H. and his piano partner put on — a raving success, I  might add! After a bottle of wine shared with H.’s piano partner and his wife, we returned home and spent the next couple of hours in the kitchen, happy to be alone in our quiet flat after a very loud and overwhelming afternoon.

In planning the meal, I’d had my eye on this gnocchi recipe for a while. Readers with a good memory might remember my first go — these ones, despite a bit of a panicky moment when I though I’d ruined them — turned out better, I’m pleased to say. I also knew that I wanted to make this cheesecake which had been on my to-make list for a few months.

Because I knew we’d get home quite late, I did some prep on Saturday morning. I made the cheesecake and started on the gnocchi by boiling (parsnips) and roasting (parsnips & sweet potatoes) the veg so that they were cooled and malleable by the time we got home. When we did, I concentrated first on assembling the gnocchi, then put the pork in the oven, cooked the gnocchi, and assembled the salad. Originally, I wanted to serve the gnocchi as a starter and then the pork and salad together, but by that point, I really didn’t (a) see the point of doing that or (b) care!

So how did it turn out?
The salad was definitely a hit — a predictable combination, but a reliable one. I omitted the raisins – yuck! (I can barely tolerate pear in my salad, let alone other fruit). I was quite happy with the gnocchi but resolved (again) not to make it at home anymore because it’s simply too much work. And I’m not 100% sure that I like it enough to make it worth it. The combination of blue cheese and pine nuts definitely works though, and if I saw this dish on a menu I’d order it. The pork was a tried and tested recipe — in hindsight a good idea as we had a lot else going on.

The cheesecake was a disappointment. It’s hard to describe. It didn’t taste bad or unpleasant, but it was not at ALL what I expected. H. described it as tasting like pudding, which was bang on. It had none of the mild tang of a typical cheesecake – I guess because of the mascarpone (although I have made cheesecakes with only mascarpone before and don’t remember them being so mild). The filling to me tasted like vanilla pudding and the consistency was also thinner/not as solid as I’d expected. On the latter point, in a series of tweets with Ruby, I guessed that I under-baked it a bit. The taste, however, I don’t know.

Along with the meal we had a well-deserved bottle of Prosecco and, on recommendation, some of this bottle of Dolcetto di Dogliani. I was happy with this wine — it is not something I would usually choose, but it went very well with the meal. It also inspired me to order a bottle of another Dolcetto when I was out for dinner on Saturday. (Read more about this grape variety here).

All in all, despite the disappointing cheesecake, it was a wonderful evening, the perfect antidote to the absolute chaos of the afternoon. And a great reminder that cooking can really be FUN!

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Lemon Cheesecake

Hello, readers. 🙂 I am finally back in my kitchen, albeit temporarily. Looking back, this spring has been an interesting one. I have spent very little time cooking — comparatively less than any period in recent memory. February and March were very busy as I completed an important exam (1 of only 2 in my entire PhD career), and since then, I have been away a lot (work and play, more of the former but fortunately some of the latter too 🙂 ). I figured out that in the roughly 90-day period between mid-March & mid-June, I will have been away from London over 50 nights. By mid-June I will have slept in 9 cities in 90 days. This time has been (is!) extremely exciting and in many cases very rewarding both professionally and personally, but challenging at times because I’ve felt so unsettled.

I am leaving again for a week on Sunday, but in the meantime I’ve resolved to cook (and share) as many meals as possible, since I’ve really missed it.

Last week, H. and I (along with 4 other members of my family) were in Spain (more on that to come). The house we were staying in backed onto its own little lemon grove. Having lemons at the ready was so luxurious and foreign to me, and I LOVE lemons! I brought a few back with me and decided to use one in a lemon cheesecake.

Unfortunately this cheesecake was more annoying than ones I’ve made in the past (see blackberry, peanut butter & chocolate, & sesame, yogurt, & honey) and a couple of things went wrong. The first thing was that I burned the ginger cookie base (in my defense, this was only sort of my fault — I was using my phone as a timer and it shut itself off without me realizing, so by the time I remembered it was too late). So, I had to start over again with the base.

I cut the recipe in half to make a flatter, slimmer cheesecake (because I only had one tub of cream cheese). However I inadvertently made it “slimmer” than expected — about 15 minutes after I got round #2 in the oven, I realized that I’d forgotten the sugar!! Again, this was down to me not paying attention: I’d printed the recipe out from Bon Appetit’s website, and half of the instructions had gotten cut off on the side of the page, including the part about when to add the sugar. Duh. Silly.

I thought the cake would be a write-off but much to our surprise it actually tastes alright! In fact, it’s way better than expected! Some of the sugar from the ginger cookie base sort of seeped into the top part of the cake, and we don’t even miss it. If I had made the full cake I think it would have been more noticeable, but it worked fine in this smaller version. Who knew!

Burnt!
Burnt!

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Sesame, Yogurt, & Honey Cheesecake

Happy June! Where has 2013 gone? We are nearly halfway through.

It has been an extremely hectic couple of weeks for me. Blogging has fallen to the bottom of the priority list, below work, research, day trips, conferences, visitors, and about 3 million emails.

However, I am glad to be back and especially to be sharing something so delicious! To me, this is a damn near perfect cheesecake. It is subtle, moist, and not too sweet or rich. I happened upon the recipe in a Saturday Guardian‘s COOK section from a month or so ago and finally got around to making it this week. The tahini at first may seem an odd ingredient but I promise that it really works.

A slice of this cake is perfect with a cup of strong black coffee.

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I hope to be back blogging more regularly now and expect a late May favourites/links post soon!

Blackberry Cheesecake

In an attempt to use up more berries last week, we decided to make a blackberry cheesecake to share with friends and family. It’s loosely based on this recipe.

Our cake was a bit smaller than the one in the link (we used 2/3 of the sugar it called for, and only 3 eggs). Other than that we followed it fairly exactly with the exception of the blackberries — instead of making a separate sauce, we put the berries on top of the cheesecake and baked it. The result was a little watery, but still very tasty. It was the perfect combination of fruity and not too sweet, which I love in sweets and especially cakes.

Peanut Butter & Chocolate (Birthday) Cheesecake!

It was my boyfriend’s birthday on the 10th and I made this cheesecake for the occasion!

I ended up using a recipe from Home & Garden magazine’s website. I should probably briefly describe how I choose my recipes. I first look through my (admittedly, modest) collection of cookbooks and magazines. I then normally check Epicurious and a few of my other favourite food blogs, and if I still can’t find a suitable recipe, I turn to Google. This strategy sometimes works, sometimes doesn’t. I prefer websites with comments and user ratings (one of the reasons why I love Epicurious so much), and don’t tend to use ones that don’t have that feature. Long story short– I had never used a recipe from H&G before, but decided to go for it because after doing comparative research, this is the recipe I liked best. I chose this one because of its low sugar content. Other recipes I found (ex. from Nigella, etc.) had 250g of sugar or MORE. With peanut butter AND chocolate, that is an incredible amount of sugar and not something we need (side note: I am really trying to limit the amount of sugar I eat, or at least be more aware of it).

Overall, this recipe was a “hit” — most importantly, the birthday boy liked it!! I knew it would be rich — given that it contains PB, chocolate, and cream cheese — but I underestimated just HOW rich. I could only eat a very small amount at a time, and we froze half of it.

As you can see from the pictures, the crust didn’t turn out perfectly, something that’s happened every time I’ve made cheesecake in Germany. I think it is the cookies. I used Leibniz Vollkorn biscuits, which is about the closest thing you can find to Graham crackers. Nevertheless, something is not quite right about them (although they do taste good), and the crust doesn’t set properly. It could be that the butter/biscuit ratio doesn’t work with these biscuits. Also, the pan (form) I used is not perfect either, which could contribute to the problem as well.

Cheesecake pre-oven. The H didn't make it through the cooking process!
Finished cake, side view
Finished cake, front view