Chocolate & Coffee Cheesecake

Every year I try to make/bake H. something for his birthday, since he has a huge sweet tooth. ūüôā 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. ūüėČ

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

Tahini & Chocolate Chip Cookies

I’ve decided to keep this post simple. Made these tahini chocolate chunk cookies from Molly Yeh, adapted from another recipe.

What I liked:

  • Big chocolate chunks are definitely better than small chips.
  • In theory, I love the idea of tahini in cookies (see¬†here) as I love the mix of savoury and sweet ingredients in baking.

What wasn’t so good:

  • I didn’t really taste the tahini! It was lost.
  • They were too soft in the middle and fell apart quite easily.
  • The ultimate one– they simply took too long to make (you have to freeze the dough overnight). I will happily start many things the day before but I don’t think cookies are one of them.

Ultimate verdict: these cookies were certainly tasty, but, despite the inclusion of tahini, far from my favourite. I won’t be making them again.

tahinicookies2

Valentine’s Day 2016

As I have written about a few times before, H. and I don’t really enjoy¬†going out on Valentine’s Day. We prefer to stay in and for the last several years have had the tradition of cooking a three-course meal together. I was recently thinking about this tradition as I noticed the title of Mimi Thorisson’s latest blog post, “wonderfully ordinary“. There is something about this act that while ‘special’ in a way — because we are spending much more effort putting a meal together than we normally do — is actually an ordinary, even banal, thing to do together. Yet, there is something very comforting and in fact “wonderful” about taking the time to create a meal together.

This year’s menu
Starter
Marinated feta with thyme and honey – served with flatbreads (recipe)

Main
Roasted salmon, spinach & ricotta raviloi, salad

Dessert
Chocolate molten cakes (recipe)

With the exception of making the ravioli, this meal came together easily. With part of the meal being so labour-intensive I wanted the other elements to be straightforward: the starter is very easy to prepare, as is the dessert. The salmon, which we always cook the same way (Mark Bittman’s), is also very simple.

We ate¬†the starter ‘on the go’ while we made the ravioli. It was good, but for some reason (I don’t know why) I was expecting to be blown away by it, and I definitely wasn’t.¬†I think it was actually too rich, and although the honey adds some depth, the flavour was a bit one-dimensional for me. I probably would not make this again (in favour of something like this).

We used a recipe from The Silver Spoon for the ravioli. Having made the filling earlier in the day, H. took charge of making the dough and forming the ravioli. There’s no doubt: this is finicky and tedious. Alas, although a few were oddly shaped, they¬†actually stuck together well. Unfortunately, these ravioli didn’t measure up with regards to taste. I knew the filling was a bit of a gamble because I am not the biggest fan of ricotta. However, they were just too….spinachy. The flavour of spinach really overwhelmed everything else which although it didn’t ruin them, was less than ideal. I have to score these only 5/10 (although the salmon came out perfectly).

The dessert is not a typical choice for me. I don’t like chocolate cake(!). But H. does and I was curious to see how this recipe would turn out. Michael Smith’s recipe could not be easier, but I was a bit worried about the cooking time due to our notoriously unreliable oven. They were in just slightly too long; the middle was still soft and spongy ¬†but the “lava” did not “flow” out of the cake when we¬†cut into it. Despite that even I have to admit that they were tasty, although extremely rich. Neither of us could finish even half of our individual portions and we had to save it for the next day.

All in all, it was a meal with a few flaws, but one that was a lot fun to make and eat together!

Marinated & roasted feta
Marinated & roasted feta

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Peanut Butter, Chocolate, & Millet Buckeyes

Some of the more observant readers may have noticed that I haven’t been posting much recently. This hasn’t really been a conscious decision. The term has started here and I’m very busy. I’m midway through the third year of my PhD, drowning in data, and both very excited about the new things I’ve found out but struggling¬†how to make sense of it all — how to tell a coherent story. In evaluating what I can “give up” in order to make sure I am working as efficiently as possible, updating the blog has been one of them. I haven’t stopped cooking (although I’m trying to put less pressure on myself to try new things and accept that shortcuts are okay too), but I’ve found sharing to be very time consuming. For example, I have a post half-written on Burns night, when H. and I made haggis and cock-a-leekie soup. But I won’t share that now — Burns night was 2 weeks ago and it’s not timely anymore.

I am also becoming increasingly¬†disillusioned with blogging and social media. Perhaps it is the political scientist in me that sees neoliberalism, consumerism, exclusion, us-versus-them implicit in all lifestyle blogging (including this one). That’s the world we live in and far too complicated a topic to take on in this post or this blog, but it makes me deeply uncomfortable. And¬†it’s prompted a reaction in me in that I’m trying to limit the time I spend on social media and strictly control what I read.

That being said, I like blogging. I like sharing what I make. So I’m not sure how to reconcile my own feelings towards social media — if I want people to read my blog but don’t want to read many others, that hardly makes sense, does it?!

The upshot of all of this is that it’s very likely, going forward, that¬†I won’t be posting as often as I have been. I’m hoping though that what will lack in quantity will increase in quality — I will only share things that are important to me, that I’ve really enjoyed (or that have been disastrous!), that tell more of a story than “I made this.” In doing so I hope that I keep staying “true” to simplicity and what is important in my life: family, relationships, curiousity, travel, living a reasonably healthy lifestyle. Food and cooking transcend¬†them all.

* * *

Now, I promised you buckeyes!

Way back in November, I won a cookbook! I was naturally surprised and excited to win something. Even before I won¬†it, the¬†recipe¬†caught my eye online and I decided to try them out.¬†I have made these addictive little snacks 10+ times since — for H. and I, for friends, for my parents when they were here in December, for a dinner party that we recently went to — and they’ve gone down amazingly every single time.

Buckeyes are basically bite-size peanut butter balls, made even crunchier in this case with the addition of toasted millet. They’re vegan and relatively healthy, with only a bit of added sugar. Apparently they originate from Ohio, and are named so because of their resemblance to a buckeye tree nut. They are very easy and non-finicky to make. The only thing is that they require a bit of advance planning because you have to allow enough time for them to freeze.

The “revisions” history of this post tells me I started writing it on 7 November, 3 months ago. The reason¬†it’s taken me so long to post is because in every case they were gone before I could get a picture of them!¬†Verdict: definitely worth making. ūüôā

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Baking Frenzy: Macmillan Coffee Morning

My favourite type of baking is baking for other people. I don’t often eat sweet things, but I love making treats for H. and friends and family, and strangers! A great opportunity came along recently when a local pub/music venue hosted a Macmillan coffee morning. Macmillan is a large UK charity that provides support for people diagnosed with cancer (and their families). Every year they host a massive fundrasier, the coffee morning, which last year raised ¬£20 million! Incredible.

I went a bit crazy and made two types of muffins as well as scones. In hindsight I should have stuck to two.

Chocolate & hazelnut scones
I saw the recipe for the scones in one of Goop’s recent newsletters. They did NOT turn out as expected. I really don’t know what happened because I followed the recipe exactly. What’s going on, Gwyneth? Things started to seem odd when the recipe called for shaping the dough into balls (with an ice cream scoop), and freezing. When I have made scones before, I’ve always cut them out and baked without freezing. Because they were frozen, the scones never really flattened; they stayed rather lumpy throughout baking. In addition, the texture was way off — they were very crumbly and looked and tasted much more like cookies than scones. FORTUNATELY although they looked odd, they tasted very good! What went wrong?! I really have no idea.

On the other hand, both muffins turned out perfectly…

Honey & apple muffins
This first one honey and apple caught my eye¬†because it has coffee and whisky looked easy, and in fact it was very straightforward and produced a great muffin! I halved the amount of sugar which was for the best because with the honey it was already sweet enough. I’d definitely make these again.

Spinach, bacon, & cheddar muffins
I decided to do a savoury muffin at the last minute: I had all of the ingredients on hand and thought these ones, from one of my favourite magazines, delicious, looked intriguing. They are slightly more work than the sweet muffins because of the added steps of cooking the bacon and blanching the spinach, but worth it. These are my ideal breakfast or lunch muffin.

This frenzy produced enough to donate roughly 2/3 of the goods and save the rest for us. I brought a few leftovers to a meeting at the university and one of the senior academics in my department proclaimed that I was an “excellent baker”! I don’t know about that, but although it was slightly stressful at times, I’m glad I could contribute a¬†small share to such a worthy cause.

Sept. cooking 051 Some of the ingredients!

Sept. cooking 054 *These are only a few — I didn’t manage to snap a pic of everything together, unfortunately!

Finally: a happy Thanksgiving weekend to all Canadians! I am cooking for 8 tomorrow, so stay tuned for a report on that! Fingers crossed.

Dark Chocolate Tart

This past weekend, my friend A. came over for dinner. It was a relaxing Sunday affair and I wanted to keep the menu simple: roast chicken (a la Ottolenghi), potatoes, carrots, purple-spouting broccoli, and a salad. After all that relative healthiness we then indulged in this delicious and super-easy tart for dessert.

While the tart is no doubt not that great for you, my version contained almost no added sugar (less than one teaspoon) and, since Mireille Guiliano said it’s okay, I’m not feeling too guilty about the dark chocolate. One tip: use the best kind you can get. I used upmarket-supermarket stuff but wish I’d gone for something a little better.

I won’t lie: this is a rich dessert, which is why a very small piece is still very satisfying (especially with some whipped cream!). It keeps for a couple of days in the fridge. ūüôā

chocolate tart
(Mug from Lucky Rabbit Pottery)

Chocolate Krantz Cake

This was the most elaborate dessert I’ve made in a while, but also one of the tastiest and most satisfying! We finished off our¬†mezze¬†with this cake (recipe online here, originally from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi), which is a yeasty bread-ish dough mixture with a chocolate and pecan filling.

Like baking some types of bread, making this requires a bit of advance planning (although I did do it all on one day, but started early). There are a number of steps but none too tricky. I’d recommend having a helper on hand as some parts are a bit harder to do on your own– and it’s also fun to make this cake with another person!

Its flavour is quite subtle but really delicious — it almost feels like a healthy dessert. I will definitely be making it again!

hergehjy
Flattened dough with chocolate spread & pecans
Rolling up the krantz.
H. rolling up the krantz.
Before it cooked.
Before it cooked.
Finished krantz
Finished krantz cake.

Peanut Butter Balls

It’s now nearly mid-January (how did that happen?), and I’ve yet to post anything food-related since I’ve been home in NS for nearly a month now. I’ve been trying to do a little computer detoxing this trip and it has proved to be very refreshing.¬†Although I¬†haven’t been cooking here much, I do have a few posts to share.¬†I leave to go back to London in a few days and figure I should start blogging again!

This post is a little late: I made these peanut butter balls from the very popular Oh She Glows a couple of days before Christmas (as if we needed more food!).

I followed the recipe pretty exactly although (for ease, more than anything) only dipped the top half of them in chocolate. Lots of members of my family enjoyed them but my only complaint was that they were a little on the dry and cloying side, especially after a few days. I’d therefore recommend eating them up as soon as possible. They are a sweet treat without being too sweet, but they are quite rich as well.

Sweet Potato, Ginger, & Chocolate Muffins

First of all, happy October! Today marks 1 year of PhD completion (2 to go), and a host of new changes in my academic life as well.

When I saw these muffins¬†on London Bakes, I was very intrigued. This is a recipe that was adapted by Kathryn from Gwyneth Paltrow’s It’s All Good, which if any of you are goop subscribers you’ll know is (probably – I haven’t seen it!) full of very healthy yet tasty stuff.¬†I love sweet potatoes and knew they could be used in baking but had never tried it before.

I went on a half-hearted hunt for kamut flour before researching and substituting it straight out for plain.¬†Ginger isn’t my favourite (I am always trying to eat more) but it is wonderful in these muffins. I used fresh which I think works best in this as you get a real zing when you bite into a bit with ginger in it.

These are healthier muffins without compromising on taste. Their sweetness comes from the sweet potato and honey; there is no added sugar. I made these while H. was out and he guessed pretty much every fruit under the sun before I told him what they were made of! You can definitely taste their added sweetness. My only complaint is that they turned out quite dense РI guess not surprising when you use flour and sweet potato. It also could be to do with the fact that I used plain flour.

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Chocolate Pecan Cookies (Gluten-Free)

I do not have much experience cooking for food intolerances/allergies, other than occasionally for my sister, who is dairy-free. Spending time with family this summer was a bit more challenging (in a good way!) as we had my sister plus one vegan (P.) and one gluten-free (L.). With my family party dessert task (see chocolate cake with zucchini) I wanted something that L. could eat too – P. in general does not eat desserts. So, at the last minute I decided to make¬†these cookies (sidenote: I have to give a shout-out and thanks to the ever-patient H. for finding this recipe and¬†helping me with both dishes and …it was a bit of a hectic day! :)).

I cut the recipe in half to only make 6 cookies. We didn’t have too many pecans left and with the closest grocery store a half hour drive we went with what we had. The recipe could not be simpler to make. *Note: as regular readers will know I often cut the sugar in sweet recipes and I did in this one too. 1.5 cups of sugar for 6 cookies seemed very excessive! I cannot remember exactly but I think I used somewhere around 3/4 of a cup.

In everything but appearance I am sure these cookies could fool. They do look a little chunky and shiny! Most importantly they were very tasty and gobbled up by L. and others. ūüôā

My challenge next summer will be to find a good gluten-free and vegan-friendly dessert.

Both desserts - photo quality not great, sorry!
Both desserts – photo quality not great, sorry!