Niamh Doherty

Archive for the ‘Dessert’ Category

A Romantic Raspberry Cheesecake, for Valentine’s Day…

In Dessert on February 7, 2013 at 23:16
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…or, indeed, any day. This is so good you’ll want to make it again, and again, and again,

When I heard that  Avonmore were launching a new Dessert Cream, and running a competition to find the perfect Valentine’s Day dessert, I knew immediately that this treat was The One, so to speak. I can’t claim any praise for inventing this recipe – it was thought up by a very good friend of mine from college. We were so obsessed with this cheesecake that we would make it at least once a month, and devour it. Not only that, we’d also confer to see which of us had fewer housemates due home that night…fewer housemates meant fewer people to share it with, you see. Greed is good, my friends. Greed is good.

Aside from being utterly delicious, this dessert is ludicrously easy to make. It’s a no-bake, just-chill cheesecake – crushed biscuits are mixed with butter for the base, and the easily-whisked together topping is dolloped lazily on top. So far, so what? Well there are a few little twists lurking beneath the surface which take this simple sweet to the next level of lusciousness. Firstly, instead of sandy, everyday Digestives, we use Café Noir biscuits, with their sweet, coffee icing, as the base. Secondly, we add another layer of interest by spooning some crushed tinned raspberries on top of the biscuits, before finishing with the cream-cheese topping. The squashed, syrupy berries slowly ooze their delectable flavour into the biscuits, adding a sweetly-sticky, raspberry scent which ties the whole dish together. Anyone who’s ever eaten this has immediately asked for the recipe, which I think speaks for itself.

Finally, many of you will have noticed that my photo skills are rather lacking – I blame my camera but really I lack the requisite patience, and usually want to hoover up whatever I’ve just cooked instead of  having to delicately style and photograph it  – but that is thankfully about to change as I’ve collaborated with a photographer friend of mine, the wonderful Simon Curran of iamacosmonaut. With his infinite patience and mad camera skillz, Simon produced some truly dreamy food shots, which I am delighted to be able to share with you today. The styling was mostly done by yours truly – with some help and inspiration from a friend – and I’m thrilled with the results. I hope you enjoy them as much as we enjoyed shooting them, and hopefully this is the tip of the iceberg  for future collaborations!

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Romantic Raspberry Cheesecake – serves 1-8

Ingredients:

For the base:

150g Cafe Noir biscuits (i.e. 1.5 packets)

75g butter, melted

For the topping:

200g creme fraiche

200g cream cheese

1 tbsp of Avonmore Fresh Dessert Cream

lemon juice

icing sugar

2 x tins of raspberries, either in their own juice or in syrup

Method:

1. Begin by crushing the biscuits, either in a food processor or the old-fashioned way, in a plastic bag and with a heavy implement. If using the processor, be careful not to process too much – you want crumbs, not dust.

2. In a bowl, mix the crushed biscuits with the melted butter until thoroughly combined. Press into the bottom of a 23cm cheesecake tin.

3. Take one tin of raspberries, open and drain off the juice. Plunge a fork into the tin and furiously whisk to roughly break up the raspberries. Dollop spoonfuls of the resulting muddled berries on top of the biscuit  base, smoothing and spreading as you go with the back of a dessert/soup spoon.

4. In a second bowl, mix together the creme fraiche, cream and cream cheese. Add a spritz of lemon juice, mix thoroughly and taste. If it’s a little tart, add a small amount of sieved icing sugar and whisk it in. Taste again and adjust as necessary.

5. To your cream cheese mixture, add the second tin of drained raspberries, and mix. You can either lazily marble it through, which looks very pretty, or stir more energetically for a uniformly pink-hued topping. Dollop on top of the be-raspberried base and refrigerate for 4 or so hours or, better still, overnight.

6. Serve with some fresh raspberries, pour over some Avonmore Dessert Cream, and commence gorging.

Some provisos: the topping is quite sloppy, so it does need to be made in advance, unless you’re happy with a cheesecake that doesn’t slice beautifully. No matter, it’s easier to get it done in advance anyway. Secondly, if using regular single cream, just use 3/4 of a tablespoon, as it’s thinner than the Fresh Dessert Cream I’ve specified here.

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Nutella Cheesecake

In Chocolate, Comfort Food, Dessert on January 28, 2013 at 17:52

NUTELLA CHEESECAKE

Once again, I’ve been neglecting my blog, and my readers, if there are any left. Consider this recipe a culinary white flag, and accept my apologies. Today’s nugget of deliciousness comes to you courtesy of the inimitable Nigella Lawson, and is featured in her newest book, Nigellissima. I caught the Christmas episode of the TV series cacompanying the book, in which she suggested serving this cheesecake as part of an Italian-inspired feast, and I was smitten. I adore hazelnuts and am obsessed with chocolate; in short, I had to make this.

Many people presume that making a cheesecake is a daunting affair involving waterbaths, dangerously liquid fillings and all manner of kitchen trickery, but this honestly couldn’t be easier. There is no baking involved – you simply throw the ingredients for the base into a food processor before nonchalantly pressing it into a tin and dolloping a cream-cheese and Nutella mixture on top. Honestly, the hardest part is coaxing the surprisingly semi-solid Nutella out of the jar. Well, that, and not eating the whole thing yourself…

I knew once I’d licked the filling off the beaters while making this that I was onto a winner, but to say it went down a treat at a recent get-together is an understatement. We didn’t bother with bowls but, rather primitively, attacked the unmoulded cake with spoons. Every time I walked past it in the kitchen another chunk had gone missing, and I was on the receiving end of an irate text from my friend’s husband the next day when he realised I’d taken the leftovers home with me.

Nigella instructs us to make the base in a food processor, but if you don’t have one – like me – don’t let that stop you. Simply melt the butter and 25g of Nutella together, and mix with the biscuits which you’ve crushed manually in a plastic bag – I like to use a large tin of tomatoes for the job, it’s wonderfully cathartic – before pressing into your tin and proceeding as normal. You can, of course, toast and chop your hazelnuts yourself, but seeing as Tesco have done all the hard work for you why not take advantage of it? You will be appalled at the amount of Nutella and cream cheese that goes into this, but life, as they say, is for living, and a small slice won’t kill you. It’s best served with a blob of whipped cream and a large dollop of self-control.

Nutella Cheesecake – serves 1-12

Ingredients: 

  • 250g digestive biscuits
  • 75g soft butter
  • 400g Nutella (at room temperature)
  • 500g cream cheese (at room temperature)
  • 100g hazelnuts (toasted and chopped – as discussed you can buy them already toasted and chopped)
  • 60g icing sugar

Method:

1. Break the digestives into the bowl of a  food processor, add the soft butter and a tablespoon of Nutella. Process until it starts to clump together. Add 25g of the hazelnuts and continue to pulse until the mixture resembles damp sand.

OR

Melt the butter and a tablespoon of Nutella together. Bash the biscuits in a clear plastic food bag with a rolling pin/tin of beans or tomatoes/your own crushing self-doubt until you have uniform crumbs. Add 25g of the hazelnuts into the biscuits and then stir in the melted butter/Nutella until it is thoroughly and evenly distributed.

2. Tip your biscuit mixture into a 23cm round springform tin and press down, using either your fingers or the back of a spoon. Put the tin in the fridge to chill while you make the topping.

3. For the topping, beat the cream cheese and sieved icing sugar together until smooth. Add the remaining Nutella and mix until combined.

4. Take the tin out of the fridge and dollop the Nutella mixture on top of the base. Spread evenly and top with the chopped, toasted hazelnuts. Put the finished cheesecake back in the fridge for 4 hours, or overnight.

Note: This is best served straight from the fridge as it will be easier to cut. I didn’t get to snap a photo of my own cheesecake so the picture above is from Nigella’s website. Credit is due to her photographer and most certainly not to me.

A Comforting Apple and Blackberry Crumble

In Autumn, Baking, Comfort Food, Dessert on October 10, 2010 at 21:45

When the evenings get shorter and the temperatures start to drop, my thoughts turn to woolly jumpers, crackling fires, snuggling down under a cosy blanket with a good book, and I crave hearty food like rib-sticking stews, luscious, gravy-filled pies, and warm, comforting fruit crumbles. This apple and blackberry crumble is one such dish, with the sweet and crunchy topping revealing a bed of soft and delicious fruit. Apple and blackberry is a classic autumnal combination, and one that I’m more than happy to indulge in while both fruits are at their best.

The original recipe calls for cooking apples, but I used regular eating apples and cut out most of the sugar. Normally, I would add cinnamon to an apple crumble, but omitted it here as the blackberries added more than enough extra flavour. This makes a lovely ending to a autumnal Sunday lunch when served, still warm, with vanilla ice-cream, softly-whipped cream, or a blob of crème fraiche…woolly jumper and crackling fire optional.

Apple and Blackberry Crumble (taken from Rachel’s Favourite Food, by Rachel Allen)

Serves 6

Ingredients:

3-4 large cooking apples (or 4-5 eating apples), peeled, cored and cut into large chunks

1 tbsp water

2-3 tbsp sugar (you can cut this down to about 1/2 tbsp of sugar if using eating apples)

225g blackberries (frozen is fine)

For the crumble:

175g plain white flour

75g cold butter, cut into chunks

75g demerara sugar

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celcius. Put the apple chunks, water and sugar into a saucepan over a low heat and cook until the apples are soft and pulpy – about 10 minutes. If using eating apples, they won’t break down as much, so cook them until they are soft to the point of a knife. While the apples are cooking, stir every minute or so to prevent them from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Taste and add more sugar if needed, before transferring to a pie dish (or to several small ramekins) to cool slightly. Pop the blackberries onto the cooked apple at this point.

2. To make the crumble, rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Don’t rub it in too much however, as the crumble won’t be crunchy if you do. Add the sugar into the crumble topping and mix. Sprinkle the crumble mixture on top of the apple and blackberries.

3. Bake for 15 minutes for small crumbles, or 30-45 minutes for larger crumbles. Remove from the oven when the crumble is cooked and golden. Serve whilst still warm, with cream, vanilla ice-cream or crème fraiche.

Decadent Chocolate Mousse

In Dessert on July 28, 2010 at 20:15

Like any self-respecting girl, I love my chocolate, and this mousse is perfect for any chocoholics that you may know.  I use a mixture of milk and dark chocolate to give this dessert a sweetly creamy, yet intense chocolate flavour. This mousse is quick and easy to make – the only slightly tricksy bit is the adding of the egg whites, and that’s not very difficult at all. This makes a fabulous end to a meal with a cup of good coffee, and needs no embellishment (though some sharp raspberry coulis would be gorgeous). Make this for your next dinner party, and your guests will want to come back again, and again!

Chocolate Mousse (taken from Rachel’s Favourite Food, by Rachel Allen)

Ingredients:

120g good-quality dark chocolate (or use a mixture of milk and dark, as I do)

120ml cream

2 eggs separated

Method:

1. Finely chop the chocolate. In a saucepan, bring the cream up to the boil. Turn off the heat, add the chocolate and stir until the chocolate has melted. Whisk in the egg yolks, and transfer to a large, wide bowl. This will make it easier to fold in the egg whites in the next step.

2. In a separate, clean, dry bowl, whisk the egg whites until just stiff, and then gently stir in a quarter of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture. Gently fold in the rest of the egg whites, being careful not to knock all the air out. It’s the air bubbles that will make your mousse feather-light and airy.

3. Spoon into little bowls, glasses or cups, and leave in the fridge for an hour or two to set. Rachel says that this fills about 10 small glasses, but I half-filled four heart-shaped ramekins instead. This mousse is so tasty that you’ll want to eat lots of it!

Bad-Ass Brownies

In Dessert on April 9, 2010 at 21:42

Why are my brownies so bad-ass, I hear you ask? Well, because brownies can be difficult – too short a cooking time, and they are far too sticky; too long, and they’re dry and cakey. After many failures and attempts at allegedly foolproof recipes, I found this one. My failsafe, go-to, port-in-a-storm brownie recipe, and, as is my wont, I ignored all of Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s proffered advice, added sub-standard ingredients and flouted the method…and they STILL worked. These are awesome.

I use Dairy Milk chocolate – I know that my fellow foodies won’t approve, but I’ve just lost my dark chocolate tooth. I’ve made these with eleventy million percent cocoa solids chocolate before, and found them to be too dark for me. I do, however, redeem myself by using super-duper, fairtrade, save the whales cocoa powder, which brings them back from the brink of being a too-sweet joke. I add pecans instead of walnuts, use granulated sugar instead of caster when that’s all I’ve got in the house and melt the chocolate and butter in a saucepan on a direct heat, which is a big no-no. It works for me though – just melt the butter slightly before adding the chocolate, keep the heat low, and you’re away.

Double Chocolate Brownies (from The River Cottage Family Cookbook by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall & Fizz Carr)

Ingredients:

250g chocolate

200g butter

200g caster sugar

3 eggs

125g plain flour

50g cocoa powder

100g broken walnuts (optional)

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 160 Celcius/Gas Mark 3.

2. Melt the butter and chocolate together, either by suspending over a water bath, or by my lazy method outlined above.

3. In a bowl, whisk the sugar with the eggs until the mixture is smooth and creamy.

4. Add the chocolate/butter mixture to the eggy mix, and mix thorougly.

5. Sift the flour and cocoa powder and mix thorougly. Add the nuts and mix again.

6. Line your baking tray with foil/baking parchment (or use a nifty silicone tray like I do, thereby eliminating any element of make-and-do) and pour in the mixture, smoothing the top with a spatula.

7. Put the tray in the middle of the oven, and bake for 20-25 minutes. A knife pushed into the centre at this stage should come out just smeared with the mix. Err on the gooey side of caution, and take them out of the oven if you’re unsure – they can always go back in later if need be and they often cook a little more in the residual heat of the tin.

These are gorgeous as a mid-afternoon pick-me-up with a glass of milk or coffee, delicious for dessert with a dollop of creme fraiche and some raspberry coulis, or divine when eaten still warm with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream. They also do double-duty as a birthday cake – just pile them up on a cake stand and stud with lit candles or sparklers to celebrate a special occasion.