Baked Blueberry Cheesecakes

One of the desserts that I really like to make is actually one of the easiest. But they are very tasty and make for a great, light finish to any meal.

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You'll need:

  • 100 gram crushed tiny teddy biscuits
  • ground cinnamon
  • 50g butter
  • 500g room temp cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 100g sour cream
  • two eggs
  • zest of a lemon
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 24 blueberries

Pre heat oven to 175C. Fill a muffin pan with muffin cups. Crush the biscuits in a mortar and pestle to a fine powder. Melt the butter and mix with the crushed biscuits to form a paste. Press a thin layer of the paste in the bottom of each muffin cup, sprinkle with a little bit of cinnamon, and then place the tray in the fridge to solidify.

Beat 500g room temp cream cheese, 1/2 cup sugar, and 100g sour cream together. Add two eggs, beat. Add zest of a lemon and half a lemon juice, beat. Add a teaspoon vanilla, beat. Add to the cups, add a berry, bake for 20 mins. Cool in the fridge for an hour.

To serve, add a couple blueberries to each cheesecake. And you can also include some whipped cream. An alternative to the blueberries is to add a raspberry to the center of each cheesecake before baking.

Enjoy!

Baking Cupcakes for the RSPCA

Last Monday was Cupcake Day for the RSPCA and I decided to bake two different types of cupcakes, Cookies & Cream flavour with buttercream icing and "Eggy" vanilla flavour with buttercream icing and an apricot half. These are recipes from "500 Cupcakes", which I highly recommend if you ever want cupcake inspiration. I slightly tweaked each recipe by using chocolate Oreos instead of original, and apricot halves instead of peaches.

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The two recipes are very similar, with the crumbled Oreos and the apricot halves being the differences. 

To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 175C and line cupcake liners into cupcake pans (this recipe makes 18). You'll need:

  • 225g unsalted butter, softened
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste
  • 10 crushed chocolate Oreos

Then combine all the ingredients except the cookies into a bowl and beat for a few minutes. Then stir in the cookies. Add to the tins and bake for between 15-20 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack.

To make the icing, you'll need:

  • 375g icing sugar, sifted
  • 225g unsalted butter
  • pinch of salt
  • 10 chopped chocolate Oreos

Beat the sugar, butter, and salt together and spread onto each cupcake. Then sprinkle the Oreos on each. Serve!

To make the "Eggy" cupcakes follow the same recipe, omitting the cookies and adding an apricot half to each cupcake.

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Choux a la Blueberry! My day off...

Since I tried the Laduree eclairs a bit back and stuffed up the frosting I have been hoping to get some time to try something similar and see if I could nail it. So, inspired by Laduree's "Choux a la Rose", I tried to create a pastry that would let me try that painful poured fondant process again. 

Now, if there's one thing I love about Australia, it's the fact that we get quite a few public holidays. Melbournians actually get the entire first Tuesday of November off for the Melbourne Cup - a horse race! Here in New South Wales we get a bank holiday every August, which is great if you work in financial services. That means that I usually get the day off and the Gourmet Female does not.

So today I had enough free time to have another go and I created my "Choux a la Blueberry" pastries. They are very similar to eclairs except that they are round, dipped in a white chocolate fondant, and topped off with a blueberry.

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To start, you need to make simple pastry cream. This recipe is from the Laduree Sucre book - but there are many variations that you can find on the Web. You need:

  • 1 vanilla bean (I used vanilla bean paste)
  • 400ml whole milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 80g caster sugar
  • 30g cornstarch
  • 25g butter
  1. Slice the bean in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Add the milk, pod, and vanilla seeds to the pan and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat and set aside for 15 minutes
  2. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl until slightly pale. Add the cornstarch. Remove the vanilla pod from the milk and bring the milk mixture back to a simmer. Pour a third of the mixture over the egg mixture and whisk together. Add the whole mixture back to the saucepan and stir with a whisk, making sure to scrape the sides of the pan with a spatula
  3. Pour the mixture into a clean bowl and let cool for 10 minutes. Stir in the butter and then cover and refrigerate.

Next, you need to make basic choux pastry. Instead of repeating a well worn recipe I'll point you here. Once you have made the pastry mix pipe out 4cm circles (like a macaron shape) to a non-stick pastry sheet. Bake at 180C for 10 minutes and then crack the oven open with a wooden spatula and continue to bake for 20 minutes. The instructions from Laduree says 30 minutes but my oven seems to cook them much quicker.

Once you've removed and cooled the pastry you will need to poke a hole in the bottom of each pastry with a small piping tip and then fill each pastry with the pastry cream.

Now, make the glaze. You'll need:

  • 80g white chocolate
  • 5 tbsp glucose syrup
  • 120g pouring fondant
  • Blue food colouring

Add the syrup and fondant to a saucepan and gradually warm until it loosens up. Then add the white chocolate and food colouring and continue to warm until it's smooth and silky.

Finally, dip the pastries into the glaze and top with a blueberry.

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And voila, here are the GourmetMale's "Choux a la Blueberry"! Come on guys, have a go!

Advanced Cooking Class at Urban Graze

A couple years ago we were introduced to Urban Graze by a close friend and his wife. Urban Graze (www.urbangraze.com.au) is based in Sydney and, amongst other things, conducts a wide variety of cooking classes. We love them because they are very hands-on and the owners, Tarrah and Joel, really get involved and ensure that you are doing things correctly and learning.

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Back in February, after three classes, we were feeling that we wanted to be challenged as the courses were interesting and tasty but we felt like we weren't learning much technique-wise. So we contacted Tarrah and discussed the potential for an advanced class. To our delight, they agreed that it was worth a try and we quickly booked a place for the inaugural Cooking Challenge class in August. Originally it was going to me and the Gourmet Female, along with a good mate and his partner. But when we realised she had a birthday party to attend my friend called a ring-in, his brother, who had never been to a class at the school before. Imagine our laughter when Joel opened the class with, "Now, we created this class for those who have been here a few times before and want to be challenged"! 

So while we think we have been a few times we were floored to understand that a couple of the other students (there were 10 of us in all) had been to over 100 classes! That's nuts. I'm just jealous...

The menu for the evening consisted of:

  • Mushroom and Goat Ricotta Tart
  • Egg Yolk Ravioli with Sage Brown Butter Sauce
  • Boned Stuffed Rolled Chicken with 5 Spice Sauce
  • Orange Roasted Pears with Brown Butter Ice Cream

I was lucky enough to get the dish I wanted to create, the "Egg Yolk Ravioli with Sage Butter Sauce". Technically, I think it was the toughest dish on the menu but we were up to the challenge - or so we thought! I've made pasta before so that wasn't so difficult. What was very hard was including just the right amount of filling and then resting a single egg yolk in the middle, then closing the ravioli without any air inside and without breaking the yolk! In the end, it took longer than planned but we delivered a dozen beautiful raviolis and a gorgeous sage brown butter sauce. It was very satisfying. 

Now, in the heat of the moment my photo came out horrible. So, pardon the poor shot - I'll hopefully replace it once Urban Graze puts up their shots from the night. UPDATE: Tarrah and Joel have put up their shots from the night so thankfully this is a much better shot of our dish. Thanks, guys!

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And it was oozy, as intended...

The mushroom tart was fantastic but unfortunately I didn't get a shot in as I was frantically trying to finish our raviolis. After our dish was the chicken, which had a depth of flavour that I didn't expect.

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Now while I took a great deal of personal satisfaction from our ravioli dish, I was equally as happy that the guys were really enjoying themselves while creating their dessert. And the cooking class rookie was really smashing the pears out of the park. Everyone was impressed!

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To be honest, it's through things like this that I really expand my skills and cooking toolkit. You may not be ready for the advanced courses yet but I'd suggest every guy should get to a cooking class once a year. You owe it to yourself and your family to at least have some basic skills and know some tasty dishes to impress your friends. And they serve wine!

For what you would spend on a nice dinner out you can not only eat food that's probably better tasting, but also learn some things that you can take home with you.

Next up, I've got some cayenne peppers mashing to make hot sauce and some sourdough starter beginning to bubble away...