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Posts Tagged ‘chocolate’

peanut butter cheesecake (and a facebook page!)

In baking, year-round on 15 September, 2011 at 7:55 pm

So if you’re anything like me you’re probably all “oh my god cheesecake” right now, but before we get to the cheesecake I have a little announcement to make: after a heck of a lot of dithering on the subject (will anyone “like” it besides my mum? How many social media outlets do I really need to be on?) I’ve finally gone and created a Facebook page for this blog. You can find it, rather predictably, at www.facebook.com/milliemirepoix.

On the Facebook page there will not only be links to the latest blog posts, but also other little tidbits: recipes, interesting links, what I’m cooking that day. I’m also hoping it’ll be a place where other people share ideas and suggestions, comments and feedback – perfect if you’ve been shy to comment on the blog but have some thoughts to share. It would be really, really awesome if (after reading about cheesecake of course) you, person reading this right now, stop by and say hello. Who knows, I may even do a giveaway at some stage.

So! Now that that’s out of the way: cheesecake. It had been on my mind ever since that lunch with Chef Wan when the conversation somehow turned to the subject and all I could think of for the next week or so was cream cheese and biscuit-crumb bases and different flavour combinations.

That, combined with the birthday of a dear friend (who never requests I make anything except the occasional “Mika, can you make cheesecake? Please?” to which the answer is usually “but I have no cream cheese, how about pie/cookies/cake/etc”) led me to the shop, finally, armed with a shopping list including cream cheese and mascarpone and malt biscuits: all of the good things.

While I usually prefer a plain cheesecake topped with a bit of fruit, this cheesecake wasn’t for me, but for my peanut butter-loving friend. I found a recipe for peanut butter cheesecake on (who else?) Nigella Lawson’s website, and changed it a bit: I used a combination of mascarpone and cream cheese in the filling and left out the sour cream topping which is baked on at the end. Instead of the topping, I drizzled salted caramel sauce and chocolate ganache over the top. And it was over the top. But in the best possible way.

There’s no denying it: this cheesecake is rich. So rich, in fact, that it conquered my sweet tooth – I couldn’t eat more than a tiny sliver at a time, when usually I don’t (can’t?) show any restraint around desserts. But if you like peanut butter, it’s So Good – dense and creamy and almost stickily peanut-buttery, and with the chocolate and caramel topping it’s almost like eating a Snickers bar in cheesecake form.

It’s incredibly easy to make, too – especially if you have a food processor, but even if you don’t, I imagine it would be pretty straightforward. The fiddliest bit is getting the base (which includes ground up chocolate and peanuts as well as the usual malt biscuit) into the cake tin. Nigella says you don’t even need a water bath for this, because it’s meant to be dense, though I suppose you could use one if you felt like it. I didn’t, and the results were spectacular.

(adapted from this Nigella Lawson recipe)

Preheat oven to 170C.

For the base, you will need:

200g digestive biscuits
50g salted peanuts
100g chocolate (I used part of a block of 72% dark chocolate, broken into bits, but you could use chocolate chips or buttons or anything you prefer)
50g softened butter

Blitz everything in a food processor* until it resembles fine crumbs and clumps together when you grab it. Press evenly into the bottom and sides of a springform tin and refrigerate to firm it up a bit while you clean out the food processor and make the filling.

For the filling, you will need:

250g cream cheese
250g mascarpone
3 eggs, plus 3 egg yolks
200g caster sugar
125ml sour cream
250g smooth peanut butter 

It helps if all of these ingredients are at room temperature before you start: this helps the cream cheese mix in better and avoids troublesome clumps in the end product. If you have enough foresight, take the cream cheese, mascarpone and sour cream out of the fridge a couple hours beforehand.

Again, put everything in a food processor** and blitz until smooth and creamy. Don’t avoid the temptation to eat this mixture with a spoon: it is heavenly; you will fail. Just don’t eat all the mixture before it goes into the tin.

Pour this into the chilled base in the springform tin and bake for about an hour and a bit or until just set (it’s okay if it’s still a tiny bit jiggly). Start checking around 45 minutes depending on your oven strength – mine took just over an hour.

Let cool until the cheesecake reaches room temperature and then chill in the fridge, preferably overnight.

Once it’s ready to serve, remove the cheesecake from the cake tin and make the chocolate ganache and salted caramel toppings.

Chocolate ganache:

Finely chop 50-60g good-quality dark chocolate. Put in a metal bowl. Bring 1/4 cup cream to the boil. Pour this into the bowl with the chocolate, whisking as you do, until the chocolate is all melted and it’s nice and smooth. Drizzle over the cheesecake using a spoon or fork.

Salted caramel sauce:*** 

Melt 1/3 cup brown sugar with 1/3 cup cream and 20g (about 1.5 tbsp) butter in a small saucepan over low-ish heat. Turn the heat up, bring to the boil and cook for a few minutes until it starts to get thick and saucy. Mix in a generous pinch of flaky sea salt until it tastes so incredibly sweet-salty-rich that you can hardly stand it. Transfer to a bowl and let it cool until it thickens a bit more (but not so much that you can’t drizzle it – if it gets too gooey as it cools, just pop it in the microwave or on the stove to soften it up). Drizzle over the cheesecake.

Let the toppings set a little before slicing into the cake and serving up to whoever’s lucky enough to be around. The smaller the slice, the better – it’s very rich, and you can always go back for more if your slice was too small.

*if you don’t have a food processor, I would suggest chopping up the peanuts and chocolate as finely as possible, putting the biscuits in a plastic bag and rolling with a rolling pin until they’re all broken up into crumbs, mixing everything together (maybe putting it all in the plastic bag and smashing it up some more), then rubbing the butter into everything so that it more or less sticks together when you smush it into the tin.

**again, if you don’t have a food processor, you’ll be okay – and this part will be easier than the base. All you need is some sort of mixing implement, be it stand mixer, electric hand mixer, a whisk sturdy enough to beat cream cheese, a fork, a wooden spoon, and so on. Beat everything together until it’s nice and smooth and creamy.

***okay, so it’s not a true caramel because you’re not really caramelising the sugar in the way you normally would: slowly, carefully. But it still tastes damn good. For a great post on proper caramel, see David Lebovitz’s one here.

chocolate earl grey thumbprint cookies with honey ganache

In baking, cookies, sweets, year-round on 21 July, 2011 at 11:11 pm

Two nights ago found me at the kitchen sink, elbow-deep in post-midnight dishes. It’s not often these days I find myself doing a full-on batch of washing-up, since I haven’t lived in a flat without a dishwasher since 2008. But the other night the dishwasher was already going and the kitchen was still full of the detritus from dinner and some serious baking (including a trial run – but more on that later).

I wasn’t very happy about doing the dishes when I had plans to get up five hours later to go to the gym before work (needless to say I didn’t make it), but I figured it was better to do a bit then rather than leave it til morning. And ‘a bit’ turned into a full-on kitchen clean, despite my protesting eyelids, and I realised I somehow enjoyed that fog-like haze of scrubbing and bubbles.

And for the last couple nights since then, I’ve broken out of my usual dishes routine in that I’ve actually been doing the dishes. Properly, with a sink full of suds and scalding hot water. I’m not the first person to discover that doing dishes is strangely cathartic (and it’s not the first time I’ve discovered that), but there’s just something about the combination of that hot water, the scrubbing, the so-tired-you-could-collapse feeling you so often have when you’ve had a long day and a big meal. It’s good. And it keeps you warm when you live in a rather cold house in a Wellington winter.

But going back to what got me to that kitchen sink in the first place: the mess I made baking these cookies. Actually the recipe itself is pretty straightforward and doesn’t involve too many dishes, but I somehow managed to use every single measuring cup and spoon and different-sized bowls and whisks and spoons for tasting (and being careful not to double dip, as I had been home sick that day). And I made this twice, and made dinner in between batches. So: a big mess.

The cookies were for the Wellington on a Plate Bake Club challenge we’re doing at work (how could we not?), hence the test batch: I was up against some stiff competition. Somehow, though our work has nothing to do with food, it seems as though nearly everyone in the office was born with a whisk attachment instead of a hand (er, debating the usefulness of that as I type). So these had to be good.

They also had to contain some Wellington ingredients – to that end I used Whittaker’s chocolate and Tea Leaf T Earl Grey as well as my usual Wairarapa eggs – and, because I hadn’t left the house for two days due to a major cold, they had to consist only of ingredients found in my cupboard.

I used this recipe from the Martha Stewart website – not a site I normally visit but it’s full of enticing cookie recipes – and didn’t really change much except for the addition of Earl Grey tea leaves in the mix. I’d had this idea in my head of Earl Grey shortbread for ages and wasn’t too sure how well it’d pair with chocolate (another reason to do a test batch).

It worked: the cookie was chocolatey, with a hint of bergamot that would grow more pronounced as you chewed and swallowed. The first time around I used a couple of teabags of Twinings ripped open and added to the dry mix. The second time I used looseleaf tea, and blitzed it with the sugar to make it a little finer. I didn’t really notice a difference in terms of flavour when using the looseleaf as opposed to teabags, so use whatever you’ve got.

And I was intrigued by Martha’s addition of honey and butter to the ganache (original recipe here). I used manuka honey (again, what I had in the cupboard) and the flavour was just pronounced enough to make it a little out of the ordinary. The second time around I made it without the butter (post-midnight baking, totally forgot) and I didn’t really notice a difference.

Try these cookies. And then try doing the dishes afterwards. Even if it’s after midnight. It’s not all that bad, I promise (and you’ll have a clean kitchen too!).

(based on these recipes from the Martha Stewart website)

For the cookies:

1 cup flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
a pinch of salt
Earl Grey tea (teabags or looseleaf)
2/3 cup sugar
110g butter
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp cream
1 tsp vanilla 

Preheat the oven to 175C. Sift together flour and cocoa powder and a pinch of salt. Rip open a couple of teabags of earl grey and mix that in.* Set aside.

In another bowl, cream together butter and sugar and then add the egg yolk, cream and vanilla. 

Mix in the dry ingredients. It will be pretty crumbly; don’t worry about this. It will come together when you form the dough into balls (roughly 1 tablespoon). Roll the balls in some sugar and place on a baking tray. Use your pinky to poke an indentation into each one and bake for 10-12 minutes, until just set (careful not to burn, or cook too long, they’ll get dry).

For the ganache:

1/6 cup cream
1/6 cup honey***
55 or so grams dark chocolate, chopped

Put the chopped chocolate into a heatproof bowl. Melt the honey into the cream over low heat. Once it’s simmering nicely, pour over And let cool a minute or so. Spoon a bit of ganache into the indentation in each cookie. Let cool until completely set.

Makes about 25.**

*If you’re using looseleaf tea, I recommend blitzing it in the food processor with the sugar beforehand, so it’s not as big and grainy. In that case, don’t add it here.

**I halved the original recipe, because it said it makes about 90, which I thought a little excessive. I made mine a little bigger, though, so only came out with about 25 per batch. I also used salted butter (it’s what I had) so left out the salt called for in the recipe. Here I’ve kept a pinch in, just in case.

***Awkward measurements, I know. I found the easiest way of doing this was half-filling a 1/3 cup measure with honey, topping that up with cream, and then dumping the whole thing into the saucepan.

avocado smoothie, two ways

In drinks, gluten free, summer on 21 February, 2011 at 1:24 am

Just a quick, hastily-composed post tonight to share with you one of my favourite things. I’ve just had a magnificent weekend in Auckland filled with dear friends and music and good food and sunshine and this is incredibly cheesy but I couldn’t stop smiling even when I returned to Wellington today because the sun was out, the water was still and  it was one of those afternoons where you’re deliriously, achingly glad to exist; I made tacos for dinner and watched the free circus and saw the moon rise over the harbour and now it’s somehow Monday morning (just) and I’m sitting in bed, shell-shocked, bleary-eyed,  cheeks sore from the perpetual grin I’ve had plastered on my face since finishing up work Friday afternoon.

So there it is: I love summer. Who doesn’t? And I love avocados, which – conveniently enough – are plentiful right now. And one of my favourite ways of having them is not in the usual guacamole or mashed up on toast (both obviously awesome uses though), but blended into a cold, sweet smoothie.

I know what you might be thinking: Really? Sweet? Avocado? But it’s perfectly legitimate – avocados are bland enough to go either way, and creamy and decadent enough to carry a bit of sweetness through without being too over-the-top.

I think the first time I had avocado in sweet form was in Indonesia a few years ago where it was served as a shake drizzled with chocolate sauce. And then, while living in Singapore there was a little shop selling the creamiest avocado smoothies just around the corner from my apartment. I’ve been hooked ever since. In Wellington aside from making my own I’ve also had good versions at a couple of Vietnamese restaurants.

They’re incredibly simple to make, so these are hardly recipes, but I’ll share them just the same. Be warned that you’ll need to add plenty of sugar (or other sweetener), otherwise these will taste like a weird, bland, drinkable guacamole. Not nice. But get it right, and oh boy. These are thick and creamy, rich yet refreshing, so addictive.


Scoop out the flesh of 1 avocado and put in a blender together with a handful of ice cubes, a generous splash of milk* and plenty of brown sugar** (at least a couple of tablespoons, if not more – depends on how big your avocado is, how sweet you like it, but as I mentioned before, these require more added sugar than your usual fruit smoothie). Blend until smooth and creamy. Give it a stir and taste for sweetness/consistency; you may need to add more milk or sugar.

*Feel free to substitute other things here: I like using rice milk if I have it around (which is admittedly not often) because it’s already kind of sweet. Like I said: sweetness is key. This is not health food.

**I’ve also sweetened these with honey, maple syrup, agave nectar and white sugar; I’m pretty sure sweetened condensed milk is the norm in certain parts of Southeast Asia. All seem to work pretty well; brown sugar is just what I usually have on hand.

Somewhat channeling that very first chocolate-syrup-drizzled Indonesian shake is this chocolate version. Nothing much more to it except the addition of cocoa powder. Still, it’s a whole different experience – chocolate and avocado go surprisingly well together.


Follow the instructions above, but add a generous shake of cocoa powder (at least 3 or so tablespoons) in the mix. Taste for chocolatiness/sweetness and adjust as necessary.

I can imagine other variations working well, like maybe banana, or chocolate-banana, or maybe even blueberries? So far I haven’t tried anything other than these two basic versions I have on standby for hot, sunny afternoons. Tomorrow (today!!!) looks to be another good one – I may just have to branch out and try something new. In the meantime, so should you. Make these.