No Bake Gooseberry Cheesecake

Gooseberry Cheesecake
Wotchers!

I love a good cheesecake. I don’t, however, love ALL cheesecakes.

*pauses dramatically for the compulsory gasps of horror*

No, to my mind, if you’re going to elaborate on the indulgent simplicity of flavours such as vanilla or maple syrup, cheesecake needs something sharp to act as a contrast to the richness of the filling.

So I say “Away, foul fiend!” to a whole slew of flavours that, to my mind, shouldn’t be paired with cheesecake, mostly in the chocolate, toffee, Banoffi, caramel, praline range, and “Come to Mama!” to all the tart and sharp fruity flavours. Lemon cheesecake was a long-term favourite, but anything that has a sharpness to it is delicious.

There are two main styles of cheesecake: baked and no-bake. I’ve got several recipes on the blog for various baked cheesecakes but haven’t done a no-bake cheesecake, so here we are.

After a little experimentation, I’ve come up with something that will work for any fruit puree you might have to hand. I’ve used gooseberries, but you could also use this recipe for poached rhubarb, plums, damsons as well as raw fruit purees such as strawberries, raspberries, cherries etc.

Another way you can customise this recipe is by swapping in ingredients that will give a texture that you like. A baked cheesecake is usually rich and dense, whereas no-bake cheesecakes tend to have a lighter texture as they rely on gelatine to hold their shape once set.

The filling for the cheesecake in the photo has been made with equal parts of mascarpone, creme fraiche and double cream mixed with the fruit puree, which makes for a creamy but still light texture. If you prefer a denser consistency, you can substitute cream cheese for the mascarpone or creme fraiche or even both. Quark is a fat-free dairy product, but might take the texture towards a mousse rather than a cheesecake. Nothing wrong with that at all, of course, as long as it’s what you were wanting.

A word or two about gelatine. At the risk of stating the obvious, gelatine renders your dessert off-limits to vegetarians. Whilst this might be your dastardly plan, you can still make this dessert so all can enjoy. Vegetarian gelatine is generally available, but not in the sheet form used in this recipe. You should follow the vege-gel guidelines for blooming and using it in your dessert.

The other thing to bear in mind, whichever form of gelatine you use, is that it’s not very fond of acidity. Using the quantity stated on the pack to set a very sharp, acidic liquid is not going to be as firm as if the liquid is neutral in flavour. You might like the texture, but as a general rule, I would advise using extra gelatine to ensure your dish sets as expected.

For example, the recipe below generated 300ml of gooseberry puree. Normally, 2 sheets of gelatine will set 300ml just fine. I used 4 sheets of gelatine a) because of the sharpness and b) because of the volume of filling into which it was to be mixed. The mixture of creams and cheese is quite stiff when whisked together, but adding the puree slackens the mixture off considerably. Having the extra gelatine in the puree meant that all of the filling set, once it had been folded through.

In contrast, for the gel on the top of the cheesecake, I only used a little extra gelatine, which resulted in a much softer final set.

For leaf gelatine, 1 leaf will set 150ml of liquid. Powdered gelatine and Vege-gel are sold in packets that usually set 1 pint (570ml) of liquid. Weigh the granules and divide by four for an equivalent guideline amount.

Last topic before we get on with the recipe – the biscuit base. You can make this from a range of commercially produced biscuits or make your own. Traditionally the biscuit has been Digestives, but other (British) types include HobNobs, Ginger Nuts, Butter Crinkles, Rich Tea – anything crisp. I’ve even used Doriano crackers (similar to Saltines), which give a deliciously unexpected saltiness as well as crunch.

For this recipe I have chosen to use a crumb of Spekulaas, the traditional Dutch Christmas biscuits. They are definitely crunchy and add a nicely spiced note which complements the gooseberries. Any favourite crisp biscuit can be used, merely bake the dough in its breadcrumb-like state and blitz in a food processor when cooled.

No-Bake Gooseberry Cheesecake

You can use either green or dessert gooseberries for this recipe. Green gooseberries (see photo at the bottom of this post) ripen earliest, and pair very well with elderflowers. You can substitute half the poaching water with elderflower cordial if liked. Dessert gooseberries are sweeter and with a rosy blush which makes for the beautifully coloured topping in the top photo. These quantities makes a large cheesecake, so if that doesn’t suit your needs, consider halving the recipe.

Serves 10-12.

For the base
200g self-raising flour
125g dark muscovado sugar
2 tbs speculaas spice mix – or a mix of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger, as liked.
1 pinch salt
150g cold unsalted butter

50g unsalted butter – melted.

  • Heat oven to 175°C, 150°C Fan.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment. A sheet with a lip will help keep the crumbs contained.
  • Put all the ingredients except the melted butter into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade and blitz until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs.
  • Tip the crumbs onto the baking sheet and spread out evenly.
  • Bake for 15 minutes.
  • Stir the crumb, breaking up any large pieces and then return to the oven for a further 10 minutes.
  • Set aside until cold.
  • Pour the cooked crumb into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the mixture is of an even and uniform crumb.
  • Tip the crumb into a bowl and pour over the melted butter.
  • Mix thoroughly until the crumb resembles damp sand.
  • Press firmly into your chosen tin. I used my rectangular springform tin (28cm x 10 cm) and pressed the crumb up the sides a little to give a little extra support to the filling, but if you’re confident in your gelatine levels, this isn’t necessary (see photo at the bottom of this post). You might like to line your tin with foil or parchment to help remove once set.
  • Chill in the fridge until needed.

For the filling
600g fresh or frozen gooseberries, or other sharp fruit
120ml water
250g mascarpone cheese
250g creme fraiche
250ml double cream
5-6 tbs icing sugar
4 leaves gelatine

  • Put the gooseberries and the water into a pan over a very low heat.
  • Cover and allow to gently simmer until the fruit is soft. Stir gently from time to time to prevent the fruit from burning (10-15 minutes).
  • Pour the fruit mixture through a sieve. Leave to drain. Keep both the liquid and fruit pulp.
  • Bloom the gelatine in cold water.
  • Sieve the drained fruit to remove the seeds. You will get about 300ml of puree. If you have extra, set it aside and serve as sauce with the cheesecake.
  • Put the puree and bloomed gelatine into a saucepan and warm gently until the gelatine is melted. Taste and stir through just enough icing sugar to make it slightly sweet.
  • Set aside to cool.
  • Put the mascarpone, creme fraiche and double cream into a bowl. Add 3 heaped tablespoons of icing sugar and whip until the mixture is firm. Taste and add more sugar if necessary, but it should only be slightly sweet.
  • When the fruit puree has cooled, but is still liquid, fold it into the whipped cheese/cream mixture.
  • Taste the mixture to check the sweetness levels and adjust as needed.
  • Pour the cheese mixture into the prepared tin. I lined the edges of the tin with acetate which allowed the filling to come up higher than the level of the crust, but this isn’t compulsory.
  • Cover lightly with cling film and allow to set in the fridge (2-3 hours).

For the jelly topping
retained juice from cooking the fruit
gelatine leaves

  • Measure the retained juice from cooking the fruit and calculate how much gelatine is required to set it. I set 400ml of sharply-flavoured juice with 3 leaves of sheet gelatine. I like the soft set, but you might prefer something a bit firmer in which case add another gelatine leaf. Stir in enough sugar to sweeten slightly. I prefer to keep the topping quite sharp as it provides a great contrast with the sweet biscuit base and the creamy filling.
  • Bloom the required quantity of leaf gelatine in cold water.
  • When the cheesecake filling has firmed up, add the gelatine to the juice and warm until the gelatine has melted. Cool slightly, then gently spoon over the cheesecake. Be careful not to pour from a great hight, as you might disturb the surface of the cheese filling and this would make for a cloudy jelly layer.
  • Return to the fridge and chill until set, preferably overnight.
Green Gooseberry Cheesecake

Green Gooseberry Cheesecake – an earlier version with base-only crumb.


Oyster Tarts

Oyster Tarts
Wotchers!

A great little recipe from that classic baking institution: Be-Ro.

Thomas Bell founded his grocery company in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1875. Amongst other items, he manufactured and sold baking powder and the world’s first self-raising flour under the brand name Bell’s Royal.

After the death of King Edward VII the use of the word ‘Royal’ in business was prohibited, so Thomas shortened each word to just two letters, and the Be-Ro brand was born.

To encourage the use of self-raising flour, the company staged exhibitions where visitors could taste freshly-baked scones, pastries and cakes. This proved so popular, and requests for the recipes so numerous, the Be-Ro Home Recipes book was created. Now in it’s 40th edition, the company claims that, at over 38 million copies, its recipe booklet “is arguably one of the best-selling cookery books ever.”

I’m not sure which edition my Be-Ro booklet is, as it’s undated, but from the appearance of the smiling lady on the front it definitely has a 1930s feeling; it’s pictured on the Be-Ro website, with a deep red cover.

These little tarts are a beautiful example of how the simplest ingredients can be given a subtle twist and appeal by both their appearance and the ease with which they are whipped up. In essence, these are a Bakewell Tart with cream, but a little tweak turns them into sweet ‘oysters’.

I’m not a fan of almond flavouring, so I’ve used lemon zest to brighten the almond sponge and used a seedless blackcurrant jam inside. Adding the jam after baking (unlike the method for Bakewell Tarts) circumvents cooking the jam for a second time, and so it retains its brightness of flavour as well as colour. The pastry is crisp and dry and a perfect contrast against the moist filling. I’ve opted for an unsweetened pastry, but feel free to use a sweetened one if you prefer.

You could customise these tarts by swapping the ground almonds for almost any other nut, and matching the jam accordingly. Here are a few that occurred to me.

  • Almond with orange zest, and orange curd as the filling.
  • Coconut and lime curd, with a little lime zest in the filling.
  • Hazelnuts or pecans, with a praline paste or Nutella in the filling.
  • Walnut and a little coffee icing

Have fun with them!

Oyster Tarts

Pastry
60g cornflour
225g plain flour
140g butter
ice-cold water

Filling
70g unsalted butter, softened
70g caster sugar
1 large egg
zest of 1 small lemon
85g ground almonds

To serve
200g cream cheese
200ml whipping cream
1tsp vanilla extract
1-2tbs icing sugar, plus more to sprinkle
120g sharp jam

  • Put all the pastry ingredients except for the water into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  • Gradually add the water, one tablespoon at a time, until the mixture comes together in a ball.
  • Knead smooth, then roll out thinly. Cover with cling film and chill in the fridge to relax.
  • Preheat the oven to 170°C, 150°C Fan.
  • Beat the butter and sugar for the filling until light and fluffy. This will take about 5 minutes to get as much air into the mix as possible.
  • Add the egg and whisk in thoroughly.
  • Fold in the lemon zest and ground almonds.
  • Grease a 12-hole shallow tart tin.
  • Remove the pastry from the fridge and cut out 12 circles. Line the prepared tin with the pastry.Add about a tablespoon of filling to each tart. I use a small ice-cream scoop but 2 spoons will also work.
  • Bake for 18-20 minutes, turning the tin around after 10 minutes to ensure even cooking.
  • Transfer the cooked tarts onto a wire rack and allow to cool.
  • Whisk the cream cheese, vanilla and cream together until firm. Gently stir through a little icing sugar to slightly sweeten.
  • When the tarts have cooled, slice off the top of the filling with a sharp knife and set aside.
  • Add a teaspoon of jam and either spoon or pipe a little of the cream mixture into each tart.
  • Set the ‘lids’ back on the tarts at a jaunty angle, so as to appear like a half-opened oyster.
  • Dust with icing sugar and serve.

Nectar Rice Pudding

Nectar Rice Pudding

Wotchers!

I received an email from a friend this week, being very complimentary about this rice pudding recipe I’d given her. She wrote “This is so yummy on a chilly winter day in Melbourne!” I made a mental note to put it on the blog in the autumn, but then I got up this morning and looked out the window at the clouds and the cold and the rain and decided that you all needed this recipe today.

Adapted from May Byron’s wartime Pudding Book (1917) it is an absolute delight in a number of ways. It’s a variation of the traditional, some would say nursery, pudding, but these variations elevate it much higher than its list of ingredients might at first imply. For a start, the method is markedly different from the traditional, first boiling the rice in water  followed by a slow simmer on the stove top, then just a brief 20 minutes in the oven. Cooking time is practically halved, compared to the traditional method requiring 2 hours baking and the result is astonishingly soft and creamy. The best part of this recipe, however, is the flavourings. Against just a suspicion of vanilla, the mandarin peel imparts a light and fragrant note, which is in turn enhanced by the aromatic honey and flakes of coconut. The whole dish is lifted out of the nursery and into something altogether more elegant and refined, whilst still retaining it’s simplicity.

Very definitely a grown-up treat for a gloomy, rainy Sunday in June.

Nectar Rice Pudding

120g pudding rice
580ml whole milk
75g granulated sugar
1 large or 2 medium mandarin oranges
½ tsp vanilla extract
280ml double cream
4 large yolks
70ml aromatic honey – acacia, orange blossom, heather, etc
2tbs unsweetened dessicated coconut

  • Bring some water to the boil and add the rice.
  • Cook for five minutes, then drain well in a sieve.
  • Put the rice, milk, and sugar in a thick-bottomed, lidded pan.
  • Peel the mandarins.
  • Eat the mandarins.
  • Put the peel into the pan with the rice.
  • Add the vanilla.
  • Cover the pan and put over the lowest heat available.
  • Simmer softly for 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.
  • Mix the cream, yolks and honey together.
  • Preheat the oven to 140°C/120°C Fan.
  • After the 40 minutes is up, remove the mandarin peel and discard.
  • Pour in the cream and honey mixture. Stir briskly whilst pouring to ensure the eggs don’t cook immediately and curdle.
  • Stir the mixture over the heat until the mixture almost simmers, then pour into a deep oven-proof bowl. To achieve the perfect consistency after baking, the mixture should be about 5cm deep in the dish.
  • Sprinkle the coconut over the surface.
  • Bake for 20 minutes until just wobbling in the middle, and golden brown and bubbling on top.
  • Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes.
  • Serve warm.

Gooseberry and Elderflower Raised Pie

Gooseberry and Elderflower Raised Pie

Wotchers!

If you’ve been lucky enough, as I have been, to go out and about in the great British countryside of late, you’ll have noticed the froth of elderflowers in the hedgerows. It is one of the earliest signs of summer and an excellent reminder that gooseberry season is imminent.

Gooseberries and elderflower are such a classic and delicious pairing, it can surely be no coincidence that they are both available at the same time. If you have the opportunity, I can thoroughly recommend making your own heady elderflower cordial, but commercially produced varieties are also readily available.

There’s a 200-year-old tradition in Oldbury-on-Severn of making shallow gooseberry pies with a sweetened hot water crust pastry as part of the Whitsun celebrations. Jane Grigson mentions them in several of her writings on English food. Due to the age of the recipe, it was a challenge to find any further details on their appearance and so for a long time I had to rely on my imagination. Eventually I found descriptions of the pies as being around 15cm in diameter, extremely shallow (just one gooseberry deep) and hand raised. The use of a hot water crust for a fruit pie is unusual, and can be a little troublesome to work with. Some recipes even recommend that once the tart shell has been formed, the pastry is chilled overnight in order to make a firm casing for the gooseberries, but this then makes it difficult to attach the lid firmly once the paste is cold.

My searching turned up two details that were consistent wherever the pies were mentioned: everyone seemed to like these tarts, even if they didn’t like gooseberries, and that they were extremely juicy when bitten into. This adaptation is slightly more consumer-friendly, producing a raised pie whose shape is more in the tradition of a game pie, with the juice set into a jelly, delicately flavoured with elderflower. This classic dessert pie will hold its shape when sliced, making it ideal to enjoy on picnics as well as relaxed summer lunches. The contrast between the sweet, flowery jelly and the sharp gooseberries is very refreshing. I prefer the tartness of green gooseberries, but if you have a sweet tooth you might prefer the delicately blushed dessert gooseberries. To make everything much easier, it is baked in a loaf tin.

Gooseberry and Elderflower Raised Pie

Sweet Hot Water Crust
600g plain white flour
400ml water
100g butter
100g lard
60g caster sugar

  • Put the fats, sugar and water into a pan and warm over a low heat just until the fat has melted.
  • Put the flour into a bowl and pour on the warmed liquid. Stir well.
  • The paste will be very soft when it comes together, and you can roll it out if you like, but it can also just be flattened and pressed into the tin by hand.

For the filling
1kg fresh gooseberries
1kg caster sugar
2-3 tablespoons of elderflower cordial
beaten egg to glaze.
3-4 sheets of leaf gelatine

  • Use a sharp knife to top and tail the gooseberries, removing the stalk and the calyx.
  • Generously grease a large loaf tin. You can, of course, make this in any shaped tin, but a rectangular loaf tin does produce pretty and regular slices. In order to decide what size of tin to use just tip in your prepared gooseberries. The best fit will be from the tin the gooseberries only just fill.
  • If liked, line the tin with baking parchment in order to help with the removal of the pie once it has cooled.
  • Make the pastry and divide into two. Roll out one piece and cut a lid for your pie to size. Use the empty tin to mark out it’s shape, then cut the pastry 3cm larger all the way round. Set aside.
  • Gather the trimmings and the rest of the pastry together and roll out to about 1cm. Line your greased loaf tin and allow the excess pastry to drape over the sides for now. Make sure any cracks are well patched, so that the juice stays inside the pie.
  • Layer the gooseberries in the pastry-lined tin alternately with the sugar.
  • Moisten the edges of the pastry with water and place the pastry lid on top of the pie. Press the edges together and trim the excess. Crimp the edges in a decorative manner.
  • Cut three circular vent holes in the lid at least 2cm in diameter.
  • Use the pastry trimmings to make additional decorations if liked.
  • Cover lightly with cling film and chill in the fridge for 1 hour to firm up.
  • Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan.
  • Brush the lid of the pie with beaten egg and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the top is crisp and golden and the sides are well baked. It is better to cook the pie a little longer than for the pie to be under-baked, so if the top is becoming too dark, cover with some foil.
  • When you’re happy with the done-ness of the pastry, remove the pie from the oven and set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
  • Tricky Part: You need to drain the juice from the pie in order to mix in the elderflower cordial and the gelatine that will make it set. After much experimentation, I recommend the following method:
    • Put your pie onto a wire cooling rack.
    • Put a second rack upside-down on top of your pie.
    • Place a large bowl on your work surface. If you think it necessary, place a damp teatowel underneath to prevent slippage.
    • With your thumbs uppermost, pick up your pie tin, sandwiched between the wire racks.
    • Holding the pie tin over the bowl, flip it towards you in one swift movement and let all of the juice drain out of the pie through the vent holes and into the bowl.
    • Once the juice has topped dripping, turn your pie the right way up and set aside.
    • Taste the syrup and add sufficient elderflower cordial to flavour. Since the pie will be eaten cold, you can make the flavouring slightly stronger than usual, as the flavours will be somewhat muted when served.
    • When you’re happy with the taste, measure the volume of syrup. For every 150ml of syrup, you need to bloom (soak in water) 1 leaf (sheet) of gelatine. Once bloomed, add the gelatine to the syrup and warm gently until melted.
    • Carefully pour the gelatine/syrup mixture back into the pie through the vents. It might be easier to use a jug for this. You want enough syrup in the pie to make the cooked gooseberries float. Peeping through the vent holes you will be able to note when this occurs.
    • Leave your pie to cool. Cover with plastic wrap and chill overnight in the fridge.
    • Allow to come to room temperature before removing form the tin and cutting in slices to serve. Serve with chilled double cream if liked.

Sea Foam Fudge

Sea Foam

Wotchers!

This is another fantastic textured fudge recipe, but in a whole different way to the Condensed Milk Fudge.

It is made with whisked egg-whites and a hot sugar syrup, beaten to grain the sugar. The result is a dazzlingly white, almost marshmallow appearance. The magic, however, happens when you take a bite. Just like it’s namesake, Sea Foam Fudge melts away like a whisper.

It is positively ethereal. Which is why it needs a jolly great handful of cranberries, apricots and a few chopped nuts for zing and colour and a bit of texture. Some Yuletide flotsam, to be carried into your mouth on a cushion of sea foam, if you will. Or not. I tend to get a bit carried away with my extended metaphors.

ANYHOO….

In the US I believe this is called Divinity and lacks the fruit,  but also veers dangerously (for my not-very-sweet-tooth) towards the soft and nougat-y.

As with meringues, this will absorb moisture if left uncovered, so pack into a ziplock bag for personal indulgence, or shiny, crackly cellophane if gifting as presents.

This comes from a delightful book in my collection – Sweet-Making For All by Helen Jerome, originally published in 1924. Just as with Ms Nell Heaton, I have great confidence in Ms Jerome’s recipes which are always clear and straightforward. If you come across any of their books, I can highly recommend them.

Sea Foam

450g white granulated sugar
60g golden syrup or glucose[1]
180ml water
2 large egg whites
50g chopped nuts – pistachios are colourful, almonds keep things pale
50g chopped dried apricots
50g chopped cranberries – dried or candied

1tsp vanilla extract or 1tbs rum

  • Line a 20cm square tin with baking parchment.
  • Put the sugar, syrup and water into a pan and heat gently until the sugar is dissolved.
  • Bring to a boil and continue to heat until the syrup reaches 130°C. Do not stir.
  • When the temperature of the syrup reaches 120°C, start whisking the egg-whites until stiff. The temperature of the sugar syrup will rise relatively quickly, so keep an eye on each. Or get a glamorous assistant to help.
  • Still whisking, pour the hot syrup slowly into the whisked egg-whites, as if making Italian meringue, and continue beating until the mixture begins to thicken and lose its gloss. Add the flavouring whilst whisking.
  • When the mixture has lost its high sheen and thickened slightly add the fruit and nuts and continue beating until the mixture has thickened further and becomes cloud-like. NB This might happen suddenly, so be prepared.
  • Smooth your Sea Foam into the tin. Alternatively, roll lightly into logs about 2cm in diameter Try not to squash out the air you’ve just whisked in as you do so. Wearing latex gloves or dusting your hands with cornflour, or both – will help.
  • Cover lightly and allow to cool completely. If you can enclose your tin in a large ziplock bag to protect from humidity, so much the better.
  • When cold, cut into squares and/or dip into tempered chocolate. Store in an airtight container.

 

[1] The glucose will keep the fudge dazzlingly white, the golden syrup will add a very pale golden hue.


New Lemon Meringue Pie

Individual Lemon Meringue Pies reimagined

Wotchers!

Despite the title, this post is actually about three recipes, which involve looking differently at something familiar to create something new, and how those recipes can also be combined to create something new. This all came about when I saw a competition to re-imagine a classic dessert. Ultimately, I was ineligible due to geographic location *shakes fist in exasperation*. Nevertheless, I’m more than just a little pleased with the end result. Go me.

ANYHOO…first up:

Swiss meringue

50g (2 large) egg-whites
75g caster sugar

Very much the least used of the meringues, and hardly ever in the context of actual meringues. Most recipes that call for Swiss meringue use it as a base for some kind of frosting, which is a real shame since it is actually probably the simplest of the meringues to make, and provided you have a stand mixer, definitely the easiest. It is also excellent at holding it’s shape when piped, making it ideal for creations that aspire beyond the blobby.

The sugar and egg-whites are placed in a metal bowl over simmering water and whisked lightly until the sugar is dissolved and the egg-whites reach a temperature of between 50°C and 71°C. The temperature is important depending on the use you intend your meringue, the higher temperature is for meringue that will not be cooked further (for use in buttercream, etc). Since that is not the intent here, I’m going to suggest whisking to a temperature of 60°C. This doesn’t take very long at all – 2-3 minutes at most. You can check that the sugar is dissolved by rubbing a little of the mixture between your finger and thumb: if you don’t feel any graininess, you’re good to go.

Transfer the mixture to the bowl of your stand mixer, fitted with a balloon whisk (I actually whisk the egg whites and sugar in the metal bowl of my Kenwood), and set the motor running. Whisk the mixture until it is cooled and firm – between 5-8 minutes. And that’s it. Fantastically firm meringue that holds its shape magnificently, ideal for all your fluted piping needs. Today, however, we have another use for it.

Steam Meringues

I chose the name for these from their cooking method, although it was a close call between these and 10-second Meringues, because that’s how long they take to cook. The only reason I didn’t go with this as a name was because in the recipe below, due to their shape, they actually take 15 seconds. Setting aside the why’s and wherefores of 5 seconds between friends, here’s how it works.

Pipe your meringue mixture into silicone moulds, ensuring they are filled completely, with no air bubbles. Smooth over the surfaces and then zap them in the microwave. Despite the short amount of time, the meringue cooks through and, most importantly for what I have planned for later, holds its shape. What you end up with is a cooked meringue that is borderline ethereal in texture, but which doesn’t subsequently collapse, making it ideal for enrobing in numerous flavoured glazes or coatings before combining with other ingredients into an infinite number of delicate desserts. It is like biting into a cloud, frozen in time.

You are only limited by the size and shape of your silicone moulds. I must confess, I ordered the barque-shaped mould used in the photo above, but you can play around with whatever shape you have – cupcake, mini muffin, hemisphere, etc. Loaf-shaped silicone moulds might work well for larger desserts. The possibilities are endless.

Crème Patissière

This is the third and final recipe revisit I have for you today. You might think crème patissière is pretty much one-dimensional, but not at the hands of Monsieur Philippe Conticini, whose recipe this is. I will confess to being a long-time admirer of Chef Conticini, and if you are unfamiliar with him or his illustrious career, I can recommend it as well worthy of a Google Search. He has great skill in re-imagining classics of French patisserie and I came across the result of him turning his attention to crème patissière on YouTube. It is not a huge departure from the classic recipe: more vanilla, fewer eggs, the use of gelatine – but the result is astonishing in both texture and flavour. Feel free to substitute your own favourite recipe if you prefer, but his is worthy of at least a trial, I assure you.

Here is the original recipe, with vanilla. I shall actually be using lemon as flavouring, but the method is the same. You can view the original video – in French – here.

250ml semi-skimmed milk (can also use whole)
6g vanilla seeds (3 pods)
2 large yolks
42g caster sugar
12g cornflour
10g plain flour
2 sheets gelatine
20g unsalted butter – diced and chilled

  • Put the milk and vanilla into a saucepan together with 1 tablespoon of caster sugar and cover with clingfilm.
  • Heat gently until bubbles are visible around the edge of the pan, then remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 30 minutes.
  • After this time, carefully remove the clingfilm and make sure any condensation on the plastic falls back into the pan, to preserve as much flavour and aroma as possible.
  • Set the gelatine to bloom in cold water.
  • Put the yolks into a bowl with the remaining sugar and whisk to a light froth.
  • Mix the flours together then add to the egg mixture and whisk thoroughly.
  • Pour a little of the hot milk onto the egg mixture, whisking thoroughly, then pour everything back into the pan.
  • Whisk over medium heat, until the custard has thickened – 2-3 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat and whisk in the gelatine and cold butter.
  • Cover a plate with cling film and pour the custard onto it. Cover the surface completely with more cling film and chill in the fridge until cold and set – about an hour.
  • When ready to use, tip the chilled custard into a bowl and whisk briskly for about 2 minutes.

The result is so light, so delicate, silky-smooth with an almost intoxicating flavour. A real revelation.

New Lemon Meringue Pie

New Lemon Meringue Pie cross-section

So here is my re-imagining of the classic Lemon Meringue Pie. It is assembled, rather than baked whole, and employs steam meringues coated in a glaze of rich honey lemon curd, over a lemon custard in a sweet shortcrust pastry shell. To finish, the edge between the meringue and the custard is disguised with a string of freshly whipped cream ‘pearls’.

You will need:

  1. Sweet pastry shortcrust tart shells: I used this cornflour shortcrust, but you can use your own favourite. Fully blind bake your pastry shells in whatever shape you please and set aside to cool.
  2. Lemon-flavoured crème patissière, chilled and whisked: Use Chef Conticini’s recipe above, substituting the zest of 1 large lemon for the vanilla seeds.
  3. Steam Meringues: made with the Swiss meringue above and cooked in silicon moulds of your choosing in the microwave. Mini-muffin-sized hemispheres will need only 10 seconds, larger moulds will require longer. Practice first before filling the whole sheet with the meringue.
  4. Honey lemon curd: Using this recipe. For an exceptional variation, you can find make it with lemon-blossom honey from the Pyrenees.
  5. 300ml double cream – whipped.
  6. Strips of lemon zest, tied in a knot, as garnish

To Assemble

NB If you want to make these ahead of serving, consider painting a layer of melted white chocolate inside your pastry shells, to prevent them from becoming soggy from the crème patissière.

  • Fill the pastry shells with the lemon crème patissière. This is probably easiest done with a piping bag and a 1cm plain nozzle.
  • Arrange the cooked meringues onto a wire rack over a tray. Pour the honey curd evenly over the meringues until fully coated. This is easiest done when the curd is slightly warm and therefore flows a little more smoothly. The excess curd will drip through and onto the tray, from where it can be re-used if required.
  • Using a thin slice or small offset spatula, lift the coated meringues from the rack and lay them onto your filled tart shells.
  • Pipe a border of cream pearls around the edge of the meringues to cover the join.
  • Garnish with the lemon twists.

I have tried to introduce an elegance of presentation, whilst still retaining the essential elements of this classic dessert. Obviously, it can be varied by using different flavours of citrus fruit, or even stepping away from the tradition and using freeze-dried fruit powders to flavour the custards with fruits such as strawberries, blackberries and cherries, and different flavours of curd. I do hope you will have a go trying at least the steam meringues – I’d love to know how your experiments go!

Happy Baking! 😀

Lime Meringue Pies

Lime-flavoured version with lime-blossom honey curd and lime custard filling.


Heaven and Hell Cake

Heaven and Hell Meringue Cake

Wotchers!

This week’s recipe is a variation on a meringue cake, where sponge and meringue are baked at the same time, on top of one another, and then sandwiched together with any of a range of fillings.

The first meringue cake I ever saw was a glorious chocolate-hazelnut-raspberry flavoured one by Miranda Gore Brown on Season 1 of The Great British Bake Off.

I discovered this German version in a rather roundabout way, on a Croatian cooking site. Loving both the name (Himmel und Hölle Kuchen) and the striking appearance, I decided to try my hand at it, since there was suitable fruit in the freezer and I needed some space for this year’s harvest. It’s a cake of contrasts – my favourite kind of cake: sharp, red fruit in jelly, smooth sweetened cream, crunchy meringue and moist sponge. Delightful!

I didn’t actually get as far as the fruit, initially, because the sponge and the meringue required a bit of work: the original sponge was too dry and the meringue went soggy within an hour. So I opted for recipes that I have more faith in, viz: the cream cake recipe of a few weeks ago, and a French meringue recipe from a professional French patisserie site. One of these days I shall compile a chart of how various sugar and egg-white ratios perform with the different meringue methods but, as a famous Braavosi once said, not today.

ANYHOO….

With the cake and meringue sorted, I could turn my attention to the fillings. The name Heaven and Hell comes (I’m assuming) from the contrast between the red ‘hell’ of the fruit and the white ‘heaven’ of the cream. The red fruit is a mixture of raspberries and redcurrants and is set with gelatine. The white cream was originally a sweet Chantilly, but for the above cake design, I felt it needed something a little more robust, so I’ve substituted a variation I used to fill my mille feuilles in the GBBO.

Which reminds me – the above cake design – don’t. I decided to make the cake/meringue as a tray bake and then cut and constructed it in a rectangular, spring-form tin. It makes for an elegant slice, but, on reflection, it would have been much less complicated to use two sandwich tins and then construct in a regular spring-form tin. Additionally, you’d only have to pipe one layer of meringue ‘kisses’ for the top layer, and make the second layer just smooth meringue, thus allowing the cakes to get into the oven more quickly. So I highly recommend that course of action.

Although the red and the white form a great contrast, I think an equally great combination would be blackberries and blackcurrants – one which I shall be trying shortly – and this time in round tins!

Heaven and Hell Cake

There are four elements to this cake: sponge, meringue, fruit filling, cream filling. Once all four elements are ready, the cake can be constructed. The slightly tricky part is the meringue mixture and the cake mixture need to be ready at the same time. Whilst practicing, I made the cake first, then the meringue, but I think for future reference, making the meringue first might be the better way to go, hence the following recipe order.

French Meringue

150g egg whites
20 g caster sugar
125 g caster sugar
125 g icing sugar

  • Put the egg whites into a bowl and whisk until soft peaks.
  • Add the 20g caster sugar and whisk until firm.
  • Mix the remaining sugars together and gradually add to the egg-whites.
  • Whisk until firm, at least 5 minutes.
  • Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a 1.5cm plain tip.
  • Set aside while you mix the cake.

Vanilla Cream Cake

150g caster sugar
2 large eggs
125ml cream – double or clotted
150g plain flour
1.5 tsp baking powder

1tsp vanilla extract

  •  Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C Fan.
  • Grease and line 2 sandwich tins with baking parchment – the size can be small – 20cm – for an impressively tall final cake, or up to 24cm for a lower-level affair.
  • Crack the eggs into a bowl and add the sugar. Beat with a balloon whisk (or by hand or stand mixer) until the eggs are frothy and the sugar dissolved – about 5 minutes.
  • Add the cream and vanilla and whisk in.
  • Sift the flour and baking powder together and stir into the rest of the ingredients
  • Divide the mixture evenly between the baking tins. Smooth over.
  • Pipe meringue ‘kisses’ onto the top of the cake mixture in one tin, and pipe an even layer of meringue over the cake mixture in the other tin.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes until the cake is risen and cooked and the meringue lightly browned. Set aside to cool.

Red Fruit Filling
150ml redcurrant juice [1]
450g fresh raspberries
sugar to taste
1 sachet powdered or 4 leaves gelatine

  • Put the juice and 300g of the raspberries into a pan and warm gently over a medium-low heat, mashing the raspberries into the juice.
  • Taste and add enough sugar to take the edge from the sharpness.
  • Soak the leaves of gelatine and then add to the pan, or sprinkle over the powdered gelatine and stir until dissolved. NB The quantities given normally set a whole pint of liquid, and you might therefore think it a bit excessive. The reason behind this is that gelatine isn’t overly fond of acidic mixtures, so a little extra concentration is helpful in encouraging it to set up properly.
  • Set aside to cool.

Cream Filling
200ml double cream
200g cream cheese
200g low-fat creme fraiche
1 tsp vanilla extract
icing sugar to taste

  • Put the creams, cheese and extract into a bowl and whisk together until firm.
  • Add icing sugar to sweeten. It won’t need much – 2-3 tablespoons is about right.
  • Set aside.

To assemble the cake

  • If available, line the spring-form tin you’re using to construct the cake with food-grade acetate around the edge. This will allow the fillings to form clearly defined layers and not smudge when you remove the cake from the tin for serving. Alternatively, use clingfilm, and cover the whole of the bottom/sides.
  • Lay the cake with the flattened meringue into the bottom. There are two options available: meringue up or meringue down. Meringue up makes it easier to move/serve, meringue down might be more aesthetically pleasing, being a mirror of the top meringue/cake layer. You also need to bear in mind the effect the fruit layer will have on either the meringue or the sponge.
  • Once the fruit mixture has cooled a little, it will start to thicken. Fold in the remaining raspberries, trying to keep them as whole as possible, then spread in an even layer over the bottom sponge/meringue layer.
  • Put the cream mixture into a piping bag fitted with a 1.5cm plain nozzle and pipe a thick line of cream all around the edge of the cake tin, then fill in the middle. Strictly speaking, the piping bag isn’t compulsory, but I find it’s the best way of getting the filling nice and even around the edge.
  • Place the top layer of sponge and meringue on top of the cream and press gently.
  • Chill in the fridge until the gelatine has completely set.
  • When set, remove the cake from the tin and place onto your serving dish. Allow the cake to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes, then dust with icing sugar and serve.

 

[1] I thawed 400g of redcurrants and then sieved the softened berries. It doesn’t need to be all juice – a mixture of pulp and juice is fine, just so the gelatine has something to dissolve into.