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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Cotton Soft Japanese Cheesecake - Blue, Red & White for my team

        Whenever there is a get together of any size or occasion there is an excuse for me to cook/bake something to bring along. It's also a chance to try and make something different that I havn't done before. So when dear Fil organised an NRL grand final viewing at his place I was already trying to think of what I wanted to make.
        At first I was thinking something easy like brownies but I also wanted to make something I was able to include team colours in. Next idea was maybe a plain buttercake but I thought that was boring. I've only had Japanese cheesecake once or twice and have always wanted to try and make it at home. I really like that it's kind of a mix between a cheesecake and a soft sponge cake. The fact that I was able to colour it meant it was a perfect idea for this occasion.
        I remembered that I saw a post on Japanese Cheesecake at Not Quite Nigella so thought I would use it as a reference for my cake. I left out the rare cheesecake part, originally was going to use some raspberry puree and blueberries to make a red and blue layer but then scrapped that idea and just made a plain cheesecake and coloured the batter.

Ingredients:
  • 50g butter
  • 250g cream cheese
  • 100 ml milk
  • 60g plain flour
  • 20g cornflour
  • 150g sugar
  • 6 eggs separated
  • Pinch of salt
        The butter, cream cheese, and milk are put in a bowl and heated over a saucepan of water on medium low heat until it's all melted and combined.

        Once the cheese mixture has cooled, the egg yolks are added along with the sifted flours.

        In a seperate bowl, whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until foamy and then beat in the sugar until soft peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the cream cheese and egg mixture. Make sure there are no streaks left. The next part is optional, if you don't require any colouring it is perfectly okay to pour the batter into a greased/lined cake pan. (Approximately 9-10 inch wide).

        So I roughly divided the batter into 3 parts and coloured 2 parts with red and blue (Wilton) gel colouring.

        I could have just 3 layers but then I remember seeing striped (rainbow) cakes around so thought would try my hand at attempting to get stripes in my cake. Starting in the centre I just poured the batter in small portions, alternating between the colours just pouring the next colour straight into the centre of the previous one. The batter was slowly pushed out and gave me the effect above.

        The circles were looking a bit like a target so I decided to run a skewer through the circles to create the webbed effect above. Starting from the outside, I drew a line towards the middle, and went around, cleaning the skewer tip as I went along. I only did this on the surface of the cake as to not mix up the batter underneath.
        Place the cake pan in a water bath of boiling water and bake in a preheated oven at  160 degrees celcius for 1 hour and 10 minutes.

        I had no idea what my cake looked like underneath the surface and was just so eager to cut it up but I had to wait until Sunday night to serve it up. I like how pretty the top turned out.

        So I finally get to cut up my cake! It got some pretty funny reactions from people, asking me what it was. The blue almost looks a little like mould as was noted by some people. Once you had a piece it was hard to stop though. Soft, spongey but slightly creamy with a subtle hint of cheese, it was addictively good! Will have to make it again, and maybe experiment with flavours and toppings.
        Oh and I guess it's quite obvious which team I was rooting for right? So they lost the grand final... they've come a bloody long way from last year though. And loyal supporters don't ditch their teams. Well technically they are Ryan's team... Ryan thinks I need to find another team to support just to make things interesting.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Pina Colada Creme Brulee - A twist on a classic for a pineapple challenge!

        Apologies to all my dear readers and fellow bloggers for my lack of presence in the blog world for the past few weeks. I've just been feeling tired and run down and my day's activities have left me with little time or energy left to blog or to even read blogs.
        I have been cooking/baking up many storms in the kitchen, had my first paid order for baked goods, and also had a dear primary school friend get married last weekend where I had to put down my oven mitts and pick up my florist cutters and do the wedding flowers.
        And not to mention this awesome challenge I've put myself too which I just had to post about first before I backtrack and fill you in on my cooking/eating adventures over the past few weeks plus all the backlog before that.

        So I was contacted by the people at King Of Fruit asking me to participate in a challenge to create a dish using their super sweet and super juicey pineapples, I thought why not? I absolutely love pineapple! Especially those of the sweet variety.
        I've eaten cooked pineapple in many dishes sweet and savoury before but never really attempted to cook with it myself. I absolutely butchered my pineapple trying to cut off the skin (first time doing so), I think mum's cleaver wasn't too sharp and even after attempting to sharpen it I still had a hard time.
        I originally had been inspired by a dessert by Pierre Herme which involved fresh pineapple, baked pineapple and tapioca pearls in coconut milk. Because I had to create an original dish for the challenge I was going to make a pineapple/pina colada ice cream, using the elements in Pierre's dish to create contrast and texture within the ice cream.

        I had bought some cream with the intention of turning it into ice cream but kept forgetting to bring it home with me from work. I thought that I might as well start on the main element of my dish, the pineapple puree. As I was chopping up the pineapple I was on my phone and noticed on twitter that an ice cream recipe had been submitted to the King of Fruit website already. I was so bummed!
        Even though mine would have had slightly different elements I knew I had to change my tactic for the competition. I had already bought the cream, and I still wanted to keep all the same elements of my dish but had to think of a way to present it all in a unique way. Not sure where the idea came from but Creme Brulee popped into my mind, and my past experiences show that this is something I am yet to perfect so I was taking a huge gamble.

        So for the flavouring of my custard I blended 1 medium sized chopped pineapple (approximately 600 grams and put the mixture through a sieve to strain out all the juice. All the fibres would have ruined the texture of the creme brulee and I wasn't sure adding so much liquid to the custard mix was a good idea either so I reduced the juice down into a syrup. I added about 2 tablespoons of sugar to the juice to help aid the syrup.

        Once the juice comes to a boil, reduce to a medium heat and simmer for about 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once all the liquid has evaporated you should be left with something like this.

        600 grams of fresh pineapple, down to 350ml of fresh pineapple juice, down to about 1/3 cup of pineapple syrup.

        I was left with all this pulp which seemed a shame to waste, I tasted a bit just to make sure the texture was alright and thought maybe I could dry it out like what I did when I blended my apples to make my green apple sorbet.
        I thinly spread out the pulp on a lined baking tray and put it on the bottom rack of the oven for about an hour on 120 degrees celcius. I found that it didn't quite come out as I had hoped, it dried out, but was a soft pliable texture rather than crisp and wasn't very brown either. It was getting late so I took it out and continued playing with it the next day.

        The next day I stick my sheet of pineapple pulp into the oven again to try and get it crisp. Because I found that baking at a low heat wasn't working, I upped the temperature to about 150 - 160 degrees and found that it browned much more quickly and gave me the crisp finish I was after.

        So the next part was a tapioca pudding which I wanted to be at the bottom of my creme brulee to add another texture to it. And this was also my coconut part of the pina colada flavour combination. I  thought coconut cream would be too thick so used coconut milk to cook the tapioca pearls with. Had to run up to the shops to buy these two ingredients because Mum didn't actually have any, I swear I'm sure I saw the tapioca pearls in a draw somewhere...

        So I put 2/3 cup of tapioca pearls with 1 can of coconut milk plus 1/3 can of water into a saucepan and left it to soak (for about 30 minutes). Came back from my evening walk and then proceeded to make my pudding. Onto the stove it went and as soon as it started boiling, turned down to medium heat and stirred until the pearls had absorbed all the milk and were clear and soft.
        I wanted to be thick so that it wouldn't mix into the custard and thin it out. There was still a slight crunch to the pearls but I didn't mind it and found that it cooked through once the custards were in the oven. I popped the entire batch of pudding into the fridge as I had forgetten the cream at work again.

        It probably works out better as the pudding firms up, better idea was to fill the ramekins with the pudding before putting into the fridge. The pudding kind of solidified overnight and it was a little tricky to scoop out and fill the moulds. Plus when you pour the custard over it seeps into all the little gaps giving you a whole heap of air bubbles.

        So I finally remember to bring the cream home and am able to start on my creme brulee - yay! So after skimming through many recipes I decided to go with what I thought would be a god creme brulee recipe.
        I used one 600ml jar of thickened cream and 6 yolks (already had 3 leftover from macarons) and an extra whole egg, just so that it wasn't too 'eggy' in taste. So starting off with the egg yolks, whole egg and 1/4 cup of sugar in a bowl, it's all beaten until pale. Then I mix in the pineapple syrup.

        So the cream is heated on medium-high heat just until it starts simmering, then taken off the heat to cool for a bit and then slowly whisked into the egg mixture.

        Some recipes say to cook the cream and egg mixture some say to just put it straight into the oven. I decided to cook it for a little bit until it thickens a bit more.

        So the custard mixture is strained into a jug and then poured into the ramekins filled with tapioca pudding. They needed to be left for a few minutes for the custard to settle into all the little gaps in the pudding, little air bubbles started surfacing which needed to be pricked.

        The ramekins were then put into a roasting pan which was filled with boiling water, about half way up. These were then covered with foil and baked in the oven for about 1 hour and 15-20 minutes at 160 degrees celcius until set.
        I had my first ever batch of creme brulees (minus the brulee at this stage) which were cooked properly. It was late again so I let them sit in an ice bath to bring them down to a more suitable temperature for the fridge. The brulee-ing and everything else would have to wait until the next day.

        To add an extra coconut element to the creme brulee I thought I would toast some dessicated coconut for the top. Originally I had planned to have it melted into the burnt sugar layer but thought it might get too burnt so used it differently in the end.

        I had a small pineapple left and wanted to incorporate fresh pineapple into the dish. This time I used Mum's bigger and sharper cleaver, made it so much easier to slice through the pineapple. 

        As I never got around to getting my blow torch replaced I thought I would try and grill one of the creme brulees to see how it would turn out. Apparantly if you surround the ramekin in ice it helps to keep the temperature of the custard down while the heat blasts the top. Don't know if it made any difference. I still wanted to have shreds of coconut in the brulee/toffee layer so soaked some dessicated coconut and spinkled it on the custard before the sugar.

        You can see the coconut can get a little burnt before the sugar melts properly. And using a grill doesn't give you the same finish as a blow torch would as the sugar is still a little grainy. I had a day off the next day so planned to go and get my own blow torch (Ryan couldn't find/didn't know where his blow torch was).
        So I finely diced some fresh pineapple and mixed it through with the toasted coconut and topped the brulee with this to add some more pineapple/coconut flavours/textures to the dish.

        Of course I had to take an innards shot to show you what it all looked like underneath. I had a few spoonfulls to 'test' the creme brulee and it was pretty hard to stop, I stopped about half way. Popped the rest in the fridge to take to Ryan for taste testing.
        And his verdict? 'It's reeeeeeaaaaally gooood. There's so many textures going on in my mouth!'. Perfect, that was exactly my intention.

        Well we were busy picking up the boy's new car so never got around to getting a blow torch. I was going to make do with the photos above but the boy had an idea that my uncle would most likely have a blow torch. And what a blow torch it was!

        The control was broken and it had to be turned on with pliers but it pretty much did what we wanted it to do. Because the flame was so strong it took Ryan a few goes to get it (almost) perfect. We also find that the coconut burns really easily so the sugar needs to be thicker to prevent burning.

And there you have one well torched creme brulee!

        I present to you my 'Pina Colada Creme Brulee' - Creamy smooth pineapple flavoured custard with soft pearly coconut tapioca pudding, sweet and refreshing chunks of fresh pineapple and crunchy toasted coconut and a pineapple 'crisp' and of course the coconut laced layer of crunchy sweet decadent toffee.

        A better innards shot. My successful completion of these wonderfully addictive brulees has got Ryan worried now, it's been a while since he's made one and for a while it was something that I kept getting wrong. I better move on to another dish and let him have the creme brulee title.
        I'll be submitting my recipe to the King of Fruit website, if you like this please vote for me - I win a year's supply of pineapple! And other cool things too of course =D. If you just want the recipe let me know. Competition ends October 31st so get voting! =)