Saturday, July 30, 2016

Blueberry and Spelt Muffins

Berry muffins have become a regularity at our home. I've been baking all kinds of variations of them throughout this summer because I think they make a nice afternoon snack. I usually look for recipes with wholemeal flour and little sugar in order to make them more suitable for kids. This recipe here comes from the good old "Tender: Volume II" by Nigel Slater. It has been a while since I made one of his recipes, but when I took a bite of one of these muffins yesterday, I remembered again why I adore him so much. Slater really understands the art of comfort food. The perfection of his recipes lies in their simplicity. Those muffins here, for instance, are seemingly unspectacular, yet, their taste and texture couldn't be more perfect - happiness with every single bite...

(from the wonderful Tender: Volume II by Nigel Slater)

125g plain flour
125g wholemeal spelt flour
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
0.5 teaspoons baking soda
0.5 teaspoon salt
55g butter
125g golden caster sugar (I used really dark sugar which gave the muffins a fuller taste)
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
110g yogurt
220g blueberries
Demerara sugar and rolled oats for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 190°C. Line a 12-mould muffin with paper cases.

In a bowl, sift together flours, raising agents and salt.

In another bowl, cream together butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, scrape down the bowl occasionally with a spatula. Then, lightly beat the eggs and add slowly. Add vanilla extract and yogurt. I added some lemon zest at this point.

Gently add the dry ingredients. Mix thoroughly. Fold in the berries. Drop the mixture into paper cases. Sprinkle the tops with a little sugar and a few rolled oats.

Bake for about 20-24 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the muffins cool briefly in the tin, then place them on a cooling rack.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Ricotta Cheesecake with Blackberry Swirl

It has offcially been too long since I last made cheesecake. This one here is made with ricotta instead of cream cheese which makes it less heavy than the classic cheesecakes. The deep purple and juicy blackberries work wonderfully against the plain ricotta and the lemon zest adds a fresh kick. In my opinion, this is the perfect summer cheesecake!

(from the fantastic "Crumb" by Ruby Tandoh) 

150g graham crackers
75g butter

Blackberry swirl:
150g blackberries
2 tablespoons superfine sugar
Juice of half a lemon
1 teaspoon cornstarch (optional)

500g ricotta
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup and two tablespoons heavy cream
125g superfine sugar
2 large eggs and one large egg yolk
zest of one lemon
1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 170°C. Line a 20cm springform pan with parchment paper.

To make the crust, crush the graham crackers with a rolling pin or in a food processor until sandy. Melt the butter over low heat, then mix it with the graham cracker crumbs. The crumbs need to be moist enough that they'll hold together in clumps if squeezed, so add a bit more butter at this point if necessary.

Spread the mixture over the bottom of the pan and press down firmly all over. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove and let cool slightly. Decrease the oven temperature to 120°C.

Then, make the blackberry swirl. In a small pan, heat the blackberries, sugar and lemon juice over low heat, stirring occasionally until the blackberries soften. Crush with the back of a fork until no whole berries remain, then set aside to cool. If the blackberries release a lot of juice, add a teaspoon of cornstarch while the pan is still on the heat an stir for another minute or two, until thickened.

To make the filling, beat the ricotta and cornstarch together in a large bowl until creamy. Then, stir in the cream. When combined, add sugar, eggs and yolk (one at a time), lemon zest and vanilla extract.

Pour the filling onto the baked crust. Dollop spoonfulls of the blackberries on top and gently swirl through the filling using a spoon. Bake for 1 3/4 to 2 hours (with my oven, it took one and a half hour) until the filling has no more than a slight wobble in the center. The cooked cheesecake should be quite firm all over except for the blackberry swirls, which will now be sunken, jammy and a deep purple color.

Let the cheesecake cool completely in the pan beroe unmolding. Then, for a firmer texture, chill in the fridge before serving.

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