Wednesday, 29 August 2012

'Y' is for.......Yellow Cheesecake

Yellow Cheesecake.....white chocolate cheesecake on a lemon crumb biscuit base, topped with lemon curd
Seems I like making cheesecakes...I have a few posted up on this blog:) This one was quite tricky to make and initially I was not very happy with it, but my testers ate it all and my Nutty Knitters were positive with words and empty plates! Baked cheesecakes always taste better than they look, but covering this one with lemon curd helped its appearance and taste:)
Yellow is a happy colour and always reminds me of sunflowers. When ever I see those beautiful flowers I am immediately transported back to my Grans cottage garden. She had a very neat vegetable garden and greenhouse at the back, with fruit bushes and trees towards the end, along withh the dreaded the outside toilet. At the very top stood my Granddad's shed and a chicken run. Why is it so many men have their own sheds at the end of the garden? Mind you I am a fine one to talk as my studio is at the end of mine he he.
Her front garden was very different. Although she was a Shropshire lass, then moved to London when she married she always hampered to live back in the clean country air, in a cottage with roses around the door. She followed her dream when her 4 children married, and she moved down to Wiltshire, tucked up in a little hamlet called Patterdown, just outside Chippenham. I have been back to visit and the area has changed so much with houses and retail parks....... So back to the front of her was alive with all sorts of flowers, a riot of colour in the summer attracting butterflies and humming with bees. Any vegetable seedlings that she had left over would be planted at random between the flowers. 
And along the back of the borders sunflowers would be standing tall and proud, their faces following the sun, and smiling. When they lost their petals she left them standing there so during the winter months the birds could have a feast.
I  have a lovely bunch of 6 sunflowers siting on my kitchen windowsill right now....and as I look at them I am always reminded of my Gran.
So a yellow cheesecake in honour of a very special lady hugs 4 smiles Gran wherever you may be xxx

Cheesecake Ingredients and method
1 cup unsalted butter
2 lemon cream biscuits crushed
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons sugar
10 oz. good quality white chocolate, chopped
3 x8 oz. packages cream cheese I used Phillidelphia)
3 eggs
1 jar of good quality lemon curd
Melt 1/2 cup butter in a small saucepan over low heat or in microwave. Allow remaining 1/2 cup butter to soften at room temperature. Mix together cookie crumbs, lemon zest, sugar, and 1/2 cup melted butter. Put mixture in bottom and up sides of buttered 10-inch spring-form pan. Freeze for 30 minutes.
 Place pan containing crust on a baking sheet. Melt chocolate in top of a double boiler or in a small saucepan over a larger pot of simmering water. Remove from heat and cool 5 minutes. Beat chocolate and cream cheese in a large bowl until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until incorporated. Beat 1/2 cup softened butter until thoroughly blended. Pour into prepared pan over crust. Place baking sheet with pan in middle rack of oven. Bake 1 hour at 170c until cheesecake puffs up and knife inserted off-center comes out clean. Cheesecake center will continue to cook and become firm once removed from oven and cake will sink slightly as it cools. Place baking sheet with pan on wire rack. Cool to room temperature then spread lemon curd over the top. Chill and turn out of tin when ready to serve. Decorate with a dusting of icing sugar and a few raspberries. Mmmmmm x
Following the sun with their faces
The field of flowers were sharing secrets
Rustling and whispering, hopes and dreams,
All except one....all alone....
She followed the star ..but could not share
Keeping her secret in her heart until she faded.

"Sunflower" why do you weep?
"For lost dreams" she said.
Well be beautiful inside
And in all that you do
Then ...well then your dreams will come true.

We could go to France, find the field of sunflowers
Have what should have been ours.
The French they say they know about love
That's why they grow sunflowers
They won’t disappoint us.
And there may come a day, Who knows....
That's the future when it comes

The fairies knew her secret
What stories could they tell?
Of far off places, Tales were told,
Of hopes and dreams to spread,
Chose your path and follow that dream,
The one to happiness they said.

Yes, there were truly fairies in her tree,
Helping her to hang onto dreams,
Weaving silver threads of love and hope.
She nodded....smiled...
And saw all the colours more clearly now.

The fairies knew her summer would come,
She would know for sure that she was truly loved.
Looking to the sky
She smiled at the stars
And carried them off to her dreams.

Don't cry for me he said
As the summer days ebbed.
She started to fade
Keeping her secret, her dream,
Tucked away forever in her heart
She waited
Scattering seeds and petals
In the long shadows
Of the autumn sun.....

The fairies danced and rejoiced
Happy for her
Happy in the knowledge
That she would fade....and know
That they had helped her
Hang on to the threads of dreams..

So for another long winter
Spring warmed the ground
Seeds she had scattered sprang to life.
The fields bloomed that fine summer
No longer alone
She shared sunflower secrets with her friends
The fairies watched
And smiled
She looked to the sky
And said goodbye ....It was time for new beginnings
Maxine Owen 2002

Monday, 27 August 2012

'X' is for....Xingzi Drizzle Muffins

Muffins made with fresh local apricots, topped with a lemon drizzle 
As I have worked my way through the alphabet it gets more difficult to come up with a recipe that evokes a memory alongside it.....'X' has defiantly been one of them! I could of used the word extra omitting the e, but I felt that would been a cop out. Anyway after some research I discovered 'Xingzi', which is the Chinese word for apricots. Very apt right now as we are off to China soon for a months travelling, and I am sooooooo looking forward to the break. I am also rushing now to get this A-Z done so I can starts another baking project on my return, watch this space:) So me thinks some more cake making tomorrow for Y and Z.....
Apricots remind me of summer....I am not sure if your taste buds change as you get older but I am starting to sound like my mum.....she would often remind us that food did not taste the same as when she was young. Well that's me with apricots, I remember them being furry on the outside like they are now, but juicy on the inside. Most of the ones I come across now are hard and sour, or soft and spongy. If anyone can suggest where I can get some super juicy ones it would be much appreciated. They seem to be ok when cooked though....and they made these muffins sweet and moist. I did make these a few weeks ago for my Nutty Knitter ladies. We are a knitting circle that meet in my home every fortnight to sip tea, eat cake  oh and of course do a bit of knitting....not a crumb was left at the end of the day:) 
Apricots remind me of my eldest son.He was 4 when he started school and took to it with lots of enthusiasm, coming home at the end of each day telling me all about his exciting time and all that he had done during the day. I soon realised someone else had stepped into my shoes a little, when he came home and told me how clever his teacher was. He said all excitedly how she could curl ribbon with her fingernails.... seems his world was suddenly not all about me...ho hum.
I think like most Mums we all ask our kids when we collect them at the end of the school day what they had for dinner .Perhaps we ask so we don't feel inadequate in our own choice of food that we dish up!....mind you with a houseful to feed when they are hungry, chicken nuggets and chips from the freezer are always a godsend....oh well something home cooked tomorrow you tell yourself.
When prompted on the way home one evening about his dinner, he revealed he had shepherds pie with lumpy meat....followed by goldfish and custard. Trying not to show a look of horror I questioned him gently to eventually discover he had actually had tinned apricots with his custard....whewwwww there was me ready to pick up the phone and complain about feeding small children goldfish. Would I of had a red face :) 
For the cakes
8oz each of flour, butter and castor sugar
4 large eggs
3 apricots chopped
tsp baking powder 
For the drizzle and topping
3oz castor sugar
fresh lemon juice
Set oven to 200C and put 12 muffin cases into a bun tin
Put soft butter, eggs and sugar into a large bowl. Sieve flour and baking powder together into the same bowl.
Mix until thick and creamy.
Fold in chopped apricots
Bake for 15-25 mins or until cooked 
While the cakes are baking combine sugar with lemon juice. add more lemon if its too thick but you don't want a really runny mix. Chop remaining apricots
Using a skewer make a few holes in each warm muffin, then drizzle the lemon/sugar mix over the top. Decorate with chopped apricots 
Enjoy x 

Sunday, 26 August 2012

‘W’ is for…..Willy Wonkers Bonkers Lollipop Factory!

‘W’ is for…..Willy Wonkers  Bonkers  Lollipop Factory!
Chocolate chip biscuit sponge, filled with chocolate spread and cream. Topped with chocolate and lollipops!!! And a surprise  Enjoy x
I struggled to find a recipe and a memory beginning with the letter 'W' that would inspire a new cake....then the light was switched on!   Roald Dahl's books were some of my children's favourite bedtime stories. And I think the one we all enjoyed the most was 'Willy Wonker's, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory'! Last Christmas They showed both the film adaptions of this book, and as a family we were divided on the one we liked the most...I will admit I preferred the 1971 adaptation with Gene Wilder, I found the Johnny Depp film a little scary. 
Obviously I had to make a chocolate cake, filled with cream and covered with chocolate.I then decorated it with lollipops, and topped it off with some popping candy to give an element of surprise :) My children are all grown up now, but this would of been a hit at Birthday parties....not only a piece of cake to take home but a candy lolly as well !!!
The candy sparked another memory, a family tradition. I used to love watching the children's program Blue Peter,all the things they made on there I would try out too. I can remember making the annual  Christmas advent candle mobile, which was made with wire coat hangers and tinsel. I have often wondered why my mother never lit the candles....I am older and wiser now and can see the potential danger. Another idea they had was based on lollipops, I cannot remember what they made, but mine developed into an advent lollipop tree, basically a twig, sprayed with gold paint, then set into a pot filled with sand. I would then sellotape ribbons onto 24 lollies and decorate my tree with them. The countdown to Christmas had began....I will show my age now, there was none of these chocolate filled advent boxes when I was small....But oh the enjoyment of making it, then eating the candy!
I carried this tradition on with my gang, as I have 3 children the tree became bigger to accommodate all the pops!
I shan't bore you with all the recipe details as I think the cake is self explanatory.
Bake your favourite chocolate cake, fill with cream, melt chocolate and spread over the top. When the chocolate is nearly set add the popping candy on top. Decorate with your choice of lollies. I made some cake pops as well, and if you had time you could make your own candies!
Anyway Mr Roald Dahl, thank you for the inspiration and thank you for your very entertaining books :)
Happy Sunday M x