I’ve made New York-style cheesecake a bunch of times; I love the dense creaminess and sheer indulgence of it all. A friend of mine said she has inexplicably never eaten it before so I invited her over to have some.
I should’ve spotted disaster was on the horizon: I couldn’t find my usual faithful recipe so guesstimated the ingredients in my head and then looked for another recipe which was probably a mistake. I dug up one from Marcus Wareing, had to scale down quantities, didn’t quite have everything… the omens were not good.
Lo and behold 15 minutes into baking I peered into the oven and it was leaking everywhere. After a little swearing I tried to figure out what to do: I scooped the remaining slop into ramekins, biscuit mingling with batter. I didn’t really have many other options. So I just left them to bake.
And they turned out fine! The flavour was all there, the difference was there wasn’t biscuity base at the bottom but chunks in the mix like croutons in soup. If anything Mrs Spud preferred it this way; biscuit bases being her least favourite thing of many cakes. There wasn’t quite as much of it as I wanted to but there was enough to enjoy for pudding.
I’ll describe it as if you were trying to avoid my mishap yet aim for my final result :-)
Cheesecake rescue pots (serves 4 after you’ve scraped what you can into ramekins):
30g melted butter
70g malted milk biscuits, crushed
250g cream cheese
100g caster sugar
3 tablespoons double cream
2 eggs, beaten
- Heat the oven to 100°C. Mix the butter and biscuits together, compact a bit and put to one side.
- Mix all the other ingredients together until thoroughly combined. Stir through the biscuity mix until distributed.
- Spoon into ramekins and put into a high-sided baking tray. Pour in boiling water up to half-way on the ramekins and bake for 45 mins or until just set. Remove from the water and allow to cool to room temperature.
During his TV series In Search of Perfection Heston Blumenthal crafts his perfect fish pie. I love a good fish pie, and I’m sure this one is superb although as with many of his recipes it requires oddities, not limited to oyster juice (?), hay-smoked haddock and agar-agar powder. I don’t quite fancy this level of faff, but recall that during the TV programme the potato topping he made sent him quite giddy. His face said “turn that camera off and I will eat the whole bowl of this right now”, so I thought I’d lift the mash on to a more basic fish pie recipe. I turned to Marcus Wareing’s, as featured in a Guardian round-up of student recipes.
The fish filling was smooth and comforting with lovely smoked haddock and the refreshing bite of peas. But the mash was something else. Almost milkshake-smooth with a lovely savoury tang – it comes highly recommended. It’s nowhere near as complex as some of his recipes, so give Heston Blumenthal’s potato purée a whirl.
Fish pie (makes 4 pies):
For the pie filling:
400g smoked haddock
2 bay leaves
Sprig of thyme
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons flour
50g frozen peas
For the potato purée:
250g Charlotte potatoes, peeled and cut into 5cm slices
75g unsalted butter, cubed
2 egg yolks
40g Comté cheese, grated
1 tablespoon wholegrain mustard
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 dessert spoon creamed horseradish
- To make the filling, bring half the milk with bay and thyme to a gentle simmer. Add the haddock and poach gently until cooked through, about 6 minutes. Put the fish to one side and discard the milk.
- Melt the butter into a saucepan and add the flour. Use a wooden spoon and beat into paste. Allow to cook for a minute or two and gradually add the rest of the milk until it forms a lovely smooth sauce. If it’s not looking great, turn up the heat and go mad with a whisk. Determination will pull it together. Continue to stir for another few minutes to thicken. Season and grate over a few strokes of nutmeg.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the peas. Flake the haddock in (good chance to get rid of the bones here). Pour into the dishes you will eventually cook them in and leave to cool – this will let the mash sit on top a little happier.
- For the mash, rinse the potato slices in plenty of cold water to remove excess starch. Boil in 80°C simmering water for 30 minutes, then drain and cool the slices under cold water. Put into boiling water, salted this time and simmer for 15 minutes until completely soft. This two-stage process ensures it is cooked completely through and avoids the possibility of a grainy purée.
- Drain the potatoes again, pop them back in the pan and let them dry thoroughly by shaking over a low heat. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
- Place the butter in a bowl. Pop a fine sieve over the top and using a spatula force the potato through the sieve, then fold through the butter.
- Simmer the milk in a pan and incorporate the buttery potatoes. Add the remaining ingredients over this low heat and check for seasoning.
- Pipe the mash over the top of the pie and bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until the potato is lightly browned on top.
The baking onslaught continues.
I’m a sucker for a chocolate cake, so it was next on my hitlist. I turned to a very underappreciated but well-read book from my shelf, How to Cook the Perfect…by Marcus Wareing. It’s an excellent guide for obvious recipes, but the killer app is the additional flashpoints from Marcus, pointing out where the potential problem areas are. It’s great reference material.
This chocolate cake recipe itself isn’t Marcus’s but his mother-in-law’s. If Marcus says it’s good, it must be! And it is, an excellent cocoa flavour but with moist sponge texture. My only change was to add clotted cream to the chocolate buttercream – I had some knocking about ready to go off. It made for an interesting ‘cheesecake’ style flavour which I really enjoyed.
Marcus Wareing’s chocolate cake:
225g self-raising flour
25g cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
250 softened butter
250g caster sugar
4 beaten eggs
200g icing sugar
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
100g softened butter
75g clotted cream
- Preheat the oven to 170°C. Grease and line 2 x 20cm circular tins.
- Cream the butter and sugar together and add the eggs a little at a time. Fold in the sifted flour, cocoa and salt into this mixture.
- Divide the batter between the tins and bake for 25 mins or until a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool on a wire rack.
- Mix the buttercream ingredients together well and until smooth. Sandwich the cakes together with the buttercream and dust with icing sugar.