baked cheesecake w/ blueberry compote

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I am officially out of exam hell. Well, not officially because whether I passed this year remains to be seen, but for the moment I am done with studying. *Inserts Frodo “It’s Over Sam” meme* After weeks of SWOTVAC and 4 exams in awkwardly spaced succession, freedom and guiltless procrastination welcome me as an old friend. In the 6 hours following our last exam, we’ve grabbed Korean food, watched a movie and I’ve made my first cake in what feels like forever.

Can you be horny for baking? I certainly was frustrated and experiencing internal turmoil, ready to burst out a whisk and give birth to cake. Don’t even ask. I actually struggled not being able to decide what to make; it was a toss between blueberry braided bread and orange cardamom rolls. Yesterday I was seriously craving cinnamon buns too, or as I call them, SINnamon buns. But my mother, the ultimate cheesecake lover, had already seen cheesecake topped with blueberry sauce being made on TV and demanded that I replicate it. Suits me just fine.

I was reviewing some of my existing posts and to my dismay, so far I’ve failed to admit the mishaps and little accidents, and how I attempted to amend them. That would be completely missing the point of documenting my adventures as an aspiring home baker. So I’ll be forward and say that I, despite making mental notes, totally forgot to prebake the crust. Honestly, it turned out fine and quite flavourful, but I felt like an idiot the second I poured the filling onto the raw biscuit base. I blame the brain cells I’ve lost to all the last-minute cramming sessions in the past month.

With the addition of lemon zest and juice, as well as using yogurt for the dairy instead of the more commonly used cream or sour cream, this is definitely more tangy than the average vanilla cheesecake. Which is a welcome personality considering the sweet fruit topping.

As you can see from the single photo above, the cheesecake barely looks baked with its smooth sides and lack of browning. Does anyone else prefer their cheesecakes to be more custardy in texture than floury? I have nothing against a cheesecake with a beautifully golden crust and puffed rim, this is just the way I prefer as I think baking low and slow ensures creamy texture every time.

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Baked cheesecake w/ coconut biscuit base + blueberry compote
(makes one v tall 5″ cake)

For the coconut biscuit base:
55g flour
15g unsweetened desiccated coconut
pinch of salt
45g unsalted butter, softened

For the cheesecake filling:
250g cream cheese
80g white granulated sugar
2 eggs
200g full-fat plain Greek yogurt
zest & juice of half a lemon
1/2 tsp vanilla

For the blueberry compote:
150g blueberries (frozen works fine)
1-2 tbsp sugar (depending on sweetness of fruit)
zest & juice of half a lemon

Before starting out, make sure to bring all the ingredients to room temperature, which only took a minute under the 34°C heat today. Preheat the oven to 170°C/340°F.

For the biscuit base, mix together the flour, coconut and salt until evenly distributed. Then add the softened butter and mix until a dough/paste forms. Press it into a buttered and bottom-lined tin (but not floured) tightly in an even layer and bake for about 10 minutes until slightly browned. Set aside.

To make the filling, beat together the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Avoid beating at too high a speed as it could lead to cracking. Add the vanilla, lemon and eggs one at a time and mix until the batter is homogenous and glossy. Scrape down the sides if there are unmixed bits clinging to the bowl, and give it one last quick spin just to even out the lumps.

Pour the batter into the tin onto the baked biscuit base. Bang the tin gently a few times so the air bubbles can rise to the top. Place in the middle of the oven. On the bottom rack place a pan with hot water so as to retain moisture and gently cook the cheesecake. Bake for about 30-40 minutes until the outside is set and the centre is wobbly and jelly-like when you gently shake the tin. In the last 10 minutes you may like to turn off the oven and keep the oven door slightly ajar so there’s no rapid drop in temperature which can make the top sink down.

Once it completely cools down, cover and refrigerate until completely chilled and set, about 2 hours. Don’t remove from the tin until set as soft filling can easily collapse.

To make the compote, simply stew the blueberries with lemon and sugar on low-medium heat until the juice thickens and the blueberries are soft. It takes about 10 minutes. Leave to cool then cover and refrigerate.

 

apple & blueberry jalousies

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This is the stuff of dreams. Well, my dreams anyway, when I do dream about pleasant things like food and not running around naked and being unaware of it. The thought of apple pies has been latched onto me ever since my mum and sister brought back more apples than we could consume from the farmers’ market. I began reminiscing about, no, lusting after the best apple pies one could wish for. Not from McD, not even homemade, but the famous pie shop in North Yatala just off the motorway.

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Made too much mascarpone filling so the apple jalousie got some too

It’s become a tradition of ours to stop at the pie shop on every journey home from the Gold Coast. Inside the little and always crowded shop, there’s a picture depicting something like a WW2 soldier thinking about Yatala’s pies. It’s become a household joke that when something tastes so good, not even war could distract you from it.

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Unfortunately, I’m still very much neck-deep in SWOTVAC hell where I simply can’t afford to take time out of study to do normal things. To maintain my sanity, I’ve been trying to wrap up the day’s study at about 10:30pm then indulge myself in recreational activities, like baking and reading crack fanfiction.

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Baking in the dead of the night is nothing new for me. It requires the near-ninja skill of keeping noise to an absolute minimum, which means no mixers, no clanging of metal against metal etc. The use of portable LED book lights is also necessary in an otherwise dark kitchen (not recommended as I had to taste jar to jar to find sugar). Naturally that greatly reduces the number of recipes one is able to carry out, but it does have the advantage of coolness in the atmosphere, perfect when one is working with butter.

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Yatala’s apple pies have the signature mound of whipped cream with a pastry lid on top. But while I was searching for ways to prevent the excess juices from the apples from seeping into the pastry, I came across jalousies, and my mind was set. The name of the dessert translates to jealousy in French, and while I try to reserve judgement about things I make, I think the result would’ve inspired jealousy in the 7-year-old me who was very much in a relationship with blueberry danishes, and the blueberry version of this is very close to that.

I’ll do a separate post on the pastry, which is a quick rough puff. Despite the name, it’s really quite similar to the straight laminated puff pastry but is much faster and less technique sensitive.

The BA article talks about how poaching the juicier fruits (apples, pears) helps enhance flavour, draw the moisture out and avoid the pastry being done before the fruit is tender. The results were as promised – the bottom pastry was buttery and flaky, untouched by moisture and the poached apples had an intense fruity flavour without being mushy.

I poached the apples in apple juice instead of alcohol to accommodate for the major consumer of my goods, but feel free to use wine or apple cider instead. Experimenting with different fruits, savoury fillings and nuts would be fun as well


Apple & blueberry jalousies
(makes 2 10x20cm jalousies)
(inspired by Ba Bar’s Jalousie)

For the puff pastry:
1/2 recipe of rough puff pastry

For the poached apples:
2 medium cooking apples
250g apple juice
20g sugar~10 pieces of citrus peel (optional)
1 cinnamon stick (optional)
1/2 vanilla pod, cut lengthwise (optional)

For the blueberry filling:
80g mascarpone
zest & juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 tsp vanilla
1tsp icing sugar
1tsp flour
100g blueberries (fresh or defrosted)

To poach the apples, peel, core and cut into quarters. Further cut each quarter into thirds so you end up with 24 slices in all. In a pot, put in everything but the apples and heat until the sugar’s dissolved. Add the apples and cook on medium heat until tender but not mushy, about 10-15 minutes. Drain and leave to cool. If you wish, you could reduce the liquid to a syrup and use in other desserts.

For the mascarpone filling, whisk together the mascarpone, lemon zest and juice, vanilla and icing sugar until combined, then mix in the flour.

Preheat the oven to 205C/400F. Roll and cut the (defrosted) puff pastry into 4 equal rectangles approx. 3mm thick, I cut mine 10x20cm. Place two of the rectangles on a lined baking sheet at least 2cm apart.

For the apple jalousie, arrange the poached slices closely and 1cm away from the edges. A sprinkle of chopped walnuts here would be nice. For the blueberry jalousie, spread the mascarpone filling evenly and 1cm away from the edges then place a layer of blueberries on top. Sprinkle blueberries with some demerara sugar if you like.

Egg wash the 1cm margin all around the 2 base rectangles, and gently place the other 2 top pieces on top of the fruit. Press the top and bottom pastry together and make some cuts in the top pastry for aesthetic (I don’t have a lattice roller so fugly slats will have to do) and functional (to let out the steam) reasons. Egg wash the top too, being careful not to let it drip down the sides as it may stick the layers together and hinder maximum puffage.

Bake in 205C/400F hot oven until the pastry has started to rise, about 10 minutes in. Reduce the temperature down to 190C/375F until golden on top, about 20 more minutes. Check that the bottom is crispy, not soggy. If the bottom is still soft, move the tray to the bottom of the oven and let cook in residual heat.

Best served hot with dollop of cream/crème fraîche/ice cream.

blueberry riviera

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Sometimes I feel I’m at the absolute mercy of parental authority, and sometimes I feel like a grown-up capable of making important choices. Like today when I decided to have nothing but lollies for lunch (with a few almonds thrown in, so not entirely junk food). Don’t tell my mum, she has this vision of me being some sort of super health-conscious, cringe-at-the-sight-of-fried-food, vegan wannabe, which I can be, but not when I’ve been chocolate-deprived for a week. I also picked up a bar of lemon chocolate, which is how the idea of making Pierre Hermé’s Riviera came to be.

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Dat non-existent food styling… I tried.

Chocolate is awesome, obviously. And unlike some I have no problem with a dessert made entirely with chocolate and nothing else to cut through the richness, which is why I was originally intent on replicating (crudely, for sure) Hermé’s Carrement. But there’s something about the combination of chocolate with lemon that is so enticing, neither overwhelming the other but existing in a mutualistic relationship. The lemon cream deepening the dark chocolate flavour, and the almost bitter 72% chocolate bringing out the tartness of the lemon.

An unprecedented rarity – blueberries are on sale for $5 for 2 pints. So of course I did the unnecessary thing and dotted as many as I could onto the lemon cream layer – I can never resist ̶r̶u̶i̶n̶i̶n̶g̶ tweaking a tried and tested recipe, from a master no less. I also swapped the flourless chocolate cake layer for the rich chocolate cake in Carrement, just because it uses exactly one egg and not parts of several eggs. Just to echo the lemon cream, I chopped up pieces of my lemon white chocolate bar (with bonus popping candy) and threw that in, as well as almonds for crunch. As the cake layer has a fair amount of butter in it, I didn’t feel the need to douse it with simple syrup.

I used to feel dismayed at not being able to try my hand at recipes requiring pastry rings for assembling different layers, particularly entremets. My baking cupboard is already cluttered as hell and my occasional $25/wk tutoring salary is never going to afford me every piece of equipment that every recipe calls for. So at first I tried stapling cardboard together to make a framework then covered with foil, but it wasn’t really stable and had to go on top of a tray, which is hard to fit in our perpetually bursting fridge. I think the way I did it this time – building everything in the tin I baked the bottom cake layer in, lined by clingfilm of course, then freeze the whole thing till solid before lifting it out by the clingfilm – was a bit more reliable and works just as well as a pastry ring once the edges are trimmed. A lot of improvisation is involved when you’re a broke student trying to replicate professional work in a home kitchen. Heck, I don’t even have a square tin, I literally just use leftover cardboard boxes from chocolates or whatever, it even prevents the sides from browning too much.

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Blueberry Riviera cake (makes one 12x20cm cake)
(adapted from Pierre Hermé)

For the rich chocolate cake:
62.5g dark chocolate (at least 60%)
62.5g unsalted butter
1 egg
55g sugar
17.5 flour
pinch of salt

For the dark chocolate mousse:
125g dark chocolate, chopped
60g heavy cream
1 egg yolk
20g sugar
1/2 tsp powdered gelatine
1/2 tbsp cold water
175g heavy cream

For the lemon cream:
55g sugar
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 egg
75g softened unsalted butter

handful of blueberries (~1/2 cup)

~1/2 batch chocolate glaze

Preheat the oven to 170C/350F and prepare 12x20cm (or similar capacity) baking tin (line, spray or grease & flour) or tray if using pastry ring later.

Melt the chocolate with butter gently in a microwave or on a bain marie. Set aside to cool to room temperature. Beat the egg and sugar just till combined, sift in the flour and salt, whisk them in. Mix in the chocolate mixture and bake for 10 minutes then leave to cool completely.

For the mousse, sprinkle the gelatine over the cold water evenly and leave to bloom for 5 minutes. In the meantime, heat the 60g of heavy cream in a decent-sized pot till just simmering. While heating, Beat the yolk and sugar together until pale and the sugar is dissolved, then stream in the hot cream a little at a time, whisking vigorously to avoid curdling. Return the yolk-sugar-cream mixture to the pot on medium heat, whisking all the time, until thick enough to leave an open channel when you draw a finger through it on the back of a spoon. Stir in the lump of gelatine, then pour the mixture through a sieve onto the chopped chocolate. Stir to combine and leave to cool to room temp. Whip the 175g of heavy cream to soft peaks, and fold it into the cooled chocolate mixture a bit at a time till homogenous. Cover and store in fridge.

For the lemon cream, rub the zest and sugar together until moist and fragrant. Put the egg, zesty sugar and juice in a bowl atop a pot of simmering water, making sure the bowl doesn’t come into contact with the water. Whisk, whisk and whisk for about 5 minutes until pastel yellow in colour and substantially thickened (doesn’t drip when you dip your finger in to…quality control). Cool to room temperature then blend in the softened butter ideally with an emulsion blender but electric whisk is okay too (Hermé stresses the incorporation of air in this step to give the cream its light yet luscious texture). Put clingfilm directly onto the surface and store in fridge until ready for assembly.

To assemble, spread 2/3 of the mousse evenly onto the cake base. If the mousse isn’t quite thick, return to fridge to firm up or the layers will mix. Then spread on the lemon cream, and scatter over a handful of blueberries, pressing them to submerge into the cream. Flatten the top and chill if wobbly. Spread on the last of the mousse and smooth the top as much as you can as bumps and voids will show up underneath the final glaze. Freeze the whole cake until rock solid, preferably overnight before glazing. To glaze, transfer the cake onto a wire rack on top of a tray, warm up the glaze to about body temp. or 40°C and pour excessively over the top. Quickly flatten out the top with a flat spatula once or twice. Trim off the sides with a hot knife and eat.

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*Oh! In case by some miracle my changing the name of the blog has gone noticed, it was because the previous name felt pervier the longer I looked at it, so I made it the tagline instead. Fine, it also made me feel clever to make the world’s most obvious pun. Whether you noticed, whether you skip my text altogether, I want to thank you for tolerating me. Every single view, like, and comment means an enormous deal to me. I’m still learning and navigating through the dark, but I’ll keep trying to put as much truth and passion into my writing as I can.

lemon blueberry poppyseed madeleines

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I love using lemon in baking. Lemon tart, mousse, curd, cake, meringue pie, cheesecake… you name it, just sign me up already please. But eating it straight up unprocessed in all its sour, erosion-inducing glory, is just a no. Studying dentistry has ruined lemonades and lemon-infused drinks in general for me, even vitamin C pills. I had a major cringe by the poolside the other day seeing the lady in my lane had a healthy bottle of lemon water, wedges and all. I was compelled to educate her about the adverse effects of acidic beverages on teeth especially while dehydrated during exercise. But alas, I can’t even get my own family to brush their teeth longer than ten seconds.

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check out them photoshop skills

You’ll notice there’s a fair bit of inconsistency among the final products. That’s because I baked them in 3 batches, or 3 experimental groups, if you like. Group 1’s batter was baked straight away without chilling at 220°C all the way through until done. Group 2 chilled in the fridge for ~20mins, and were baked at 220°C at the start, then reduced to 180°C once they puffed up. Group 3 chilled in the freezer and were baked at 180°C all the way through.

Yes, I realise there are 2 independent variables and no control group, but I wasn’t going to sit around 3 hours testing. Maybe I will one day once exams are done. Basically the results were as follows: group 1 puffed up the highest thanks to the high initial temperature, had the most golden exterior, if not just a tiny bit drier than the others. Group 2 was paler, the blueberries efficiently burst and kept more moist. Group 3 had less distinct grooves, still rose high but not as much as group 1 and were done before they turned golden all over.

Conclusion: they were all delicious and I’d eat any of them, however turning the temperature down halfway seems to ensure maximum puffing and moisture retainment. Chilling and freezing didn’t make much of a distinct difference IMO, but I’d like to investigate the duration in the future to see whether it helps the flavours mature.

Last time I made madeleines, they turned out delectable (how could they not? they were filled with caramel), but less so once they cooled down. To extend their best-before date, I adapted Blé Sucré’s (crowned by many as the best in Paris) method of dipping the madeleines in citrusy syrup to form a sugary crust, and it worked! (I checked) It’s everything in one bite: the tangy, sweet crust met by buttery soft cake with added texture and complexity of flavour from the poppy seeds; and best of all, a burst of blueberry balancing the tartness. I die.

Lemon blueberry poppyseed madeleines (makes 30 medium-sized)
(glaze adapted from Blé Sucré)

For the madeleine batter:
2 eggs (115g)
75g granulated sugar
zest of 1 lemon
1 tbsp lemon juice
145g self-raising flour
110g unsalted butter
1 tbsp poppy seeds
30 blueberries

For the lemon glaze:
65g sugar
20g fresh lemon juice

Prepare a madeleine pan by lightly greasing (no big chunks of butter in the grooves) and flouring it.

Rub the zest and sugar together until moist and fragrant. Add to the eggs and beat until paler in colour, about 3 minutes if using an electric whisk. Gently fold in the lemon juice, sifted flour and poppy seeds. Cover and chill in the fridge for an hour.

Close to the hour mark, start melting the butter. When it’s warm and not hot, drizzle into the chilled batter, folding at the same time to incorporate. Scoop the batter into the holes about what you imagine would fill 3/4 when spread out, but don’t spread it (or about 1 tbsp). Add a blueberry in the centre if you like, but make sure to press it down so it doesn’t pop right out after baking. If you can wait, freeze for half and hour. If not, bake in an 260C/500F oven for 5 minutes, then a further 7 minutes at 180C/350F.

For the glaze, boil the sugar and juice together until the sugar has dissolved. When both the madeleines and the glaze have cooled, place the madeleines on a wire rack with a tray underneath to catch the drips. Dip and leave to dry.