Mandy Wrangles_2_tnSo, a couple of weeks ago, the most fabulous Marianne de Pierres made a request for Cook Club. MdP doesn’t make too many requests. In fact, I pretty much get to do whatever I want for this column. So, of course, I agreed.

Cheesecake. Cheesecake! Of course, why hadn’t I thought of doing one before now? Well, that would probably be because…shock, horror…I’ve never made one. Okay, there was that fairly disastrous attempt for Christmas dessert about 18 years ago, but otherwise – nope. Cheesecake virgin. For a first real attempt, I’m happy with the result, though I’ll make some changes next time (see note at end of this post). It was demolished by my family, who are honest – if at times, harsh! – critics of anything new that comes out of my kitchen.

 cheesecake 2 2

What You Need:

I used a 22cm spring-form cake tin for this recipe.

Butter to prepare the tin.

 

Crust

350g Arnott’s Nice biscuits, which is about a pack and a half.

175g butter, melted.

 

Filling

3 x 250g packs of Philadelphia Cream Cheese, softened to room temperature.

¾ cup of caster sugar.

1 teaspoon of lemon zest.

2 tablespoons of lemon juice.

Zest of 1 lime.

Juice of 1 lime.

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.

1 tablespoon of plain flour.

3 large eggs.

 

Topping

2 packets of passionfruit flavoured jelly crystals.

Cream for whipping (or err, if you’re slack and in a hurry and can’t find your piping bag… use the fizzy tinned stuff. Not that I’d know about that. Nope.)

cheesecake

How it’s Done:

Prepare your spring-form pan by greasing it with butter. You can line it with baking paper as well, but I didn’t bother. Then, break up your Nice biscuits and add them to your blender. Give them a quick blend until they resemble breadcrumbs. Slowly add the melted butter. Using your fingers and the back of a spoon, push the biscuit/butter mix over the base and up the sides of the pan, trying to keep as much of a uniform thickness as possible. I had a little mix left over. Refrigerate.

Pre-heat your oven to 175 C, or if you have a fan-forced oven like me, drop the temperature to 160 C. Using an electric mixer (I have a KitchenAid stand mixer. Best. Kitchen Toy. Ever.) on low speed, beat cream cheese and caster sugar until blended. Add the lemon and lime zests and juices, along with vanilla. Mix well. Then add the flour and blend again. Add the eggs one at a time, being careful not to overbeat. Remove prepared crust from the fridge and pour the cheese mixture into it.

Before you put your cheesecake into the oven (middle shelf), add a small bowl of warm tap-water to the bottom shelf. This is to help the crust from drying out too much. Bake for aprox. 35 minutes, or until the centre is *almost* set. Remove from oven and cool completely before carefully removing the rim. Refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours.

While your baked cheesecake is chilling, mix jelly as per packet instructions. Once set, chop roughly with a butter knife and spoon onto the top of your cheesecake. Add passionfruit pulp and decorate with whipped cream around the edges – it hides a multitude of sins! If you do (ahem) use the canned whipped cream, remember it does tend to dissolve quickly.

Confessions: Next time, I’m going to bake cheesecake for 25 to 30 mins rather than the full 35, as it was a teeny bit dry. My oven also has ‘hot spots’, and I had to be careful it didn’t bake faster on one side than the other. I also found I had nowhere near enough mixture compared to how high up the tin I’d made my crust, which is why I added the layer of jelly, rather than just candied citrus like I’d originally planned. I will however, be making it again soon after such a great reaction from my family.

Looking forward to seeing how your versions turn out, Cook Clubbers!

 



Mandy Wrangles_2_tnWe eat loads of home made pizza at our place. It’s quick, easy, can be topped with almost anything in the fridge or pantry and is guaranteed to one of the few family meals that makes everyone happy. Yep, that includes Mr 7 yrs, who generally refuses to eat anything anyone else requests. Or anything new. Or anything that looks remotely healthy or interesting. I made this one for my own Mum on Mother’s Day and it was a definite win.

Except for Mr 7. He had an egg and bacon pizza instead.

 

pizza_mandyWHAT YOU NEED:

BASE

250ml tepid water

2tbs olive oil

1tsp salt

2tsp sugar

450g (or 3 cups) of plain flour. Or wholemeal flour. Or you can use specialty bread flour – I never do.

3tbs dried yeast. I use the Tandaco brand and store it in the fridge.

 

TOPPING

Basil pesto

Grated Mozzarella cheese. Use high quality. Your taste buds will thank you for it.

Feta cheese. I prefer Persian feta to anything else, especially on pizza. Persian feta is softer, silkier and doesn’t dry out in the oven.

Cherry tomatoes

A red onion

Roast beetroot cut into bit-sized pieces. While I do love home-grown beets, for this kind of recipe I always buy the pre-cooked, pre-peeled stuff from the deli or veggie section of the supermarket. Saves on time, mess and stained fingers. Never the canned stuff. Eww.

Fresh flat-leaf parsley

Balsamic glaze. Thicker (and generally cheaper) than balsamic vinegar, this glaze is one of my pantry must-haves. It’s also great on all sorts of salads as well as strawberries!

 

HOW IT’S DONE:

Well, for the dough, I cheat and use my bread maker on the dough setting. In fact, it’s pretty much all I use the bread maker for. Just add the listed ingredients in the order above (wet to dry), press the button and that’s it. If you don’t have a bread maker, just add the ingredients to a large bowl in reverse order. Mix well with your hands until it forms a dough and knead for ten minutes. Shape into a ball, place in a (larger) bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a damp tea towell. Place in a warm position for 30 minutes or until it doubles in size.

We find one batch makes 4 smallish pizzas, depending how thick or thin you like your base. We like ours on the thin side. I generally make two batches for our pizza-loving family of five, which does require a little forward planning to account for time. Just divide up your dough and roll out on a lightly floured surface to size. Easy.

Pre-heat oven to at least 250 C. If your oven gets hotter – lucky you! We often cook our pizzas in the BBQ with the lid closed for this reason.

For the toppings, use the pesto as your sauce rather than tomato paste. Top with beetroot, sliced cherry tomatoes, sliced onion and a sprinkling of mozzarella cheese (mostly just to hold it together). Cook until the cheese has begun to melt, and the base is no longer doughy. Add broken-up feta and cook for a further five minutes, or until the mozzarella is bubbling. Remove from the oven or BBQ, sprinkle with chopped parsley and a swirl of balsamic glaze. There you have it – healthy vegetarian pizza that looks great too.

 



Mandy Wrangles_2_tnNow that the weather is starting to cool in our part of the world, I thought it would be a good idea to check out a warm dessert this month. Everyone loves apple pie, and I’ve used this recipe more times than I can count. While I found the original recipe in a Mrs Field’s Cookbook (yes, she of those amaaazing cookies fame), I’ve Mandy-ised it a bit over the years, playing around slightly with ingredients and quantities~Mandy

 

apple pie 2

What You Need:

Crust

3 cups of plain flour

Grated lemon zest from one large lemon

1 cup of butter (please don’t use margarine!)

Aprox 6 to 8 teaspoons of ice water

apple pie 5

Filling

8 to 10 large Granny Smith apples, peeled and then thinly sliced

2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon

1 cup of white sugar

½ cup of brown sugar (packed tightly)

½ cup of cornflour

1/3 cup of chilled butter, cut into small cubes

 

You’ll also need one large egg for the egg wash, a little more white sugar to sprinkle on top and butter to grease your pie dish. I use a 22cm ceramic dish, though a tin one is fine.

apple pie 4

How It’s Done:

Crust:

Mix the flour and lemon zest together in a large bowl – a wire whisk is easiest. Add the butter and either cut it in using two knives in a crossing motion, or if you’re a bit slack me, throw it all in the food processor for a quick spurt until it resembles breadcrumbs. Slowly add the iced water one teaspoon at a time until the dough comes together and you can push it into a ball. Divide the dough in half and flatten both halves into disks. Wrap tightly in cling wrap and pop into the fridge for at least an hour, or until it firms up.

Filling:

In a large bowl, combine sugars, cinnamon and cornflour. Again, a whisk is the easiest way to do this efficiently – you won’t need the processor! Add the apple slices to this mix and toss with a spoon until the apple slices are completely covered.

At this stage, it’s a good idea to get your oven preheating. Set it to 200 degrees Celsius.

Once your dough is firm, prepare some bench space with sprinkled flour. Using a floured rolling pin, roll out one piece of dough into a circle aprox 25cm in diameter. Gently (very gently) fold the crust in half and then quarters. This makes it much easier to handle. Grease your pie dish and carefully place the corner of your dough into the centre of the dish and unfold, leaving excess dough hanging over the edge. Spoon in your apple filling and sprinkle butter cubes over the top.

For the top crust, you can use one of two methods:

Roll out and then fold the remaining pastry half into quarters as you did the first time. Place over filling, crimp the edges together as decoratively as you can, and add a couple of slits into the top with a knife to allow steam to escape.

apple pie 1

OR

I prefer to roll out the remaining pastry half into a more rectangle shape, and cut into strips. Add strips to the top of your pie in a weaving pattern, which is a little fiddly, but will give you a much more traditional-looking result.

Either way, once done, whisk egg in a cup and brush over the top of your pie, then sprinkle with white sugar. Bake for 20 minutes, then reduce heat to 175 Celsius for a further 30 minutes, or until the crust is a deep golden brown.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least 15 to 20 minutes. It will still be warm, but this cooling time gives the filling a chance to solidify a little, making it easier to slice. Serve with cream, ice cream or custard (or you know, all three…)

PS – if you ever happen to come across one of Mrs Field’s Cookbooks, do yourself a favour and buy it! I have two. They’re fantastic, and oh, so pretty to look at. All recipes have American ingredients, weights and measurements, but I’ve found it quite simple to convert or substitute.

 

Belinda’s Version



 

Mandy Wrangles_2_tnFor this month’s cook club, Mandy shows us how to make CARAMEL POPCORN CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES (for cheats!)

 

 

popcorn 4WHAT YOU NEED:

* As all good Kitchen-Cheats understand, keeping the odd box of instant cake mix in the pantry is a must. For this recipe, I used a Chocolate Fudge Cake mix, but you could use any chocolate or chocolate mud cake mixture. Find one that suits YOU.

*Butter / oil. eggs and milk or water – depending on what your Cheat-mix requires.

*Instant chocolate frosting. I prefer the Betty Crocker range.

*400g of Jersey Caramels.

*1/4 cup of full cream.

* One 175g pack of Lolly Gobble Bliss Bombs. Or caramel popcorn. Or plain popcorn…depends how sweet your tooth is!

*Cupcake wrappers. I used gold foil wrappers for this recipe, because pretty. And it matches the caramel.

 

popcorn 3HOW IT’S DONE:

Bake your cupcakes according to the packet directions, but be wary of over-filling each cupcake (fill to 2/3 maximum) My mix was only supposed to be enough for 12 cupcakes, but in fact it made 18.

Allow cakes to cool completely, then, using a teaspoon, carefully scoop out a well from the centre of each one.

Chop Jersey Caramels and add to a medium sized pot along with cream. Over a medium heat, stirring constantly, melt caramels and cream together. This takes a little while, and will give your arms a good workout before it all comes together. Try not to allow the mixture to boil. Once combined, spoon aprox a teaspoon full of melted caramel into the well you made in each cupcake. Work quickly here, before the mixture begins to stiffen. Also – HOT. Be careful. Follow with a quick smothering of pre-prepared chocolate frosting over the whole lot. I just used a knife to smooth it over rather than a piping bag this time.

POPCORN 1Add the packet of Lolly Gobble Bliss Bombs to your caramel mixture, carefully spooning through so the entire packet is coated with caramel. A metal tablespoon is easier to work with here rather than a wooden one. Once combined, spoon a large tablespoon of popcorn on to the top of each cupcake and allow to set.

You could follow this up with a drizzling of melted chocolate, but the verdict from my family was that these are pretty full-on in the sweet department already and wouldn’t need it. The surprise dollop of caramel inside the cupcake will set to a gooey consistency, lots of fun for small people and adults alike.

 

 

 

and now… Belinda tries it out!

 



Mandy Wrangles_2_tnCrisp on the outside, chewy on the inside, white chocolate and macadamias. What more you could ask for in a cookie?

This is a huge recipe – not in time or effort, but certainly in the amount of cookies you’ll have left to devour once it’s done. My family of boys can manage a double batch without a problem, you (and Bel) might decide to half the amounts I’ve given here.

 

mac cookies rawWHAT YOU NEED:

1 cup of softened butter. No, not margarine. Butter.

1 cup of white sugar.

¾ cup of brown sugar, packed.

2 tsp of vanilla extract.

1 tsp of salt.

2 large eggs.

3 cups of plain flour.

1 ½ tsp baking soda.

150g chopped macadamia nuts.

150g white chocolate chips.

 

mac cookiesHOW IT’S DONE:

Pre heat your oven to a low 140 c. In a large bowl, beat together butter, sugars and vanilla extract until it turns fluffy and takes on a lighter colour. An electric mixer will make your life easier, but it’s not essential for this recipe. Then add eggs one at a time. The mixture might appear to curdle at first, but it will come together.

In a second bowl, mix flour, baking soda and salt. Gradually add this mix to the butter and egg mixture until all combined. It’s seriously easy to end up in a big mess with flour flying everywhere if you don’t take your time with this bit. Go on…ask me how I know! Or, maybe don’t. Add the chocolate chips and macadamia nuts at this point. You might want to get your hands in there to mix until pretty much even.

Line a baking tray or three with baking paper (my favourite thing in the kitchen, saves on washing up). Spoon one tablespoon of mix into balls in your hands, then place on tray. Don’t place too close together, as they WILL spread. Cooking time is only about ten to eleven minutes – you won’t think they’re ready yet, but look for the slight golden brown change in colour around the edge of your cookies. They’ll still be quite soft. Allow to cool for a minute or two, then slide off with a spatula. Overcook and you’ll lose that lovely chewy consistency. Of course, if you prefer your cookies with that bit more crunch, then by all means bake for a little longer.

 

and now Bel videos her version of Mandy’s recipe

 

 



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