Fig, Orange & Mascarpone Cheesecake

I had a few people round to watch The Apprentice so I made this cheesecake that was in ‘Sweet’ by Yotam Ottolenghi which is a really great dessert book, packed with beautiful looking desserts with intriguing flavours. I felt that the cheesecake was worthy of a night spent watching this series of the Apprentice, where they’ve once again outdone themselves in finding the most arrogant people living in the UK. Is it horrible to like watching these people fail? I don’t often eat figs as it’s so hard to get them fresh in this country and this was my first time in trying dried figs which I actually prefer. Whisking the egg whites up makes the cheesecake light. I was too lazy here to put greaseproof paper around the outside of the cake tin but if you do that then it should be a lot neater than mine.

Ingredients

  • 100g digestive biscuits (graham crackers if you live in the US)
  • 80g walnuts
  • 60g butter
  • 250g dried figs
  • 250ml orange juice
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 500g cream cheese
  • 500g mascarpone
  • 250g caster sugar
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Method

1.) Line a 23cm springform tin with baking parchment. If you do around the sides, you need to do 5cm above the rim.

2.) Blitz the digestive biscuits until nearly fine crumbs, then add the walnuts and blitz a little bit more so they have some small chunks.

3.) Melt the butter in a large bowl in the microwave, add the biscuits and nuts and mix everything.

4.) Press the mixture into the tin with a spatula. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.

5.) Chop up the figs, discarding the stalks. Add to a small pan with the orange juice and the cinnamon stick and the cloves. Simmer for about 15 – 20 minutes to a thick liquid. Leave to cool. Then take the cinnamon stick out and spread over the base and return to the fridge.

6.) Preheat the oven before you start to make the filling.

7.) In a large bowl, add the cream cheese, mascarpone, sugar and vanilla.

8.) Zest the orange and add the zest to the filling.

9.) Separate the eggs and add the yolks to the cream cheese. Beat all of this with an electric whisk until smooth.

10.) In another bowl, whisk up the egg whites to stiff peaks.

11.) Fold a third of the egg whites into the cream cheese. Then fold in the rest of the egg whites.

12.) Take the springform pan out of the fridge and wrap in foil. Place on a baking tray and pour in the filling.

13.) Bake for 75 – 80 minutes. If you see it going brown, put some foil over the top but not too early as you don’t want the foil to stick as the cake rises.

14.) The cake should have a slight wobble but not look liquidy when done. Take out and leave to cool to room temperature. Wrap in cling film, move to the fridge and leave for at least 4 hours. (It can keep up to 2 days at this point).

15.) Take out the fridge, remove the springform collar, serve in slices.

Frangipane Mince Pies

Mince pies are a traditional Christmas treat in the UK. Generally it’s a mince pie and some sherry that gets left out for Santa on Christmas Eve. Mince isn’t a meat but a mixture of dried fruits, nuts, rum or brandy and spices. It’s really easy to find jars of the stuff around wintertime in the UK but if you can’t it’s not a particularly difficult thing to make. There are a lot of odd people that don’t like mince pies. Admittedly, mince pies are pretty commercially produced when shop bought and the pastry has to be a bit robust to survive. I think these mince pies taken from the Baking Bible that is Nigella Lawon’s ‘How To Be A Domestic Goddess’ would convert the hardiest of doubters, the pastry is so light with the icing sugar and the frangipane goes beautifully with the spiced fruit. I think the almond flavour of frangipane just makes it extra Christmassy, reminiscent of marzipan and stollen. Serve one of these with a cup of mulled wine for the ultimate winter treat.

Makes 12

Ingredients

  • 175g plain flour
  • 30g ground almonds and another 90g for the frangipane
  • 65g icing sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 125g unsalted block of butter and another 90g for the frangipane
  • 4 eggs
  • 200g mincemeat
  • 90g caster sugar

Method

1.) For the pastry, add the icing sugar, flour and 30g almonds and a pinch of salt to a food processor.

2.) Chop the 125g butter into small cubes and throw them into the food processor.

3.) Pulse the mixture until it looks like breadcrumbs.

4.) In a bowl, separate 2 egg yolks and add a tbsp iced water. Pour into the food processor and continue to pulse until the pastry is starting to clump together around the food processor.

5.) Bring it together with your hands and form two discs. Wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

6.) Roll out one of the discs and stamp out 6 circles. Use these to fill the inside of a cupcake tin. Repeat with the other disc. I only had a muffin tin so I had to do a bit of a cut and paste job with the rest of the pastry which was fine but it was a bit difficult to get the pies out of the tin in the end.

7.) Refrigerate the mince pies for another 15 minutes and preheat the oven to 200 degrees C.

8.) Divide the mincemeat among the twelve tarts.

9.) To make the frangipane, melt the other 90g butter in the microwave for 20 seconds, beat with the other two eggs, the 90g caster sugar and the 90g ground almonds.

10.) Add dollops of the frangipane onto the top of the mincemeat. Cook for about 15 minutes. (Mine may look a bit brown but weren’t burnt at all!)

11.) Let them cool to room temperature before removing from the tin.

Tiramisu Bombe

For Valentine’s Day, we decided to cook a 3 course meal at home and make the dessert together. Forever ambitious, I looked on the Great British Bake Off Showstoppers recipes to find something. The Tiramisu bombe stood out to me as my husband must have tried every supermarket tiramisu going and I’m also a huge fan of Italian and coffee-based desserts. This is cake, mascarpone mousse, chocolate mousse and pistachio mousse. The real bombe is supposed to have cake between all the layers as well as on the bottom and on the outside but for that you’re supposed to divide up the sponge mixture between 3 cake tins and a swiss roll tin. We kind of fudged it and the layers all set and stayed in place but don’t look quite as impressive as the original recipe. My sponge layers weren’t excellent, I’m a bit of a dab hand with pastry but anything using egg as a raising agent seems to elude me, I’ve had bad luck with macarons, joconde sponge and genoise. However, the cake tasted fine and underneath all that mousse you really can’t go wrong. All the three different mousses are individually exquisite and I will look to incorporate one or more of them in other recipes.

Ingredients

  • 19 eggs
  • 595g caster sugar
  • 120g plain flour
  • 1 tbsp cornflour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 200ml espresso coffee
  • Equivalent of 9 sheets gelatine powdered
  • 375g marscapone (actually we used a 225g tub and there was plenty)
  • 3 tbsp dark rum (Myer’s is my favourite)
  • 50g pistachio kernels
  • green food colouring
  • 1 tsp espresso powder
  • 140g dark chocolate (70%)
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder

Method

1.) Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C

2.) Line two cake tins with baking paper, (approx 7 inches)

3.) In a stand mixer, whisk 6 eggs and 200g caster sugar for 5 minutes until the mixture is pale and leaves a ribbon trail. You will need a high speed for this.

4.) While this is mixing, measure out 120g plain flour, 1/2 tsp baking powder and 1 tbsp cornflour

5.) When the eggs are done, sift over the dry ingredients and fold into the eggs

6.) Pour the cake mixture into the sandwich tins. Bake for 12 – 13 minutes.

7.) Make up 200ml espresso coffee.

8.) When the sponges are cooked, brush them with the coffee and set aside.

9.) Wash the stand mixer bowl and whisk.

10.) Now, start to make the mascarpone mousse which will be the top layer of the bombe and the outside icing.

11.) Put 160g of sugar and 45ml water into a small pan and heat until the sugar melts and the temperature is 120 degrees C.

12.) While this is heating up, separate 6 egg yolks into the stand mixer bowl, set these onto a whisk setting to whisk until pale.

13.) When the syrup has reached 120ml, pour into a measuring jug and pour slowly into the egg while it’s whisking until fully incorporated.

14.) Sprinkle in the powdered equivalent of 4 sheets of gelatine and continue to beat for another few minutes to let it cool.

15.) In another bowl, measure out 375g mascarpone and beat with a hand whisk.

16.) In another bowl, measure out 600ml double cream and whisk this until it forms stiff peaks. Stir in the mascarpone and mix together with the 3 tbsp rum.

17.) Fold in the egg mixture.

18.) In a pudding mould/maison cash mixing bowl, put in one of the sponges in the bottom of the bowl to form a dish.

19.) Pour in 1/3 of the mascarpone mixture.

20.) Put in the fridge to set for 30 minutes. Wash up and proceed with the pistachio layer.

21.) Measure out 50g pistachios and blitz them in a food processor.

22.) Line a baking sheet with baking paper and spread out the pistachios on there.

23.) Slowly heat up 100g caster sugar in a pan until it turns golden brown and pour over the pistachios. If you don’t get it over, it doesn’t matter, it’s going to be blitzed anyway.

24.) Once the caramel has hardened, move to a food processor and blitz.

25.) Whisk 125ml double cream to stiff peaks and set aside.

26.) Separate 3 egg yolks and place into a bowl to heat over a bain-marie. Pour in 35g caster sugar. Boil some water and pour into the pan and turn on the heat. Place the egg and sugar bowl over the pan and whisk until the mixture reaches 65 degrees C. It will start to go pale and thicken. Stir in 2 sheets worth of powdered gelatin.

27.) Fold the egg mixture with the cream, the blitzed pistachios and some green food colouring.

28.) Take the pudding bowl out of the fridge and pour on the pistachio mixture. Chill for 30 minutes.

29.) Now, wash up again and start to make the chocolate mousse.

30.) Pour 75ml double cream into a pan and heat up. Take off the heat and add 140g of chocolate and 1 tsp espresso powder. Leave to melt for 5 minutes then stir. The chocolate did seize up for me but was fine once mixed with the other ingredients.

31.) Whisk 150ml double cream to stiff peaks.

32.) Repeat step 26 but with 4 egg yolks, 100g caster sugar and the equivalent of 3 leaves powdered gelatin.

33.) Fold the cream, egg mixture and chocolate together and chill in the fridge for 1 hour.

34.) Chop up the other sponge and use it to create a collar around the bowl. Pour in the chocolate mousse.

35.) Leave in the fridge to set – 3.5 hours was enough for us.

36.) Use a knife and run around the bowl to ensure nothing is stuck to the side. Put a plate over the bottom and turn upside down.

37.) Spread the mascarpone all over the dome.

38.) Dust with cocoa powder.