24 March 2015

Totally Foolproof Baked Vanilla Cheesecake

Never ever underestimate the power of a classic cheesecake.

Cheesecake is my favourite dessert of all time - hands down. It has evolved massively from just the minimal, plain Vanilla cheesecake. Now you can find incredibly extravagant and outlandish recipes, everything from triple chocolate to coconut & chilli! The sky really is the limit for your imagination when it comes to cheesecake flavours, but as with any type of art, it's so easy to forget the beauty of a classic - the original.

I couldn't tell you how many different desserts I've enjoyed in my life, but I can become so overstimulated by all the elaborate puddings on offer, so it's nice to break it down and enjoy the quiet simplicity of a classic cheesecake. Vanilla cheesecake can easily be complemented with any fruit or sauce of your choosing, making it incredibly versatile and adaptable even after it has left the oven!

That's right, you heard me: OVEN.

This is going to be a baked cheesecake. If you have tried a baked and a non-baked cheesecake, then you (should) know that a baked cheesecake tastes far more delicious and superior, but is usually a total bitch-fest to make. I tried a baked cheesecake recipe once, endorsed by a certain celebrity chef, which involved setting the cheesecake in a water bath while cooking in the oven. The water leaked into the tin, and it turned into a lumpy, watery pus, like I had been popping a T-Rex's back acne. Tragedy.

So after I fed the 'pus-pie' to the next door neighbour's cat, I decided all the water baths and egg-separating was too much bollocks for a cheesecake, and I stuck to making no-bake cheesecakes ever since.

Until now.

I've tweaked and mixed different recipes to produce an easy but perfect baked cheesecake that requires no water baths, no egg-separating, and no arrogant ingredients (in my working-class opinion) such as buttermilk, sour cream or créme fraîche. This recipe uses ingredients which you are more likely to have in the house aready, or will be easily available down at the local shop. Finally, this recipe is pretty impervious to any human error, and because it's low-baked, it's even pretty difficult to burn it! Anyways, let's get down to business!


What You'll Need:
250g digestive biscuits (HobNobs are better!)
100g butter
400g full-fat cream cheese
500ml full-fat Greek yoghurt
200g white sugar
4 large eggs
3 tablespoons plain flour
1 tablespoon of good-quality Vanilla extract

1. First, we need to make our biscuit base.

I measured my biscuits out (if you read my other recipes, you'll know how much I loathe measuring!) but you can save yourself the hassle by buying a sleeve of biscuits that ways around 250g, more or less, and just use the whole packet.

If you have a food processor, grind your biscuits to a rubble. For us poor folk, slip your biscuits into a freezer bag or carrier bag (as long as there are no holes!) and batter them with a heavy object.

Once crushed, add your crumbs into a bowl.

2. Microwave your 100g of butter until it's completely liquid.

Pour this over your biscuit crumbs and mix thoroughly until your crumbs are buttery and as damp as wet sand.

Some biscuits can be drier than others, so if you think you need more butter, do add more butter.

3. Pour your crumbs into a buttered springform tin (any tin that's roughly 10-inches and has a removable bottom).

Spread the crumbs out with your hands and make sure you have a base that's equally thick all around. Then press your crumbs down with your palms until densely packed. Make sure you get around the edges too!

Once you have a nice, thick base, pop your tin into the fridge to harden while we make the cheesecake filling!

4. Preheat your oven to 150C/300F.

Empty your 200g of sugar, your 3 tablespoons of flour, your 400g of full-fat cream cheese and your 500ml of full-fat Greek yoghurt into a large bowl (it's full-fat or nothing; if you want fat-free, eat a cabbage.)

Mix everything together until combined and creamy.

This works much better if the yoghurt and cream cheese are at room temperature and not chilled!

5. Whisk your 4 eggs in a jug with your tablespoon of good-quality vanilla extract. You can use any vanilla extract really, though premium quality is better as vanilla is the headlining act in this cheesecake.

Add your vanilla-eggs into your cheese mixture, and mix until everything is completely combined and shiny.

Your batter is finished!

6. Remove your biscuit base from the fridge.

Pour in all of your cheesecake batter, making sure you don't get any sloppage around the sides of the tin.

Carry your tin over to the oven carefully, without tilting it, and place in a low-level shelf in the oven. Bake for 50-60 minutes.

7. When done, the cheesecake should be golden around the sides and will have risen a lot around the edges. The middle of the cake will be sunken and wobbly. This is normal, don't panic! Turn off the oven, and leave the door slightly open until the cake has completely cooled (about an hour.) The sides of the cheesecake will sink back down and give you a smooth, flat cheesecake.

Once cooled, pop the cheesecake in the fridge to chill for a couple of hours before serving.

It's a long wait, but it is a worthy wait!

Serve alone, or with jam, sauce, chocolate or fresh fruit - anything you can imagine!

Thanks for reading,

Anthony :)

19 March 2015

Rule-Brekkin' White Chocolate Nutella

They said they a white chocolate Nutella would never happen. But it just did.

I've had a very long, emotional love affair with Nutella. I ate it pretty sparingly as a kid, as my mam hated buying 'junk' like that. My mam's twin sister, however, always had her fridge loaded with junk goodies: Pop Tarts, Coco Pops, Coca Cola, and Nutella; all the good shit. I would enjoy Nutella lashed all over toast whenever I stayed her house.

Fast forward 18 years or so, I was in my first year of university and was finally buying my own food shopping. Nutella was a regular purchase right through my uni days. I baked with it, made hot chocolate with it, spread it on warm cinnamon swirls and - most often than the rest - just ate it straight out of the jar with a knife (never a spoon - the knife just adds an essence of danger.)

That was 2012.


Anyways, I've seen the odd petition or two over the past couple of years, calling for Nutella manufacturer Ferrero to manufacture a white chocolate variety of the hazelnut spread. They seem to have declined every time, sadly.

Then I thought about making it myself at home.

I've came across a handful of recipes for Nutella, all of which ask for far-fetched ingredients (to me, anyways!) such as hazelnut essence, hazelnut purée and all kinds of fancy nut oils. Not only that, but judging from photos of some other recipes, the end result looks more like a chocolate sauce than a spread. What I want is a thick, fudgy spread that acts like butter: firm in the fridge but silky and smooth on hot toast, and I'm going to tell you how to get it!

One thing true of all Nutella recipes: they're actually tastier than the real thing! You probably find that hard to believe I bet, but my Nutella recipe contains double the amount of hazelnuts than found in genuine Nutella. It's still a naughty snack, of course, but it racks up so much more nutritional punch than the real deal!

What You'll Need:
For a jam-jar-size elixir of white Nutella
180g hazelnuts
200g white chocolate
6 tablespoons of flavourless oil (vegetable/sunflower)
4 tablespoons icing sugar
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Let's get toasting! Heat an oven to 180C/350F and spread your hazelnuts out across a baking tray.

Toast them in the oven for 10-15 minutes until they've slightly darkened.

Once toasted, the autumny, nutty aroma will be unlocked and they will be smelling pretty damn fine - you'll see!

2. Now for the tedious part. We need to rub the brown skins off the hazelnuts so they're bare naked. Once toasted, the skins will peel off very easily. You can rub them off one by one or take a handful and knead them together to loosen the skins.

Don't worry if you can't get all the skin completely off.

There will be a few nutty rebels who refuse to let go of their jackets completely, so you can just leave them behind.

3. Now we need to grind our hazelnuts. This step really determines what kind of Nutella texture you'll have.

If you have a food processor, simply process the hazelnuts until they're fine ground - in the end, this will give you a smooth, silky Nutella.

If, like me, you don't have a food processor, then simply bag up your nuts into a sandwich bag (or two, to prevent any messy punctures!) and pound them to within an inch of their lives with a rolling pin/wine bottle.

I gotta mention that this last method won't give you a smooth, silky texture like the Nutella we all know and love. This method will give you a gritty, chunky Nutella - sort of like chunky peanut butter! I happen to really like the chunky version myself - it feels a bit more grown up - so go whichever way you like depending on whether you want smooth or chunky.

4. Regardless of how you handled your nuts, add in your 6 tablespoons of oil, half a teaspoon of vanilla extract, half a teaspoon of salt and finally, 4 tablespoons of icing sugar.

Mix all of them together until you have a thick, nutty paste.

5. Now for the child's play...

Break your white chocolate into small pieces and melt in the microwave (10sec/stir/10secs/stir) until smooth.

Simply pour your white chocolate into your nutty paste, and mix quickly until everything is well-combined.

6. Prepare a jar (you can use an old jam or coffee jar) for your white Nutella, and pour in your finished creation.

It might seem alarmingly liquid at this stage - don't worry - it will set quite hard in the fridge.

Now you can finish off the leftovers!

To keep your Nutella soft and spreadable, store it in a dark cupboard, where it will last for up to a week.

...as if it will last that long!

Enjoy on toast, fruit or on custard cream biscuits!

Thanks for reading! :)


10 March 2015

Salty Choco-Nut Express Bars

This is probably the easiest recipe I will ever share with you.

Nevertheless, these Salty Choco-Nut Express Bars are a total life-saver. There is no baking or culinary skill involved at all; this is total, grassroots 'cooking' that even the dumbest creature could get the knack of. We're essentially just making chocolate bars, out of chocolate bars!

Now this definitely isn't a genius creation, but I tried this recipe when I held a charity bake sale. I had spent all day making different cakes and I was pretty burnt out, so I tried my hand and something straight-forward and easy to sell to people just walking by, who didn't want to sit down and eat cake. Amazingly enough, these bad boys were the first to sell out! They were gone within an hour, and everybody sang high praises of them. Little did they know just how little effort they required!

Whether it's forgotten birthdays, last minute dinner parties, speedy packed lunches, making apologies, your first day of university, comfort food, or your very own charity bake sale - they're all a divine calling for these Choco-Nut Express Bars. Salty & sweet has become a big gastro-trend in recent years, so you'll be serving up style with devilishly low effort, and nobody will be any the wiser!

I personally like to make a dark chocolate and white chocolate version at the same time, so I can jumble the finished bars together in a box and share them out. People respond very well to options! That being said, you can alter this recipe to make it as glitzy or complicated as you like. Mix it up with different nuts, or dried fruits, or honeycomb - anything you can imagine.

Anyways, before I get your imagination running wild, let's jump right into the goodness. I'll be showing you how to make Dark Chocolate & Peanut and White Chocolate & Cashew Express Bars.
What You'll Need:
(to make 8 hunky bars)

Dark Chocolate & Peanut Bars
250g Milk Chocolate
150g Salted Peanuts

White Chocolate & Cashew Bars
250g White Chocolate
125g Salted Cashew Nuts


1. Break your chocolate into small pieces and place them into a microwaveable bowl.

And you won't fuck it up if you pinch a square or two for yourself...

Zap your bowl of chocolate in the microwave for 10 seconds at a time, taking the bowl out in between zaps and shuffling the pieces around. Once most of the chocolate has melted, start stirring it with a spoon until it's all melted and shiny.

Of course, you could melt your chocolate over a water boiler, but it really isn't necessary, and it just takes extra time. If you do it right, you can melt chocolate with great success in a microwave.

There's only one stipulation for this: please don't use Cadbury's or Galaxy chocolate. It really doesn't taste good when it's salted, probably due to them having a very distinct flavour. An inferior brand of chocolate works much better; trust me. Plus, it's a lot cheaper too.

2. Once your chocolate is a glossy, molten pool, it's time to add in your salted nuts.

Don't like cashews or peanuts? You can switch them for walnuts, pistachios or almonds. Don't like dark chocolate? you can use milk chocolate; in fact, I prefer to use 50:50 of milk and dark chocolate for a little extra sweetness. You could add spices (I personally think nutmeg would work well with white chocolate), or if you're after extra nuttiness, add a tablespoon of peanut butter to your melted chocolate.

3. Mix your nuts and chocolate until all of your nuts are thoroughly coated with shiny chocolate. If you'd like to add in any extra ingredients (dried fruit, peanut butter), do so now.

4. Empty your mixture out into a small tin or container, roughly 20cm x 15cm (I used some old camping tins) and press it down evenly, making sure you don't have any shallow parts.

5. Place your containers in the fridge, and leave them for 1 hour to completely set.

And by all means, tuck into any leftover chocolate...

Once your ChocoNut Bars have become solid, cut them into hunky bars and store them in the fridge until needed.

And that really is it!

It's a pretty common-sensical recipe, but it's always good to keep it at the back of your mind. It'll be your secret weapon when you're against the clock!

Thanks for reading!

Anthony :)