When your little sister asks for cheesecake, what can you do? Especially when said little sister has been working hard for exams and has finally finished. Reader, I made cheesecake. The reason we'd been talking about cheesecake is because we had invited the Ecos round for the weekend to celebrate the end of exams, and when writing it in my diary I'd noticed that it was also Shavuot, the Jewish festival which marks the giving of the five books of the Old Testament to the Jews. This was one of the culminating points of their wanderings after fleeing from slavery in Egypt, which is commemorated at Pesach. I wouldn't like to imply that Jewish festivals are all about food; but most Jewish festivals have traditional foods which accompany them, and since I like to cook and bake for my friends and family as a sign of my affection for them, I like to capitalise on these traditions. In this case, it's traditional to eat dairy foods like cheesecake and cheese blintzes, possibly to mark the fact that the Jews were only given their strict dietary rules on not mixing meat and milk in the Old Testament. At any rate, Eco Sis had immediately endorsed the need to share our feelings for each other by eating cheesecake, and most particularly chocolate cheesecake.
What I made in the end was chocolate-swirled mini cheesecakes, using this recipe from a blog called Fresh From the Oven. The original recipe didn't have a biscuity base but I did make one, using ginger biscuits and a bit of melted marge. The cheesecake mix is a fairly standard one, but you take out some of the topping and mix it with cocoa which is then swirled into the middle of the cake. Following another recipe on the same blog, I swirled raspberry jam into two of the mini cakes instead of the cocoa, as The Scientist wasn't entirely convinced about chocolate cheesecake (though guess which one he reached for first!). The jam was a bit hard to swirl and I think that warming it, or at least mixing it up well first might have helped. But the finished product was a nice little treat and got the Eco Sis stamp of approval. Personally I preferred the jam one as I don't like very cocoa-y things, but since the base is the same it's easy to mix and match what you swirl in. I think that the biscuit base is a nice addition and a contrast with the cool creamy cheesiness of the topping, but it would still be a nice dessert without.
We had a lovely weekend with the Ecos, and had our usual board game session with them - this time Settlers of Catan and Munchkin (a coincidental title, though of course it made us think of our Munchkin. In role playing a munchkin is someone who has all the doo-hickies you could possibly imagine, though the Kiwi Munchkin got his nickname because he's dinky, not because he has a sword of cuteness or a potion of enchantment or anything (as far as I know)). I have no strategic talent at all for games like this, but to my surprise I even managed to lead for a while in Settlers despite being in the kitchen starting dinner and only running back in to the sitting room when it was my turn or when someone wanted to do some trading. Eco Sis won both games. I'd like to claim we let her since she'd worked so hard for her exams, but the truth is that she got all the strategy genes in our family. That's my excuse anyway - I don't know what happened to The Scientist and Eco Bro (full of cheesecake, perhaps?)
The Ecos didn't come empty handed, by the by. In my first guest-baker spot on this blog, may I present Eco Sis's Blueberry Buckle; a delicious, moist and fruity cake, using a recipe she got from their American housemate.
I haven't got a copy of the recipe so can't reproduce it here, but the cake was lovely, and I love the word buckle because it's similar to truckle. Truckle is a good word because it makes me think of both truckle beds, which are little beds which slide under the big one during the day, like the one that Laura Ingalls Wilder and her sister Mary shared when they lived in the Little House in the Big Woods, and of cheese truckles which I don't particularly eat but which are pleasing to say. Eco Sis also brought home-made challah which looked amazing, but which I have put in the freezer to enjoy properly later as we were all stuffed from the other cooking this weekend!
Swirled mini cheesecakes (from Junior's Cheesecake Cookbook, via Fresh from the Oven blog)
[As usual, I halved the recipe and made 6 mini cheesecakes using a big muffin tin. Below is the full scale recipe]
Two 8-ounce packages Philadelphia Cream Cheese [reduced fat is fine] at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch [the jam swirled version used 3tbsps, but I used the lesser quantity for a mixture which I divided between chocolate and jam versions with no ill effects]
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 extra large eggs [this is U.S. extra-large - UK large]
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1.5 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder [for the jam version, omit this and allow about 1 tsp or a little less of jam per cheesecake]
Chocolate curl (optional, for decoration)
Preheat oven to 350F. Line 12 standard muffin cups with silicone, foil, parchment, or paper liners.
Put one package of cream cheese, 1/3 cup of sugar, and the cornstarch in a large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on low until creamy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the bowl a few times. Blend in the remaining cream cheese and 1/3 cup sugar, then the vanilla. Blend in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after adding each one. Beat in the cream just until it's completely blended. Be careful not to be overmix.
Remove 3/4 cup of the batter and stir in the cocoa. Divide the white batter among the 12 muffin cups. Drop a heaping teaspoon of the chocolate batter in the center of each, pushing each down slightly. Using a small knife or skewer, cut through the batter until dark swirls appear. [for the jam version don't take any of the mixture out but divide it directly among the muffin cups. Then drop a tsp or so of jam into each one and swirl as above]
Place the muffin tin in a large shallow pan and add hot water until it comes about 1 inch up the sides of the tin. Bake the cakes until set and slightly puffy, about 30-45 minutes, depending on how hot your oven is. Remove the cakes from the water bath, transfer the tin to a wire rack, and let cool for 2 hours.*Transfer the cake to a container and chill for at least 4 hours.
*note: instruction from the book: After 2 hours of cooling, cover cake with plastic wrap (do not remove from the tin) and put in the freezer until cold, at least one day. [I didn't do this]