Monday, January 25, 2016

The Ultimate Cinnamon and Caramel Cheesecake!

It's not a secret why cheesecakes are the ultimate desserts for so many people. They are creamy, sweet and can be varied quite substantially to meet just about any taste. I always enjoy a good cheesecake with a cup of coffee or by itself. When I am short on time I prepare the non-baked versions, even though I have a preference for the baked ones. However the last time I baked a good New York style cheesecake was when I shared this post. I think it´s about time I make a new one. 

The idea for this recipe has been on my mind for quite a while but I always managed to postpone it. The idea came to me while savoring the delicious caramel cookies also known as speculoos or speculaas. These biscuits, now popular worldwide, originate from Belgium and the Netherlands. Nowadays, one can find spread made from these cookies and I am a big fan! 

For this recipe I used both the cookies to make the base and the spread to flavor the cheese filling. The result is simply amazing and to make even more special, I decided to top the cheesecake with a special caramel sauce that complements the flavors found within the cake itself. 

And now let´s get baking!

For the base you need:
  • 100 g caramel cookies (I used the Lotus brand)
  • 20 g melted butter 
To prepare the cookies place them in a zip-lock bag and pass a rolling pin over them as many times as you need until you end up with a coarsely textured crumbs. Place the pulverized cookies in a  spring-form pan (18 cm) greased covered with parchment paper. Add the melted butter and  mix well then press the mixture to cover the bottom, you can add more cookies to form a rim on the sides of the pan, I didn´t this time. Bake in a preheated oven (180 C) for 8 to 10 min. Leave to cool.

For the cheesecake mix:
  • 600 g cream-cheese at room temperature
  • 3 large eggs at room temperature 
  • 100 g Greek yogurt (or thick yogurt, or sour cream)
  • 130 g sugar
  • 1 tbsp flour 
  • 100 g caramelized biscuits spread (Lotus Biscoff)
  • dash of salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp cinnamon (to your liking)
In your mixer bowl, add the cheese and mix on a low speed with the paddle attachment for 2 to 3 minutes. Then add the sugar, the Biscoff spread, yogurt, cinnamon and flour and mix again until well blended and no lumps are visible. Add the eggs one by one and keep mixing on a low speed. Finally add the salt and vanilla and mix a bit. 

Pour the batter in the pan, and bake in a preheated oven (150 to 160 C). 

Usually it's customary to wrap the spring-form pan with aluminum foil and place it in another pan filled with warm water and then bake for the required time which is usually for a pan of this size one hour to one hour and a half (oven-dependent).  This bain-marie method of cooking is needed to bake your cake at a gentler heat to avoid surface cracks.

What I did is different though. I put in the middle layer of the oven a pan and filled it with warm water then placed the cheesecake pan over a cookie sheet and put both over the pan. This created  a steamy environment in my oven and allowed the cheesecake to cook all the way through while retaining a smooth creamy texture and most importantly with no surface cracks whatsoever.

After one hour, turn off your oven, shake the tray, make sure the middle is still wiggly and leave the oven door cracked open for another half an hour to an hour. 
Let it cool completely before you put it in the fridge overnight. 

For the caramel you need:
  • 100 g sugar (50 g white sugar, 50 g dark brown sugar)
  • 40 g cold butter
  • 150 ml cream (35%)
  • 1/4 tsp of sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
Make the caramel following the instructions in this post, and just add the cinnamon with the salt and you´re done. Before serving the cheesecake, drizzle the caramel over, and feel free to drizzle more on your piece.

If you love a creamy baked cheesecake but wish for a new flavor then this recipe is for you and for all cheesecake lovers and boy there are so many of us out there!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Tangarine and Cardamom Cake

The long needed Christmas and New Year's vacations are long over and we are now back to our daily routines. Madrid post-vacation is cold and wintery and I couldn't be happier as I love this kind of weather. For me this weather is synonymous with a laid back routine with time spent indoors seeking the comfort of a warm bed or the joy and warmth baking provides.

Speaking of comfort, what´s more comforting than a piece of cake with a hot cup of coffee or tea eaten alone or shared with close friends when it's raining outside.

I often combine the flavor of fruits with that of spices and there are combinations that work better than others. Cardamom and citrus is a winning combination that I often use in my baking. I would usually use oranges but this time I decided to change and try out tangerines. The result was just perfect.
With a strong flavor base and few key ingredients this cake is really easy to make and is perfect in the morning, afternoon or for these guilty moments of late night snacking.

The follwing ingredients are enough for a high cake using a 15cm cake pan, but 18 or 23 cm pans can aslo be used however you need to reduce the baking time.

For the cake you need:
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • 100 g sugar
  • 160 g flour
  • 100 g tangerine purée (recipe follows)
  • 50 g yogurt
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • 70 melted butter
  • 1 tsp baking powder and 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cointreau (optional)
  • pinch of salt
To make the tangerine purée just place 100 g of tangerine in a saucepan and cover with cold water and cook for about 20 minutes or until tender. Cool down, remove the pits (if present) and just process into purée.

To make the cake, combine flour, baking powder and soda, cardamom and salt in a bowl and set aside.
In another bowl, whisk the eggs with the cointreau then add the sugar gradually. Keep whisking until you have a pale and creamy mixture. Lower the speed of the mixer and add the melted butter, then the yogurt and the purée.
Turn off the mixer and fold in the flour mixture with a spatula or a large spoon.
Pour the batter in a greased pan and bake in a preheated oven (175C) for about 30-35 min or until a skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

You can serve the cake as it is, or you can add a simple frosting, by combining powdered sugar and some tangerine juice!

The vibrant and warm flavors of the cake are like a ray of sunshine in these wintery days, just what you need!