Creamsicle Pops

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These pictures are terrible. But the results are amazing, I promise. I have quite a bit leftover of that creamsicle pudding I made a few days ago. To be honest, I find it a little oversweet for my tastes at the moment. So I thought I’d tone it down a bit by swirling it with unsweetened cream in a frozen treat. I know that it’s January, but I’m trying to clean out my fridge before we move and I have a TON of whipping cream leftover from the holidays. And I have these super cute popsicle moulds that I haven’t had a chance to use yet.

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Now, if you didn’t know already, the best way to whip cream quickly is to start by chucking your bowl and whisk in the freezer for a while.

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Then it’s a simple matter to whip up that cream.

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Then I kind of alternated globs of pudding and cream in the moulds. I wasn’t too concerned about neat and tidy layers. I was more going for a swirl in any case.

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In fact I’m also terrible at measuring globs so some are bigger than others.

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But you do get a bit of colour contrast. Remember you can do this with juice and yogurt and other kinds of pudding and all sorts of fun stuff.

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Then I chucked them in the freezer. And when they were done they tasted amazing.

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I’m going to pull one out in the morning when the sun is up and add in a beautiful finished shot below, I promise. Stay tuned!

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Cool Blackberry Cheesecake

 

 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY CAITY!

Now that I have a springform pan, I have taken it upon myself to perfect cheesecakes.  This cool no-cook cheese confection is a modified version of one by Gordon Ramsay and it’s dee-lish.

Because it’s a British recipe, I’m afraid that even with my modifications it’s all still in metric.  This is where having a kitchen scale comes in mighty handy.  Of course, because it’s a no-cook recipe, you needn’t fret if your conversions aren’t exactly accurate.

First, crush up about 150g cookies.  I used chocolate wafers, but graham crackers or digestive biscuits also work well.  You can even buy cookie crumbs pre-crushed in a box.

Mix those with about 50g melted butter.

With a glass or your fingers, flatten the crumbs into the bottom of a 20cm springform pan (mine was 25 cm so my cake is a little shorter and wider than yours might be).  Chuck that in the fridge to chill.

Now plop about 340g fresh blackberries (that was what was in the package for me) in a pot with a dash of sugar and a dash of water or juice.  Add the juice and zest from half a lemon to that as well.  Cook on medium-high heat, stirring often, until it’s all bubbly and saucy.  Scoop out a bit of the juice and make a slurry with a small amount of corn starch.  Add that back in and let it come to a boil.  Remove from the heat and let cool completely.  Chuck it in the fridge to make it extra cool and thick.

Whip up 500mL whipping cream in a chilled bowl.

In a separate bowl, cream together 500g soft cream cheese, a splash of vanilla extract, the zest and peel of half a lemon (nice use of a whole lemon there, waste-not), and 200g sour cream or crème fraîche.  The warmer your cream cheese is, the less lumpy it will be, but be careful not to let it melt if you put it in the microwave.

Fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture.  Keep this stuff cool until you need it, but don’t chill it.

Spoon or pipe a layer of the cream cheese mixture over the crumb base.

Spoon on some of your blackberry sauce and use a skewer or flat knife to swirl it around.

Add another layer of cheese, and plop the remaining fruit sauce on top.  Swirly swirly swirly.  If your cake pan is smaller and your cake taller, you could probably try for three layers of cheese with swirlies in-between.

Refrigerate the cake for at least 5 hoursand keep it refrigerated when you’re not eating it.

Spring it from the springform!

We only had it in the fridge for probably 3 hours before we ate it, so you can see it was a little runny in the centre.

But still oh so good!  We all had seconds.

Christmas Fruit Cakes

My mother calls them fruit cakes.  My father calls them Christmas cakes.  Or it’s the other way around.  I can’t keep track of those two.

Nevertheless, before every holiday season, my dad makes between two and three dozen of them to give away to all their family and friends.  Being the stalwart Scots that we are, we fight over who deserves a whole cake and who gets only a slice.

You can’t be ambivalent about fruit cake.  You either love it or you hate it.  And I can promise you that this is not the leaden, dry, horribly frosted version that you hate.  This is the ooey-gooey sticky sweet and moist brick of goodness that you will LOVE.  Guaranteed.

Keep in mind that this recipe is easy to make.  Especially if you make several dozen.  However, you have to start your preparations the day before and baking time can take up to four hours for large cakes.  Not to mention that you can’t eat them right away — these cakes need a spell before they’re good to eat.  These ones here are from back in 2007.  They should be super excellent now.

Day the First:

In a large bowl, measure in 1 1/2 cups whole blanched almonds (blanched is key because the skin is bitter), 2 cups dark raisins, 2 cups light raisins, 1 cup currants, 2 1/2 cups chopped dates, and 2 1/2 cups candied citron peel.  My dad says that when making several batches it helps to bring a measuring cup to the health food or bulk store and measure what you need right into the bag so you don’t have to worry about having any leftover.

Drain a 12oz (340g) bottle of maraschino cherries, saving the juice.  The cherries should measure about 1 1/4 cups.  Add them to the mixture in the bowl.

Pour in 1/2 cup brandy (or fruit juice, if you prefer) and give it a stir.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave it at room temperature overnight.

In a heavy saucepan, simmer one 19oz (540mL) can crushed pineapple with 2 cups granulated sugar.  Cook, uncovered, until thickened, about 45 minutes.  Make sure to stir frequently. 

By the end, the sugary pineapple should measure 2 1/2 cups.

Let the pineapple cool, and then stir in 1/2 cup reserved cherry juice.  Stir in as well 1 cup strawberry jam (the more all-natural, the better).  This doesn’t necessarily need to be done the day before, but it has to be cool before you add it to the cake batter.

Day the Second:

Preheat your oven to 275°F.  Butter your pans (we use four regular-sized loaf pans) and line them with parchment paper.The knob on our oven is positioned badly so we take the knob off in order not to hit it accidentally.  And yes, we probably should clean our oven more often.

In a large measuring cup, whisk together 4 cups all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves, 1/2 teaspoon allspice, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda.

Add about a cup of the flour mixture to the fruit and nuts and toss until the bits are all covered.  This will prevent them from sinking to the bottom when you mix them in the batter.  Set the rest of the flour aside for now. 

In another large mixing bowl, cream together  2 1/4 cups granulated sugar with 1 pound (2 cups) butter.

Beat in 12 eggs (yes, 12!), two at a time.  This is less of a pain in the butt if you have someone crack the eggs while someone else runs the mixer.

Take your flour mixture and your pineapple mixture and, alternating them, stir them into the butter and egg mix.  Make 3 dry and 2 liquid additions and stir it all in well. 

Your batter will be a lovely pink colour once you’re all ready.

Pour over your flour-coated fruit and nuts and mix well. 

Pour into your pans and chuck them in the oven.

Place a shallow pan of water on the bottom rack of the oven to keep the cakes moist.

Bake in your oven for 3 1/2 to 4 hours, for the larger cakes.  Smaller cakes might be done in about 3 hours. If you have a fast oven you might want to lay a sheet of aluminum foil loosely over the top to prevent them from drying out in the last hour or so.

The cakes should be fairly firm to the touch in the centre and should test clean with a toothpick.  Once you’ve removed the cakes from the oven let them cool in the pans for about five minutes. 

Then remove the cakes from the pans and peel off the paper.  Let the cakes cool completely.

Now you do your wrapping.

Lay a sheet of aluminum foil on your work surface.  Overlay that with some plastic wrap.

And some cheesecloth.

Plop your cake in the centre.

Baste it generously, all over, with rum or brandy (if you don’t baste you will need to keep the cakes in the refrigerator).

Wrap the cheesecloth tightly around the cake.  Then the plastic wrap.  Then the aluminum foil.

As the cloth dries out, give your cakes a periodic dousing with rum or brandy.  Don’t freeze the cakes or the flavours won’t mellow properly.

The cakes will make good eating in about three weeks, just in time for the holidays.

Fruit Sauce

I spent 1990-1995 living on a relatively high security naval base in British Columbia.  As a shy girl with an overactive imagination, living in the relative isolation of that place was the best time of my life, despite the outbreak of the Persian Gulf War followed by a subsequent vicious and terrifying CUPE strike.  I went back to the base in February of 2002, and it just wasn’t the same.  For one thing, there were actual guards at the front gate now, with really big guns.  As an adult I was subject to quite a bit more scrutiny than I had been as a child.  But it was fantastic to visit the place where I used to have so much fun.

My front yard was twenty metres from the ocean and a rocky beach.  Helicopters would land in the field behind my house.  The admiral would let me pick roses from his garden.  Destroyers, frigates, and minesweepers would signal me in pseudo-morse code when I waved (well they would if my dad or someone I knew was on them).  Frogmen would magically appear next to me on the beach, having emerged from the ocean.  Things got exciting when nuclear submarines came to visit.  There were enormous cliffs to climb and fantastic old ruins to hide in.  And there were wild apple trees, cherry trees, and a blackberry bush the length of a football field.

It wasn’t uncommon to pass by this particular bush on any given day in the summer and find it full of not only bees and wasps but engineers, sailors, police officers, and anyone else who happened to be passing by and wanted a snack.

We ate a lot of blackberries in those summers.

My mother would stew the blackberries with a bit of water or juice, a spoonful or two of sugar, and a little dab of corn starch to thicken it.  We would eat this stuff on ice cream, cake, pie, pancakes, waffles … you name it.  It’s a multi-purpose sauce and can turn any dessert into an elegant treat in a flash.

Blackberries are obviously my favourite ingredient, but you can use any other kind of berry you want.   Living in Newfoundland I have discovered that partridge berries make a nice tart sauce.  Raspberries, blueberries, and halved strawberries work well.  Frozen berries work very well in this, as you don’t have to work on breaking them down as they cook.  I will try to quantify the amounts for you here.  If you’re cooking for a dinner party, make the full recipe below, but you can halve (or double) this recipe easily.

Take 2 cups fresh or frozen berries and bung them in a small pot.  I used blueberries this time.  Add in 1/2 cup of water or juice (I like to use cranberry juice to boost the flavour) and 1/4 cup of sugar.  You’ll need a little extra liquid if you are using fresh berries.

Heat on medium, stirring often, until all the berries are defrosted and broken up.

Suspend one tablespoon corn starch in three tablespoons water or juice and pop that in as well.

Bring to a boil, stirring frequently.

Remove from the heat and drizzle over the food of your choice.  

I recommend Pound Cake.

Makeshift Carving Board

This is another marvelous Martha Stewart invention.

I do not own a carving pan or board for meat.  I just don’t.

Instead, I place a cutting board (wooden or plastic) inside a rimmed baking sheet when I carve.

Not only do the juices not get absolutely everywhere but they’re nicely contained should you need them later.

Pineapple Corer – A perfect gift

I know what you’re thinking.  A pineapple corer is some elaborate gadget that you don’t really need.

I was like you.  Then my mother-in-law, knowing my obsession with fresh fruit (seriously, offer me a plate of cut fruit and a plate of chocolate and I’ll take the fruit every time and eat myself sick), gave me one for Christmas a few years ago.

HOLY SMOKES.  This is the best thing ever.

Normally when cutting a pineapple you slice off the outer skin, then you either cut the fruit away from the core or you manhandle your way into cutting through the core and you cut it away after.  This little gadget does away with the core all together.

Pick a nice large one with lots of leaves.  You can smell a good one by sniffing its bottom.  If it smells nice and fruity then it’s good.  You can leave less aromatic ones to ripen on the counter for a few days.  And in my experience, a wee bit of mould at the bottom is okay.

Simply cut off the top and bottom of your pineapple and set it in a pan to catch the juice.  You can leave the bottom on if you want to use the shell for something decorative but it’s a neater job if you cut it off.

Put the corer on top and start twisting it like a corkscrew.  The jagged teeth will bite in a circle around the core.

You can see the pineapple fruit start to feed itself through the little hole as you twist it further and further into the fruit.

The juice will start to bubble up around your cuts.  This is why you have the pan.

Keep twisting until you break through the bottom.

Lift the corer out of the pineapple shell.  It’ll make a lot of revolting sucking sounds.  It’s great.

The fruit has been cored and already sliced in a nice spiral for you.

You can just pop the handle off the corer.

Tip the corer upside down to get your spiral off.

Push the core out with your thumbs into the compost.  And you can drink all the juice you produced.

GENIUS.