Salted caramel Tim Tams chocolate cheesecake


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How do you make Tim Tams last longer? Ask any fan and they will tell you how hard it is to stop at one, let alone make it last longer.

Especially when we are talking about a collaboration between Arnott’s and Adriano Zumbo to create salted caramel tim tams! It’s been a while since I last rushed to buy newly released confectionary and also that I don’t think I’m ever fast enough, I had resigned to defeat. Such was my mindset when I walked past the biscuit aisle at the supermarket to find stacks of them just staring at me. I could not believe my eyes. Trying to recover from the victory dance in my head, I grabbed a couple of packs and started imagining what I could do with them. (No, eating them straight from the packet was never an option).

I knew I had salted caramel in the fridge dying to be eaten and I wanted to prolong the enjoyment of the biscuits. Immediately I knew these are destined for a cheesecake. I also decided to use my small tart tins to make mini one-serving desserts. This recipe is enough to make 10 small desserts with cream cheese filling to spare.

FOR THE BASE:

  • 18 Salted Caramel Tim Tam biscuits,  2 packets
  • 80g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Butter the tins lightly. I did this wearing a disposable glove, to make sure butter goes all the way into the groves.

Line the base with a disc of baking paper. 

Whiz the Salted Caramel Tim Tam biscuits in a food processor until they resemble fine crumbs.

Melt chocolate and add to biscuit crumbs with sea salt and mix until combined. Spoon into prepared tins and press into base firmly to even it out. Reserve 4-5 tablespoons for decoration.

Chill in the fridge while making the filling.

FOR THE CARAMEL:

  • 200g castor sugar
  • 125ml fresh cream 
  • 50g butter, cubed 
  • 5g good quality salt flakes 
  • A few drops of vanilla essence 

Instructions: Heat the sugar in a wide saucepan until it is melted. Be really careful and wait for it to turn amber/ golden and slightly smoke. Carefully add the cream in slowly, continuing to whisk but be aware of the resulting vigorous bubbling. Add the butter in gradually until it is melted and combined. Add in salt flakes and vanilla essence. Cool in the fridge for a few hours.

FOR THE FILLING:

  • 450g cream cheese, chopped into chunks, at room temperature
  • 1 tin caramel sweetened condensed milk 
  • 8g (2.5 sheets) silver strength gelatin 
  • 1⁄2 cup caramel (as above)
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon sea salt

Put gelatin sheets in a dish of cold water and soak to soften for five minutes.

While they are softening, heat caramel gently then squeeze extra water from gelatin and whisk into caramel until smooth. Set aside.

Put cream cheese in a mixer with caramel condensed milk and mix until smooth. 

Add caramel to cream cheese mixture with salt and mix until smooth. 

Pour into prepared base and smooth the top. Chill for six hours or overnight. Sprinkle with reserved Tim Tam crumbs.

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and the left over cream cheese? I made layered cheesecake desserts in cute mason jugs and decorated with a chocolate Easter egg.

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Creme brûlée macarons


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Thinking about creme brûlée desserts, what comes to your mind right away? For me it is the scent of caramel and vanilla, the beautiful golden colour of the brittle on top, the cracking sound of it breaking as you lightly but assertively knock it with your spoon and then the velvety creamy custard as you taste. Every spoonful is a delight. This is one dessert that occupies all of my senses and it sends shivers down my spine every time I find a good one.

I’ve been thinking about this and did a bit of research. Turns out this is just how food science researchers are describing the current trends and developments in the food industry. More and more chefs are recognising the importance of flavor science or neurogastronomy in improving the overall dining experience. Think Ferran Adrià and Heston Blumenthal. Inventive chefs making food so much more than it ever was by engaging all of our senses and enhancing our dining experience. This a great interview with Charles Spencer, a researcher in the study of how we experience our meals.

I wanted to recreate some of that multi-sensory experience in my macarons by making a vanilla bean chocolate and caramel filling. I also added salt flakes to my filling, essentially making a salted caramel filling, to punctuate the sweetness overall. The result: small morsels that reminds me of the joys and excitement of each creme brûlée which I can easily transport to my lucky tasters. After all you can’t readily carry around wobbly little pots and have a blow torch on hand all the time!

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Macarons shell ingredients
150 g icing sugar
150 g almond meal
110 g egg whites, split into 2 bowls of 55g each
150 g caster sugar
38 ml water
1 g meringue powder
a few drops of brown and white gel colouring
Follow my basic recipe to make the shells. I paired these with a salted caramel filling.

Filling Ingredients:
200g castor sugar
125ml fresh cream
50g butter, cubed
5g good quality salt flakes
A few drops of vanilla essence
100g white chocolate
50ml cream

Instructions:
Heat the sugar in a wide saucepan until it is melted. Be really careful and wait for it to turn amber/ golden and slightly smoke. Carefully add the cream in slowly, continuing to whisk but be aware of the resulting vigorous bubbling. Add the butter in gradually until it is melted and combined. Add in salt flakes and vanilla essence. Cool in the fridge for a few hours.
Make white chocolate ganache by heating cream and pouring over pieces of white chocolate. Let it sit and then stir till it thickens. Mix ganache with a few tablespoons of salted caramel. Return to the fridge for it to thicken. Fill half of your shells and top them with the remaining half of your shells. The filled macarons need to be kept in the fridge for 24 hours for the filling to flavour the shells. These freeze really well (up to 3 months).

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Valrhona chocolate, salted caramel and crunchy feuilletine entremet


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Ever since trying out entremet desserts from Milse, I’ve been planning on making some. The making of entremets involve several more elements than other desserts. With cakes you may have cake batter, cream and ganache. With macarons you have the shells and the filling, be it buttercream or chocolate ganache. Entremets typically involve layers of mousse, cake, some ‘surprise’ element within and then a chocolate glaze or cocoa powder.

There was a missing ingredient that had taken me a long time to find, but thanks to Equagold I finally got my hands on some feuilletine – crunchy ‘leaves’ – for my ‘surprise’ element.

It also took me a while to find and master the perfect glaze as the shiny coating for these little domes. It wasn’t until recently when I flipped open Darren Purchese’s Sweet Studio book that I realised the perfect recipe had been lying around the house all along!

I urge you not to be put off by the steps and the number of elements. The list looks long but if you plan ahead, like baking (or buying!) the sponge one night, making whatever filling (e.g. Salted caramel) another, you will have everything ready to assemble easy peasy. I looked at it as a massive mise en place and the assembling is truly the highlight and most fun part. The result is amazing and all the time spent in preparation worthwhile.

So excited when I finally got them done, I had a goofy smile all day and could hardly wait for my colleagues to try.

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Chocolate mousse domes – makes 6

Chocolate mousse
60 g dark chocolate – melted
45 ml full cream milk
1 leaf of gelatin – softened in water
175 ml cream – lightly whipped

1) Combine dark chocolate and milk
2) Mix in gelatin
3) Fold in cream until just mixed

Chocolate Genoise/ sponge cake – you can use your own sponge cake recipe or store-bought cakes!

Salted caramel
See my recipe from the Salted Caramel Macaron post. I almost always have a jar of this in my fridge, so this element is ready whenever I need it.

Crunchy chocolate Crisp * you will have lots of left overs for other desserts, these keep well in an airtight box
60 g dark chocolate – melted
25 g crunchy feuilletine

1) Line baking tray with a sheet of baking paper. Spread feuilletine on baking paper.
2) Melt chocolate and pour over feuilletine.
3) Spread out and leave to cool.
4) Using a round cutter, cut out small discs. Alternatively, you can break them up into small pieces.

Chocolate Glaze*prepare this 45 minutes before you unmold the domes as you need the glaze to be cool but still liquid.
50 g water
50 g cream
45 g sugar
20 g cocoa powder
1 leaves of gelatin – softened in water

1) Combine water, cream, sugar and cocoa powder in a saucepan.
2) Bring to a boil
3) Add in gelatin and combine with a whisk
4) Cool to room temperature

Assembly
These little entremets are layers of mousse, cake, some crunchy, tasty element and more mousse. What you put in it entirely depends on your taste. To finish it off a shiny chocolate glaze is poured on the frozen domes.

1) Using cookie cutters, cut cake into small and medium rounds
2) Add a dollop of salted caramel on the small cake circle
3) Add about 2 tablespoons of mousse per dome mold
4) Place small cake circle on top and press lightly to half submerge in mousse
5) Top with more mousse to hide the small cake circle
6) Add crispy chocolate disc pieces
7) Add the medium cake circle
8) Freeze well, preferably overnight
9) Unmold
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10) Pour glaze over domes, letting the glaze drip down over covered trays (you can reuse the glaze)
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11) Decorate to your heart’s content. I’ve used Godiva chocolate pearls, more crispy chocolate feuilletine and freeze-dried raspberries here.

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Enjoy!

Lemon Lime and Bitters Macarons


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I adore the mix of sweet and sour flavours. Think raspberries and chocolate; cherries in a Black Forest cake; passionfruit and white chocolate. The sharpness of an ingredient contrasting with the sweetness and richness of chocolate – very effective in waking up taste buds I would say.

Angostura isn’t something one can add to anything. After making these macarons though, I think my bottle would be finished rather quickly as lemon lime and bitters macarons have risen to my top 10 flavours.

Watch this space too for a lime and bitters marshmallow demo after my session at Vinnie’s Restaurant, Auckland! (Geoff Scott invited me to their kitchen to make some, how awesome!)

Macarons shell ingredients
(makes about 40 macarons)

150 g icing sugar
150 g almond meal
110 g egg whites, split into 2 bowls of 55g each
150 g caster sugar
38 ml water
1 g meringue powder

Follow my basic recipe to make the shells.
Add daffodil yellow and kelly green gel colouring to separate bowls of macaron mix for different coloured shells.

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Ingredients:
120g whittakers 28% cocoa white chocolate, broken into small chunks
60ml pure (heavy) cream
2 -3 tbsp angostura bitters (add more to taste)

Instructions:
Break up chocolate into small chunks. Bring cream up to a boil in a pan, and pour over the chocolate. Let it sit for a minute before stirring. Stir and add bitters in a little at a time, until it has been incorporated. Let it cool and thicken in the fridge.

Spread or pipe a teaspoon of ganache on half of your shells and top them with the remaining half of your shells.

The filled macarons need to be kept in the fridge for 24 hours for the filling to flavour the shells. These freeze well (up to 3 months).

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Disney Frozen themed birthday cake and party ideas


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For her 6th birthday, J requested a Disney Frozen-themed party.

A search on the internet quickly gave me links to templates for invites: you can print them from here.

For the cake: I decided on a fondant covered cake for its ease in transport and also in decoration.  Theme colours were purple and teal, which I used as the fondant layers.  For the name, I used a darker shade of purple to make it pop.  Tiny white snowflakes were cut out from white fondant, as were trees and decorated around the cake.  A large white fondant snow flake was placed on the surface of the top tier.

I used my Chocolate Cake recipe for a perfectly moist cake.

A few tips from my friend who came over to help (thanks Bryony!):

*always ice your cake before you roll out the fondant – you don’t want your rolled fondant waiting for you;

*always use good quality baking pans to ensure even baking – you will waste less cake if there is less leveling to do;

*aim for a high/deep cake so that you have height in a single cake without needing to layer it up;

*if you do need to layer it up, it will inevitably have a gap on the side – use a thinly rolled piece of fondant and wrap it right round the cake to fill the gap (as seen below with the green-coloured fondant).

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*only take the amount of fondant you require from the bag and keep the rest tightly wrapped away to prevent it from frying;

*mix a small amount of coloured fondant with the white to create the colour you want;

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I reckon cake decorating is way more fun when your best friend’s around :)

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Party favours:
J personalised white takeaway boxes by drawing snowflakes on the sides, which contained blue and white (blueberry and coconut flavoured) jelly beans, Disney Frozen tattoos and my famous macarons :) in the theme colours.

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We held the party at Snow Planet, Silverdale, Auckland. Perfect backdrop for our Frozen party, don’t you think? :)

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I don’t know who was harder to get off the snow – the kid or the big kid…

A blog about my kitchen adventures, photography, family and experiences

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