What a strange (and somewhat scary) time we’re living in! A month ago I was posting about our fabulous fourth annual Galentine’s Day party, never dreaming that just one month later a ‘party’ would only consist of the people I live with (my “bubble” of Mr Sweet nor’westerly and 22 month-old master SN) and that the rest of the world must keep their distance – at two metres or more.
We’re into Day 3 of self-isolation for the whole of New Zealand and the wet weather today is getting me a bit down. It’s hard to be motivated about getting outside to give an active toddler some exercise when the wind is freezing, showers are intermittent, and playgrounds are off limits.
What certainly helps me is to have something delicious to welcome us home from our (local, close-to-home) excursion, and these cheesecakes do the trick. They have the double benefit of tasting like the ones they used to make at the famous Fairlie Bakehouse, which I shamelessly tried to imitate when I wrote this recipe for our church camp menu in January. So it’s a win for having good-tasting cafe food when the cafes are all sadly closed for these four (plus) weeks.
While you might not have all the groceries in stock to make these delicious treats straight away, they are completely worth standing in line (at 2m spacings) for half an hour to get an elusive packet of cream cheese and a block of sweet shortcrust (though see the recipe for an alternative base). Use whatever frozen berries you have access to, and let the coulis flow.
If you would rather have a hot dessert, or avoid the supermarket completely by baking with pantry basics, here are a few other recipes from this blog that you could try instead to get you through isolation:
- For a hot dessert, chocolate [peanut butter] explosion pudding / cake (you can make a simplified version of the peanut butter sauce by just using 1/2 cup peanut butter and 1 cup of icing sugar, or omit it all together and just have chocolate cake!) If you’d prefer a fruit crumble, you can find a topping recipe in the first half of the ingredients list here, just melt the butter and mix in the other ingredients, then sprinkle overtop an oven dish filled with your favourite fruit.
- Want to get kids involved with the making? Caramel popcorn and melt-together ginger bikkies could be easier ones for little hands to help with
- Trying to rely on what’s in the pantry? These bikkies don’t require eggs (see last paragraph for the from-scratch ingredient quantities), these ones literally call for whatever you’ve got available for add-ins, and this alternative cheesecake recipe will use up any leftover packets of jelly, gelatine and condensed milk you have hanging around (frozen berries not compulsory). If you’re trying to save cash and maximise your time at home, why not make your own muesli?!
- Trying to keep it healthier / avoid temptation? This slice is nut- and refined sugar-free and very flexible, and this one has nuts and is yum (’nuff said).
- When nothing else will do… these ideas are nice and all, but here’s what I’ve been eating this week (without the candy canes) (mostly by myself *greedy face*).
In all seriousness, you might have read through this far because you’re hoping that baking will provide a little bit of a spark to get you through this anxious and uncertain time. I hope that we’ll find something new each day to help focus our thoughts away from what we can’t control and towards what gives us hope and confidence that we can and will get through this. From a Christian perspective, I found this interview really helpful in encouraging me towards a faith-filled (rather than fear-filled) response: (transcript and podcast).
Individual Berry Cheesecakes
- 400g block frozen sweet shortcrust pastry OR 250g plain sweet biscuits, smashed into crumbs, and 75g melted butter
- 250mL whipping cream
- 75g icing sugar
- 250g cream cheese
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
- 200g frozen berries
- If using frozen shortcrust: Preheat oven to bake at 200°C while defrosting block of pastry. Use a rolling pin to roll the pastry to approximately 5mm thickness, then cut out six large (approximately 10cm diameter) circles and press each into the holes of a Texas muffin tin. If you don’t have the right size circle cutter, divide the pastry into six equal parts, roll each part into a ball then flatten with your rolling pin until they fit the base and most of the way up the sides of a muffin tin hole. Line each pastry case with a square of tin foil and fill to the top of the foil with sugar (to blind bake), and bake for 15 minutes. Remove foil and sugar (carefully place in a heat proof container as the sugar will hold its heat for a long time), allow the pastry cases to cool for 10 minues then use a bread knife to carefully remove. Cool and store at room temperature for two day or in the fridge for up to a week. If using biscuit crumbs and butter: combine and press equal amounts of the mixture into the holes of a Texas muffin tin, using the base of a glass or food processor beaker. Refrigerate until firm (at least half an hour).
- Whip the cream with 50g of icing sugar in a bowl, and place in the fridge.
- Soften cream cheese by heating in 30 seconds bursts in the microwave until easy to spoon out of its container, then beat in a stand mixer bowl or with a hand beater until smooth and soft. Add lemon juice and one cup of whipped cream and beat together on low speed until combined, then scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl, add the remaining whipped cream and beat again until combined.
- Spoon the cream cheese mixture into the pastry cases and refrigerate for at least two hours.
- Meanwhile, heat the frozen berries and remaining icing sugar in a saucepan with 2 Tbsp of water until the berries have defrosted and the mixture is ‘syrupy’. Allow to cool.
- To serve: plate, cheesecake, berries dolloped on top – in that order 😉 A little unsweetened yoghurt on the side can be nice for those who want it.