Baked Chocolate Cheesecake, New York Style

Every once in a while you come across a recipe that’s perfect. Just bloody perfect. Well, it is when you hit the Mk IV, anyway. And my New York cheesecake was just that. Or so I thought. Sure, I’ve added a few ingredients, dropped some crystallized ginger into the biscuit base, added half a jar of marmalade in the main cheesecake mix. And yet, I figured it was pretty much spot on.

And then…

“Can you make a chocolate cheesecake?” I was asked. One quick discussion with my technical advisor (my wife, baker par excellence, and source of most of my good ideas) and yes. Yes, I think I can…

You’ll need…

  • 7oz Bourbon biscuits (or as near as you can get, better over than under), blitzed to a fine crumb
  • 3oz butter, melted

Mix those 2 together, press into the base of your 9inch (23cm) spring-sided pan and bake at 180C for 10 minutes.

Then you’ll need 2 bowls. Into 1…

  • 750g full fat cream cheese (2 x 375g pots)
  • 250g ish Marscapone (1 1/2 of the Tesco 180g pots, I can’t usually find them in Sainsburys)
  • 9oz caster sugar (see how I’m mix and matching grams and ounces? It’s the consistency that matters and this works every time)
  • 4 eggs
  • 3oz cocoa powder, sieved to remove lumps.

Mix together the cream cheese, the Marscapone, and the caster sugar. Once you’ve got a nice smooth, even mix, add in the eggs one at a time. Mix thoroughly but don’t over-beat it (that’s one of my notes from the Mk II). Finally, mix through the cocoa powder.

In the 2nd bowl…

  • 300ml soured cream
  • 40g cornflour, sieved

Mix those two together to a smooth blend. Then fold that into the main cheesecake mix.

By about now, the 10 minutes should be up and the base baked. Leave the oven on, you’ll need it in a mo.

Pour the mix into the spring-sided tin, smooth over the top. You should have something that looks like this:

One on the shelf, ready to go.

Into the oven it goes, middle shelf, bake for 45 minutes and this is where it gets techincal…

Switch off the oven, crack the door open a fraction, and leave it to cool down for a couple or 3 hours. Take it out of the oven, run a blunt knife around the inside of the tin to separate it from the metal. Take the spring-side away. Now make the ganache…

Final ingredients:

  • 150ml double cream, heated to near-boiling
  • 140g dark chocolate. Bourneville is perfect, chopped into tiny little bits.

Pour the hot cream over the chocolate in a bowl, stir until it’s all melted together, then place the whole thing into a large tub of cold water to cool it down and thicken it up.

Once it’s cooler and thicker, pour it over the top of the chesecake, whack the whole thing in the fridge overnight to chill. This is what turns it from an excellent dish into something truly amazing. Something happens with that overnight chill that gives it a final creamy texture, really finishes the job properly. It’s amazing.

Then cut yourself a slice and enjoy the breakfast of champions.

Oh, yeah.

Movie Review – Mortal Engines

Late to the party as usual, finally caught Mortal Engines yesterday. I was not disappointed. Well, I was, but more on that later.

Be warned, there be spoilers ahead.

Peter Jackson has a track record of making the same visual constructions I have. That is to say, the look of something as brought to the big screen by him is just how I imagined it should look. I remember clearly the first time I saw the Ents in the trailer for The Two Towers. “Oh yeah,” thought I as the trailer started. “All very well and good but no-one has done an Ent properly yet.” And then there they were. Large as life and just as I had imagined they would be. Perfect. Jaw -> floor.

And that’s just how it was with London in the trailer for Mortal Engines. And it’s repeated time and again throughout the movie – Airhaven? Spot on. The Wall? Wow. Medusa? Oh, yeah! The cities, villages, the guilds of London, the policemen! The Lord Mayor! All just as if they’d stepped out of the book via my imagination.

But – and this is something I’d not fully appreciated from reading the book – a lot of it is just there to be a backdrop for destruction. In a way, Mortal Engines follows a very similar pattern to The Force Awakens – our heroes arrive at a location, shortly followed by the villains of the piece, and it gets destroyed. Sometimes the villains arrive at a location all by themselves and proceed to destroy it. And it all happens so quickly! Okay so it’s been a while since I read the books, but I’m sure it didn’t clip along at such a fast pace! And I’m sure London wasn’t finished off with such an assault-on-the-Death-Star attack.

The biggest problem for me, though, was Hugo Weaving. Our Mr Valentine, saviour of London and all round good guy. Ish. And Shrike, but I can understand why they did Shrike the way they did. Made him a very grey character, not black/white bad/good. Valentine, though, was more of a pantomime villain than King Phillip of Spain (of Spain) in Bill. Mr Weaving seems to be going through the motions, putting as little effort as possible in to the part. Not sure why, maybe his paycheck from DisMarvelney is grand enough he doesn’t have to bother. To my mind, he displayed a greater depth of emotion and acting calibre as Agent Smith in the first Matrix movie.

I’d give this a solid 7/10, could do better. My eldest son hated the design of the Jenny Hanniver airship but we all want the next book to be filmed. And the next… And the next… Oh, to see Anchorage! Brighton! Stalker Fang…

Warwick Folk Festival 2018

Okay.  First time at Warwick Folk Festival.  Can’t remember what made us pick this one to do earlier in the year, but back in January it seemed like a good idea.  We’d booked Broadstairs and were looking for something different.

And it’s a very different festival to Broadstairs.  For those of you who don’t know, the Broadstairs Folk Week is a big festival at the seaside in the middle of August.  Camping is all at the big senior school about a mile from the sea front, and the venues are scattered around the town.  It’s like Edinburgh as a University – accommodation here, lectures here, here, and here.  Warwick, on the other hand, is all on one site.  It’s a campus university, everything’s within walking distance.  And that includes the beer festival!

Some of the acts at Warwick we’d seen before.  Okay, one of the acts we’d seen before – Granny’s Attic.  But their ABBA tribute act was new to us!  That might need a bit of explaining.  One of Warwick’s “One Unique Things” (quick 13th Age reference there) is their non-folk session.  Each year it’s themed, last year was The Beatles, apparently, and this year a dozen or more acts covered ABBA songs.  This session was supposed to last for an hour.  I think it was nearly 2 by the time it finished!  It was compered by one of my favourite acts of the weekend – Keith Donnelly.

Wherever you turned at the festival, Keith was there.  He finished the Friday night concert on the open-air stage.  He performed several shows for kids.  He hosted the ABBA gig!  He performed at and compered the final concert of the festival itself.  The man’s a genius.

Les Barker, performance poet, introduced us to a number of ridiculous little poems, including one most of the audience knew about the iceberg that sank the Titanic.

A common theme running through Keith Donnelly’s work was poking fun at “Show of Hands”.  We’d never heard of them, but when they were headlining the Saturday night concert, we figured we’d check them out.  Wow! Just incredible.  And they had to come on after Korontzi had rocked the hall with some incredible accordion and tambourine playing from the Basque country.  You had to be there.

And my award for the “band to watch” goes to Man the Lifeboats.  Superb folk/rock from London.

The Good…

Everything’s on one site.  You can stroll from your tent to the food, the stalls, the concerts, everything.  Plus we were in the neighbourhood for my brother-in-law and some friends from Uni so got to do some wild swimming in the Avon, had a cracking lunch at the Cottage of Content, and a picnic in the park.

The food was incredibly good – so easy for festivals to be lazy and get some so-so trucks in but the Old Granary Pierogi set the bar damn high and everyone else upped their game to meet.  Leon’s vegan food was amazing.  And the beer…  the cider…  Over a dozen ciders, 30+ real ales!  Fantastic.

The acts were great – a huge range of styles and genres.  A whole host of stuff new to us.  Brilliant.

The Bad…

There’s a lot of clashes in the programme – 2PM every day there’s 3 different concerts in 3 different venues, and a ceilidh in the hall.  Likewise at 8PM.  You’ve really got to prioritise who and what you want to see/do.  Broadstairs seem to have it covered where the ceilidh finishes then, giving you just enough time to amble up to the marquee for the afternoon concert…  Just haven’t noticed the clashes in the schedule.

The Morris…

Massively underrated, your Morris dancing.  Massively.  I leave you with the Black Swan Rapper.

Are we going back to Warwick?

I reckon so, yes.