Making Cheesecake (Student Style)

I’ve been unable to post much since Easter thanks to university obligations (apparently you actually have to study to get a degree), which is a shame because I’ve had two posts in my head waiting to be written since then; one about making Danish pastries, and one about the Creative Writing Society’s trip to Wales. But in the meantime, here’s one about making cheesecake with approximately half the equipment needed (and this recipe (and I’ll be writing as if you’ve read it)).
The first problem was that neither I nor my housemates own a rolling pin. The second problem was that we don’t own any scales. The third problem was that I very much doubted that the digestive biscuits I guessed to be about 250g would fit in one of our plastic food bags.
My first solution was to break the guessed quantity of biscuits up and sandwich them between two sheets of cling film and crush them with a flat dish. This didn’t go too well. The top layer of cling film kept sticking to the bottom of the dish and I didn’t use enough cling film so I still had to separate my broken biscuits into two halves to crush them. Plus, if I’d have carried on trying to crush the biscuits with the dish, it would have taken forever.
My second solution was to put the biscuits in the dish and use a tin can as a substitute rolling pin. This worked much better.
It was much easier to get the right amount of butter, thanks to the labelling on its packaging.
Melting the butter and making the base. The recipe suggests a round loose-bottomed tin and baking parchment, neither of which we had, so I used a rectangular tin and tin foil instead. I do not recommend using tin foil as it creases and tears very easily, which means your cheesecake will end up in odd shapes and will be very difficult to remove.
While the base was chilling in the fridge, I started on the filling. I had never seen a vanilla pod before! Also I forgot that, while we don’t own scales, we do actually own a measuring jug, so I ended up guessing the amount of cream.
Vanilla pods
WHAT A LOT OF SOFT CHEESE
Before and after mixing the filling:

Once the filling is spread on top of the base
In the end, I didn’t unmould the cheesecake as the recipe suggests, but instead topped it while still in the tin. Tesco didn’t have any strawberries when I went in for ingredients so I used raspberries instead. Rather than blending some of the raspberries and putting the rest on top, I blended all of them and then grated chocolate over it.

It’s been about two months since I made this recipe so it’s a little hard to remember the verdict. It was nice, although I would’ve preferred having more base compared to filling and strawberries probably would’ve been nicer than raspberries, which were slightly sour. Also I would definitely recommend having the right equipment – it would’ve been much easier!
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Home-made Focaccia

Apart from pizza dough, I’ve never made bread before, but since I decided I wanted to cook more, I knew bread making was something I definitely wanted to try. Focaccia, an Italian bread made with olive oil, seemed exactly like the sort of bread I’d enjoy both making and eating. We used Paul Hollywood’s recipe in How To Bake. It isn’t too challenging, but with waiting for the bread to rise and prove, it takes over three hours of preparation, though it doesn’t feel like that long. It’s definitely worth it though!

It started off very similar to the pizza dough recipe, but with different amounts of the ingredients.

 Kneading the bread
Once the bread had risen

 Dividing the dough into two loaves

 Before and after proving for an hour

Before cooking
After cooking

We had hummous, vegan cheese and olives with feta with one of the loaves of focaccia as a starter. The vegan cheese went especially well with it, and (admittedly between seven of us) the whole lot disappeared within minutes.

Home-made Pizza

I’ve made pizza from scratch twice before but this is the first time I’ve used this particular recipe – from Paul Hollywood’s Bread. I found it much easier and quicker to make the dough compared to the recipe I’ve used previously, and the resulting pizza was lovely. The two hardest things are kneading the dough and throwing it to shape it – I gave it a go but ended up just using a rolling pin! Apart from that, it’s pretty easy and really tasty.

Continue reading “Home-made Pizza”

Making Vegan Cheese

Since it’s the Easter holidays at the moment, I’m visiting my family which means I have my parents’ kitchen at my disposal. So I’ve taken this opportunity to do a bit more cooking than usual. Some day I’d love to make dairy cheese but I recently acquired a vegan cookbook and I’ve been dying to make one of the recipes in it. Vegan cheese – or at least, this particular recipe for vegan cheese – takes a lot less time to make than dairy cheese (only about a week), so I thought it was a perfect place to start.

The recipe we used (“we” here being myself and my mother/sidekick) is for “nut cheese” from Dunja Gulin’s The Vegan Pantry, which is such a pretty book that I daren’t leave it in the kitchen in my uni house with my other cookbooks for fear of it getting ruined (like my other cookbooks). The recipe has a lot of variables, such as which nuts are used and what you use for the cheese starter (aka rejuvelac – Gulin recommends spelt berries, but also gives several alternatives). For the nuts, we used cashews and almonds, and for the rejuvelac millet for the rejuvelac since we couldn’t get hold of spelt berries. We also doubled the recipe. In retrospect, it may have been easier to keep to the original recipe for our first time cheese-making but it seemed to turn out alright in the end.

Soaking the millet for 2 days for the rejuvelac – this smells horrible
Soaking the cashew nuts & almonds

Blended cashew nuts & almonds

Blended cashew nuts & almonds in the big bowl vs very blended cashew nuts & almonds + rejuvelac in the little bowl

Apparently vegan cheese looks like porridge

The whole mixture gets put in a strainer wrapped in cheese cloth

Then you tuck it in and leave it to sleep for a couple of days

We checked on it halfway through – at this point it smelled very much like cottage cheese

Then it goes in the fridge for another 24 hours to set, looking like bread dough
The finished product!

We ended up making at least 900g of nut cheese! It was a mostly easy process, since it’s all spread out over about a week, so you only actually do little bits at a time. The blending was the most time-consuming thing; other than that, it’s mostly just waiting for it to mature and set. Raw, it’s very light and airy but still tastes quite nutty, with the consistency of hummous but a bit thicker. It tastes more like cheese when eaten with bread as opposed to on its own. It makes very good pizza – more on that in my next post!

Oh, and one more thing: happy Easter to those who celebrate it! 🙂