Thursday 16 June 2016

The Great Cream Cheese Mystery...

My friend and Sugar Moon customer Deborah - you can read her beautiful blog here , where she writes about her life in West Wales (and takes fabulous photos!) - recently set me a challenge. She wondered why she (and several of her friends and neighbours) could no longer obtain good results when using Philadelphia cream cheese to make cream cheese frosting and recipes from U.S cookbooks, such as cheesecake. There was no problem with U.K recipes, just American ones. She wondered whether there was a different formula to the British product (and suspects it has changed recently, although she had no answer from Kraft when she contacted them to ask!) This really intrigued me, as I have never had a problem. At Sugar Moon , we don't use cream cheese in general...but I do when baking for friends and family and I almost exclusively bake from U.S cookbooks too. So I decided to experiment!
I made my usual cream cheese frosting - a staple of the Blue Angel Bakery repertoire, essential for Carrot Cake, Mango & Coconut Cake and many others. I used full fat Philadelphia ('light' versions just will not work as there is too much water and other ingredients in need the fat!)
I always make the frosting in my trusty Magimix Pro food processor. I started with softened unsalted butter...
...added icing sugar....
...then I processed the two together to mix thoroughly before adding the cheese..., it does tend to go a little runny to start with. But I just left the motor running and pretty soon (within a minute or two), it all came together to make a thick, smooth and shiny frosting...

Voila! As a balance, I also made exactly the same recipe but used a tub of Sainsbury's own-brand full fat soft cheese. Although this actually had a slightly higher fat content (25% as opposed to 21.5% in the Philadelphia) it didn't work nearly as well...
As you can see from the photo above, it 'split' slightly and had a grainy unpleasant texture.
Back to the Philly version. I wanted to check that it would pipe well and stand up as a proper frosting, so I filled a disposable bag and... did the job perfectly. So I hope that helps, Deb? It kept well and was just as good texture-wise three days later (kept in a lidded plastic container in the fridge). I would say that several things definitely help; use a food processor if at all possible, because it works so quickly and seems to help with the mixing and texture of the finished frosting. Also, I think mixing the butter and sugar together first helps too. And lastly, perhaps, the proportions? The temptation when it's a bit runny is to add more icing sugar to stiffen it up, as this works so well with fondant or glace icings. But more sugar just makes cream cheese frosting runnier. It's the fat content that keeps everything firm...

The proportions I use are:

butter - 50g
icing sugar - 125g &
cream cheese - 1 family size tub which is 280g (and yes, Philadelphia, I have noticed that it used to be 300g for the same price....!)
Scale up as necessary depending on how much frosting you need!

I will test a US cheesecake recipe next and post it on our Facebook page for all those that are interested!
And after my last post ended with my lunchtime sourdough & tomato bruschetta, I thought I'd end this one with my Saturday (and many other) breakfast! More toasted sourdough - I really adore it - with homemade hummus (chickpeas soaked and boiled,plenty of flat leaf parsley, tahini, garlic and lemon juice) sprinkled with a little Maldon seasalt , lots of black pepper and a glug of olive oil. My favourite summery way to start the day (preferably eaten outside!)

We baked, packed and sent a LOT of Father's Day brownie boxes their should be many smiling and chocolate-filled Dads on Sunday! If your Dad is still with you, or your children have a lovely one, or you have someone you think of as a Dad - make sure to give him a VERY big hug on Sunday. They are precious things!

Have a great weekend! xx

Sunday 5 June 2016

Summer Treats...

 To celebrate the real start of Summer (and as I write this, the sun has just broken through the clouds at last!) I thought you might appreciate a new recipe. Sugar Moon has just taken a week off to rest and can read more about where we went here....and, as usual I came home itching to get into the kitchen straight away! Work doesn't begin properly until tomorrow, so these were made at home, and use the best of the current fruits - you can easily adapt this recipe to use whatever you like best. Raspberries, blackcurrants, gooseberries will all work well here - perhaps adjusting the sugar levels in the topping if the berries are very tart.

Apricot & Blueberry Bars


150g wholemeal spelt flour (you can use regular plain flour or even gluten-free if you prefer)
1 (preferably free-range) egg yolk
150g butter
100g ground almonds
20g whole hazelnuts (or whole almonds if you prefer them)
75g light soft brown sugar
pinch Maldon or other sea salt flakes (optional, but so good!)

Additional ingredients for topping:

50g wholemeal spelt flour (or other flour as above)
50g whole hazelnuts (or almonds as above)
1 tbsp light olive oil (or other vegetable oil if you don't like the taste!)
50g soft light brown sugar (optional, depending on tartness of your chosen fruit)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 180c
Line a 23cm square foil tray (or equivalent tin) with baking parchment

For the base: pulse ground almonds and whole hazelnuts for a few moments in a food processor until whole nuts are in small pieces...

 Add the rest of the base ingredients to the processor...
( This is the spelt flour we usually use...I love its nutty flavour and great texture...but do feel free to substitute as it won't make much difference to the finished bars!)
 Pulse until the ingredients form clumps....then press around 3/4 of the mixture into the prepared baking tray (leaving the remaining mixture in the processor bowl)...
 ...bake the base for about 10 minutes, until it turns a light golden brown....
 ...this will help prevent a soggy bottom! Then cover the base with your chosen fruit. As a guide, I used 5 apricots (stoned and roughly pulled apart) and 150g fresh blueberries...
 Add remaining topping ingredients to the rest of the mixture left in the processor and pulse to combine. It won't clump together as much, but will start to stick together if squeezed between your fingers. Scatter over the fruit... want it to just about cover, but I always like to see a little of the berries peeping through the crumb! That's just personal preference though. Flatten the top slightly with your palms to help it stick together a little. Then bake for around 30 minutes, turning the tray halfway through the baking time to ensure an even colour...
 Cool thoroughly (preferably overnight in the fridge) before lifting from the tin using the edges of the baking paper and slicing into bars. They will crumble a little at the top, but just scoop these up with your fingers and enjoy!
 Apricots are one of the only fruits that I think are better cooked than raw...I just adore them in season.
 These bars would actually be gorgeous eaten slightly warm as a dessert, with cream or ice cream, too! Feel free to experiment and enjoy them. I thought I'd finish with one of my absolute favourite Summer lunches - this is usually what I would eat during the week, on a baking break (probably listening to The Archers!)
A toasted slice of good sourdough (I love Richard Bertinet's loaves available from Waitrose, if I can't find any handmade) rubbed with a raw garlic clove and topped with fresh, ripe I added fresh marjoram from the garden and a sprinkle of nutritional yeast flakes. And always, lots of freshly ground black pepper. Heaven on a plate! Enjoy the summer and all it offers won't be here for long! Sugar Moon is now back in full do visit our lovely website if you haven't already.

Happy June xx