This evening I spent some time with the power-hose.  We have been spending a lot of time together lately; stripping off the winter dirt from the yard, patio, lane, driveway and, tonight, the greenhouse.  Nearly an entire compost bin was filled with the desiccated contends of the greenhouse and it should now be ready to start some things growing if we can get round to it.

After cleaning the greenhouse I had to make a cheesecake.  I recently discovered that one of my form class is winning prizes for her sticky toffee pudding.  Maybe I want to build her confidence while uniting and bonding with my form class, or maybe I want to put her in her place.  Either way, tomorrow is the ‘Battle of the Desserts’.  She will bring in her apparently prize winning pudding and I will grace my form classes’ presence with the fabled chocolate cheesecake.  May the best cheesecake win!

It had to be made this evening, that itself was not a problem.  The problem was that I had also started a bread mix as soon as I walked in the door as the current loaf is down to its last.  This all sounds very busy but the truth is that I enjoy making these things.  I enjoy the process and playing about with the mixes. I enjoy the taste of the final product, not because it is home made, it is because I made it.  It is pride.  However, I must admit that it sometimes goes quite wrong.  I never usually share the wrong products, it is much too embarrassing.

The Cheesecake:

First a big pile of chocolate digestive biscuits (150g) are smashed to within an inch of their lives before it is mixed with a big blob of melted butter (100g).  This gooey mix is placed in a cake tin which has been smeared with butter.

Two tubs of mascarpone cheese are mixed with a Goldilocks amount of honey.  If you use too much honey you will be able to tell when the final cheesecake tastes too sweet.  If you use too little honey you will be able to tell when the final cheesecake tastes not sweet enough.

Then an egg is mixed in.  Then another egg.  Then an egg yolk.  Then another egg yolk.  Then a teaspoon of vanilla essence is mixed in.

Meanwhile, two massive bars of very dark chocolate should be melted.

Once the chocolate is melted it can be mixed with the cheesecake mix and then poured over the chocolate biscuit base.

The tin foil is used so that boiling water can be poured around the cake without mixing with it.  This helps with even cooking and prevents burning around the edges.  The whole thing can then be placed in a 160 degree oven for 40 minutes.

Fresh baked bread.

This takes a little more timing than the cheesecake.  I start by mixing 500g of strong white flour with 600ml of water and 10g of yeast (or a 7g packet is fine too).  I usually leave this for a few hours.  This step is not essential and can be skipped, but I find it adds more flavour.

Then I add another 500g of strong white flour and 10g of salt (don’t forget the salt!) and also a few generous squirts of olive oil.

This is then mixed well and kneaded.

Kneading involves really working your hands into the dough for about 7minutes.  Arms and hands do get sore.

Then I put cling film over the bowl and leave the dough in the hot press for 2 hours so it can have a good think about itself.

After 2 hours the dough has usually increased in size a bit.

The dough is gently removed and divided in two.  In this process it will deflate and reduce back down.  The two ‘loaves’ are placed on an oven tray and covered with a damp tea towel.  This allows them to expand some more.  I usually put the oven on to its maximum temperature at this stage.

After about half an hour I put them in the oven.  I usually have a tray at the bottom of the oven with a bit of boiling water in it too. They go into the oven (with a few slices with sharp knife) for about 20 minutes.

The lovely Sharon and I cannot resist having a slice with butter when it is ready.  Even if it is bed time when it is ready and we are stuffed from a big dinner, we will still guiltily have a slice or two.

The lovely Sharon would also like to contribute a recipe for today.  She should include her chilli con carne but apparently it is a secret.  Instead she would like to share her recipe for hungry boy milk.  270ml of freshly boiled water is placed into a sterilised bottle.  Then 9 level spoons of ‘hungry milk’ powder is added.  Mix and allow to cool to a luke warm temperature before serving.  It must be good as I have seen a certain person I shall not mention look frantically for said milk and then cry uncontrollably until the milk is served.

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