Friday, 17 April 2015

Salted Caramel Cheesecake

There are flavour pairings that have been married together for years, cheese and onion, chocolate and strawberries, tomato and basil to name a few. But over the last few years a new classic has emerged, the perfect blend of saltiness and sweetness - salted caramel and I am most definitely a convert.

Since taking the dessert scene by storm this flavour has been used in everything from ice cream to chocolate bars and doughnuts to macarons. Having recently been sent some beautiful Italian salted crackers from Doria there was only one recipe for me to tackle - Baked salted caramel cheesecake!


Ingredients

240g Doria Doriano salted crackers
300g plain shortbread biscuits
150g unsalted butter, melted
450g mascarpone cheese
400g cream cheese (full fat)
175g light brown soft sugar (to get a deeper caramel flavour & colour use dark brown soft sugar instead)
4 eggs
2 tbs golden syrup
2 tsp vanilla extract

small can of ready made caramel sauce
flaked sea salt

Place the biscuits into a food processor and blitz until finely crumbed. Add the melted butter and process until it is combined. Line a springform cake tin with baking parchment (I used a 12" tin) before pouring the biscuit mix in. Press your mix into the base and the sides of the tin before refrigerating for one hour.

Preheat your oven to 160C, gas mark 3.

Beat together your mascarpone & cream cheese until smooth, add in your sugar and beat again until it is completely combined with the cheeses. Add one egg, mix well, before repeating with the remaining three eggs. Finally add the golden syrup & vanilla essence. Gently pour the mixture into your biscuit case. 

Place the tin into a deep baking dish and pour enough boiling water into the baking dish to come to halfway up the side. Gently place this into your oven and bake for 90 minutes or until the cheese mix is firm to the touch.

Remove the cheesecake from the water bath and let it cool while still in the tin. Once cool place your tin in the fridge for 3 hours to set fully.

When you are ready to serve the cheesecake, carefully release the tin sides and place the cheesecake onto your serving dish. Put 3-4 tablespoons of the ready made caramel sauce into a disposable piping bag, either fitted with a medium sized nozzle or just cut the end of the bag accordingly, and pipe the sauce in your chosen pattern over the top. Finally sprinkle with sea salt flakes.

This will serve 8 - 10 people.



I was kindly sent some complimentary Doriano biscuits, but have received no other compensation for this post. The full range of Doria biscuits can be found in Tesco, Waitrose and most other large food retailers.

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Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Hotter Shoes - Mist Review

While I was at Blog on Cymru I had a lovely conversation with Jenni & Mel of Hotter Shoes and I was delighted when they agreed to send a pair of shoes for me to put through the paces over our Easter holiday (pun most definitely intended!)

Hotter Shoes was founded in 1959 and manufactured slippers until the early 90s when they then extended the range to cover all sorts of styles, while retaining a comfortable fit. I'll be honest and tell you that before I looked at Hotter Shoes in more detail I assumed that their range would be limited to those original slippers and "old lady" shoes - I couldn't be more wrong! From smart heels to flats, trainers, boots and of course slippers there is a shoe for every foot.

I was especially interested in their GORE-TEX range. We were going glamping for three nights and while we would be doing lots of different activities there would be very little space. I needed a shoe that was practical but didn't scream hiking boot and I think I found it in the Mist range.


First impressions count and as soon as I took these out of the box I was really surprised by how light they felt and how much flexibility there was in them. They fitted perfectly and didn't feel tight or uncomfortable anywhere. Admittedly I was only sat at my desk, but the signs were good!

I wore them all day, every day for the three days that we were away, on a range of surfaces and conditions and they were brilliant.


On gravel and loose ground they had a strong grip, on muddy surfaces there was no sliding around. When I was walking around Wells and Hestercombe Gardens they didn't rub or pinch, even though I was only wearing trainer socks with them. I even walked along a beach and over sand dunes wearing them and not only did they keep my feet dry, they kept a lot of sand from getting inside the shoe too.

Once we got back to the campsite it was easy to remove the insoles and shake what little sand there was out, there were no little creases for the sand to get stuck in so the next time I wore them they felt absolutely fine again.


Since I've been back from out break I've kept wearing them, on cliff walks and even bike rides.

It would be silly to ignore that Hotter Shoes are a brand based on comfort, but it would be madness to not recognise that many of the designs are stylish too. I would happily recommend the Mist range over some of the more well known hiking brands of footwear, for the vast range of settings that they are perfect for and the brilliant construction of them.

The Mist range of performance shoes retail for £95.00 in store and online. To find your nearest Hotter store click on this link

I was sent a complimentary pair of Mist shoes for the purpose of this review. I have not been compensated in any other way. All opinions and words are my own.

We're going on an adventure

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Hestercombe Gardens

As part our of break in Somerset was during the grey, wet weather before this mini heatwave, we decided to look for local attractions to visit and found the perfect place in Hestercombe Gardens

Only five miles from The Secret Valley, at Cheddon Fitzpaine near Taunton, the drive took us through beautiful countryside dotted with a mix of pretty thatched cottages, working farms and beautiful old country estates.

Hestercombe Gardens is a collection of three gardens - Formal, Landscape and Victorian designed in part by Gertrude Jekyll and Sir Edwin Lutyens. There are footpaths that lead you through the entire estate so you can see all three sections of gardens and spot the various "seats" or follies dotted throughout the landscape garden.





The path naturally took us past ponds and water features, round into the formal sections of the estate.






There were so many paths to take, so many views to stand and admire, that it was almost a shame to tear ourselves away to find a drink! The old Stables have been converted into a really spacious cafe restaurant where we took a little time to enjoy a milkshake each and of course share a slice of cake! The food & drink is very reasonably priced and it was lovely to see plenty of gluten free options available too.

There is also a restaurant within Hestercombe House that serves lunches and afternoon teas, as this overlooks the formal gardens it would be perfect for a special occasion! The House itself has only recently been reopened to the public. There is an Art Gallery on the first floor and a book shop on the ground floor. Unfortunately our time was short so we had to leave without going in ourselves.

Entry to Hestercombe Gardens was £10.50 per adult and £4.00 for 5-15 year olds. Under 5's are free. These prices include a charitable 10% donation towards the upkeep of the estate. It's open all year round from 10am.

We both came away from Hestercombe thinking that we had only scratched the surface and we would love to come back to Somerset to visit the gardens at different times of the year.

We paid for our entry to Hestercombe Gardens and were not asked to write a review.


How Does Your Garden Grow

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Ginger oat cookies

I try to always have a homemade sweet treat in the house. Over time I've realised that if there is nothing in the jar to temper that craving for a little sweet thing, I'll only head to the shops and by something so much worse for me than a little home made cookie.

These oat cookies, while having a high sugar content, are still "healthier" than chomping through a few shop brought cookies. An easy "cheat" that I've found is to make the cookies a little smaller than the recipe dictates. This recipe makes 24, but I stretched out almost 40 using the same quantities and one or two smaller cookies have got to be better than one or two large cookies, right?!

I also reduce the sugar content over time, I tend to find that recipes with spices in them can take a slightly lower sugar level without losing anything in the taste. For this recipe I have listed out all the ingredients as per the recipe and given my sugar measurements in brackets - use whichever you prefer.


Ginger Oat Cookies - Recipe from this BBC Food/Great British Bake Off recipe

225g unsalted butter
100g (80g) golden syrup
200g (160g) soft brown sugar
150g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cinnamon
400g rolled oats 
2 medium eggs, beaten
50g stem ginger chopped (I used jarred ginger in syrup rather than fresh ginger)
50g milk chocolate, chopped into small pieces

Preheat the oven to 180C, gas 4. Line 2 baking trays with baking parchment.

Melt the butter and golden syrup in a pan over a low heat. Set aside to cool.

Combine the sugar, flour, baking powder, salt and spices and mix well. Stir in the oats and mix thoroughly. Pour in the melted butter mix and combine before adding the eggs and stem ginger. Stir well to evenly mix the ginger pieces.

Spoon onto your baking sheets using a teaspoon. They will spread a little so leave some space between each cookie. Bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes before transferring to a cooking rack to cool completely.

Put your chocolate pieces into a disposable piping bag (If your bag already has a hole for a piping nozzle fold it over and secure with some tape). Place the bag into a clean bowl sat over a pan of gently simmering water until the chocolate has melted completely. 

Place your cooled cookies onto some greaseproof paper, closely together. Cut a small hole into your piping bag and drizzle the chocolate over your cookies. Allow the chocolate to cool a little before transferring your cookies to an airtight jar or your mouth.

Monday, 6 April 2015

Somerset mini break

Happy Easter everyone! Sion is sleeping off "a few quiet beers" so I thought I would take a few minutes to show you briefly what our Easter weekend was like.

We headed to Bridgwater in Somerset for three nights camping at The Secret Valley organic farm and campsite. We arrived at 7.30pm on Thursday so quickly unloaded the car and headed to a local pub for a cheat dinner before stocking up with breakfast supplies ready for the following day.

On Friday we were greeted with a drizzly, grey sky but we had brought our waterproofs and walking boots so headed to Wells for a charity shop rummage and walk through the cathedral buildings.



Saturday afternoon we drove through the countryside and came across an open day at an animal rescue centre. I fell in love with this little lady - 


Once we got back to the campsite we waited for the wine and marshmallow delivery (yes really!) before tucking into our steak dinner and retiring inside for a film and early night.


Saturday was a slightly brighter day so we headed off for an explore around the nearby Hestercombe Gardens and some sea air at Dunster.




Of course there was another BBQ in the evening with some beautiful wine from the farm's vineyard!

We travelled home on Sunday and got the boring jobs out of the way ready for a hopefully sunny day today!

Over the next week I'll be writing more detailed posts about our campsite and Hestercombe Gardens but that's all for now, particularly as I'm doing this from my tablet and I'm pretty sure I'll be reformatting this all tomorrow!

I hope your weekends have been fun-filled, chocolate-fuelled ones?! Until next time...