Along the Grapevine


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Spiked Crabapple Cheesecake

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I don’t often bake cakes these days, but am always happy to oblige when there is an occasion – especially when I can use some foraged ingredient from my backyard. I had two constraints in choosing what kind of cake I would bake. First, the birthday girl wanted something gluten-free and second, I have one arm in a cast due to a recent mishap leaving me less dextrous than usual. So what to make with no gluten and one hand? Cheesecake was the perfect solution. I just needed some help with cracking eggs! I still had some crabapple preserve in the freezer, and frankly I don’t think there are many fruits that pair any better with cheese than a nice tart apple. If I had any Calvados, that would have been my choice of liqueur, but brandy seemed a good alternative. I used an 8 inch spring form pan, placed it in a larger pan which was placed in another larger pan filled with water. I believe that prevented the cake from having any cracks on the surface when baked.   DSC01830

Spiked Crabapple Cheesecake

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Time: 1 1/2 hours
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Ingredients

1 cup almonds

1/2 cup hemp hearts

4 oz butter

a pinch of salt

1 cup plain yogurt

8 oz cream cheese

1/2 cup honey

3 eggs

1 cup crabapple preserve

1/4 cup brandy

Method

Grind the nuts and add hemp hearts and butter and salt. Press the mixture into an 8″ spring form pan lined with parchment paper. Blend the next 4 ingredients in a bowl until smooth. Pour on top of the nut mixture. Bake at 325 degrees F for about one hour, until the custard has set. Meanwhile heat just to mix the brandy with the preserve. Allow to partially cool and pour over the cooled cheesecake.

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The result was a little uneven looking due to my one-handedness, but delicious nonetheless. I think some toasted almond slices on the sides would have made it prettier but I can’t think that the flavour could have been improved at all.

Featured at Fiesta Friday.


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Highbush Cranberry Toffee

Making up recipes with foraged ingredients in the winter usually means a little foraging in the pantry for all that is dried, pickled, frozen or fermented. I never actually expected to find fresh edibles well into February in this area, and certainly not juicy berries. But here is one little shrub, much overlooked and maligned, which is at its best in late winter. highbush cranberries #1highbush cranberries #2 Highbush cranberry (viburnum trilobum) is not a cranberry at all but a deciduous shrub which can grow to 4 meters in height. Its leaves are similar in appearance to maple leaves. Clusters of white blossoms appear in the spring, and the green berry turns to orange and then a bright red in October or November. No wonder it is often used as a decorative landscaping plant, standing out particularly in winter months where the berries afford a beautiful contrast to the snow. It is an easy plant to identify with its clusters of berries measuring about 15mm in length and 12 mm in width. They have a single, flat white seed, and a pungent smell which is less strong in the winter after a few freezes and thaws. Rich in vitamin C, it is maybe a too bitter for many palates, but like many bitter foods has a good flavour once sweetened. DSC01817 Further to my experiments with cooking with these wild cranberries, I decided to make a vegan toffee using just sugar and coconut milk with the berries. First I pureed 1 cup berries. If you want a very smooth puree, pass them through a food mill to remove all the seeds and skin. DSC01821 This was added to 2 (400 ml) tins of coconut milk and 2 cups of sugar. Cook the mixture on a low heat until it reaches 270 degrees F on a candy thermometer, or between the hard and soft ball stages. This took approximately one and a half hours. DSC01818 DSC01820 Once cooked, pour into a 9 inch sq. pan lined with parchment paper and allow to cool completely. Cut into whatever size and shape you like and store in a very cool place. They are quite sticky when at room temperature. DSC01836 The flavour reminds me of a tamarind sweet – very creamy and soft. I will be taking these to Fiesta Friday – do drop by to see what the other guests have brought.