It’s been a very hot summer and, to make my Italian friends a bit envious, a very hot one indeed. The temperature set solid around 27-30C for about 2 months, the sun shone almost constantly with the exception of few very welcomed thunderstorm and, for the first time in years, after a succession “British poor excuses for summer” I had the feeling the embargo was finally over. All in all, a very bizarre situation for Finland, which I have certainly and thoroughly enjoyed but that also, I cannot deny, came with some discomfort.
On the plus side:
1. Our basil and coriander grew so well I am ready to repeat the gardening experience next year.
2. I could use all my summer wardrobe in full and not just the spring one as I initially feared.
3. We enjoyed our garden and patio with family and friends.
4. The new barbeque was put into good use in several occasions.
5. One simple word: rhubarb, the only delicious, amazing consolation I can find to #5 of the next list.
On the minus side:
1. To live for 2.5 months without proper dark is, for me, incredibly more troublesome than living in winter with 2 hours of light per day: your sleep-awake system is completely messed up, in the night I never felt I needed to sleep and then in the morning I was shattered because I would wake up 2 hours earlier than necessary. A proper nightmare for somebody like me who wakes up grumpy if she cannot enjoy 8 hours of solid sleep.
2. July is for Finland what (and probably more than that) August is for Italy. The cities get emptied, everybody goes on holiday and if, like me, you really cannot (nor want for what it matters) take all your annual leave in one go, especially when going on holiday is at the most expensive, going to work is like entering a ghost town of some old fashion western movie. Sometimes relaxing, but mostly boring and a bit worrying at times (what will happens if I just stuck somewhere and there’s nobody around who can come to rescue me? 🙂 ).
3. Finnish building and houses are really not designed for hot weather but (sensibly enough) for hard winter hence, to store heat as efficiently as possible, and here I stop otherwise my rant about this could go on for too long.
4. Falling directly from number 3, baking is really not as fun as it is during the cooler seasons: a lot of the recipes do not work (pastry for example) because it is too hot to handle ingredients and only the idea of switching on the oven makes you cringe.
5. During Finnish summer you have the feeling that the only possible food available and the only one people actually are interested in eating is berries. If you know me or had a chance to read few of my previous posts you now about my hate/hate relationship with berries. With the typical bitter ad sarcastic Finnish humour, I was told that I should try to be patient, after all “berries are the only thing that can grow properly in this country”, so I guess I have to stiffen up my chin and lump it. But the supermarkets flooding with red, blue, purple and black berries, of any kind and shapes, can also explain why my baking inspiration was a bit dampened in these months.
So, as general rule, I have to conclude that summer is not the best season for baking. But since each rule always comes with its exception, I have here the result of one of my few endeavours in the kitchen of the last summer, and, I must say, one of my favourite: banoffee cheesecake. This takes inspiration, with few adjustments, from Bea Vo’s Banoffee Bourbon Cheesecake. I removed the Bourbon as I am not a great fan of booze in desserts and replaced the dulche de leche with my version of toffee sauce, as I believe no shop bought surrogate, as good as it can be, can beat a proper home-made toffee sauce.
The cheesecake was a fair success with our friend-guests, a bit less with my household as such, but being that made by my cheese-hater husband it is fairly understandable, but that is another story, maybe for the next post. And, please, do not worry, the above mentioned husband was not left without dessert, a properly chocolaty chocolate mousse was in the fridge for him 😉 .
Have a good Sunday, a good week and a cool autumn full of baking ideas!
400 g digestive biscuits
75–100 g unsalted butter, melted
800 g cream cheese
225 g caster sugar
50 g cornflour
250 ml whipping cream
1 vanilla stick
For the toffee sauce:
100 g unsalted butter
150 g dark brown soft sugar
50 g caster sugar
For the Caramelised bananas:
3 bananas, cut into diagonal slices
50 g unsalted butter
3-4 tbs maple syrup
Preheat the oven to 125C.
To make the crust, crush the digestive biscuits/graham crackers until you get fine crumbs. Add the melted butter – the amount of butter you will need is variable. Test by grabbing a bit of the mixture and squeezing into your hand to make a ball, then releasing your hand. The mixture should hold its shape, but also fall apart when touched slightly. If it doesn’t hold its shape, add more butter, otherwise the biscuit/ cracker will dissolve into the cheesecake and you’ll have no crust. If it holds its shape too well, add more biscuits/crackers to absorb the butter, otherwise your crust will be too hard.
Press the mixture into a cake tin lined with a bit of butter and pat down until level and put in the fridge.
Put the cream cheese, vanilla pods and sugar in a bowl and beat until well mixed and the sugar has dissolved.
Slowly incorporate the eggs, one at a time, beating until thoroughly combined before adding the next. Scrape the side of the bowl regularly to make sure everything is incorporated.
Sift the cornflour into the mixture and stir until thoroughly combined. Add the cream and mix until combined. Pour the mixture into the cake pan over the crust.
Bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour 20 minutes or until the middle is slightly jiggly and the top doesn’t look shiny or wet any more.
Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 1 hour. Refrigerate overnight.
Unmould the cheesecake on to a serving plate.
To make the toffee sauce make a caramel with the sugar and the butter and when until dark brown but not smelling of burnt remove from the fire and add the cream mixing thoroughly to obtain a smooth mixture. Pour the sauce on the cake.
For the caramelised bananas, put the butter and the maple syrup in a non-stick frying pan over medium–high heat. Cook until you get a nice, gooey caramel. Add the slices of banana and cook for 1-2 minutes, the bananas has to become a bit softer but still hold their shape. Let cool down slightly, place on top of the cake and enjoy immediately.