Saturday, January 19, 2008

Mmmm, honey...

Honey bee on one of our bachelor's buttons

If you have a sweet tooth, nothing compares to honey to fix your craving. I'm rather partial to dark, heavily flavoured honeys myself, such as buckwheat and maple, but I also like the light ones like apple or clover. When I was in Australia, I was lucky to sample some of their native honeys like jarrah and eucalyptus, and wow, were they fantastic. Too bad I can't get them here in Canada!

So for a honey soaked treat, try these traditional Roman (the culture, not us!) cheesecakes. The rough conversions, based on my couple of trials, are in brackets.

Roman Cheesecake

120g (1 cup) flour
224 g (1 cup, approx half a 500 g container) ricotta or cottage cheese
1 egg, beaten
4 bay leaves
120 g (1/2 cup) honey, heated

Beat ricotta until soft. Mix in beaten egg. Stir into flour. Form soft dough & divide into 4 parts. Place onto bay leaves laid out onto greased baking sheet. If you've got a toaster oven, this is a perfect use for that little baking sheet that comes with it, and it bakes these at a much more efficient rate than in a huge conventional oven. Bake at 425°F for 35-40 minutes until golden brown (with the toaster oven, you might want to take them out & flip them over towards the end to brown the undersides a tad if it didn't do so originally). Warm the honey and place cakes into warmed honey until absorbed fully.

These Roman cheesecakes are similar to another one of our favourites, but a sweet version. Here's the a more savoury option for a dinner-accompaniment

Swiss Cheese Gougère (original in The Complete Harrowsmith Cookbook: All Three Harrowsmith Cookbooks in One Volume)

2/3 cup water
1/4 cup butter
3/4 cup flour
2 eggs
1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese (although I suspect this would be brilliant with any flavourful semi-hard cheese, e.g. jalapeno Jack, Monterey, sharp cheddar)
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard

Boil water and butter in heavy saucepan. Add flour all at once and stir with wooden spoon until mixture forms a ball. Remove pan from heat and add one egg, beat until fully incorporated. Add second egg & beat until well blended. Stir in cheese & mustard. Form 5 balls and place into greased pie plate. Bake at 475°F oven for 20 minutes, reduce to 375°F and bake 10 minutes further until pale & golden. Recipe doubles nicely.

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