Healthy Strawberry, Coconut & Nutella Muffins

I love experimenting with my baking and what better day to do so then Sunday!! Last night I had trouble sleeping so instead I thought about variousways to improve my muffin making skills. I really want to crIMG_3914eate a muffin recipe that produces light, fluffy, delicious cupcakes with as little of the bad stuff as possible! Anyway I started thinking about muffins that I like to eat that fit that category and of course you have your regular muffin mix but then theres also the friand, which is light and fluffy and predominately uses almond meal and egg whites instead of flour! Now I’ve made muffins with an almond meal and flour combination as my dry ingredients and that was pretty tasty but I hate wasting the yellow bit of the egg! So i decided to sort of combine the two recipes so that I didn’t waste anything at all. I’m also trying to avoid using too much refined sugar and friands tend to use quite a bit of icing sugar so that would need to be changed. What I needed, I thought, was a whipped egg white, to give the muffin its sense of light, airy-ness and a more natural sweetener such as honey or maple syrup to give a little sweetness. I also decided to incorporate coconut to replace some of the flour, adding another layer of flavour and texture whilst healthy-ifying the muffins just a little bit more! The other essential component of experimental baking is using whats already available in your fridge or pantry and at the moment we have an abundance of beautiful, plump strawberries that would be the perfect addition to my muffins!

So off I went, adding a little bit of this and a little bit of that. I must add that when I experiment I tend not to use measures (or I don’t really remember them) but what I ended up with made 6 beautiful, moist strawberry muffins with a cheeky Nutella dollop centre!! Sooo yummy and now my house smells amazing! So heres what I did:

1. Separate two eggs, keeping the egg whites in one bowl and the yolks in another.

2. Add to the bowl with the yolks, 1 cup of self raising flour, sifted (could use gf flour or wholemeal flour), 1/4 cup shredded coconut, 2Tbs maple syrup (or honey), a dash of cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla essence. Mix together to form a smooth consistency. You may need to add a dash of milk (or water if you want it dairy free) to loosen the mixture. I used about 1/4 cup soy milk.

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3. In your other bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the egg whites to form stiff peaks. Then fold this mix into your flour/coconut mixture, being mindful not to knock the air out of it. Have a little taste and make sure its to your liking. Remember that the strawberries will add quite a bit of sweetness naturally so this mix shouldn’t be overly sweet.

4. Line your muffin tins and divide the mixture between 6 cases. Then slice up your strawberries and press down into each muffin. The strawberries should be covered by the mixture. Add a small dollop of nutella (optional) and try to press this down into the mixture also. Finally, top with a strawberry slice for beautiful presentation.

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5. Bake in a preheated oven (200 degrees C) for about 15-17mins or until a skewer comes out of the centre cleanly.

6. Allow to cool and sift generously with icing sugar and then enjoy!

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Enjoy and Happy Baking!!

Baked Ricotta Cheesecake with a Nutella Surprise!

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Baked Ricotta cheesecake is a beautiful thing and up until recently I have only ever enjoyed it at Sydney’s Pasticceria Papa (where I might add, they make the best ricotta cheesecake you will ever taste!). For Easter though, I really wanted to bake something special for my family for dessert and after a little bit of googling I came across The Wholesome Cook, a beautiful food blog with a recipe based on the very cake that I love to eat!! Jackpot!

Now, as it is Easter I had to incorporate some form of chocolate into this recipe (but by all means you can leave it out) and as my family loves Nutella (who doesn’t!) I felt it was only appropriate to make my cheesecake a ricotta and Nutella flavoured one. I also had a few difficulties with the recipe so I have made a few changes/adaptations to the original (which can be found here at The Wholesome Cook’s Blog). Overall, this cake is beautifully moist and creamy and the Nutella hit is subtle and well balanced. Its a very light mixture, which I love and is encased in a crumbly, buttery pastry! I’m getting hungry just remembering it. If thats not enough to convince you to give it a go then let me add that my aunty (who hates dessert and never ever eats anything sweet) ate a huge piece in complete silence, occasionally omitting Oooh’s and mmm’s every so often. At the end of it she told me that she loved it! So it’s pretty safe to say its a winner of a dish! I will certainly be making this again especially after I’ve now ironed out some of my original problems.

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I think that the most difficult part of this recipe is getting the pastry into the tin without having messy join marks. Now mine was far from perfect, but I think if you were just making a plain ricotta cheesecake then the best way to achieve this would be to roll out one big piece of pastry (with overhang) that you would lay into your cake tin, fill with mixture and then fold over the top (to join the side walls on the opposite side of the cheesecake). Because we are piping Nutella into it however, the cake needs to be baked without a lid, otherwise it cracks when you press the piping bag into it. The original recipe also only calls for 45mins of baking time, which I initially did. When I went to transfer it onto a plate on Easter morning however, I noticed that the base had gone all soggy, a sign that the cake was not cooked through properly. When I removed the lid I was faced with a nasty surprise, the creamy filling was entirely raw still! Luckily there was still time to pop it back into the oven. Somehow though, I lost my marbles right at that moment and put the cake back into the oven without a tin to support it. Great choice there by me, the walls collapsed onto it! It was at this moment that I went into panic mode but luckily my dad was around to save the day. He managed to push the whole thing back into the tin!! It then baked through for about an hour and once cooled held its shape! What a relief!! But all the difficulties were totally worth it to see the looks of enjoyment on my families faces! I hope you enjoy this one as much as my family did!

What you need:

For the Pastry:

  • 100g butter, softened
  • ¼ cup caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup fresh cream (35% fat)
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder

For the Filling:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup caster sugar
  • 250g cream cheese
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup fresh cream
  • 500g full-fat ricotta
  • Small tub of Nutella

What I did:

1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C.

2. The first step is to make your pastry. Put butter and sugar in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer until light and fluffy then add your egg and cream and mix on a low speed to combine. Add your flour and baking powder to the mixer and mix on a low speed until combined into a dough. Kneed this lightly until just combined and set aside in the fridge for about 10mins.Image

3. In this time, make your filling by putting eggs and half the sugar into a bowl and mix with an electric mixer on high until pale and fluffy. In a separate bowl beat the cream cheese and remaining sugar on a medium speed until combined.

4. Combine the two mixtures with the vanilla extract and ricotta and mix on a low speed.

Assembling the Cake:

1. Greece your round cake tin with either butter or spray (I lined mine with baking paper which I think was unnecessary).

2. On a well floured surface, roll out your pastry to your desired thickness (don’t roll it too thin or it wont hold up with the filling. It should be about 4mm). Cut out a base first and place into your tin, then the side walls which you need to press into the base. Make sure there are no gaps or your cake will leak! Also cut out a lid which we will place on top later and prick this with a fork.

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3. Pour your filling into the tin carefully and smooth out the top.

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4. Put both pieces (the cake and the separate lid) into the oven and bake for about 1hr 45mins. The lid may be ready before this time so I would check on it at around 50mins and if cooked, remove to cool.

5. Once the cheesecake is cooked, it should have a slight wobble in the centre but be firm around the edges and have formed a nice “seal” on top. Turn the oven off and leave it to cool inside for 20mins with the door slightly open.

6. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before chilling in the fridge.

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7. Using the nozzle of your piping bag, poke holes into the filling, piping Nutella into these as you go. You ca

n have as much or as little as you like then, when your happy pop the lid on top and trim off any extra pastry.

8. Dust the whole cake liberally with icing sugar and cinnamon and then serve and enjoy!

Happy Baking!!