Monday, 30 March 2015

10 amazing recipes with cream cheese

Stuffed French toast

A contemporary take on a 17th-century fave – poor knights of Windsor – this is strawberry eggy bread with rosewater, sugar and butter. Rosewater complements strawberries perfectly – just be careful not to use too much or your breakfast will taste like a scented candle.

Serves 4
200g strawberries, plus extra for garnishing
1 tsp rosewater
300g cream cheese
6 tbsp strawberry jam
8 thick slices of white bread
2 eggs
250ml milk
50g butter
50g icing sugar, plus extra for dusting

1 Hull and slice the strawberries, then place them in a bowl. Add the rosewater and mix thoroughly. Set aside for 2-3 minutes.
2 Use a spoon to soften the cream cheese in a bowl. Add the rosewater and strawberries. Mix until you have a pastel pink colour.
3 Spread the jam on the slices of bread. Then divide the cream cheese mixture across 4 of the slices, leaving a 10mm border. Put another slice on top of each and gently press around the edges.
4 Whisk the eggs and milk together in a shallow bowl and place each strawberry sandwich in the mix for about 20 seconds on each side.
5 Melt the butter in a frying pan on a medium-high heat. Fry each sandwich for about 4-5 minutes per side, or until golden brown. Serve with a dusting of icing sugar and some extra sliced strawberries.

Wild garlic leaves stuffed with cream cheese

This recipe preserves the taste of spring, with the cream cheese taking on the ever-more complex flavours of the oil.

Makes around 500ml
240g cream cheese
4 tsp sumac
4 tsp ground cumin
4 tsp paprika
Salt and black pepper
35g medium-large wild garlic leaves, rinsed and dried (about 50 leaves)
½ red chilli, sliced down the middle
1 garlic clove, crushed
4 peppercorns
200ml olive oil

1 Whip the cream cheese and spices together in a bowl with a fork, incorporating the spices fully. Add salt and pepper to taste.
2 Place a wild garlic leaf glossy-side down on your chopping board. Put about ½ tsp of the cream cheese mixture on the thickest part at the bottom of the leaf. Roll the leaf up. Dab a little cheese on the pointy end of the leaf to help the roll stick together. Put in a sterilised jar.
3 Repeat until the jar is full. Add the halved chilli to the jar where it can be seen. Add the garlic clove and peppercorns. Cover the contents of the jar in olive oil. Don’t leave anything exposed.
4 Store in the refrigerator for a week before using and bring the rolls up to room temperature before serving.

Pea, basil, and mint souffle

The double cream and cream cheese make this sformata, or Italian-style souffle, denser and richer than its French counterpart. It’s incredibly quick to assemble, making it the ideal lunch or late supper. Try substituting the peas for spinach, cauliflower or broccoli – any veg goes. Serve hot or cold.

Serves 4-6
1 tbsp butter
110g parmesan, grated, plus extra to finish
500g peas (frozen or freshly podded)
4 large eggs, separated
360g cream cheese
75ml double cream
A large handful of mint leaves, finely chopped
A large handful of basil leaves, finely chopped

1 Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6 and grease a 2-litre baking dish with the butter. Evenly scatter two tbsp of the parmesan into the dish and shake around to coat.
2 Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and blanch the peas for a couple of minutes until just done, then drain and return to the pan. Using a potato masher, crush the peas until you have a fairly coarse bright green mush. Season with a little pepper.
3 Whisk the egg yolks, cream cheese and cream together until smooth, then stir in the remaining parmesan, peas and herbs. Season to taste.
4 In a separate clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until you have stiff peaks, then fold this into the pea mixture until it is just incorporated. Pour the mixture into the baking dish and sprinkle with a little extra parmesan cheese. Transfer it to the middle of the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the top is golden but the middle still has a slight wobble. Remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly for a moment. Serve with a green salad.

Black olive and lemon paté

A fabulous quartet of flavours – the richness of the cream cheese is cut through with the acidity of lemon and the earthy tang of olives.

Serves 4
100g olives, pitted
250g cream cheese
Juice of 1 lemon
Black pepper

1 Add the pitted olives to a blender and blend until almost smooth.
2 Transfer the olive mix to a fine sieve and sit it over a bowl to drain any excess liquid – around 5 minutes should do it. However, if your olives were in liquid it might take a little longer.
3 Next, add the cream cheese to a mixing bowl with the olives, lemon juice and black pepper. Carefully fold together until incorporated.
4 Place a round pastry cutter in the centre of a serving plate, add the paté and tamp down. Remove the ring and serve with some dressed leaves and hot toast.

Baked cream cheese custard with rhubarb and coconut crumble

An excellent combination of tastes and textures. The baked cream cheese here can go from perfect (rich, creme brulee texture) to overcooked very quickly, so watch it carefully.

Serves 4
4 egg yolks
150g caster sugar
500g cream cheese
1 tsp vanilla extract
Juice and zest of 1 orange
Chopped pistachios, for sprinkling

For the crumble
4 rhubarb stems, washed, trimmed and sliced diagonally into 2.5cm pieces
100g demerara sugar
100g cold butter, cubed
50g caster sugar
50g demerara sugar
25g desiccated coconut
40g rolled oats
130g plain flour

1 Preheat your oven to 150C/300F/gas mark 2.
2 Beat the egg and sugar together until pale and light. Add the cream cheese, vanilla extract and orange juice and zest, then beat well until everything is incorporated.
3 Place four ramekins into a deep baking tray and divide the cream cheese custard between each. Add water to the baking tray so that it comes up to just below the edge of the ramekin. Place the tray in the oven for around 15-17 minutes, keeping a very close eye on them. You want the mix to be just set with a jelly-like wobble. If they overcook you will be left with a slightly grainy dessert.
4 Once cooked, cool to room temperature, remove from the tray and place in the fridge.
5 Put the rhubarb in a heavy-based pan with the sugar and a little water. Cook on a low heat until done but not overcooked (10-15 minutes – you want the rhubarb to retain a little bite and shape. Taste and add a little more sugar if the rhubarb is still tart. When done, set aside.
6 Combine the remaining crumble ingredients in a bowl and – using clean hands – rub the mix in between your palms until a rough crumb forms. Alternatively, use a food processor, pulsing the mix until you have rough crumbs. Put the mix on a baking tray and bake for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Put to one side to cool.
7 To assemble, spoon cooked rhubarb on top of each baked cream cheese and sprinkle liberally with the coconut crumble. Top with chopped pistachios for colour and texture.

Cream cheese, mushroom and bacon stuffed onions

Onions are wonderful vessels for a variety of stuffings. These are stuffed with cream cheese, mushrooms and bacon and baked in cream and parmesan: irresistibly rich and deeply comforting.

Makes 8
8 medium onions
A drizzle of olive oil
A knob of butter
75g bacon or pancetta, chopped
250g chestnut mushrooms, finely sliced
1 tsp thyme, finely chopped, plus extra sprigs to serve
1 tsp dried oregano
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
125g cream cheese, beaten
60g parmesan, finely grated, plus extra for scattering
50g breadcrumbs
600ml single cream
A grating of nutmeg, to taste
Salt and black pepper
Be careful when preparing the onions. If they split, the filling will leak out during baking.

1 Peel the onions, keeping the root intact. Boil them in salted water for 20 minutes or until tender. Drain well. Once they are cool enough to handle, cut the top 2cm off the onions horizontally. Using a spoon, scoop out the central part of the onions, making sure the outside remains intact. Chop the parts you have removed, then set aside.
2 Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6. Heat a little olive oil and a knob of butter in a frying pan. Fry the chopped bacon with the mushrooms, chopped onion, thyme and oregano. Once the bacon is cooked, add the garlic and saute until fragrant.
3 Transfer to a bowl and set aside to cool, then add the cream cheese, parmesan and breadcrumbs. Season to taste. Spoon the mixture into the onions.
4 Place the onions snugly in a baking dish. Pour over the cream, scatter with thyme sprigs and grated nutmeg. Bake for about 35 minutes, or until golden and bubbling. Scatter with parmesan cheese for the last 10 minutes.

Barley risotto with spinach, cream cheese

A blend of cream cheese and blue cheese gives sinuosity and body to this comforting bowlful.

Serves 2
1 small red onion, peeled and sliced
A small knob of butter
250g barley
125ml white wine
300ml vegetable stock
2 large handfuls of fresh spinach
2 tbsp cream cheese
50g blue cheese
Juice and zest of ½ lemon
½ spring onion, very finely sliced (optional)
Salt and black pepper

1 Sweat the onion with the butter until soft and golden. Add the barley , then stir to coat for a minute.
2 Pour in the white wine and half the stock. With the lid off, turn the heat to high, bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer. Stir occasionally and gradually add the remaining stock as it is absorbed. Cook for 30-40 minutes or until the barley is al dente and the liquid has reduced.
3 Add the spinach to the pan and fold in with a wooden spoon or fork as soon as it starts to wilt. Quickly introduce the two cheeses and stir to melt entirely. Season to taste.
4 Serve immediately with a little lemon juice, zest and the spring onion, if using.

Cream cheese pastry with raspberry filling

The addition of cream cheese to the pastry here makes it much easier to work with and is forgiving of hot hands – a great recipe to perfect if pastry fills you with fear.

Makes 8
200g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
75g cold butter, diced
75g full-fat cream cheese
1 egg yolk
3 tbsp caster sugar

For the filling
105g cream cheese
Zest of ½ an orange
50g caster sugar
1 tbsp plain flour
100g raspberries

1 To make the pastry, combine the flour, sugar and butter in the bowl of a food processor and whizz until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the cream cheese and egg yolk. Whizz until the pastry comes together in a ball. Alternatively, mix by hand in a bowl. Wrap the pastry in clingfilm, squash into a disc and chill for 30 minutes.
2 To make the filling, beat the cream cheese, orange zest, sugar and flour until smooth. Add half the raspberries and stir to break the fruit up. Set aside.
3 Line a couple of baking trays with baking paper. Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured surface into a 5mm thick rectangle measuring 40x20cm. Cut the rectangle in half, then divide into 4 equal 10cm squares. Spoon a dollop of the cream cheese mixture into the centre of each square, then use a sharp knife to cut from the edge of the filling out to the four corners of the pastry squares. Dot a raspberry on top of the cream-cheese filling, then fold each corner into the centre, pinching the corners of the 4 folded in triangles in the centre to secure. Transfer to the baking trays and chill for 15 minutes.
4 Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6. Remove the pastries from the fridge, and bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the pastry is golden and biscuity. Cool on the tray for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Spring onion cheesecake

A savoury take on the classic dessert – this “cake” has a wholesome base, and fresh, mild flavour.

Serves 8
75g oat crackers
75g rolled oats
½ tsp fine sea salt
¼ tsp white peppercorns, finely crushed
50g butter, melted
3 medium eggs, separated
100g fromage frais
1 tbsp plain flour
150g cream cheese
3 spring onions, finely chopped
150g Västerbotten cheese, finely grated (optional)
Salt and black pepper

1 Preheat the oven to 160C/325F/gas mark 3 and chill a 23cm round pie dish or cake tin. Blitz the crackers, oats, salt and peppercorns in a food processor (or seal them in a plastic bag and bash with a rolling pin) until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Pour them into a bowl, add the melted butter, combine and tip into the base of the pie dish, pressing down firmly. Set aside to chill in the freezer for 15-20 minutes.
2 Beat the egg yolks with a pinch of salt in a large bowl (an electric whisk works well here), then add the fromage frais and a pinch of the flour. Beat again and add the cream cheese along with the remainder of the flour, the spring onions and the Västerbotten (reserving some to sprinkle on top of the cheesecake just before baking). Season to taste. It should be quite highly seasoned at this stage as the whisked egg whites will dilute the flavour.
3 Beat the egg whites separately with another pinch of salt until stiff peaks form. Add one large spoonful to the egg yolk mix to loosen it, then fold through the rest of the egg whites, being careful not to knock out all the air.
4 Spoon the mixture into the chilled pie dish, flatten the top with a palette knife and sprinkle with the reserved Västerbotten (if using). Bake for 30 minutes or until the surface feels firm. The cheesecake shouldn't take on too much colour, so check after 25 minutes and, if necessary, turn the heat down to 140C/275F/gas mark 1. Leave to cool in the oven for an hour after turning the heat off. Serve at room temperature.

Pasta with cream cheese and walnuts

It’s very often the simplest ideas that sing the most sweetly ...

Serves 3
175-250g pasta
A generous knob of butter
125g-175g cream cheese
2-3 tbsp parmesan, grated, plus extra to serve
60g walnuts, roughly chopped

1 Cook the pasta shells according to the packet instructions. Drain and set aside.
2 In a flameproof serving dish, gently melt the butter and cream cheese. Add the cooked pasta and stir until thoroughly combined.
3 Add the parmesan and walnuts and stir through. Serve with more grated parmesan.


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