Saturday, 22 December 2007

December Daring baker's challenge- Yule log

This month we were lucky enough to be hosted by the founders of our group Lisa from La mia cucina and Ivonne from Cream puffs in Venice. They choose a terrific and very festive recipe for the month of december and something which I had never made before- a yule log. For those of you who don't know, a yule log, or buche de noel, is a rolled cake that is iced and sliced to create the look of a real log, to symbolises the yule log that was traditionally burnt by the vikings during the winter solstice for the whole 12 days of christmas. It is a symbol of light to those who live in darkness 24 hours a day during the windter period.

I didn't really have any troubles with the recipe at all, which was a relief after hearing terrible stories of curdled butter creams and rubbery genoise. One thing I did do was change the flavour of the buttercream to a non alcoholic chocolate one. This was because there were a whole lot of kids over for dinner and they wouldn't eat an alcoholic coffee cream. To make the chocolate buttercream, I melted about 2/3 cup dark 70% cocoa chocolate, stirred it over some cold water to cool it and then I beat it into the buttercream.

Here is the recipe and some photos. I hope you enjoy looking at it as much as i enjoyed making it.

This recipe is from Nick Malgieri's book, 'Perfect cakes'. Here it is.:

Perfect Cakes by Nick Malgieri and The Williams-Sonoma Collection: DessertServes 12Cake should be stored in a cool, dry place.

Plain Genoise:
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
pinch of salt
¾ cup of sugar
½ cup cake flour - spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off (also known as cake & pastry flour)
¼ cup cornstarch
one 10 x 15 inch jelly-roll pan that has been buttered and lined with parchment paper and then buttered again

1.Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F.
2.Half-fill a medium saucepan with water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat so the water is simmering.
3.Whisk the eggs, egg yolks, salt and sugar together in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer. Place over the pan of simmering water and whisk gently until the mixture is just lukewarm, about 100 degrees if you have a thermometer (or test with your finger - it should be warm to the touch).
4.Attach the bowl to the mixer and, with the whisk attachment, whip on medium-high speed until the egg mixture is cooled (touch the outside of the bowl to tell) and tripled in volume. The egg foam will be thick and will form a slowly dissolving ribbon falling back onto the bowl of whipped eggs when the whisk is lifted.
5.While the eggs are whipping, stir together the flour and cornstarch.
6.Sift one-third of the flour mixture over the beaten eggs. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the flour mixture, making sure to scrape all the way to the bottom of the bowl on every pass through the batter to prevent the flour mixture from accumulating there and making lumps. Repeat with another third of the flour mixture and finally with the remainder.
7.Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
8.Bake the genoise for about 10 to 12 minutes. Make sure the cake doesn’t overbake and become too dry or it will not roll properly.
9.While the cake is baking, begin making the buttercream.
10.Once the cake is done (a tester will come out clean and if you press the cake lightly it will spring back), remove it from the oven and let it cool on a rack.

Coffee Buttercream:
4 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
24 tablespoons (3 sticks or 1-1/2 cups) unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
2 tablespoons rum or brandy

1.Whisk the egg whites and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Set the bowl over simmering water and whisk gently until the sugar is dissolved and the egg whites are hot. 2.Attach the bowl to the mixer and whip with the whisk on medium speed until cooled. Switch to the paddle and beat in the softened butter and continue beating until the buttercream is smooth. Dissolve the instant coffee in the liquor and beat into the buttercream.

Filling and frosting the log:
1.Run a sharp knife around the edges of the genoise to loosen it from the pan.
2.Turn the genoise layer over (unmolding it from the sheet pan onto a flat surface) and peel away the paper.
3.Carefully invert your genoise onto a fresh piece of parchment paper.
4.Spread with half the coffee buttercream (or whatever filling you’re using).
5.Use the parchment paper to help you roll the cake into a tight cylinder.
6.Transfer back to the baking sheet and refrigerate for several hours.
7.Unwrap the cake. Trim the ends on the diagonal, starting the cuts about 2 inches away from each end.
8.Position the larger cut piece on each log about 2/3 across the top.
9.Cover the log with the reserved buttercream, making sure to curve around the protruding stump.
10.Streak the buttercream with a fork or decorating comb to resemble bark.
11.Transfer the log to a platter and decorate with your mushrooms and whatever other decorations you’ve chosen.

Meringue Mushrooms:
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
½ cup (3-1/2 ounces/105 g.) granulated sugar
1/3 cup (1-1/3 ounces/40 g.) icing sugar
Unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting

1.Preheat the oven to 225 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. Have ready a pastry bag fitted with a small (no. 6) plain tip. In a bowl, using a mixer on medium-low speed, beat together the egg whites and cream of tartar until very foamy. Slowly add the granulated sugar while beating. Increase the speed to high and beat until soft peaks form when the beaters are lifted. Continue until the whites hold stiff, shiny peaks. Sift the icing sugar over the whites and, using a rubber spatula, fold in until well blended.2.Scoop the mixture into the bag. On one baking sheet, pipe 48 stems, each ½ inch (12 mm.) wide at the base and tapering off to a point at the top, ¾ inch (2 cm.) tall, and spaced about ½ inch (12 mm.) apart. On the other sheet, pipe 48 mounds for the tops, each about 1-1/4 inches (3 cm.) wide and ¾ inch (2 cm.) high, also spaced ½ inch (12 mm.) apart. With a damp fingertip, gently smooth any pointy tips. Dust with cocoa. Reserve the remaining meringue.3.Bake until dry and firm enough to lift off the paper, 50-55 minutes. Set the pans on the counter and turn the mounds flat side up. With the tip of a knife, carefully make a small hole in the flat side of each mound. Pipe small dabs of the remaining meringue into the holes and insert the stems tip first. Return to the oven until completely dry, about 15 minutes longer. Let cool completely on the sheets.4.Garnish your Yule Log with the mushrooms.

Nigella's Chestnut Cheesecake

The other day I decided to make a Chestnut Cheesecake from Nigella Lawson's book 'Feast'. This was only because I happened to have half a can of Sweetened chestnut puree left over from the christmas cake I had made earlier. Seeing as it costs about $10 a can, I didn't want to waste a drop.

This cheesecake was truly one of the best I have ever had. The chestnut adds such a warming and inviting flavour to the soft cream cheese filling.

I really recommend that you try this out. It's a winner! (Sorry the photo sucks. I forgot to take one before my family hacked into it.)

Recipe 'Chestnut Cheesecake' p. 84 "feast" by Nigella Lawson, Chatto and Windus London

For the base:
250 g Digestive bicuits
50g soft butter
1 heaped tablespoon sweetened chestnut puree ( i left this out, as i didn't have enough chestnut puree)

For the cheesecake:
500g Cream cheese
125 caster (granulated) sugar
3 eggs
3 egg yolks
175ml sour cream
1 teaspoon lime (i substiuted with lemon juice)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-2 tablespoons rum ( i left this out, cause i don't like it)
350g sweetened chestnut puree

For the syrup (i didn't bother making this, as the cheesecake is good enough as it is)
80ml water
60 ml rum
1 tablespoon sweetened chestnut puree
50g caster sugar
15g butter

Preheat oven to gas mark 4/180 degrees celcius and put the kettle on to boil.
Meanwhile process bicuits, butter and puree for base until fine crumbs are formed. Press mix into base of a 23cm sprinform tin and place in the fridge.
Beat the cream cheese until smooth and add sugar. Add eggs and egg yolks one ata a time. Pour in the sour cream, lime juice, vanilla and rum and beat till smooth and creamy, Then, flod in sweetened chestnut puree. Line the outside of the springform tin with a layer of clingfilm, then a layer of al foil making sure all of the base and side is covered. Stand the covered tin in a roasting tray, pour in the cheesecake batter into the tin and then, fill the roasting tray with the eater from the kettle to come 3cm up the side of the springform tin.
Place in the oven for one hour, until set on top and slightly wobbly underneath.
Remove the tine from the roasting tray and leave to cool before placing in the fridge. Unmould a while before you want to serve it and allow it to reach room temperature.
For the syrup put all ingredients in saucepan and melt, then let boil for 10 mins. Coll to warm temperature and then drizzle on top of cheesecake before serving.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Gingerbread House challenge

This month I decided to take part in Yum sugar's Gingerbread house challenge. I had never made a gingerbread house before, except for a premade piece it together kit that my mum bought me last year, so it was a very exciting venture for me.

Yesterday I set about making the gingerbread. I made a double batch of a gingerbread recipe from a commonsense cookbook. Then, I got out a drwaing pad and designed a very simple little cottage and cut out the templates. I shaped and baked the dough and then later in the afternoon I constructed the house with royal icing -made of eggwhites and icing sugar.

I left the decoration till today to allow the icing to really set as I didn't want it to all fall down. I bought a huge stack of lollies and spent the whole afternoon glueing them on with more royal icing to make my house. Here are some photos. I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed making the house. Thanks to Yum Sugar for arranging this compettion.