Sunday, December 23, 2007

Yule Log

As part of the Daring Bakers, I made a Buche de Noel (or yule log) last weekend. It was the first challenge that I've done and I was really excited to try this one. I made a Buche de Noel many years ago and it was a lot of fun. This one was also fun to make as I got to try my hand at making meringue mushrooms to decorate it which I hadn't done before. The cake is a basic genoise and I added cocoa to make it chocolate flavored. We had the option of filling it with buttercream or another filling and I chose to make a White Chocolate Mouse from Martha Stewart's Holiday Baking Magazine from December 2002. The outside was then covered with the Coffee Buttercream.

I had intended to take pictures of the whole process but my camera wasn't cooperating. Instead I only took a picture of the finished product before it was transported to a holiday party. Overall I thought it turned out really well and it looked great with the meringue mushrooms.

Chocolate Genoise:

3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
pinch of salt
¾ cup of sugar
1/3 cup cake flour - spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off (also known as cake & pastry flour)
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup cocoa

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.


I decided to make a chocolate genoise cake so I changed the proportions as suggested. The chocolate flavor wasn’t very intense though. I used Hershey’s cocoa and I think next time I would use a different brand. I also think my oven runs a little hot, I think the cake was done at 8 minutes but I left it in until 10 minutes and it was pretty brown on top and crispy at the edges. I trimmed all around before rolling up the cake and I also brushed the cake with rum mixed with simple syrup to give more rum flavor to the cake and help it stay moist.

White Chocolate Mousse (from Martha Stewart's Holiday Baking magazine, Dec. 2002)

1 ½ tsp powdered gelatin
¼ cup cold water
12 oz chopped white chocolate
2 cups heavy cream

Dissolve gelatin in cold water, set aside for 5 minutes. Place chocolate in a bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.

Place ¾ cup cream in a small saucepan, and bring just to a boil over medium-high heat. Add gelatin and stir 30 seconds to dissolve. Pour into food processor with the motor running and process until smooth.

Transfer mixture to a medium bowl; cover with plastic wrap. Chill until thick enough to hold ribbons, about 20 minutes.

Whip remaining 1 ¼ cup cream until stiff peaks form. Fold into chocolate mixture.

Use immediately.

NOTE: I ended up chilling it for 30 minutes instead of 20 and it was very thick and gelatinous. I ended up stirring in 1/3 of the whipped cream to loosen it up and then folded in the rest of the whipped cream.

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.


I didn’t want to make a full recipe of buttercream since I was using a different filling, so I decided to cut it by a ¼ or a 1/3. I should have written out the reduced recipe because I started out cutting it by ¼ (I used 3 egg whites instead of 4) but then I somehow switched to reducing by 1/3 so I added 2/3 sugar, 2 sticks of butter. Then at the end I used 1 ½ Tbsp each espresso powder and rum. It still turned out fine. I have a recipe for buttercream in The Bakers Dozen Cookbook that says to whip the egg whites for 6 minutes before adding the butter. When I first made that recipe last summer, I didn’t wait the full 6 minutes. The bowl didn’t feel that warm, but it was warm enough to turn the buttercream into soup. After tossing that batch, I waited the full 6 minutes before adding the butter and it turned out perfectly. I did the same with the coffee buttercream, 6 full minutes of whipping and then added butter.

My husband thought the coffee flavor wasn't as intense as he would like, so maybe next time I would add more of the espresso powder.

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.


I only had a no 12 tip which is a little bigger but it seemed to work okay for making the mushrooms. I forgot to dust with cocoa before baking so I dusted with cocoa after the mushrooms were done.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Surprise Meringues

When I was growing up, I would make cookies for with my grandma at Christmas time. One cookie she always liked to make were called Surprise Meringues, basically meringue with chocolate chips and nuts added. They were crunchy and chewy.

While making another dessert tonight, I had some leftover meringue. So I added some chopped walnuts and a handful of bittersweet chocolate chips to the leftover meringue. I set the timer for 30 minutes instead of 25 minutes so they ended up being brown instead of white and they were more crunchy than chewy. But they were still good.

Surprise Meringues

2 egg whites
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup sugar
6 oz pkg semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 300 F.
Line baking sheet with parchment or greased brown paper
Combing egg whites, cream of tartar, salt, and vanilla, beat until soft peaks form.
Gradually beat in sugar, beat until stiff and glossy.
Fold in chocolate and nuts
Drop by teaspoon onto baking sheet.
Bake for 25 minutes.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Ahi Tuna Dinner

Tonight we had a very simple dinner: Ahi Tuna, Rice Pilaf and Chard with garlic.
The Rice Pilaf was from a box, Organic Rice Pilaf from Trader Joe's.
Overall, the dinner took about 30 minutes to cook. The rice took the longest, about 25 minutes. Both V and I thought it was very good, though the soy/mustard coating didn't come through very strongly. G actually tried the tuna and thought it was good. I had hoped for a pretty picture but no batteries, maybe next time.

Ahi Tuna

Mix 2-3 Tbsp soy sauce, 1 tsp dry mustard and 2 Tbsp vermouth.
These are all approximations.
Coat the Ahi Tuna steaks (I had 2, 1.4 lb total) with the soy sauce mixture and let sit for 10-15 minutes.
Spray nonstick skillet with oil and cook tuna over medium high heat, approximately 3 minutes per side.

Chard with Garlic

3 cloves of garlic
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 bunch chard, washed and then leaves sliced

Slice garlic very thinly. Saute over medium heat in olive oil until starting to turn brown. Add sliced chard and cook until chard is bright green and wilted.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Gnocchi with Bacon and Spinach

A friend wrote about a pasta dish that she got from Giada de Laurentiis when watching the Food Network. That dish was Shells with Crispy Pancetta and Spinach. It sounded really good and easy. I love the combination of bacon and spinach and it seemed like a good one dish meal. So I decided to make a similar dish the day after Thanksgiving when my Mom and sister were visiting.

I didn't have pasta shells, only gnocchi and I had bought bacon rather than pancetta. The original recipe called for a lot of asiago cheese, instead I used a quattro fromaggio mix from Trader Joe's which my friend also used in her dish. I used half and half instead of cream though next time, I think I will try it with milk. I also forgot to put the nutmeg in the spinach mixture so I added it to the sauce instead and it tasted fine.

I forgot to take a picture until after we had finished dinner so the picture is not as pretty. My mom, sister and V all gave the dish a big thumbs up. The kids took one look and wouldn't try it

Gnocchi with Bacon and Spinach

1/2 lb bacon, cut into 1/2 pieces
1/2 container low fat ricotta cheese
1/2 cup quattro fromaggio grated cheese mix
1 lb chopped frozen spinach, thawed and drained
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 package vacuum packed gnocchi

Cook bacon until crispy.
Mix with ricotta cheese, grated cheese, spinach, black pepper.
Cook gnocchi in boiling water.
Put gnocchi in shallow dish and layer spinach bacon mixture on top.

1 Tbsp butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup half and half
2 cups quattro fromaggio grated cheese mix
1/4 cup parsley
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp black pepper

Melt butter and add minced garlic. Stir in cream and bring to a simmer.
Turn heat to low and stir in cheese, parsley, nutmeg and black pepper.
Stir until cheese is melted.
Pour sauce over spinach and gnocchi.
Bake for 20 minutes at 375.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Turkey Day

It seems like I was cooking all day. The house smelled wonderful from the roasting turkey with the sausage stuffing.

I was following the recipe from Cooks Illustrated Best Recipe cookbook for a stuffed roasted turkey. They suggested putting onions, carrots and herbs on the bottom of the roasting pan as well as 1 cup of water. The roasting pan that I was using was large and very dark. The turkey ended up cooking at 400 for an extra 15 minutes while I was out and may have contributed to the onions and carrots on the bottom turning completely black. I wasn't sure if the drippings would taste burnt but they were fine for the gravy.

We sat down to roasted turkey, stuffing, mashed pototoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, steamed broccoli, roasted sweet potato and rolls. Only the rolls and the cranberry sauce were courtesy of Whole Foods Market. It all tasted great and V enjoyed it as well. As for the kids, G ate turkey and rolls, D ate turkey, sweet potato, broccoli and stuffing and A took one look at the food on the table and said he didn't want it. Instead he had a peanut butter sandwich and yogurt for dinner and a popsicle for dessert.

For dessert we had two pies, maple pecan pie and pumpkin pie. Both recipes come from the William Sonoma Pie cookbook and they are the ones that I make every year for Thanksgiving. V loves pecan pie and this one is very easy to make and the maple syrup gives it a slightly different flavor. I love pumpkin pie (though I will eat the pecan pie as well) and this recipe is also slightly different as it contains ground pecans and rum. I left out the pecans this year in hopes that G would try it but she settled for chocolate ice cream with lots of whipped cream. Rather than eating pie, she just wanted to pose for the picture with them.

Thanksgiving Preparations

What better day to start a food blog than the day before the biggest food day of the year. I love cooking for Thanksgiving though this year it feels like I am overdoing it. I am making the turkey, stuffing, gravy, and pies but it will only be for the five of us, no extra guests this year. V and I will certainly eat our fair share, but the kids, who knows. G will try everything but I have a feeling that A will take one look at the plate and decide not to eat. On the other hand, I love leftovers and can't wait to make turkey soup, turkey tetrazini and lots of turkey sandwiches. So I am sure the 16lb bird will get used up just fine.

The pies are made, the turkey is sitting in the fridge after being brined for 4 hours, and the bread for the stuffing is cut up and dried. I still have a whole list of things to do in the morning, but with no extra guests, if things get delayed or go wrong, no pressure. I'm sure everything will turn out fine.