Saturday, December 22, 2007

Daring Baking! Buche de noel.

This was a wonderful challenge, my favourite yet. It was a delicious product but also very challenging and fun. I think it was wonderful at this time of year to do something festive, that reminds us of the true meaning of all our different holidays, Hannuka, Divali, and Christmas and other festivals that we think of something that will bring light and warmth into all our homes, which is what the Buche de Noel is supposed to represent.

I tackled the meringue mushrooms first, they were so much fun! It was really easy to produce something so fun and whimsical, just a case of piping tops and bottoms out, baking them, then attaching with a bit of saved meringue and baking to seal.

I then tried the buttercream, so it was ready for when I'd made my cake. It was hard, and I could imagine how it could have caused problems, trying to whip butter into egg whites is always a bit risky. Mine came out great. I added some chocolate for flavour and a darker colour. It tasted absolutely wonderful.

The genoise went well, although I worried I lost some of the volume as it was really hard to fold in the flour at the end.

The rolling of the genoise was hard, but I managed it, another stressful first crossed off the list!!
I made a few little marzipan mushrooms with regular and red dyed store bought marzipan for a bit of extra fun and then assembled the whole thing. I created the wood effect with a fork. A pastry comb was too uniform.

I served it to a crowd of hungry cyclists and it was literally gone within seconds. Everyone really loved the meringue mushrooms, they just thought they were sooo cute!! This is a very impressive creation, especially amongst people who don't do much baking!

I'd say if you follow the recipe really carefully you shouldn't have too many problems and its a wonderful centerpiece to any holiday gathering.

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


Gigi said...

Beautiful! The "toadstool" mushrooms are too cute.

marias23 said...

Great to hear that you were challenged and had fun at the same time. The log looks delicious and I simply adore your shrooms! Now why didn't I think of making Super Mario shrooms too? Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

LizG said...

Looking great, Jenny! Well done on the challenge. :)

Julius said...

Your bûche de Noël is gorgeous and the toadstools really are adorable. :)

Happy Holidays.

Julius from Occasional Baker

Carla said...

I love your toadstool mushrooms!

Lunch Buckets said...

love love love the red ones!

Claire said... favorite was the mushrooms as well. They were the favorite from the party I went to. Great job!!! I love the dark color of your buttercream.

Anonymous said...

What a lovely cake! Those a cute shroomies =D

Beth G. said...

I love the decoration- it looks fabulous :)

Lis said...

Jenny! Wonderful! I love the color and it sounds delicious!


Tartelette said...

I love the mushrooms! They are so whimsical looking! Beautiful job on the log!

Dolores said...

Great job! Pushing yourself a bit beyond your comfort zone while having a lot of fun is what the whole DB thing is about... And what a festive treat for hungry bicyclists!

I hope that whatever holidays you celebrate this time of year delivered peace and joy, and that 2008 brings nothing but the best for you and your family.

Gretchen Noelle said...

Great job! I love the red mushrooms, they would go great with the ladybugs I made for my log! Hope you have a wonderful new year!

Anonymous said...

Adorable mushrooms!


Deborah said...

Your log looks wonderful! I love all of the mushrooms!

Jen Yu said...

OMG, the toadstools are fantastic! The whole thing looks gorgeous, but the extra touch with the red tops are so creative and pretty. I love them. Excellent job!

jen at use real butter

Judy said...

I like how you used both kinds of mushrooms. Did they all get eaten?