Sunday, December 28, 2008

Daring bakers-Buche de Noel!

This month's challenge is brought to us by the adventurous Hilda from Saffron and Blueberry and Marion from Il en Faut Peu Pour Etre Heureux. They have chosen a French Yule Log by Flore from Florilege Gourmand

The buche de noel is new to me, it contains lots of little surprises nestled inside a delicious chocolate mousse, then encased in a chocolate ganache icing.

I got to work on each component, making a creme brulee, rice krispy layer, almond daquoise, and then a chocolate mousse. I was happy to try using agar for the first time, and I'm pleased to say it seemed to work very well. I'll be using that again, and I'm very happy to have a gelatin alternative.

The log set up very nicely, I think it worked well freezing it then keeping it in the fridge for about 6 hours before serving. I think I would even put it in the fridge the night before serving, so that the creme brulee layer isnt frozen.

I made all the components pretty much as the recipe dictated and it was incredibly rich. I think it might have been nice to lighten up some of it, maybe a white or milk chocolate ganache icing or insert as the dark chocolate was very overwhelming.

I served it at work and everyone was very impressed and it was fun to see all the components all neatly organised! I'm very happy I tried this dessert, it was just the sort of tricky challenge I needed after all my fondant and cakes recently.

This is the buche before the icing:

Element #1 Dacquoise Biscuit (Almond Cake)

Preparation time: 10 mn + 15 mn for baking

Equipment: 2 mixing bowls, hand or stand mixer with whisk attachment, spatula, baking pan such as a 10”x15” jelly-roll pan, parchment paper . Try to bake the Dacquoise the same day you assemble the log to keep it as moist as possible.

Ingredients: 2.8 oz (3/4cup + 1Tbsp / 80g) almond meal 1.75 oz (1/2 cup / 50g) confectioner’s sugar 2Tbsp (15g) all-purpose flour 3.5oz (100g / ~100ml) about 3 medium egg whites 1.75 oz (4 Tbsp / 50g) granulated sugar
  1. Finely mix the almond meal and the confectioner's sugar.

  2. Sift the flour into the mix.
  3. Beat the eggs whites, gradually adding the granulated sugar until stiff.
  4. Pour the almond meal mixture into the egg whites and blend delicately with a spatula.

  5. Grease a piece of parchment paper and line your baking pan with it.

  6. Spread the batter on a piece of parchment paper to an area slightly larger than your desired shape (circle, long strip etc...) and to a height of 1/3 inches (8mm).
  7. Bake at 350°F (180°C) for approximately 15 minutes (depends on your oven), until golden.

  8. Let cool and cut to the desired shape.

Element #2 Dark Chocolate Mousse

Preparation time: 20mn

Equipment: stand or hand mixer with whisk attachment, thermometer, double boiler or equivalent, spatula

1 tbsp agar flakes
3/4 cup water
1.5 oz (3 Tbsp / 40g) granulated sugar
1 ½ tsp (10g) glucose or thick corn syrup
0.5 oz (15g) water 50g egg yolks (about 3 medium)
6.2 oz (175g) dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1.5 cups (350g) heavy cream (35% fat content)
  1. Boil the water with the agar until the flakes are all dissolved.
  2. Make a Pate a Bombe: Beat the egg yolks until very light in colour (approximately 5 minutes until almost white).

2a. Cook the sugar, glucose syrup and water on medium heat for approximately 3 minutes (if you have a candy thermometer, the mixture should reach 244°F (118°C). If you do not have a candy thermometer, test the sugar temperature by dipping the tip of a knife into the syrup then into a bowl of ice water, if it forms a soft ball in the water then you have reached the correct temperature.

2b. Add the sugar syrup to the beaten yolks carefully by pouring it into the mixture in a thin stream while continuing to beat the yolks. You can do this by hand but it’s easier to do this with an electric mixer.

2c. Continue beating until cool (approximately 5 minutes). The batter should become thick and foamy.

3. Melt the chocolate with the cream (microwave works best for me)
4. Whip the remaining cream
5. Pour the melted chocolate over the agar solution, mixing well. Stir in ½ cup (100g) of WHIPPED cream to temper. Add the Pate a Bombe. 6. Add in the rest of the whipped cream (220g) mixing gently with a spatula.

Keep in fridge until ready to use.

Element #3 Dark Chocolate Ganache Insert

Preparation time: 10mn

Equipment: pan, whisk. If you have plunging mixer (a vertical hand mixer used to make soups and other liquids), it comes in handy.

Note: Because the ganache hardens as it cools, you should make it right before you intend to use it to facilitate piping it onto the log during assembly. Please be careful when caramelizing the sugar and then adding the cream. It may splatter and boil.


1.75 oz (4 Tbsp / 50g) granulated sugar

4.5oz (2/3 cup – 1 Tbsp/ 135g) heavy cream (35% fat content)

5 oz (135g) dark chocolate, finely chopped

3Tbsp + 1/2tsp (45g) unsalted butter softened

  1. Make a caramel: Using the dry method, melt the sugar by spreading it in an even layer in a small saucepan with high sides. Heat over medium-high heat, watching it carefully as the sugar begins to melt. Never stir the mixture. As the sugar starts to melt, swirl the pan occasionally to allow the sugar to melt evenly. Cook to dark amber color (for most of you that means darker than last month’s challenge).
  2. While the sugar is melting, heat the cream until boiling. Pour cream into the caramel and stir thoroughly. Be very careful as it may splatter and boil.
  3. Pour the hot caramel-milk mixture over the dark chocolate. Wait 30 seconds and stir until smooth.
  4. Add the softened butter and whip hard and fast (if you have a plunging mixer use it). The chocolate should be smooth and shiny.

    Element #4 Praline Feuillete (Crisp) Insert

    Chocolate Crisp Insert

3.5 oz (100g) milk chocolate

1 2/3 Tbsp (25g) unsalted butter

1oz marzipan

1 oz caramel syrup

1 oz. (25g) lace crepes or rice krispies or corn flakes or Special K

  1. Mix the caramel with the marzipan and butter in a saucepan and heat until bubbling. Cool slightly, then add the chocolate and stir until melted.
  2. Add the rice crispies Mix quickly to thoroughly coat with the chocolate.
  3. Spread on parchment paper to a size slightly larger than your desired shape. Refrigerate until hard.

    Element #5 Vanilla Crème Brulée Insert

Preparation time: 15mn + 1h infusing + 1h baking

Equipment: Small saucepan, mixing bowl, baking mold, wax paper

Note: The vanilla crème brulée can be flavored differently by simply replacing the vanilla with something else e.g. cardamom, lavender, etc...


1/2 cup (115g) heavy cream (35% fat content)

½ cup (115g) whole milk

4 medium-sized (72g) egg yolks

0.75 oz (2 Tbsp / 25g) granulated sugar

1 tsp vanilla essence

  1. Combine milk, cream and vanillar.
  2. Whisk together the sugar and egg yolks (but do not beat until white).
  3. Pour the vanilla-infused milk over the sugar/yolk mixture. Mix well.
  4. Spray your mould with oil (I used a loaf pan). Pour the cream into the mold, place in a water bath and bake at 210°F (100°C) for about 1 hour or until firm on the edges and slightly wobbly in the center.
  5. Let cool and put in the freezer for at least 1 hour to firm up and facilitate the final assembly.

    Element #6 Dark Chocolate Icing

Preparation time: 10 mins

Equipment: Small bowl, small saucepan


1/2 cup heavy cream
6oz dark chocolate, chopped

  1. Heat the cream until just starting to boil.
  2. Add the chocolate and stir until melted.

1) Line mould (loaf pan) with cling film

2B) Pipe one third of the Mousse component into the mold.

3B) Take the Creme Brulee Insert out of the freezer at the last minute and set on top of the mousse. Press down gently to slightly ensconce it in the mousse.

4B) Pipe second third of the Mousse component around and on top of the Creme Brulee Insert.

5B) Cut the Praline/Crisp Insert to a size slightly smaller than your mold so that it can be surrounded by mousse. Lay it on top of the mousse you just piped into the mold.

6B) Pipe the last third of the Mousse component on top of the Praline Insert.

7B) Freeze for a few hours to set. Take out of the freezer.

8B) Pipe the Ganache Insert onto the frozen mousse leaving a slight edge so that ganache doesn’t seep out when you set the Dacquoise on top.

9B) Close with the Dacquoise.

Freeze overnight, then cover with icing, then freeze. I took it and placed in the fridge for about 6 hours before serving.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

Have a fantastic Christmas, and a very happy new year!! I'm in Australia with Mum, Brother, Sister in Law and little 4 month old neice, Poppy! Hopefully I'll have lots of fun stuff to talk about on my return!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Lots of penguins!!

Somethings got me all ga ga about penguins these days. I made a couple of christmas cakes and decorated them with adorable penguins.
Then I started to make some oreo truffles, to use the last of my oreos and chocolate wafers, and I realised if put one on top of another they would make great penguins!!

The oreo truffles are incredibly easy, just take a packet or the equivalent of oreos or chocolate wafers (about a pound) and throw in the food processor with a packet of room temp cream cheese and whiz until you get a smooth dough. Shape into balls. Thanks to the kitchn and kraft for that handy idea!!

I then put one on top of the other, used a delicious white chocolate button for the belly, and a bit of white and black fondant for the eyes, and marzipan for the noses and bobs your uncle, everyone thinks you're a bit too obsessed with penguins these days!!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Menu For Hope!!

Menu for hope is such a wonderful cause, you can get your christmas shopping done at the same time as paying for school lunches for some wonderful kids. Please see Chez Pim for much more about this wonderful cause. Also, please see Mattbites for many more west coast prizes.

Please enter prize code UW29 to win a gourmet gift basket prepared by yours truly. I'll whip up some of my favourite chutneys, marmalades, caramels, shortbreads, spicy peanuts, crackers and other goodiesHere is one I prepared this year for my bike team raffle, remember this is customizable to anyone's likes, dislikes, allergies and food preferences.

Oh, and if you're in the San Diego area I'd be happy to substitute by making you a party cake or cupcakes instead!

Donation Instructions:
1. Choose a prize or prizes of your choice from our Menu for Hope at
2. Go to the donation site at and make a donation.
3. Each $10 you donate will give you one raffle ticket toward a prize of your choice. Please specify which prize you'd like in the 'Personal Message' section in the donation form when confirming your donation. You must write-in how many tickets per prize, and please use the prize code.
For example, a donation of $50 can be 2 tickets for EU01 and 3 tickets for EU02. Please write 2xEU01, 3xEU02
4. If your company matches your charity donation, please check the box and fill in the information so we could claim the corporate match.
5. Please allow us to see your email address so that we could contact you in case you win. Your email address will not be shared with anyone.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Vegan Cookies for Christmas!

For my birthday my dear friends from home sent me this wonderful cookbook, Veganomican and jokingly said that I needed to Fedex them some of the things I'd made from it.

I thought with the holidays coming up it was an ideal opportunity to make them some delicious vegan cookies and send them over. I hope they dont read this before they get there!! I also gave a few to my friend whose son is allergic to eggs.

The cookies are lovely and simple, they call for raspberry jam, but I only had cherry jam on hand, which combined really nicely with the chocolate.

Chewy Chocolate Cherry Cookies adapted from Veganomican

Makes 2 dozen

1/2 cup cherry conserves
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup veg oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 350f, prepare baking sheets with silpat or parchment

Sift together the flour, salt, baking soda and cocoa.
Whisk together the other ingredients then combine with the dry.
Form the mixture into balls, then flatten slightly onto the baking sheets, they wont spread so they can be around 1/2 inch apart.
Bake for 10 mins then cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes, then further on a cooling rack.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Happy Birthday to me! Princess Torte

My mum says I'm a bit sad having to make my own birthday cake, but it was really nice to have exactly what I wanted and to practice a technique. As soon as I saw this cake on Tartelette, I knew I wanted to make it.

This was a very tricky cake for me, it had layers of delicate sponge, spread with jam and then sandwiched between fluffy custard that had been folded into whipped cream. This airy mixture was then topped with a big sheet of marzipan, which just seemed to start to flatten the whole thing out! It was extremely difficult to cut, but worth the effort, it was a delicious light cake, in flavor if not calories and, as usual gone in a flash. I decided to forgo the green color, I just couldnt face changing the lovely marzipan. I learned that marzipan is a lot harder to work with than fondant, the little bits of almond just dont quite behave themselves, so its a bit harder to make shapes with.

Please visit Tartelette for the recipe, I didnt change it at all!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Baby Shower Fun!

I had a request for a cake for a baby shower. The mother to be wanted just a good chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. This was nice and straightforward, I decided on the 'cake bible' fudge cake with a whipped chocolate ganache filling and chocolate buttercream. I'd experimented with fondant so I was ready to take on a big cake, which is always good for these themed parties. I got to work with some gumpaste and made some pacifiers and ducks. I learned that gumpaste is only good for disks and flowers, not big forms, it dries too quickly. After some experimentation I realized that its better making figures with fondant. Always learning!
I was captivated by the teddy bear cookies that Mele Cote had on her blog and thought this would complement the cake nicely. I didn't have chocolate chips, so I piped the eyes and the nose and mouth with chocolate icing. They were a big hit. I tasted them a few days later and they were a bit bland, I'd probably kick up the spices and also try to change the contrast a little more as I could hardly tell between the dark and the light dough. I also realised I could have used golden syrup instead of corn syrup which would definitely help with the flavor!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Virtual hug in the form of bread and butter pudding

When I heard about this enormous hug going round on the web, I knew I'd like to join in. I love the idea, and I hope all this love with help Barbara to rid herself of the cancer that has come back to her, as love is sometimes the best medicine.

For Thanksgiving, the request was that I make a traditional bread and butter pudding. This seems like the perfect comforting food for someone who is feeling a little under the weather. The way mine was it wasn't crispy and crunchy on the top, just soft and delicious. And so easy to make! I think I'd have preferred a crisper browner top. I added some sherry soaked cherries instead of the usual raisins that are added. This is also a very frugal dish for anyone who's feeling the pinch these days.

Delia was my guide for this, although she added a lot of citrus notes, which my friend despises, so it was just plain vanilla and nutmeg for us!

Thanks to bron and iva for a wonderful idea.

Bread and Butter Pudding adapted from Delia Smith

1/2 cup cherries or raisins
1/2 cup sherry
8 slices bread (crappy cheap stuff from a small loaf)
approx 2oz (50g) butter
10 fl oz (275 ml) milk
2 1/2 fl oz (60ml) double cream
2oz (50g) caster/superfine sugar
1 vanilla bean
3 eggs
freshly grated nutmeg

Soak the cherries overnight in the sherry.
Preheat the oven to 350f, gas mark 4, 180
Grease a 2 pt shallow dish, 8 x 12 inch would probably work.
Warm the milk and cream in a saucepan with the scraped vanilla bean and steep for a while, allowing to cool.
Butter the bread and cut each of the slices into quarters, leaving the crusts on. Arrange half of them in the dish, then sprinkle half of the cherries on, then another layer of bread and cherries.
Add the sugar to the milk and cream and whisk to dissolve, then whisk the eggs up. Combine the two, adding the nutmeg, then pour over the bread and cherries.
Sprinkle a little more nutmeg over the dish, and some sugar and a few dabs of butter, bake for about 30-40 mins.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Cakes galore!

I've recently officially started offering my services up to bake cakes for friends who need them, I've all but given up on getting into the pastry classes at Grossmont College, so I hope that if I can bake lots of cakes for people then I can learn as I go. The benefit for them is that I'm just charging for ingredients!

This is a little fondant mock up, a cupcake with buttercream wrapped in fondant with chocolate fondant flowers. I was very happy with it, as my first foray into fondant. I now feel I can try a full sized cake without too many worries.

I also tried my hand with gum paste, making these breast cancer ribbons, and putting them on fondant, hoping to delay the melting I'd seen with other cream cheese frosting.

I'm getting pretty happy with my flowers, the Wilton tip gives a lovely 'rose' shape on cupcakes, and you cant go wrong with a mixture of dulce de leche and cream cheese!

I also tried making a German Chocolate Cake. The topping seemed incredibly sweet, so I made some whipped chocolate ganache to complement it. Mmmmm!

I got to work on a spice cake for a friend at work, this went very well, the cake was delicious and very well behaved! It was quite dramatic looking as well, with 6 layers. Thanks sunset magazine for the recipe! I didn't get as far as the toffee crunch topping, but it went very quickly and I got lots of complements! Need to work on the writing though!

Now for the cakes that weren't quite as successful!!

This was another batch of the owls. They were a bit tricky, I got real Oreos instead of the Vons ones, and they were very brittle and kept breaking. When I went to hand them over a lot of the ears had cracked and I was very disappointed. Thankfully the birthday boy didnt seem to notice too much.

This was a delicious fudgy cake. I didnt cut the 'dome' off the bottom cake, I put the top layer on, and then put some very heavy caramel frosting on top and the layer cracked into 4, you may be able to see the dents. AAAGH!!! The caramel frosting also refused to stick to the sides, so I used whipped chocolate ganache instead. Very stressful! I learned my lesson about flattening the layers out though! I've since heard it went down really well and the flavors were really good, if the cake was a bit shoddy looking.

This was my attempt at the 'hello cupcake' penguins, they look more like penguin zombies, all pathetic. I'm glad I didn't make these for a specific purpose, I took them into work and everyone seemed to think they were very cute. My first failure from that cookbook, not anything like as easy as they imply! The penguin is constructed with a half mini donut, and a donut hole on top, then frozen and dipped in black colored chocolate frosting. The donuts
were difficult to cover, and the beaks refused to stay!

I thought I'd share the wonderful chocolate ganache recipe, this is just awesome and incredibly useful for cake decorating/fixing/piping and just eating out of the bowl.

Light Whipped Ganache Filling and Frosting.
Makes 4 cups (enough to fill and frost two 9 by 1 1/2 layers)

8oz Bittersweet chocolate
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

I've made this twice, the first time I followed the instructions and chopped the chocolate in the food processor and then added hot cream to it. Then when I took the food processor off the stalk, the creamy mixture started pouring out of the bottom! So I'd suggest adding the chopped chocolate to the warm cream in a saucepan, then pour into a bowl.

Refrigerate until cool, stirring once or twice (about 2 hours) then whip until soft peaks are formed. It may be best to do this by hand to make sure not to overbeat.

This lasts for one day at room temp, 1 week refrigerated or 3 months frozen, although I dont think you'll have trouble finding something to do with it!!