So it was with the Daring Bakers. In the food blogging world, this is the cool kids club. I wistfully eyed their lovely creations every month, but didn't think that I lived up to the name of Daring Baker, so I didn't join.
Then, the sweet and talented Tanna of My Kitchen In Half Cups approached me with the idea of joining. It sounded wonderful, adventurous, and exciting and I wanted to be talked into it. Tanna did, and I'm so glad she did!
This month's challenge is a Yule Log. I was jumping up and down with excitement when I found that out. I've always wanted to make one, but that grand plan always fell to the bottom of the priority list come Christmas time. Now it was a homework assignment! An excuse to get all creative in the kitchen when I could (or should) be cleaning, vacuuming, wrapping presents, or addressing Christmas cards. Yippee!
This month's hostesses for the challenge were Ivonne at Cream Puffs in Venice and Lis at La Mia Cucina. They provided us with the recipe to follow and certain guidelines.
The only way I deviated from the guidelines was that I used melted chocolate in the butter cream frosting instead of coffee. I'm not much of a coffee gal, but I am a big fan of chocolate!
There were some new techniques to try, but it wasn't difficult to make. I loved the arty part of making the mushrooms and decorating the log. I served it up at a gathering of friends and it went down with zero complaints and many compliments.
(from Perfect Cakes by Nick Malgieri and The Williams-Sonoma Collection: Dessert)
Recipe Quantity: Serves 12
Cake should be stored in a cool, dry place. Leftovers should be refrigerated
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 (1) 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.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 turn the cake over onto a kitchen towel. Peel off the parchment paper, fold the towel over the long edge of the cake, and begin rolling the cake at that edge. Let the cake cook, rolled, to room temperature, then transfer to the refrigerator to cool thoroughly.
10. To frost, remove the cake from the refrigerator. Carefully unroll the cake, peeling back the towel. Frost the top of the cake with half the frosting, then carefully re-roll. If it cracks a bit at this point, do not despair. Frosting covers over a multitude of cracks.
11. Trim the ends on the diagonal, starting the cuts about 2 inches away from each end.
12. Place the log on a serving platter. Position the pieces on the log, cut sides adjacent to the log, so that it looks most like a log to you.
13. Cover the log with the reserved buttercream, making sure to curve around the protruding stump.
14. Streak the buttercream with a fork or decorating comb to resemble bark, then decorate with mushrooms, berries, greenery, or whatever you wish.
4 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
24 tablespoons (3 sticks or 1-1/2 cups) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup melted semi-sweet chocolate, cooled
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. Add the cooled, melted chocolate and beat till fully incorporated.
8 ounces almond paste
2 cups icing sugar
3 to 5 tablespoons light corn syrup
1.To make the marzipan combine the almond paste and 1 cup of the icing sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat with the paddle attachment on low speed until sugar is almost absorbed.
2.Add the remaining 1 cup of sugar and mix until the mixture resembles fine crumbs.
3.Add half the corn syrup, then continue mixing until a bit of the marzipan holds together when squeezed, adding additional corn syrup a little at a time, as necessary: the marzipan in the bowl will still appear crumbly.
4.Transfer the marzipan to a work surface and knead until smooth.
5.Roll one-third of the marzipan into a 6 inches long cylinder and cut into 1-inch lengths.
6.Roll half the lengths into balls. Press the remaining cylindrical lengths (stems) into the balls (caps) to make mushrooms.
7.Smudge with cocoa powder.
( The secret to having really dark, earthy mushrooms like I do is to use very old almond paste. I was pleased to have a reason to finally use that can of paste I'd had on my shelf since the Bush Sr. administration. Good thing I don't like marzipan and didn't plan on eating the mushrooms!)
Thanks, Lis and Ivonne for the fun challenge, and thanks, Tanna, for talking me into joining! Be sure to check out the Daring Bakers' Blogroll to see all the other creative concoctions by the rest of the Daring Bakers.