Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Daring Bakers December Challenge

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

What is a French Yule Log you say? Good question!

It's a frozen dessert made of mousse and other stuff suspended in the mousse. This version is chocolate mouse, with a layer of crispy nutty stuff, a dense rich chocolate ganache layer, a dacquoise layer and a layer of creme brulee. (Although Robb pointed out, there's no brulee, it's just custard.)

Please email for the recipes- I have them in a (19 page!!!) word document ready to send.

I impressed myself with this one. I put it together without any fuss, aside from a little trouble with the broken custard layer, as you can see. Having the cool pan (see photo below) with moving sides also helped.

Speaking of the custard, if it sounds weird and a little gross to have a custard layer suspended in mousse, you are not alone. The flavors are quite compatible, a lovely eggy vanilla custard and a nice chocolate mousse. But I don't get why you'd want the texture contrast. Then, you freeze it?? Ugh, crystals of frozen custard in mousse- no thanks.

On the other hand, the dense ganache layer (dark stripe at the bottom) is terrific. The slightly chewy when frozen, nutty and sweet dacquoise next door to the ganache is pretty fine, too. The middle layer of lighter chocolate is a milk chocolate and hazelnut crispy layer. I took advantage of a short cut offered and instead of making the crispy lace crepes to mix in to the milk chocolate and praline paste, I used Special K. Yes, the cereal. I will be serving this tonight and I'm sure no one will say OMG, there's cereal in this! It totally works.

Thanks Daring Bakers for a terrific challenge. I enjoyed this one.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Time is Here

Michael and I had our annual holiday party.  This year I served a pumpkin cake that got rave reviews.  It's a recipe that was given to me by my Aunt Bobbie -- my mom's sister.

Originally she served it as a three layer cake.  I served it as a bundt cake -- it cooks a bit longer, but it looks really pretty and for a buffet it works quite nicely. I usually leave the icing off and serve it sprinkled with powdered sugar.

Here is the recipe:

Aunt Bobbie’s Pumpkin Cake

2 C sifted flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
2 C sugar
1 C cooking oil
2 tsp soda (dissolve in water)
4 large eggs
2 C pumpkin

1 stick butter (salted), room temperature
1 pkg 8oz philly cream cheese, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla
1 box (1 lb) confectioner’s sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease (with Crisco) and flour pans or use Pam with Flour.

In a bowl, put flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and sugar. Mix well.

In another bowl, put cooking oil, soda (dissolved in water) and eggs. Beat well.

Add dry ingredients to the wet and beat in pumpkin. Mix until combined. Pour into greased and floured pans and bake at 350 degrees.

For three layer cake 30 minutes (check it at 25 min.)
For bundt cake 40 – 50 minutes (check at 35 min.)

For icing: Mix butter, cream cheese and vanilla until fully combined, then add sifted confectioner’s sugar in thirds.

Frost completely cooled cake.

After a long time....

Here is a sampling of what we've been up to since we last wrote:

We are still making our way through the Cake Bible -- we have made a lovely genoise and have it freezing to be completed (with pictures) sometime in 2009.  Somehow the holiday season took over and while we've been eating -- obviously, we're still here -- we've not been good at taking photos of said comestibles.

One thing I did try, and photograph, was a puff pastry filled with smoked, shaved ham and gruyere cheese.  This was quick to put together and a great mix of flaky crust, melty, gooey cheese and a smoky bit of ham. It was really impressive out of the oven.  We had it cut into 4 pieces.  Served with a salad it would be a nice light lunch or dinner.

I got it from Barefoot Contessa, here is the recipe from the website:

Ham and Cheese in Puff Pastry
by Ina Garten
Prep Time: 25 min Cook Time: 25 min
Level: Easy
Serves: 6 servings

1 package (2 sheets) frozen puff pastry, defrosted (recommended: Pepperidge Farm)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/4 pound black forest ham, sliced
1/2 pound Swiss Gruyere cheese, sliced
1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Place a piece of parchment paper on a sheet pan.

Lay 1 sheet of puff pastry on a floured board and carefully roll it out to 10 by 12 inches. Place it on a sheet pan and brush the center with the mustard, leaving a 1-inch border around the edge. Place a layer first of ham and then cheese, also leaving a 1-inch border. Brush the border with the egg wash.

Place the second sheet of puff pastry on the floured board and roll it out to 10 by 12inches. Place the second sheet on top of the filled pastry, lining up the edges. Cut the edges straight with a small, sharp knife and press together lightly. Brush the top with egg wash and cut a few slits in the top to allow steam to escape.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until puffed and golden brown. Allow to cool for a few minutes and serve hot or warm.