Happy Holidays with Bûche de Noël

Happy New Year!!! С Новым Годом!!!

Even though NyQuil was my drink of choice (paired with some other less fortunate selections), the holiday celebrations still brought so much of that child-like excitement! Well, it helped having two little ones running around, going crazy about Santa, reindeer and Christmas lights!

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In December we baked so much, we probably went through a ton of butter… what wouldn’t one do to spread the holiday cheer? I decided to end the madness with this beautiful Bûche de Noël.  It’s so rich and creamy that after indulging in just one slice you would feel like you are ready to kick start those New Year resolutions and quit desserts for ever and ever (or at least a few weeks), as it’s hard to beat this amazingness.

/The recipe is adopted from Lisabeth Prueitt’s Tartine/

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BÛCHE DE NOËL

INGREDIENTS:

Sponge cake:

  • 5 large eggs, separated
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 2/3 cup cake flour, sifted twice
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ cup confectioners’ sugar

Buttercream:

  • 1 ¼ cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup + 2 tbs granulated sugar
  • ½ cup egg whites
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ cup coffee, brewed at double strength

Meringue mushrooms:

  • ¼ cup + 1 tbs confectioners’ sugar
  • ¾ tsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 pinch of cream of tartar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar

Coffee syrup:

  • ½ cup coffee, brewed at double strength
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar

Almond “Bark”

  • 1 cup sliced almonds
  • 6 oz (170 g) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • ¾ cup heavy cream

Pistachio “Moss”

  • ¼ cup Pistachio nuts

DIRECTIONS:

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Preheat the oven to 375⁰F/190⁰C. Spray baking pan with borders with cooking spray and line with parchment paper.  Spray the paper with cooking spray.

Make the batter. Mix egg yolks and ½ cup of granulated sugar in a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment on high speed until the foam is 3 times its original volume and falls in thick ribbons when the whisk is lifted.  Transfer to a large mixing bowl, set aside.

Place egg whites in a clean bowl and beat them with a clean whisk attachment on medium speed until frothy.  Gradually add the remaining ¼ cup of granulated sugar and continue to whip until medium peaks form when the whisk is lifted.

Fold the egg whites into the yolk mixture with a rubber spatula in 2 or 3 additions. Scatter all flour, vanilla, and salt over the batter and fold it just long enough to blend the flour evenly.

Bake. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread gently with a spatula. Bake for 12-15 minutes until the top is golden brown and the edges star to pull away from the sides of the pan.

Make the roll. While the cake is baking, sift confectioners’ sugar over a clean flat-weave towel. When the cake is finished baking, insert it onto the sugar coated cloth.  Immediately remove the pan and parchment paper and, starting at a long edge, roll the cake into a log with the towel inside it.  Let cool completely.

Make the buttercream.

Cut the butter into 1 tbs chunks and set aside.

Combine the granulated sugar, egg whites, and salt in a small pan and cook on the lowest heat setting whisking constantly until the egg whites are hot to the touch (for about 4 minutes). Pour the mixture into a bowl of a stand mixer and whisk on high speed until it becomes very stiff – for about 5 minutes.

Add butter 1 chunk at a time, beating on medium speed waiting for each piece to fully incorporate before adding another one. Add coffee and beat until all incorporated. Set aside.

Make ahead: you can make butter cream a few days before using.  Store in an air-tight container in the fridge.  Bring to room temperature and beat with mixer till smooth before using.

Make meringue mushrooms. 

Preheat oven to 175°F (80°C).  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Sift together confectioners’ sugar and flour, set aside. In a small bowl combine egg white and cream of tartar and beat with whisk attachment until the egg white holds soft peaks.  Slowly add granulated sugar and beat until very stiff.  Add flour mixture and mix with a rubber spatula, working very quickly.  Place the mixture into a plastic bag, cut a little corner out and pipe out mushroom hats and legs to the prepared baking sheet.  Bake for at least 4 hours.

Make coffee syrup.

Combine coffee and sugar until sugar is dissolve.  Let cool before using.

Make “bark”.

Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Toast almonds in the oven for about 5 minutes, stirring a couple times with a wooden spoon. Place chocolate in a small heatproof bowl.  Heat up the cream to just before boiling and pour over the chocolate.  Wait a couple minutes before mixing everything until all chocolate is dissolved.  Mix in the almonds.  Refrigerate until the mixture thickens (for at least 15 minutes).

Make “moss”. 

Process pistachios in a coffee grinder until powdered.

Assemble the log.

Place the cake on a plastic wrap.  Apply the syrup with a brush.  Spread the butter cream over and gently roll into a log.  Refrigerate for about 2 hours. Using a sharp knife, cut diagonally edges of the log.  Transfer it to the serving plate.  Add the edges to the sides of the log.  Apply the bark, and place mushrooms on top attaching the hats to the legs with a little bit of the “bark” cream.  Sift a little bit of “snow” confectioners’ sugar and chocolate powder on top.  Sprinkle moss over the log and around it.

Enjoy!

Chocolate Friands

Who said you need to stress out about Christmas presents or spend a fortune to delight your friends and relatives?  I find that gifts from your own kitchen are great examples of a genuine desire to share good things with others. Oh, and don’t forget that they could be very cost-effective!

So, today the kids and I were working hard on trying to brighten our street up with Holiday cheer. 

First, we tried a new recipe from my beloved Tartine –friands.  It contained my favorite formula – chocolate topped with more chocolate!  How can you go wrong with that!? 

We ended up baking forty-eight extra rich and moist mini-cakes and glazing them with the sweet delight. 

Next… WARNING: bad parenting alert! Do not try at home! Our own cookie-connoisseur tested a few friands and pronounced them a great success… by getting sugar-high, running around the house, singing, dancing, and asking for more!

Finally, we draw simple holiday-themed tags, boxed our presents, and gave them away to the hungry neighbors as they were returning home from their busy days.  

Oh, and we went one step further – we got simple unbleached recyclable boxes, mini baking-cups, and tags, and they didn’t look all that bad!

Packaging cost (per present):

  • Mini cupcake liners         $0.24
  • Minicupcake box insert $0.19
  • Cupcake box                      $0.30
  • Tag:                                        $0.09
  • Twine: hmm??                  $0.05
  • TOTAL:                               $0.87

Produce cost:

Sorry, I’m a busy mom, no way I’d be calculating the per gram cost of flour..  Though, I don’t think I spent more than $10.00 on all the ingredients that produced enough cupcakes to fill 8 gift boxes! 

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CHOCOLATE FRIANDS

INGREDIENTS:

  • 6 oz (170 g) bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1.5 cup + 1 tbs sugar
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbs cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 4 lg eggs

GANACHE:

The Tartine book suggests cooking bittersweet chocolate with heavy cream, but I simply went with Fudge is my Life’s Dark Chocolate Sauce.

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350F.  Line 24 mini-muffin-cup paper liners on a baking sheet.

Place the chocolate in a large mixing bowl.  In a small saucepan, melt the butter over med. heat until very hot.  Pour the butter over the chocolate and whisk until smooth.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cornstarch, and salt and mix well.  Add the flour mixture to the chocolate mixture in 3 batches, whisking well after each addition.  Add the eggs 2 at a time and whisk until combined.

Pour the batter into the mini-cups about 3/4 full.

Bake until the cakes just start to crack on top for about 12 minutes.

Let cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before unmolding.

To make the ganache, warm up the chocolate sauce till liquid. Dip the friands into the sauce and let rest on the rack for about 1 hour.

Deeeeeeelish!

Happy Holidays!

And, as my friend said “Yes, I have every right to say Holidays instead of Christmas.  But I don’t have a problem with Merry Christmas either ;-)”

One of the Christmas family traditions has been fulfilled – today we found the one and only, our gorgeous tree, chopped it down, brought it home, and dressed it up. 

Now, besides my full-time responsibilities as a cook, and a cleaning lady, and a mom, I have a temporary assignment of being a guard and protector of the tree, which pretty much takes most of the time, since the kids want to touch every decoration and pull every branch! 

We’ll see how many ornaments will survive this holiday season!

Christmas traditions

The kids are growing up and slowly starting to understand the concept of gifts (though, so far if you speak their internal language, the gifts should be called “receifts”).  Christmas season is a great time for them to learn what GIVING is all about.

My husband and I started some Christmas traditions back when we were dating.  To begin with, we choose a tree together, as a family.  Dave made a big deal about it on our first Christmas, now he is stuck with a dilemma – how to transport himself, his wife, two kids (with car seats) and a tree in one little Prius.

Secondly, we pick up a tree in the middle of December (not right after Thanksgiving), so it still alive on Russian Orthodox Christmas (January 7th).

We also like to drive to the Santa Farm in Half Moon Bay, and chop our own tree. 

We satisfy our son’s obsession with trains by getting him rides and taking him on Christmas train displays if we find any in the area.  This year his little sister is probably going to be joining him.

As far as presents go, each kid gets one from us, plus there are typically some boxes with clothes and toys from our Iowan family.

Lil' Jem chopping down a tree last year

Because I have been a stay-at-home-mom since our son was born, our traditions of consumerism went down dramatically and from the entire stock Bed Bath & Beyond decreased to just a few things we REALLY REALLY want. 

This year we decided to start a tradition of giving.  We bought some warm clothes for a boy and a girl our children’s ages, and going to make a trip to a fire station to donate them.  Both kids ADMIRE firefighters, so it’s going to be a very pleasant trip for them, thus our giving could be fun.

So far, we think this is enough for two kids under 3.  However, we are very interested in finding out what other people do.  What are your family traditions?

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