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!

BucheDeNoel_WM-7

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:

BucheDeNoel_WM-3

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!

Salted Apple Pie

Why did this Russian mom, whose only thoughts about baseball are that the outfits could be a bit sexier and that Tim Lincecum is kind of cute…, why did this mom goto watch the World Series? Well, because her lovely neighbor Amie was bringing an apple pie.  Amie’s pie is to die for, and it has an ability to make any game a hundred times more exciting! Since I first tried one of her masterpieces, I was hooked!

My friend Kusum just brought beautiful red gold sea salt from Hawaii , and the idea of this slightly salted dessert was born.  Well, it wasn’t all that original – just google “salted apple pie” but I’m still very proud of the outcome!

So, our family drove to an apple orchard, picked some apples, and made this.

/Adopted from Martha Stewart Living and Cooking Channel

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SALTED APPLE PIE

INGREDIENTS:

CRUST

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, chilled and cut into pea-size pieces
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup ice water

FILLING

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup fresh heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt flakes
  • juice from 4 lemons
  • 6 medium to large sour apples
  • 1/3 cup raw sugar (castor, unrefined, large granule sugar)
  • 2 tbs flour
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg

TOPPING

  • 1 egg, beaten
  • raw sugar to sprinkle
  • sea salt flakes to sprinkle

DIRECTIONS:

Make the crust. Place 3/4 of the butter in the freezer for about 30 min, and keep the rest in the fridge. In a food processor combine flour, salt, and sugar. Add refrigerated butter, pulse about 10 times.  Add frozen butter, pulse again till the mixture resembles coarse meal, with some blueberry-size crumbs.

Add ice water, and immediately pulse until water is incorporated, about 10 more times. lay out 2 pieces of plastic wrap, separate the dough in halves, and place each half on the plastic wraps.  Bring the edges of wraps together to gather dough.  Press into disks. Roll each disk (still in plastic) into 1/2-inch thick rounds. Refrigerate for at least 45 min.

Make the filling. In a medium sauce pan mix sugar and water and heat until the sugar is dissolved.  Add butter and bring to a slow boil.  Continue cooking until the mixture turns golden brown.  Remove it from heat immediately and add cream, whisk the final mixture on low heat , sprinkle the sea salt, and let cool while preparing the apples.

Core, peel and cut apples using a mandoline.  Sprinkle with juice, sugar, and spices, and toss well. Preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C.

Assemble the pie. Roll each piece of the dough into a disk that can fit a 9-inch pie-pan.  Line the pan with the first disk.  Lay 1/3 of the apple mixture on the bottom and pour a layer of 1/3 of prepared caramel.  Repeat the layering two more times.

Cover the pie with the second disk, cutting it through for the air to escape any way you like, or cut the second disk into strips and make a lattice top like mine, pinch the edges together.

Brush with the beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar and salt flakes.

Bake. Place the pie on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes at 375°F/190°C.  Reduce the heat to 350°F/175°C and bake for another 45 minutes.

Serve warm or cold with ice cream.

 

Russian Friday – Torte “Birds’ Milk”

Long-long ago in the Soviet Union this cake became the first one to be copyrighted.  The recipe was kept in secret; and the Moscow bakery that invented it had a guaranteed long line in front every day. The cake kept well for just a day, so it was made in relatively small quantities. Yet, very quickly it became exceptionally popular, and due to its shortages it was named “Ptich’e moloko”, which means birds’ milk.  Right… well, it sounds much better in Russian…

Here is my version of this light and super-easy to make delightfulness…

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TORTE “BIRDS’ MILK”

INGREDIENTS:

DOUGH

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

SOUFFLE

  • 7 egg whites
  • 20 g gelatin
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 170 g butter
  • 150 g sweetened condensed milk
  • ½ tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla

GLAZE

  • 150 g bitter chocolate
  • 30 g sugar
  • 100 g cream
  • 30 g butter

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 375⁰F/190⁰C. Spray baking pan with removable bottom 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.

Prepare the gelatin. Pour ½ cup of water over the gelatin and let stay while the cake is baking.

Bake. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread gently with a spatula. Bake for 30-35 minutes until the top is golden brown and the edges star to pull away from the sides of the pan. Remove from the pan and place on a wire rack to cool.

Prepare the soufflé. Beat the butter on high speed until it starts whitening, slowly add the condensed milk.

Place soaked gelatin into a small sauce pan and add 125 g of sugar. Cook on low heat until it reaches 140⁰F/60⁰C.
Beat the egg whites on high speed with a whisk attachment; add lemon juice and 125 g of sugar and vanilla. Whisk till hard peaks form.
Lower the mixer speed to medium and gradually add gelatin mixture to the egg whites. Slowly add butter cream.
Assemble the torte. Separate the cake into two disks using a long knife. Place one half into the pan that you used for baking. Cover with half of the soufflé, cover with the second half, and the rest of the soufflé. Flatten the top with a knife. Place the torte in the fridge for 1.5-2 hrs.
In about 1.5 hours make chocolate glaze. Pour cream into a sauce pan, and 30 grams of sugar and heat up till the sugar completely dissolves. Place chocolate in a bowl, and pour hot cream over it. Whisk, till chocolate completely dissolves. Whisk in butter and make sure it is completely dissolved as well.
With a sharp knife separate the cake from the edges of the pan. Take it out and place on a serving dish. Pour chocolate glaze over the cake, letting it drip over the edges. Completely cover the cake with chocolate and let rest in the fridge for another hour. The torte is ready!

 

Tomato Bisque

There are people who take the whole “back to school” craze rather seriously. I know a family that makes 60-70 frozen meals before each year starts. All ladies from their clan gather to spend a day or two chopping, cooking, packaging, and labeling… Pretty impressive, hah!? I tried to accomplish something like that before our second child arrived, though baby Pea ended up being an angel (who said women are high-maintenance?) and unlike her brother devoted her infant days to snoozing.  So, my extreme food storage proved to be unnecessary.

However, with time I did appreciate all the stuff in the freezer. So, a new tradition was started.  Now we make extra and stow our favorites for the days, when there is no time to make a fresh dinner.

Here is one of those recipes.  All you need on the serving day is some bread or croutons!

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TOMATO BISQUE

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 8 cups chopped leaks, white and pale green parts only (about 3-4 leaks)
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 30 oz whole peeled tomatoes
  • 14.5 oz vegetable broth
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tbs fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tbs chopped fresh basil leaves or 2 t dried basil leaves
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground pepper
  • 3/4 cup whipping cream (or half-and-half, or milk)

Yields about 9 cups of soup

DIRECTIONS:

Prepare the soup. In heavy pan, heat oil, leeks, celery, and garlic over medium-high heat; cook 8-10 min or until leaks are soft.  Add tomatoes, broth, wine, and lemon juice.  Bring mixture to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low, cover; and simmer for 30 min.  Remove from heat; add basil, salt, and pepper.  Puree soup mixture in food processor or blender until smooth.

Make ahead. Freeze in gallon or quart zip lock bags, pressing out the air and laying flat.

Serve: if frozen, thaw; heat through over low heat, stirring occasionally; add cream and simmer about 10 min or until thickened.  Do not boil.  Garnish with basil.  Serve warm.

Russian Friday – Sweet Chocolate Braid

Ah, vacation… We had the best time ever hanging out with the family, riding bikes, enjoying the mountains.  However, I found myself missing the kitchen.  In fact I started having a serious baking withdrawal… Naturally, since we got back, I made 5 sourdough loafs of bread, 2 chocolate cakes, chocolate chip cookies, pitas, and naan… all in less than a week.

The old chocolate cake has been such a huge success, I decided to try a Russian version found in the winter’s Fine Cooking issue.  The potato adds a bit of moisture and keeps the dough fresh for up to 4 days!    Enjoy!

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SWEET RUSSIAN CHOCOLATE BRAID

INGREDIENTS:

Dough

  • 1 ½ cups plus 3 tbs unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp instant yeast
  • 3 tbs water
  • 1 very small potato, peeled, boiled until tender, and forced through a sieve (to yield ¼ cup)
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 tsp vanilla powder
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 3 tbs sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 3 tbs cold unsalted butter

Filling

  • 1 cup Pastry Cream (recipe below)
  • ½ cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1 large egg, beaten

DIRECTIONS:

Make the dough. In a small bowl, mix 3 tbs of flour and yeast and water.  Let sit for about 10 minutes till foamy.  In a stand mixer combine the remaining ingredients, add the yeast mixture and mix until the dough is smooth for about 8 minutes.  It will be very sticky.  Dump the dough on a floured surface and knead with your hands for a couple minutes adding a little bit of flour to make it firmer. Transfer the dough in a large container, seal with plastic wrap, and rise for about 3 hours.

Make ahead.  Instead of letting the dough rise, you can place it in a plastic bag and refrigerate for up to 4 days.  Pull it out of the fridge and let it stand for 3-4 hours in room temperature before proceeding to the next step.

Make pastry cream (see recipe below) right after the you mix the dough to give it enough time for cooling down.

Shape the braid. Line a heavy baking sheet with parchment.  Roll the dough on a floured surface into a rectangle about 13×16 inches and about 1/8 inch thick.  Apply the chilled pastry cream over the dough and sprinkle with chocolate chips.  Roll it into a 16-inch cylinder.  Transfer to the baking sheet.  Cut the cylinder in half lengthwise and arrange both halves parallel to one another with a cut side facing up.  Wrap them around each other starting in the middle, pinching the edges of the braid together. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for another 35-45 minutes.

Bake. Preheat the oven to 350⁰F/175⁰C.  Position the rack in the center of the oven. Brush the beaten egg over the braid. Bake until golden brown for about 40 minutes.  Let cool on a rack for 1 hour before slicing.

As you see on the picture below, we couldn’t wait, so the chocolate is still melting under the knife!Yummm!

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PASTRY CREAM

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • ½ tsp vanilla powder
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 3 tbs all-purpose flour
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 2 large egg yolks

DIRECTIONS:

Whisk vanilla, sugar, flour, salt, and egg yolks. Warm up milk just until a skin forms.  Add milk to the mixture in a thin stream, whisking constantly.  Transfer back to heat and cook until the mixture is thick and glue (for about 5 minutes) constantly steering it with a wooden spoon.  Place a plastic wrap on top of the cream and refrigerate until ready to use.

 

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Rye Bread

I love bread, I cannot lie. Our neighbors seem to enjoy it too. For months now I have been successfully trading bread for smiles, car washes, window cleaning, wine, and mmmmm my favorite nopales salad. Here is the loaf that has been really popular lately.

It’s a modification of my favorite Tartine recipe.  The natural leaven makes it taste amazing even several days after it was baked.  Try this bread fresh while still warm – and you are in danger of eating the whole loaf in one sitting.

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RYE BREAD

INGREDIENTS:

  • 200 g leaven
  • 800 g water (75⁰ F/ 25⁰ C)
  • 270 g whole-rye flour
  • 830 g unbleached bread flour
  • 20 g salt

Yields 2 loafs

DIRECTIONS:

Day 1: make leaven – combine 200 g water, 1 tbs of sourdough starter and 200 g unbleached all-purpose flour.  Mix well, loosely cover the top of the container with a plastic wrap, and let ferment overnight.  Discard the rest of the starter.

Day 2: Test the leaven: it’s ready if a tsp of it dropped in the water floats.

Once the leaven passes the floating test, combine all ingredients but salt and mix in a stand mixer with a dough hook.

Cover the mixing bowl with plastic and let rest for 25-30 minutes.

Save leftover leaven – it’s now your starter.

After the first rest, add the salt, and mix it well into the dough.  Let rest for about 3 hours, turning the dough upside down with wet hands twice during the first two hours.

After about 3 hours, when the dough has increased in size, dump it onto a floured surface and separate into two equal parts.

Working with one half at a time: with a bread scraper fold the dough edges in to form a ball.  Let rest, seams down, on a floured surface for about 25-30 minutes, covered by plastic or a floured towel.

Next, working with one half at a time, place it face down on a floured surface.  Carefully fold the edges with your hands slightly pressing them into the remaining dough: starting by carefully stretching the bottom edge and folding it to meet the opposite end; repeating with left, right, and finishing with the top edge. Form a loaf.  Place a loaf in a proofing basket, lightly sprinkled with rice flour, lined with a floured tile, face down, seam up.

Put the baskets in plastic bags and refrigerate for 8-24 hours.

To bake: place an iron pot with the lid in the oven and preheat the oven to 500⁰ F/ 260⁰ C.  Dump the loaf into the preheated pot, seam side down. Cover with the lid, and bake the bread in it for 20 minutes at 475 ⁰ F/ 245 ⁰ C.

After 20 minutes remove the lid and let bake for 25 more minutes.

Let chill on a wire rack or eat while it’s hot.

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