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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!

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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!

 

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I may have my moments in the kitchen, but when it comes to being on the road – I am one of the contributors to the female driver stereotype. You know, San Francisco has lots of cars and lots of people, and a stop-light camera ticket would cost you $500!  They would also send you a letter with a photo of your car, license plate number, picture of you behind the wheel, and a picture of a to-go Starbucks cup in your hand… These roads can make anyone paranoid! 

So, every time I go by a speed limit signal, I have a strong feeling I must slow down, and I do… even when I’m passing a 45 mile/hr sign while jogging… barely making 12 minute miles… Better safe than sorry, you know…

After all this stress and “hard” work a little dessert is always welcome. This Russian torte has all the right ingredients – sugar, chocolate, nuts, sugar…, whipped cream, and a magic name.  It will easily impress your guests, and it tastes best when made a day or two before serving.

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TORTE “PHOENIX”

INGREDIENTS:

Batter:

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

Syrup:

  • 130 g sugar
  • 120 ml water
  • 1 tbs cognac

Filling:

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1.5 cup whipping cream, chilled
  • 1.5 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 20 g gelatin

Topping:

  • ½ cup chocolate sauce /I used my favorite Fudge is my Life’s Dark Chocolate Sauce/
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 350⁰F/180⁰C. Spray baking pan with removable 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 bakefor 30-35 minutes until the top is golden brown and the edges start to pull away from the sides of the pan. When finished baking, remove from the pan immediately, peel off the parchment paper, and let cool on a wire rack for 6-8 hours (otherwise the torte will not absorb the syrup properly and will become soggy).  Cut the cake lengthwise to separate it into two disks.

Prepare the syrup.  Pour water and sugar in a small sauce pan, bring to boil and turn off the heat immediately.  Whisk so that the sugar completely dissolves. Let the syrup chill to about 37⁰C/98⁰F.  Add the cognac and mix well. Apply the syrup evenly on each half of the cake.

Prepare the filling.  Mix gelatin with the milk and let rest for about 1 hr.  Bring the mixture to boil and immediately take off the heat.  Gelatin should be completely dissolved.  Chill the mixing bowl and whisk before making the cream.  Pour cream into the bowl and mix on medium speed of a stand mixer until thickened.  Gradually add confectioner’s sugar and whisk on high speed until the cream forms medium peaks. Pour the gelatin mixture over it to stabilize. Place one of the cake disks back into the baking pan, pour the filling over it, and cover with the second cake disk.  Cover and refrigerate for the filling to set for about 2 hours.

Prepare the sauce according to the container instructions. Spoon it over the cake and sprinkle with walnuts.  Keep the cake refrigerated before serving.

I wonder why my jogging isn’t paying off!?

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Mashenka in Russian is a sweet nickname, derived from Maria.  

My aunt shared this simple torte recipe.  It’s a perfect addition to your family table and goes wonderfully with black tea

 

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TORTE “MASHENKA”

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 can of sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1tsp baking soda
  • 2 tbs vinegar or lemon juice

Cream:

  • 300 g sour cream
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup liquor (I like Kahlua)

 

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 F, grease a deep baking dish.

Mix the first 4 ingredients till smooth.  Pour vinegar over the baking soda.  The reaction will produce foam.  Mix the foam into the batter.

Pour the mixture in the dish, and bake for 35-40 min or until a toothpick comes out of the center clean and dry.

Remove from the dish and let cool on a wire rack.

To prepare the cream, blend sour cream and sugar with a hand mixer till the mixture starts thickening.  Add the liquor and let blend in.

Grind chocolate on a mid-small grinder.

 

After the cake is cool, carefully cut the sides off and cut the cake into ~ 1/2 inch layers.

Spoon a little bit of sour cream mixture on the bottom of a cake stand.  Place the first layer on it.  Generously layer sour cream mixture on top of the cake.   Place another cake layer on top, repeat with the remaining layers.  Sprinkle the top layer with the chocolate flakes.  Cover the cake and let stand in the fridge overnight for the flavors to blend .

Done!

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