In December, you expect the Daring Bakers to go wild on Yule Logs. I've never made one myself, so I - like many others - kinda of expected the challenge to be a Yule Log... and we were not deceived! A French Yule Log it was! 6 different components, 12 pages for the recipe, 24 bowls, pans, saucepans, you-name-it to wash up... This was probably the most challenging of all the recipes I've made with the Daring Bakers. My Yule Log had two almond dacquoise layers (bottom and top), aniseed creme brulée, almond caramel praliné, dark chocolate mousse, dark chocolate ganache and dark chocolate icing. I served it for dessert on Christmas Lunch. It was a hit!
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. For the recipe, check Hilda's Saffron and Blueberry, and (as always!) for a few thousand versions visit the Daring Bakers blogroll.
My thoughts on the challenge:
- This was time consuming but not that difficult. Each component was fairly easy to make, and the recipes were very nice on their own, except perhaps for the mousse. It was pretty hard to make a pâté à bombe with such small quantities.
- I topped my Bûche de Noël with dacquoise, as well as using it for the bottom.
- I made 1 + a half recipe of the dark icing to prevent icing 'accidents' (I'm very prone to this kind of troubles!!).
- The most challenging of all was the insane number of dishes this took - it made me use dozens of bowls, saucepans, pans, spoons, spatulas, you name it! Huge thanks to my hubby who did most of the washing up, as I absolutely hate it.
- My overall thought is that it didn't feel very Christmas-ish to me (perhaps because it was a frozen dessert and I tend to think of those as summer desserts) but it was really delicious. And I'm not a chocoholic!
I don't think the photos do any justice to how nice it was and how yummy it tasted. I just didn't have time to photograph it properly with everybody around... Anyway, you can get an idea of how it looked with the chocolate decorations on top.
Cookies. What else? Those were my second batch of cookies from last weekend. My friend Pipoka gave me this "Australian Women's Weekly" Cookies & Biscuits issue a while ago. I meant to try a couple of recipes for ages but it didn't happen. Until now. And I'm so happy I finally made it! These Chocolate & Ginger Cookies (originally called chocolate ginger Easter Eggs, but that wouldn't work for Christmas, would it?) are just spicy enough, and the dough works like a breeze.
Chocolate & Ginger Cookies
Adapted from "Australian Women's Weekly" Cookies & Biscuits
Makes about 50
1 1/2 cups (225 grs) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (35 grs) self-raising flour
1/2 cup (25 grs) unsweetened (Dutch-process) cocoa powder
1/2 cup (125 grs) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup (165 grs) firmly packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1 Tbsp peeled grated fresh ginger
coloured sugar pearls, to decorate
Sift together both flours and cocoa powder in a bowl. Cream butter, egg and brown sugar in a small bowl with an electric mixer until combined. Mix in grated ginger, then flour and cocoa, in two batches. Knead dough on a floured surface until smooth. Halve dough, and shape into disks. Wrap each disk in plastic. Refrigerate until cold, about 30 minutes. Working with 1 disk at a time, roll out dough between sheets of baking paper until 5 mm thick.
Preheat oven to 180ºC (350°F). Line oven trays with baking paper (or use a silicone sheet). Cut cookies with different cutters. Place apart from each others on trays. Bake cookies about 10 minutes. Cool on wire racks.
Cookies are good on their own, sprinkled with fine sanding sugar. You can also make a chocolate fondant icing. Stir chocolate in a small heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water until smooth. To cover all the cookies you'll need about 100 grs of dark chocolate. Use a metal spatula, dipped in hot water to spread the icing quickly over cookies. Set at room temperature.
These Chocolate & Ginger Cookies are my second entry for season 2 of Eat Christmas Cookies, managed by Susan of Food Blogga. You can check all the brilliant cookies entered here.
It has been difficult for me to get into Christmas spirit this year. I still did all my shopping before December's madness settled in but it was pretty much that. I usually start baking the cookies 3 weeks before Christmas to get everything ready for friends and family as they pop up during December. Well, not this year. My sister in law - who lives away from me - promptly gave me a reminder whilst kissing me goodbye the last time we were together about a month ago. Don't you forget about the Christmas cookies! Last weekend, I've finally managed to get the cookies going. The first batch is right out of the oven!
White Chocolate and Dried Cranberry Cookies
Adapted from Rachel Allen, Rachel's Favourite Food for Friends, p. 158
Rachel's original recipe here. She calls for 50g soft brown sugar AND 50g caster sugar OR 100g demerara sugar. I'm pretty sure I read that as my intention was to use both sugars. Except I mixed in the soft brown sugar, and completely forgot to add the caster sugar until all cookies were shaped. At this point I've decided to coat the cookies with demerara sugar. Just yummy!
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
50 grs soft brown sugar
1/2 cup (120 grs) butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup (50 grs) mixed dried cranberries and dried cherries
1 cup (150g) plain flour
1/2 tsp Bicarbonate of soda
1/2 cup (50 grs) old-fashioned porridge oats
1/2 cup (50 grs) ground almonds (a.k.a. almond meal)
100 grs white chocolate, chopped
4 Tbsp demerara sugar, to coat
Preheat the oven to 180ºC (350ºF).
Sift the flour and the bicarbonate of soda into a mixing bowl. Add sugar, ground almonds, dried fruits, and white chocolate, and mix to combine. Stir in melted butter, and the egg yolks into the dry ingredients until dough forms. (The mixture should be on the soft side.)
Make walnut-sized dough portions, using your hands. Roll each cookie with the demerara sugar to coat. Place them onto a lined baking sheet, and gently push with the palm of your hand to flatten. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden. Transfer to a metal rack to cool.
I'm sending these White Chocolate and Dried Cranberry Cookies over to lovely Susan of the always inspirational Food Blogga for season 2 of Eat Christmas Cookies - a very nice and yummy event Susan organizes for the second consecutive year! You can check all the baking here.
I'm very fond of Hay Hay it's Donna Hay, and usually try not to miss any round. It's a food event I keep close to the heart. When Joey from the ever wonderful 80 Breakfasts chose Pesto, I was delighted with the theme: easy, and with so many open possibilities! Coincidentally, one year ago from this day I was making Minted Walnut Pesto after having tried a Cilantro Almond Pesto. So what now? Rocket! Although rocket is not very usual, it has to be my favourite green for pesto.
I've used Donna's recipe Joey has provided, replacing the basil with the rocket, and omitting the lemon zest. Because it's cold in Lisbon, and comfort foods are in season, I've served my rocket pesto as a topping to a bowl of White Bean Soup, recipe courtesy of - the one and only, the lady herself - Donna Hay! ;)
Rough Chop Rocket Pesto*
Slightly adapted from Donna Hay Magazine, issue 35, p. 104
1 cup roughly chopped rocket
2 Tbsp roughly chopped toasted pine nuts
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
3/4 cup olive oil (I like virgin extra with mild flavours for this recipe)
Place the basil, pine nuts, garlic, Parmesan, salt, pepper, and oil in a bowl and stir to combine. Makes one cup.
White Bean Soup
Adapted from Donna Hay Magazine, issue 33, p. 104
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 stalk of celery, sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
450 grs cannellini beans, re-hydrated
4 cups (1 litre) chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste
Dried cannellini beans must be soaked in water for at least 4 hours (best overnight). You'll need about 175 grs of dried beans.
Heat a large soup pot on medium heat. Add the oil, onion, garlic and celery, and stir about 2-3 minutes or until they are translucent. Add the beans and stock, and bring to a boil, stirring to ensure the beans don’t stick to the bottom. Reduce the heat, cover and let cook for about 1 hour, or until the beans are very soft. Stir the soup occasionally during this time.
Blend the soup. If you have one, use a hand blender. Otherwise, a food processor or standing blender will work too. Puree the soup until it is smooth. Season to taste. Continue to cook, uncovered, until thick. Serves 4.
Serve soup topped with a tsp or two of rocket pesto.
* Original recipe is topped with chorizo.
Hay Hay Its Donna Day is a food event created by Barbara from WinosandFoodies and now taken under the wing of Bron Marshall.
We're not very good with hugs in Portugal. We kiss. We easily turn our cheek to be kissed as a compliment to someone (even a person we may not know very well) but we seldom hug anyone. For me, hugs are the vital energy that feeds happiness. Someone once said that you can't wrap love in a box, but you can wrap a person in a hug. I blame Donna Hay for having met Barbara. From the many things I have Donna to thank for, one of the most important is to have crossed paths with such an adorable person. Barbara's fight against cancer has started half a planet away from her home, and just a "block" away from mine when she was finishing her holidays in Portugal. Geography's not important. Love is. Today, I want to wrap Barbara in a tight hug, with beautiful pink flowers, soft poached meringues, and positive thoughts!
When Bron and Ilva kindly invited me to join the super hug to Barbara, I wondered what to make... Farófias. I'll make farófias. French call it ile flotante. The Portuguese call it farófias, a “cloud” of fluffy light airy, fresh meringue combined with lemon custard and a pinch of cinnamon. So together with a huge hug, and a bunch of smiles, that's for you, Barbara!
(Poached Meringues in Lemon Custard with Cinnamon)
Slightly adapted from Maria de Lourdes Modesto, Cozinha Tradicional Portuguesa
4 large eggs, separated
4 Tbsp caster sugar
3 cups + 3 Tbsp whole milk
Zest of 1 lemon, cut in long strips
1/2 cup golden caster sugar
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 Tbsp sliced almonds, toasted
In a deep skillet set over moderately low heat, bring 3 cups of the milk and the lemon zest to a simmer. Remove from the heat and set aside for 5 minutes. Strain the milk and return to the skillet. Beat the egg whites to soft peaks, then add 4 Tbsp caster sugar, 1 Tbsp at a time, and beat until stiff glossy peaks form.
Return the milk to low heat and when steam rises from the surface, drop meringue in by rounded tablespoons. (To keep meringue from sticking, dip the spoon often in hot water). Poach the meringues about 2 minutes in the milk, turn and poach the other side 2 minutes. With a slotted spoon, carefully transfer them to a large plate and reserve.
As soon as all meringues are poached, strain the milk into a medium-size heavy saucepan and mix in the golden caster sugar. Check if any milk can be poured from the plate where the meringues are. Combine the extra 3 Tbsp of milk with the cornstarch, in a small bowl. Whisk a little of the hot milk into this mixture, then blend into the pan and cook, stirring constantly, over moderately low heat 3 minutes or until slightly thickened. Beat the egg yolks lightly, whisk in a little of the hot sauce, stir back into pan and cook, stirring constantly, over low heat for 2-3 minutes (do not boil or the mixture may curdle).
Place the meringues into a large shallow heatproof bowl or 4-6 individual plates. Allow the custard to cool slightly, then pour on top of the meringues. Serve warm or well chilled, dusting the meringues with cinnamon at the last minute. Sprinkle with the toasted almonds.