Bûche De Noël

Okay. I did it. I did the damn thing. I did the ultimate Christmas baking accomplishment. I made a bûche de noël. And it was so much fun!!!

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Isn’t she gorgeous?! Look at that swirl, those bark marks, those MUSHROOMS. It’s perfect.

If you’re not familiar with this particular Christmas dessert, here’s a little context (I like researching where this kind of stuff comes from): It’s a traditional Christmas dessert in places like France, Belgium, Switzerland, etc. It’s meant to look like a yule log (which is why you’ll hear it referred to as a yule log cake). My mom made it while I was growing up, a practice I’m guessing she either inherited from one of my German grandparents, or something she just decided she wanted to do one day while looking through a book of cake recipes. We’re similar that way. Anyway, it wasn’t a yearly tradition. But every few years, especially when relatives would be in town, she’d make one. I remember being enchanted by the mushrooms and how a cake could look like a tree.

I was delayed in Christmas celebrations this year. Usually I start on the first of the month. You all know that. But this year I had to focus on finals, and then after my final I worked for 7 days straight. So while I was able to do small things like watch Christmas movies, make hot cocoa and marshmallows, and drive around and see Christmas lights, I haven’t been able to do bigger projects like bake sugar cookies or do a gingerbread house. Finally, on Wednesday, I woke up with big plans to make a yule log. It was a big enough project and riddled with Christmas spirit, so I thought it would make me feel better about all the things I haven’t been able to do this season. This is how I successfully managed:

The night before, I had my mom text me all the recipe pages from The Cake Bible. LOL! After reading all the pages, I’ve decided I want this book. Bad. It’s so easy to follow along. Unfortunately all the pictures she sent were completely out of order. So I spent about 30 minutes figuring out the correct order. Then I separated pages based on what component they were for: the sponge cake, the chocolate ganache frosting, the whipped cream filling, and the merengue. I ran to the grocery store at 8 a.m for the few things I didn’t already have: bittersweet chocolate, cocoa powder, cream of tartar, and heavy whipping cream. And then I got started!

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*All recipes can be found in The Cake Bible. I’m greatly paraphrasing here.*

I started with the Italian Merengue Mushrooms. With my Kitchenaid fitted with a whisk attachement, I whipped 4 large egg whites, 1/4 tsp cream of tartar, and 2 tbsp of sugar together to make stiff peaks. In a small saucepan fitted with a candy thermometer, I combined 3/4 c sugar, 1/4 c water and brought the mixture to 248 degree F. Then I immediately removed the mixture from heat. I combined the syrup with the egg whites and then transferred everything to a piping bag. I piped one tray of mushroom heads and one tray of stems, and then put both trays in the oven preheated to 200 F for an hour. Once finished in the oven, I immediately dusted the tops with cocoa powder (to look like dirt!). To assemble the mushrooms, I snipped the pointy top of the stems off with kitchen scissors, added some leftover merengue to the bottom of the tops (no better way of saying that), and stuck the two pieces together. Then I kept everything in a DRY airtight container.

Next I did the Chocolate Ganache, because this would have to sit around for a few hours to come to frosting consistency. I processed 12 oz of bittersweet baking chocolate in a food processor till very fine and boiled 1 & 2/3rd c heavy whipping cream. Then I added the cream to the processor, pulsed for a few seconds, and transferred everything to a bowl to cool down. Easy!

The Chocolate Cloud Roll was next. In one mixing bowl, I combined 1/4 c sugar, 6 large egg yolks, and 4 oz melted bittersweet chocolate. In another mixing bowl, I whisked 6 egg whites, 1/4 tsp cream of tartar, 2 tbsp sugar till stiff peaks formed. I then folded the egg whites into the chocolate mixture slowly and carefully till everything was combined. I transferred the batter to a cookie sheet with high edges that had been greased and fitted with floured parchment paper. Then I cooked that for 16 minutes in an oven preheated to 350 F. Immediately after removing from the oven, I sprinkled 1 tbsp cocoa powder on the surface of the cake and then covered it with a damp, clean dishtowel and then left it alone to cool for an hour.

Finally, I made the Whipped Cream. In a chilled mixing bowl with a whisk attachment, I whipped 1 c heavy whipping cream and 1 tbsp sugar, 1/2 tsp vanilla extract.

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Assembling the cake was honestly pretty simple. Easier than expected. I frosted all the whipped cream onto the top of the sheet (pictured above), and then carefully removed the cake from the pan and set it onto a flat surface. Then I slowly rolled the cake up, using the parchment paper for support and gently peeling it away as I went. No cracks! I chilled the cake in the fridge for one hour and then pulled it out, cut off a piece from each end diagonally, and attached them with some of the ganache to make the knobs on the log. I frosted the entire cake and used a fork to drag bark marks into the frosting. Then I arranged some cranberries, branches, and mushrooms to give it the real forrest effect! You could also sprinkle powdered sugar on top to mimic snow, but I had about 30 minutes of sunlight left to work with and photograph the thing so I didn’t. I don’t care. I love how it came out.

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Mark and I ogled it for a bit, then we dug right in. It was so good. I hate the word “moist” but there’s really no other way to describe it. Pretty much the perfect thing to snack on while watching a holiday classic like Miracle on 34th or It’s A Wonderful Life. Or listening to Christmas music with all the lights turned off except for the twinkle ones. Trust me on this.

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There are 3 MORE SLEEPS till the big day and while it’s bound to be a weird one since I’ll be all the way in L.A and not with my family, I’m still excited. I’m planning on celebrating “Christmas morning” a few days ahead with Mark before he leaves, doing some reading, and opening up the box of presents my family sent me while face-timing them on Christmas morning. I wish you all such wonderful holiday joy and love each and every one of you for reading.

Ghostly Devils Food Cupcakes

Sometimes I think about the type of mom I’ll be. Weird, right? I’ve pretty much wanted to be a mom since I could push my baby dolls around in a play stroller, which is maybe not a cool thing to say when you’re 25? But I don’t care. It’s the truth.

There is a shocking amount of moments in my life where I think “This activity I’m doing is something I can easily see myself doing with/for my child.” Like watching Disney movies, or decorating, or cheesy activities like this one last year, or baking festive treats. I think the things I delight in are things that kids also delight in, so it’s safe to say I’m pretty pumped for the day I get to drag my spawn along with whatever I have planned. But still, I occasionally worry about the kind of mom I’ll be. I hope I’m the kind that creates fun, unique, cherished memories for them and isn’t always run down, distracted or exhausted. But I also want to be the kind of mom that has her shit together, who goes the extra mile and who can make her kids think “my mom does that better than anyone else.” There’s a balance, ya know? Are you wondering where I’m going with this yet?!?!

I thought a lot about this when I was making these cupcakes. Because I was busy AF this week and didn’t really have the time to make them from scratch, but I didn’t want to nix the project altogether because I wanted to do something festive and make something for my roommates/coworkers (aka practice kids) to enjoy for the upcoming holiday. So…I bought a box mix. Yeah. That’s right. I bought a boxed cake mix and a can of frosting. This made me feel so guilty. I can’t even explain to you how guilty I felt at first. I totally felt like I was cheating!

This is where I make my point. My mom, bless her soul, made everything from scratch. Even with a demanding job, whenever anyone had a birthday or something needed to be brought for a class treat, she could be found late at night baking away. It was awesome. But…she was also often exhausted. And that wasn’t so awesome. There were a few times where she probably could have gotten away with buying boxed mixes or even pre-made treats. Nobody would have cared, she would have had more time, and it wouldn’t have been the end of the world. I hope to emulate my mom in many ways (I already imitate her a LOT) but I have to admit, that pressure to never cut corners is something I don’t really want to replicate. Sure, it’s great to take the time and make stuff from scratch 90% of the time. But what’s more important is balance and not making yourself crazy, right? That’s the kind of thing I hope to actively practice in my life so that when it is time for me to make class treats, I don’t break down.

So, I made these cupcakes in 30 minutes (not counting the time it took to make the ghosts). And you know what? They were frickin’ good! And the world didn’t end! And the gesture of love was still there! Plus, I did make the merengue ghosts from scratch. That should count.

…Even though they sort of look like really tall, white, poop emojis. I’m choosing to look past that. We can’t all be perfect.

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P.s Sorry for rambling at the beginning of this. I’m out of practice on here.

 

Halloween Macarons

It’s been 100+ degrees in Los Angeles for the past few days. I hate the heat in general (WHY did I move here again?) but there is nothing worse than getting a taste of cooler temps and then having a heatwave roll in in late October and totally cramp your fall style. I haven’t wanted to do anything!

Fear not though. I took a page out of my Halloween 2016 book and did the quick, easy project of decorating some macarons! No baking or slaving in the kitchen required. I just picked some macarons up at the store, grabbed a paint brush and my black food coloring, and went to town. The quick task made me happy, scratched my festive itch, and I like to think it made everyone I offered one to smile.

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Cute, right?!

Temps are supposed to be moving down starting tonight, so hopefully you’ll see evidence of me re-entering my kitchen soon. And tomorrow Mark and I are planning on finally carving our jack-o-lanterns (we’ll probably be melting in the process). Hope you’re all celebrating accordingly!