Saturday, December 24, 2005

Happy Holidays

I'd like to wish all of you happy holidays and a great time with your loved ones. May the remaining few days of 2005 be filled with good fortune, good food, good company and good fun for you.

Chestnut and Ginger Yule Log (adapted from Francois Payard's Simply Sensational Desserts)
  • 13"x18" Hot Milk Sponge Cake Layer
  • Ginger syrup (recipe below)
  • Chestnut Cream (recipe below)
  • 10 coarsely crushed candied chestnuts
  • Meringue mushrooms (recipe below)
  • Chocolate curls, candied fruit, cocoa, confectioners'sugar to decorate
Sprinkle the cake layer with ginger syrup. Spread it evenly with about 1 c of chestnut cream. Place the pieces of candied chestnuts along the shorter side. Roll the cake and place it on your serving plate. Sprinkle it with more syrup if you desire. Freeze the cake for about an hour. Cut two angled slices from both ends and use them to form stumps. Cover your cake with the remaining cream. Run a fork lengthwise down the log and stumps to give the frosting the look of tree bark. As you can see in the pictures, I left the cut sections of the cake unfrosted. If you want to frost them as well, you will probably need to make more chestnut cream. Decorate your yule log with meringue mushrooms, chocolate "tree bark" shavings, green tinted white chocolate leaves, sieved cocoa powder and confectioners' sugar. There are no rules here; just be creative and have fun!

Ginger Syrup
  • 1 1/4 c sugar
  • 1 c water
  • 2 tbs (30 g) peeled and chopped ginger
Combine all in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and cool the syrup completely. Strain and use.

Chestnut Cream
  • 2/3 c (160 g) whole milk
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 c plus 2 tbs (75 g) sugar
  • 2 tbs (15 g) cornstarch
  • 1/2 c (136 g) sweetened chestnut puree
  • 1 tbs dark rum
  • 1 c (232 g) heavy cream
Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the milk and bring it to a boil over medium heat. Remove from the heat.

Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until pale yellow. Add the cornstarch and beat to combine. Add the hot milk in two parts, beating after each addition. Cook until the mixture thickens and comes to a boil, stirring constantly. Let it boil for a minute and then turn off the heat. Whisk in the puree and rum. Remove the vanilla bean. Cover with a piece of plastic wrap touching the surface of the cream and refrigerate until chilled, about 2 hours.

Beat the cream until soft peaks form. Fold one third to the chestnut pastry cream to lighten it; gently fold in the remaining cream. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Meringue Mushrooms

  • 2 egg whites, at room temperature
  • Pinch of cream of tartar
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • Few teaspoons of cocoa powder
  • 2 tbs melted chocolate
Add the cream of tartar to the egg whites and beat them until soft peaks start to form. Gradually add in the sugar and continue to beat until the whites form very stiff peaks. Scrape the meringue into a piping bag with a round tip and pipe about 30 upright stems and 30 mushroom caps unto a parchment lined cookie sheet. Try piping different sized caps and stems as a variety in size gives a more natural look. Dust the stems and caps with some cocoa powder and blow gently to distribute the cocoa powder. Bake the cookies for about 1-2 hrs in an oven preheated to 200F. Once cooked, glue the stems to the caps with some melted chocolate.