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.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


A friend of mine asked me for a Panettone recipe a while ago. I have never made this Milanese sweet bread before; so I eagerly promised that I would make one around Christmas, and post the recipe for her. Initially, I wanted to make my own candied fruit, too; but as time drew near and my things to do list piled up, I decided to make do with what's abundantly available on supermarket shelves these days. My little research revealed that making Panettone was no easy task. In fact, I found out that many authentic sources shunned yeast that comes in packages altogether and they gave instructions that would spread well over several days. Once again, I decided to take the easy route and turned to California Culinary Academy's Breads Book for what is probably a simplified American version of panettone.

The preparation was straightforward except that I did not have the right-sized pan. So I decided to use my adjustable dessert ring. This still was not tall enough; therefore, I made a parchment paper collar for my panettone. The only mishap was that I forgot to secure the overlap of parchment paper. During baking, the dough found an easy route here to overflow. Thanks to the foil lined baking sheet I placed under the ring, cleanup was not difficult; but my panettone did not rise as much as I anticipated and had a decidedly crooked top after the necessary trim. I was happy with the taste, especially considering that I was initially worried about the quantity of yeast the recipe called for. In retrospect, I think that this was necessary because the dough for panettone is quite heavy. Still, if I ever make this again, I will try to use less yeast. Panettone is delicious when lightly toasted. This morning, we topped toasted slices of it with kaymak (Turkish clotted cream) and honey, and it was the perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea.

For all kinds of interesting stories about the origin of panettone, refer to this link.
  • 2 packages (4 1/2 tsp) active dry yeast
  • 1/2 c warm (105-115F) water
  • 1/3 c sugar
  • 1/4 c warm milk (105-115F)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2/3 c butter, softened
  • 2 tsp grated orange rind
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 3/4 c flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/4 c Marsala wine (or orange juice)
  • 1/2 c golden raisins
  • 1/3 c slivered candied cherries
  • 1/3 c candied mixed fruits
  • 1/4 c pine nuts or slivered almonds
  • Confectioners' suger to dust the top
Sprinkle yeast over warm water in your mixer's bowl. Add 1 tsp of the sugar and let stand for about 5 minutes for the yeast to be activated.

Add remaining sugar, milk, salt, nutmeg, butter, orange rind and vanilla as well as 2 cups of the flour. First mix to blend; then beat for about 5 minutes until a smooth and elastic dough forms. Next, add the eggs and egg yolks, one at time. Gradually add the remaining 1 3/4 c of flour, beating to incorporate after each addition. After all the flour has been added, beat at medium speed for about 3 more minutes. Transfer the dough to a greased bowl. Cover loosely with a lightly greased plastic wrap and let rest in a warm place for an hour.

Meanwhile, pour Marsala over the raisins in a small bowl and set aside. Grease and lightly dust with flour a 10" tall, 7 1/2" diameter charlotte mold with 9 1/2 to 10 cup capacity. (If you don't have a tall enough mold like me, you can make a parchment paper collar as shown in the small pictures below. Just make sure that you secure the ends of paper.)

At the end of the first rising, punch down the dough. Then stir in the raisin mixture, cherries, candied fruits and almonds until well distributed in the dough.

Place the dough in the prepared mold. Let rise for the second time until it doubles. This rising should take 30 to 45 minutes. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 325 F.

Bake until the bread is nicely browned and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean (1 to 1 1/4 hours). Let stand in the mold for about 15 minutes, then unmold and transfer to a rack to cool (rounded side up). Dust the top with confectioners' sugar.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Chestnut Desserts

I made chestnut macarons and a dome cake for a chestnut-themed Turkish blog event. For the macarons, I used a la Cuisine's basic macaron recipe with 1.5 tbs chestnut puree added in the batter during the final mixing. I did not have any buttercream on hand and I did not feel like making a new batch, so I just whipped heavy cream with more chestnut puree for the filling. I love the taste of whipped cream more than I like buttercream, but in retrospect, this was not a good idea as the macarons drew moisture from the cream as they stood and ended up losing their wonderful crunch. Otherwise, they looked and tasted very good.

The dome was inspired by the Hedgehog Cake in Francois Payard's Simply Sensational Desserts, but since I changed quite a few things along the way, it ended up looking different from the picture in the book. The components are chocolate sponge, chestnut ganache, whipped cream filling and candied chestnuts. The chestnut ganache was so good that it was worth making this dessert just for that. (Make your favorite chocolate ganache and mix in chestnut puree. You get to decide which one dominates in flavor.

For the sake of gathering tasty chestnut desserts in a post, I'd like to give a link here to my previously posted Chestnut and White Chocolate Ricotta Cheesecake. That one is a classic to me.

I wish you all happy holidays, and don't forget to enjoy your chestnuts while they are still around.