French Yule Log

December’s Daring Bakers challenge hosted by Hilda from Saffron and Blueberry and Marion from Il en Faut Peu Pour Etre Heureux was Yule log by Flore from Florilege Gourmand. This was not the usual Christmas log that first comes to mind. This one was a frozen dessert (I’d say semifrozen, the mousse doesn’t freeze hard) composed of total of 6 elements put together in the certain order. We were free to chose our own flavor variations. Mine were as follows:

  • cranberry-kumquat-pear mousse,
  • kumquat-ginger crème brulee insert,
  • white chocolate-pistachio praline crisp,
  • bittersweet ganache insert,
  • pistachio dacquoise,
  • and chocolate gelée glaze.

For the mousse layer I cooked the cranberries, seeded kumquats, chopped pears in cranberry juice with fresh ginger and star anise, then pureed the fruits and used the puree as the mousse base. It turned out quite good. I would recommend a different assembly sequence though, since the hard layer of the crisp in the middle of the soft-textured mousse made it tricky to slice. Next time I would put the crisp at the bottom, right before the dacquoise layer.

Happy New Year to everyone!

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Princess Cake for a Little Girl

If a little girl wants a princess cake for Christmas, especially if this day happens to be her 4th birthday, she gets it.

I wish I had a bit more time for this project. I had an elaborate midcentury design for the princess’s dress in mind. But being pressed on time, I put this idea aside. There even was a moment when I thought I had to go with a store-bought doll cake-topper. While very nicely tanned and pretty, the Wilton’s Barbie was shamelessly shedding her hair. I tried to give her a haircut (I’m not much of a groom), but her bare scalp started to shine through. So, I decided to make my own princess. Maybe not as attractive as Barbie, at least my princess wasn’t suffering from a severe form of alopecia.

I’m not completely satisfied with the result. It’s advisable to let the head dry after it’s been formed and only then proceed with the body modeling and the head attachment. Initially, my princess’s face was better defined; she had nicely shaped cheek bones. But since I had to finish all in one day, her beauty suffered. It would be also better to paint-brush her face instead of using thick-tip edible markers (I suspect my little son snatched my thin brush for one of his art projects).

The cake itself was delicious (it was a chocolate cake of total 5 layers filled with whipped milk chocolate ganache and covered with Swiss vanilla buttercream). The girl was more than happy. She called me personally to say thank you. That made me happy, too.

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Not Quite a Fruitcake

I’m willing to admit that my opinion regarding the fruitcakes might be preconceived. I am planning to experiment next season; it is too late now. Now we are eating the moist pound cake where the part of the flour is replaced by ground almonds, studded with brandy-soaked dry fruits and glazed with marmalade/Grand Marnier glaze.

As for the decoration, I had some fun with home-made fondant, the recipe of which was adapted from Toba Garret. In my opinion, it’s the most precise and reliable fondant recipe available. I will be posting it later. Santas decorating idea belongs to Carol Deacon.

Merry Christmas once again!

The cake goes to Jugalbandi January CLICK event – RED.


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Eggnog

Very Merry Christmas to everyone (in case I don’t have time for another pre-christmasy post)! I wish you all stress-free and full of joy holidays!

We’ve already started sipping eggnog, and I suspect I’ll be making at least a couple more batches before the Christmas time. I prefer to make this beverage myself. The flavor of the homemade eggnog is far better and cleaner (no wonder – just read a list of the ingredients on an eggnog carton box); you will see a difference. The whipped egg whites make it air-light what I particularly like. But if you are after a thicker, more store-bought-like consistency, simply omit the whites, reserve them for another use (this is just a perfect amount for a batch of French macaroons). Cin-cin!

The recipe is adapted from Alton Brown.

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Cuccidati (Italian Fig Cookies)

Maybe not so photogenic, these cookies are amazingly good. There are a lot of similar recipes around, and I, myself, have tried about four or five of them. But I’m not in search for the perfect recipe anymore, I’m quite content and happy with this one. I bake exactly the same cookies for three years in a row for Christmas (they are traditional Italian Christmas cookies) and every single recipient always raves. They are a bit time consuming to make, but a prep, broken in stages, makes it relatively easy to put together.

Adapted from Gourmet magazine

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Chocolate Mascarpone Cheesecake with Nib Brittle and Balsamic Strawberries

I don’t know what to say to people who tell me that this cake is better than sex. I guess, it’s entirely depends on a personal experience. But I do know for sure the cheesecake is quite good. I prefer my cheesecakes crustless (there… I said it). I like something crunchy to be served on a side. In this case, literally. The brittle is the last minute finishing touch. If you are not serving the cake to a crowd and not certain that the cake will be eaten all at once, don’t press the brittle into the sides since it will melt fairly quickly. Instead, offer the brittle broken into large shards as an accompaniment. Sure, if you have nothing against a cheesecake crust, you can make a chocolate crumb one (you can see Caramel Chocolate Cheesecake for instruction).

We are lucky to have fresh strawberries here all year-round. But if you want to get the decent ones you will have to pay. As for the balsamic I advise you to use something better than 5 bucks-per-bottle from the closest supermarket. It’s probably a good time to reach for that onion-shaped bottle of the Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena.

Don’t get discouraged by all this foodie-snobby stuff. The cake will be awesome served with strawberry or raspberry sauce, and you can use frozen berries for this purpose.

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