Category Archives: Baking
This the final December that Cook the Book Fridays will be cooking from David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen. That makes it a no-brainer that the holiday challenge this year must be the Christmas Cake aka Bûche de Noël. Honestly, I can’t say that this cake was ever on my kitchen bucket list. This time of year, I see them pictured in food magazines, Pinterest, and on the internet, but I’ve never been tempted to try a bite, much less try my hand at making one. However, I offered to bring dessert this cake for Christmas Eve where there would be many more taste testers than in my house.
On first glance, the recipe is rather intimidating. There are many components required. However, a closer read shows that none of the steps are actually complicated.
Let’s start with the cake. This is a thin eggy genoise baked on a half sheet pan. I wanted to make a smaller cake, but I was limited by the pans available. So, I made the full cake, intending to just use half. The batter came together easily in the stand mixer. I used an “X” of soft butter to adhere parchment to the pan. I think I should have also smeared butter along the edges of the pan too because when the cake baked, the edges curled up.
While the cake is still warm, you roll it up to cool (so it will remember the shape without stiffening). In the meantime, a filling reminiscent of cannoli filling is mixed up: ricotta cheese, candied orange peel, finely chopped chocolate and a touch of sugar. You also need to make a light orange syrup. After an hour, unroll the cake and liberally brush it with syrup and then spread the filling evenly over the cake. I only made half the filling and it generously covered about two-thirds of the cake. Now, you roll it back up into a log. At this point, I trimmed off the ends at the point where there wasn’t any filling. I wrapped the log in plastic and let it chill in the fridge overnight.
The next day, I made a simple ganache, adding a little instant espresso powder (I don’t make coffee at home) and frosted the cake. Because I made the cake smaller, I didn’t create any branches. It looked quite “log-like”. I stashed the cake bake in the fridge to wait for dinnertime.
Whenever I see pictures of bûche de Noël, it’s the adorable mushrooms that sometimes catch my eye. I whipped up egg whites with sugar and cinnamon to make a meringue. Then, I piped the meringue into mushroom caps and stems. I might not have whipped the egg whites quite stiff enough because my stems weren’t very pointy. After a long low bake, once the meringue cooled, I melted some chocolate and started to assemble mushrooms. I carved a little hole under the cap, dipped a pointy stem into chocolate and glued them together. Most of my mushrooms were rather top-heavy and didn’t stand up on their own. However, it was easy enough to lay them around the log on the platter where no one was the wiser.
The bûche de Noël is an impressive holiday dessert! Our friends, whose family is Swiss, announced that this version was not “the real way”. They said bûche de Noël should be filled with chocolate mousse (and maybe that the cake should be chocolate). I’m not sure that’s true as an Internet search didn’t turn up any rules.
I’ll admit that for Howard and me, it wasn’t our favorite sort of a dessert, but it was fun. My favorite part was the mushrooms. I snacked on the reject pieces for days. The hint of cinnamon was lovely.
If you want to try out this version, you can find the recipe on page 319 of David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen. To see how the other home cooks from Cook the Book Fridays made out, check out their links here.
In addition to a Yule log, I had a blast making packages of sweets for my local friends. This year, I made white-chocolate dipped apricots (a perennial favorite), Mexican Chocolate Pecans (inspired by our recent trip to Mexico), Toffee Crunch (you know, the old standby with the saltines covered in toffee, chocolate and nuts), and another favorite Basler Leckerli. I also sent homemade peppermint bark and miniature Chocolate Meltaway Cookies (newly named by my sister Jennifer) to my sisters.
Next week, healthier eating awaits….
Wishing you a Happy (and Delicious) New Year!!!!
The end of the year is coming fast, and November has been crazy! I had a quick visit to Philadelphia to meet up with my sisters for a happy family event. We packed in the activities, as we always do. Our mother was not one to sit still, and she trained us to be the same way.
I really like cake, plain simple unfrosted cakes. I could take or leave birthday cakes or other layered cakes, but I always enjoy a pound cake, a Bundt cake, or any kind of one layer cake. A simple glaze or a dusting of powdered sugar makes them complete, no fussing required. For Howard, I think it’s all about the frosting as he never gets excited when I make a cake, so they are usually relegated to occasions where I’m having just my friends over or bake something to bring somewhere else.
My favorite bakery cake is the Vanilla Bean Pound Cake made by Hi-Rise Bakery in Cambridge. They are regulars at the Lexington Farmers’ Market and, in season, I treat myself to a slice about once a month. The genius of their cake is that it’s soaked in vanilla-infused simple syrup, making the outside crust magical. Eating an end piece with its extra crust is just heaven. I’ve never made it myself, but here’s the recipe.
Right before I left, I made David Lebovitz’s Bay Leaf Pound Cake, the first November challenge recipe for Cook the Book Fridays. I did NOT need a whole cake. I had nowhere to bring it that week. So, I minified it. I made one-third of the recipe (dividing by the eggs, of course) to fill one small loaf pan – a personal pound cake.
This cake is a little different than a traditional pound cake recipe because rather than creaming the butter, the butter is melted. In this case, the butter is then infused with bay leaves to add some depth of flavor. A couple of bay leaves are also set on the bottom of the pan to add more bay flavoring.
We are also instructed to squeeze a line of soft butter on top of the cake to enhance a decorative crack. It could be because of my smaller pan, but that didn’t happen on my cake.
The final touch was an orange glaze. The cake’s predominant flavor was orange. Even with the infused butter and extra leaves, I didn’t notice the bay flavoring at all. Overall, this was a lovely cake, small enough for me to eat a daily slice for a few days. It wasn’t interesting enough to make again, though I did enjoy it while it lasted.
The second recipe for Cook the Book Fridays is Panade de Butternut (Butternut Squash Bread Soup). To read the C&C (comments and concerns) post for this recipe, it wasn’t getting a lot of love, so I was a bit wary.
The recipe took a bit of advanced planning. David recommends homemade stock for this one. We were finishing up a whole chicken, so that was easy enough with a carcass on hand. I’ve been making stock in the slow cooker for the past few years which is so simple. Sourdough bread was also required. My sourdough starter needed a workout this week, so I managed to bake my own loaf to use. Stock? Check! Bread? Check! I was ready to go.
This panade is a layering of caramelized onions, toasted sourdough bread, sliced butternut squash, chopped thyme and sage, and grated cheese doused with the homemade chicken stock. I halved the recipe for our household. I must have sliced the bread too thickly because there wasn’t nearly enough to fully cover the pan for even two layers, and the recipe called for three. That means I had three layers of squash and just two of bread, which was fine.
As the panade baked, the bread absorbed all the stock, so the result was more like bread pudding than soup. It also reminded me of a lighter version of the filling for a stuffed pumpkin I’ve made. Whatever it was, it was delicious! All the flavors of fall combined into one hearty dish. It would be a wonderful alternative to stuffing for the Thanksgiving table. On the downside, if I’m being honest, even though I really liked it, in my opinion, it was a lot more work than it was worth.
Judge for yourself! Recipes for both the pound cake (page 296) and the panade (page 163) can be found in David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen. My friends from Cook the Book Fridays made these too. You can find their reviews for the cake here and the panade here.