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!!!!
People have strong feelings about Valentine’s Day, for or against. On the one hand, the holiday was probably invented by Hallmark to sell cards. On the other hand, I love celebrations of any kind. Personally, I stand firmly in the “Pro” camp. What could be wrong about tell the special people in your life that you love them? I buy cards and send them to family and friends (don’t be offended if you didn’t get one – I limit myself to one package each year). For Howard, I buy a special card, and we make a nice dinner that starts off with Champagne.
There are so many recipes to choose from, in the books on my bookshelves, the magazines in piles, the recipes I’ve clipped, recommendations from my sisters, and the resources across the Internet. Now that I’m back on the “Cook the Book” train with Cook the Book Fridays, the choice for a few meals each month is simplified.
This week’s recipe from David Leibovitz’s My Paris Kitchen offered the perfect idea for a romantic dinner for two. Steak Frites au Beurre de Moutarde – in English, Steak with mustard butter and French fries. Because I’m scared of deep-frying, I was wary of the accompanying French fries, but upon reading the recipe, learned they were oven fries. Russet potatoes are cut in to French-fry-sized batons, tossed with olive oil, kosher salt, and fresh herbs, then baked until crispy.
Meanwhile, rib-eye steak is seasoned with smoked salt, chipotle pepper and fresh parsley, then seared to perfection in a cast-iron pan. The piping hot steaks are served with dollops of compound mustard butter, made with both Dijon and dry mustard powder. To round out the meal, I made this delicious recipe for tahini-roasted broccoli from Food52.
What a winning combination for a relatively simple, yet restaurant-worthy meal! I’m excited to know how to make really great fries without frying too. There’s some leftover mustard butter so I’m curious if anyone has suggestions to use it up.
I have to mention dessert too. I’ve long been a fan of molten chocolate cake. The recipe for Deep-Dark-Chocolate Pudding Cakes from Joanne Chang’s newest book Baking with Less Sugar is my new favorite recipe. It’s to die for!!!!
To read all about my friends’ steak dinners, check out their links here.
Due to copyright considerations, I don’t share the recipe here. You can find it on pages 206 (steak) and 219 (frites) of David Leibovitz’s My Paris Kitchen. Or feel free to drop me a line and I’ll share it with you.