Monday, December 20, 2010

Busch de Noel

Christmas Countdown: Five Days!

Still unsure of your Christmas dessert? How about a Busch de Noel?

A Busch de Noel, or Yule Log, is a traditional Christmas cake. It consists of a chocolate cake coated with buttercream, then rolled up and decorated to resemble a log. As I was baking my Busch de Noel last week, I began to wonder how the tradition of a cake resembling a log came into being.

Apparently, the Busch de Noel arose from an ancient celtic tradition for celebrating the winter solstice. On the solstice, the Celts would dearch for a large elm, cherry, beech or oak trunk to burn. The log was both a symbol of the suns rebirth as well as an offering of thanks to the sun for returning to the earth.

As this tradition evolved, the celebration became more elaborate. The logs were decorated in greenery and ribbons and the ashes were collected and saved for later use in curing illnesses and warding off the devil.

As time wore on and stoves came into popularity, the tradition still evolved. The former larger logs were replaced by smaller branches, which were set in the middle of dinner tables and surrounded by Christmas treats. This branch was eventually replaced by a cake resembling a log, and thus the Busch de Noel arose!

Thank goodness, as I'd much rather eat cake than go out hunting for a log!

The cake needs to be baked a day in advance to assembeling (and eating!). It sits overnight underneath a damp towel, which ensures a moist cake for easy rolling.

7 medium eggs
7 oz semisweet chocolate
7 oz sugar
4 tablespoons raspberry jam
2 tablespoons chocolate liquor

1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, room temp
½ cup sugar
2 egg whites
2 oz unsweetened chocolate
2 oz semisweet chocolate

Powdered cocoa

To prepare the Cake:
1. Grease a 9 x 13 inch brownie pan with butter. Line the greased pan with parchment paper and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 F.

2. Chop and melt the 7 ounces of semisweet chocolate in a double broiler. Allow the melted chocolate to rest for five minutes while you prepare the eggs and sugar.

3. Separate the eggs. In an electric mixer, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until pale and fluffy. In another bowl, whisk the egg whites until firm.

4. Fold the melted chocolate into the egg yolks and sugar just until combined. Then fold in roughly 1/3 of the whipped egg whites into the chocolate mixture. Add the remaining egg whites and fold until the whites are incorporated.

5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, until firm. Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack. Cover the cake with a damp towel and allow to sit overnight.

6. The next day, remove the towel from the cake. Sprinkle the cake with the chocolate liquor, then spread with the raspberry jam. The cake is now ready to be frosted and rolled!

To prepare the Chocolate Buttercream:
1. Chop and melt the 4 oz of chocolate in a double broiler. When melted, set aside and allow to rest for five minutes while you prepare the eggs and sugar.

2. Place the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer, and place this over a pot of simmering water. Place a candy thermometer in the bowl and continue to heat the sugar and eggs, while stirring occasionally, until the thermometer registers 160.

* If you don’t have a candy thermometer, don’t fret! You can heat the mixture until all the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is no longer grainy when rubbed against the side of the bowl.

3. Remove the bowl from the heat and place in the electric mixer. Whisk the egg whites and sugar on high speed until white in color and thick, roughly 8-10 minutes. It will be similar in consistency to marshmallow fluff.

4. Switch to the paddle attachment and add the soft butter in small chunks with the mixer running on medium-low. When all the butter is added, run the mixer for an additional 2-3 minutes.

5. Slowly pour in the melted chocolate into the buttercream, and fold until all the chocolate has been incorporated.

To assemble the Busch de Noel:
1. Spread roughly 2/3 of the chocolate buttercream on the cake, leaving a border of ½ inch uncovered around the cake.

2. Starting at the 9 inch side of the cake, roll! Don’t try to squeeze the cake too tight, just roll lightly, pulling pack the parchment as you go.

3. Use the remaining buttercream to coat the exterior of the cake. Use a fork to create bark-like lines in the frosting, and dust with powdered cocoa.

4. Decorate to your liking!!

Happy Baking!!!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Ginger People Houses

...Christmas is coming…
….the geese are getting fat…
….please put a penny in the old man’s hat…

It’s certainly starting to feel like Christmas! It's been snowing on and off this past week and everything is draped in a delicate white blanket. Christmas lights are twinkling on trees and in shop windows, and I've certainly been blasting the Christmas music while I cook.

Cloaked by all this Christmas glitz and cheer, I start planning Le Petit Lapin’s Christmas Dessert Menu last week. First item was ginger people and houses for them to live in.

This was my first attempt at making a gingerbread house. The more I pondered constructing an architecturally sound and stable house, the more nervous I became. Thankfully, my ginger house turned out great, and I've made several more since.

Below is my recipe for ginger dough. It can be used for both ginger people and ginger people houses. I am only going through the process of making a house seeing as it is a bit more work than people. However, if you use the dough to make ginger people, roll the dough slightly thinner and bake for 5 less minutes.

To make the outlines for the house, simply trace them in cardboard or thick paper and laminate. I used the following dimensions to create a house with a large, sloping roof, but you can certainly create your own shape. The more unique the better!

Roof = 9 x 10 inches
Side = 4 x 8 inches
Front/Back = 4 x 8.5 inches with triangle on top with sides of 9 inches on the 8.5 inch base

Ginger Dough:
3 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cocoa
5 teaspoons powdered ginger
2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground clove
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ sticks unsalted butter
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup molasses

Additional Ingredients and Supplies:
Ginger House Outlines
Royal Icing
Canned Frosting
Pastry Bags or ziplock bags
Candy for decorating
Hard Hat…this is serious construction, people!

To make and bake the dough:
1. Sift the dry ingredients together in a medium sized bowl. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

2. Pour the molasses into the butter mixture and mix until combined. Add the flour mixture in three parts, mixing only until all the ingredients come together.

3. Form the dough into three separate balls and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill in the fridge for at least 1 ½ hours and up to three days.

4. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 F. Remove one piece of dough at a time, and roll out on a lightly floured surface to a thickness of about 1/4 inch.

5. Lay the house outline on top of the dough and cut along the outline. Push away the scraps and carefully lift the dough onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

6. Bake the ginger house parts for 15 minutes. Allow to cool on the baking sheet for five minutes then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. Repeat for all surfaces of the house.

To assemble the Ginger House:

7. First make the royal icing. Simply combine a large amount of confectioners sugar (roughly 3 cups) with a small amount of boiling water (maybe 3 tablespoons). Mix together, and add more water or sugar until the mixture is thick and gooey.

8. Spoon the icing into a pastry bag fitted with a small tip, or pour into a zip-lock bag and cut a small corner off the bottom. Put some of the canned frosting in another pastry bag (or zip-lock bag) fitted with a larger tip.

9. First, use the royal icing to decorate any of the pieces. Don’t add candy yet, but if you want to pipe on doors, windows, and roofing, do this now and allow the icing to set.

10.Take your cardboard and mark with pencil where you wish to place the four bottom pieces of the house. Starting with the back face of the house, pipe royal icing over the penciled line several times. Place the gingerbread piece on this line and hold for a few minutes while the royal icing dries. You can also place something next to the piece to hold it up. Use your canned frosting on the inside of the house and pipe along the royal icing just as extra reinforcement.

11. Allow the back piece to dry for roughly ten minutes before you start with the other sides of the house. Once the first piece is dry, repeat the process with the two sides and front of the house.

11. Lastly, adhere the two roof pieces, one at a time. Use the royal icing to coat the two pointed sides of the front. Once you place the roof piece on, hold the piece for roughly five minutes. Afterward, place something below the roof to hold it up until the frosting is entirely dry. Repeat with the second roof piece only when the first piece is completely secured.

** If your roof piece doesn’t seem to stay in place first time, don’t give up!! Just remove and add more royal icing and try again. Mine slid away on my first attempt and held on my second, so just keep trying**

12. Now comes the fun part, decorating! Use either the royal icing or the canned frosting to decorate the house with candy. Have fun, and try not to eat too much candy while decorating!

Of course, you could always save yourself the trouble and purchase a Le Petit Lapin ginger people house!

Email or call 802-253-5174 to order your ginger people house!


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