Thursday, December 15, 2005

So we are having a pot luck Christmas party on Saturday night and I have been too busy to think about it, much less decorate the house for the holidays. Its Thursday and I better get cracking. Since we are leaving for Christmas and going to Florida, we decided not to get a big tree, so sometime today between thawing pipes and making food I have to go cut a tree from somewhere. Anyway, decided to make my life complicated by making a buche de noel for the first time. My mom is a pro at these and hers are so festive. They are kinda corny, but do bring a smile to everyone's face when they see it, especially decked out with merangue mushrooms.

I'm not a fan of buttercream frosting, so I am going to make mine a bit more decadent and use parts of four different recipes and see how it comes out. I'm going to make an orange spice sponge cake, and make orange cream cheese frosting for the inside and a chocolate ganache for the frosting. The recipe is below and I will let you know how it turns out. Wish me luck.


1 cup cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup whole milk
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon grated orange peel
Powdered sugar

For cake: Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter 15x10x1-inch jelly-roll pan or cookie sheet with sides. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper; butter parchment. Whisk first 6 ingredients in medium bowl to blend.
Heat milk in medium saucepan over medium heat to 150°F. Using electric mixer, beat sugar and eggs in large bowl until fluffy, about 4 minutes. Beat in vanilla and grated orange peel. Beat in flour mixture until just blended. Gradually beat in warm milk. Pour batter into pan.
Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 10 minutes. Spread kitchen towel on work surface; cover with parchment. Sprinkle parchment lightly with powdered sugar. Run knife around edge of pan to loosen cake. Invert hot cake onto parchment. Peel parchment off top of cake. Starting at 1 long side and using towel as aid, gently roll up cake jelly-roll style. Cool.

1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
16 oz cream cheese
juice of one orange and 2 tablespoons zest
1 stick butter
4 teaspoons vanilla extract

For ganache
1/2 cup whipping cream
6 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur

Make ganache:
Bring cream to simmer in heavy medium saucepan. Remove from heat. Add chocolate, corn syrup and liqueur. Stir until mixture is smooth. Let ganache stand until cool and thick.
Whisk ganache just until soft peaks form (do not overmix). Spread ganache over roll. Using tines of fork, draw lines through ganache to represent tree bark. (Roll can be made 1 day ahead. Tent with foil and refrigerate.)

I also made merangue mushrooms to place around the outside: Wrap cookie sheet in foil and preheat to 250. beat 3-4 egg whites with a pinch of salt and a pinch of cream of tartar until foamy and soft peaks form. Add 1 cup sugar in 1 tablespoon additions (beat for at least 20 seconds between additions. After 1/2 cup of sugar then beat in dash of vanilla and keep adding sugar. After all sugar is in, beat for 8 minutes or so until you cannot taste the sugar crystals. Scoop into pastry bag with #7 tip and make 20 "stems" by slowly lifing bag as you squirt out merangues. Make caps by leaving tip just above cookie sheet and squeezing bag. Wet finger to push down peaks. sprinkle with cocoa and bake for over an hour at 250 until merangues are hard and peel off foil. Scrape out underside of "caps" slightly, fill with dark chocolate and then "glue" stem to cap and let harden upside-down.