Saturday, 22 December 2007

Yule Log - Daring Bakers Dec 07 Challenge

This month's challenge was set by Ivonne @ Cream Puffs In Venice and Lis at La Mia Cucina and the challenge was a Yule log with decorative mushrooms. There are three stages to this recipe, the cake, the buttercream and the mushrooms. the original recipe is from Sources: Perfect Cakes by Nick Malgieri and The Williams-Sonoma Collection: Dessert
Serves 12

Firstly the cake

Which is a genoise, not something I have really done much but as it is based on whisked eggs and sugar for the rise I figured it at least wasn't to difficult to change to Gluten free. The original recipe was plain but we were allowed to flavour it so I added a little cinnamon as it's christmas.

Cinnamon Genoise:
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
pinch of salt
¾ cup of sugar
½ cup general gluten free flour mix - spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off
¼ cup cornflour (cornstarch)
1/2 tsp cinnamon

one 10 x 15 inch jelly-roll pan that has been buttered and lined with parchment paper and then buttered again (mine was slightly too small and the cake was a bit thick to roll easily.)

1.Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 200 C (400 F).
2.Half-fill a medium saucepan with water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat so the water is simmering.
3.Whisk the eggs, egg yolks, salt and sugar together in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer. Place over the pan of simmering water and whisk gently until the mixture is just lukewarm, about 100 degrees if you have a thermometer (or test with your finger - it should be warm to the touch).
4.Attach the bowl to the mixer and, with the whisk attachment, whip on medium-high speed until the egg mixture is cooled (touch the outside of the bowl to tell) and tripled in volume. The egg foam will be thick and will form a slowly dissolving ribbon falling back onto the bowl of whipped eggs when the whisk is lifted.
5.While the eggs are whipping, stir together the flour, cinnamon and cornstarch.
6.Sift one-third of the flour mixture over the beaten eggs. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the flour mixture, making sure to scrape all the way to the bottom of the bowl on every pass through the batter to prevent the flour mixture from accumulating there and making lumps. Repeat with another third of the flour mixture and finally with the remainder.
7.Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
8.Bake the genoise for about 10 to 12 minutes. Make sure the cake doesn’t overbake and become too dry or it will not roll properly.
9.While the cake is baking, begin making the buttercream.
10.Once the cake is done (a tester will come out clean and if you press the cake lightly it will spring back), remove it from the oven and let it cool on a rack.

Second the Buttercream

This should have been coffee but that would have given me a migraine also when i came to make it I realised the amount of butter was more than I had in unsalted form. I wanted to do a chocolate version as that kept it brown coloured and someone on the Daring Bakers group had suggested melted chocolate was better than coco powder. Never one to turn down melted chocolate I replaced some of the butter with melted chocolate and softened the butter by putting in the choc once it was melted which made everything easy to mix and cooled the chocolate mix down. I didn't have any curdling issues which others did so something in that worked. I've never done a marague based buttercream before and prefer it to the types I have had so will try to remember it for other times. The original recipe also had rum or brandy in it but being pregnant I'm not using any acohol at the moment.

Chocolate Buttercream:
4 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup melted chocolate

1.Whisk the egg whites and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Set the bowl over simmering water and whisk gently until the sugar is dissolved and the egg whites are hot.
2. Melt chocolate and mix with butter.
2.Attach the bowl to the mixer and whip with the whisk on medium speed until cooled. Switch to the paddle and beat in the softened butter/choc mix and continue beating until the buttercream is smooth.

Making up the cake

Once the cake was cool I removed it from the pan and spread with about half the buttercream then rolled it up and refrigerated it while I made the mushrooms. The butter cream squished out of the cake rather but enough was still left inside to work. Once refrigerated the ends were cut off and one put on top to be a stump. The stump gradually worked it's way down the side of the cake so in the end it came out the side instead! The whole things was covered in the rest of the buttercream and roughly marked to look like wood.

We were given the choice of marzipan or meringue mushrooms and I chose the second which i didn't change the recipe for at all.

Meringue Mushrooms:

3 large egg whites, at room temperature
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
½ cup (3-1/2 ounces/105 g.) granulated sugar
1/3 cup (1-1/3 ounces/40 g.) icing sugar
Unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting

1.Preheat the oven to 100 C (225 F). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. Have ready a pastry bag fitted with a small (no. 6) plain tip. In a bowl, using a mixer on medium-low speed, beat together the egg whites and cream of tartar until very foamy. Slowly add the granulated sugar while beating. Increase the speed to high and beat until soft peaks form when the beaters are lifted. Continue until the whites hold stiff, shiny peaks. Sift the icing sugar over the whites and, using a rubber spatula, fold in until well blended.

2.Scoop the mixture into the bag. On one baking sheet, pipe 48 stems, each ½ inch (12 mm.) wide at the base and tapering off to a point at the top, ¾ inch (2 cm.) tall, and spaced about ½ inch (12 mm.) apart. On the other sheet, pipe 48 mounds for the tops, each about 1-1/4 inches (3 cm.) wide and ¾ inch (2 cm.) high, also spaced ½ inch (12 mm.) apart. With a damp fingertip, gently smooth any pointy tips. Dust with cocoa. Reserve the remaining meringue.

3.Bake until dry and firm enough to lift off the paper, 50-55 minutes. Set the pans on the counter and turn the mounds flat side up. With the tip of a knife, carefully make a small hole in the flat side of each mound. Pipe small dabs of the remaining meringue into the holes and insert the stems tip first. Return to the oven until completely dry, about 15 minutes longer. Let cool completely on the sheets.

4.Garnish your Yule Log with the mushrooms.

The finished result

The Yule Log turned out well, the cake itself was light and kept well for a couple of days at least after which it was all eaten. The buttercream was good, sweet but not sickly, I liked the slightly meringue texture of it. The mushrooms were surprisingly easy to make even if I did try and destroy them by tipping to much coco powder into the sieve to dust them with, lucky I only hit a few and there were plenty of spare.

At least one of the kids at the gathering I took it to refused to believe the mushrooms weren't real ones so wouldn't try them but other wise it went down well. If I had more time next time I would go slower in the decoration and use some dusting powder to add moss as well as possibly doing a second paler colour of buttercream so I could do more convincing cut ends.

Finally I had to do all the whisking by hand as I don't currently have a mixer. I'm hoping for one for christmas and if not will be looking in the post christmas sales. I don't suggest doing this recipe by hand but with a good mixer I think it is within the scope of most people to have a go if they just take one step at a time.

To see how others did and to get tips on any things like curdled buttercream check out the rest of the Daring bakers on the blogroll most should be posting up on either the 22nd or 23rd this month, being such a busy month we were given two dates to chose from so the posting will b a little more spread than normal.

Monday, 17 December 2007

Weekly Menu 17th - 21st Dec

Well even with a very basic menu I didn't stick to it fully last week. I don't even remember what we had Thursday It was the smalls first christmas play and by the end of walking there and back I had to put my feet up so someone else cooked but I know it wasn't sausage and mash. Friday we had eggy bread and bacon as we left to visit family late afternoon and wanted something easy and I had spare GF bread for mine which was cooked first.

Weekend away was good but it confirmed that walking is going to have to be significantly limited for a while. By the time we had ambled round London a while I was in noticeable pain and walking very slowly and laboriously.
Another very basic menu this week in the run up to Christmas, hopefully allowing me to do some baking and the like.

Monday - Sausage and Mash

Tuesday - omelets

Wednesday - stew

Thursday - pasta and sauce

Friday - I have a friend round to do costume design and sewing so possibly take away or going out to allow me to spend the energy on her not cooking. Also last day at school for small so he is having Christmas dinner that day instead of a packed lunch.

For other ideas, some of them gluten free look at menu plan Monday

Monday, 10 December 2007

Weekly menu 10 Dec - 14 Dec

Last week rather went out the window menu wise, in fact the only one I did was Monday. The rest of the week was easy stuff out of the freezer I could throw in the oven or get others to do.

This is because Monday after my GTT (glucose Tolerance test) I started to get pains while out shopping, when they had been continuous for over 4 hours I went to the labour ward and got checked out. The good news is sprogg is fine and so far staying where he is but I have been taking it very gently and spending most of the time with my feet up. Standing for any length of time has been uncomfortable. To be honest I think it is more to do with over stressing muscles re-organising the back room than anything more worrying and I have an appointment with the consultant tomorrow so will get another checkup. I fully expect them to say keep off your feet as much as possible so am planning to do as little as possible which unfortunately includes cooking, as such I have some meals planned that can be done by anyone and will be done which ever day suits.

Pasta and sauce

Chops and oven roasted veg

veg stew

sausage and mash

rice and stuff (ie throw together anything and everything that needs eating)

I do hope to do some baking to take to the in-laws for at the weekend becouse a) that means there will be stuff I can eat and while they try very hard and do well to be fair, it is still easier for me than them. b) home made baking is always nice this time of year for everyone.

Monday, 3 December 2007

Weekly menu (Dec3 - Dec 7)

Gluten Free Menu Swap Monday - Pomegranates

This weeks ingredient is the pomegranate. One of my all time favorates, as a child one of my christmas treats was to have a pomegranate, one a year.. they still aren't cheap here but I generally manage more than one a year these days.

I edited last weeks post to say what actually happened rather than what was planned though the two were fairly close. I also did a couple of posts detailing recipes. Carrie, you might like to know we had your corn pudding which the boys loved, I thought it was nice enough but I think you've worked out by now I prefer my savory, well savoy and sweet dishes saved for puddings. I love pickles and other sour dishes though..

Dec 3rd to Dec 7th

Monday - I have to fast from 9pm tonight as I'm booked for a Glucose Tolerance test tomorrow, the wonders of being an older, over weight, pregnant woman, still useful to know if I do need to be careful for the sprogs sake.

Tomato and Egg (a sort thick tomato and veg sauce with eggs cooked on top and covered in cheese.. much nicer than it sounds, have a feeling it was originally a weight watchers recipe but I'm not certain)

Tuesday - Cauliflower and brocalli cheese (lots of brassicas in veg boxes now)

Wednesday - Home made chicken Kievs (this will be a first to try this), rice and feta and pomegranate salad.

Thursday - (out at the local christmas street party and light turning on)
Pre cooked finger food, probably some GF sausages, cheese and maybe flapjack or similar. Depends how adventurous I get.

Friday - stirfry and rice noodles.

Extra baking
some form of cranberry cupcakes.. lots of options here
Cornflake Flapjack with dried fruit

Lots more menu ideas here, though most aren't gluten free - Menu Plan Monday

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Moroccan Style chicken and Apricots with Quinoa

I finally made this on Sunday rather than Friday as it takes a while to cook and I wasn't organised enough on Friday. However that said it is easy to make and once preped just sits in the oven for a couple of hours.

4 very large chicken thighs (or 6-8 normal ones)
1 tsp each of cinnamon, ginger and cumin
olive oil
1 onion ( my last one was soft so I used a leek)
about 5 cloves of garlic
1 large carrot
couple of hand fulls of dried apricots
about 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper
chicken stock (I used a GF cube)


I deboned the thighs and chopped them in half but mostly because they were very large, if preferred you can cook them on the bone or use a different cut of chicken. Leave the pieces fairly large.

Mix the three spices together and sprinkle on the meat then rub in.

Heat oil in a oven proof metal casserole then brown off the meat. Chop the onion (leek), garlic and carrot and add to the pan and season with salt and pepper, cook off slightly. Chop apricots roughly and add to pan. Finally add enough stock to mostly cover the meat and vegs.

Place in the oven and cook for around 2 hours at 160C.

When the meat is falling apart prepare the Quinoa by cooking in twice as much water or stock by volume as the amount of Quinoa you use. Once pretty much all the water is absorbed add some sultanas and put the lid on to allow them to plump up a little.

The finished dish is thick and dark with the meat falling apart, most of the ingredients have combined to make a wonderful thick, soft sauce so it doesn't photograph that well but tastes great.