Friday, December 25, 2009

Almond, Ginger and Chocolate Buche de Noel

First of all, Merry Christmas to all you Chocolate Shavings loyal readers! Your comments have really made this blog that much more fun to write and always gives me that extra boost of energy to sit down and share a recipe I loved, even when my day seemed like it should have been 30 hours long.

As much as I love creating new traditions for the holidays (like my Panettone bread pudding and homemade Gingerbread ornaments) I also love upholding old traditions. We serve yule logs, every single Christmas at home, and since I wasn't home this year, I decided to make an old dessert in a new home.. so here it is! Buche de Noel is not nearly as daunting to make as it might seem, especially when you've made it once before. The most difficult part is wrapping yourself around the different steps of the dessert.

As its name so blatantly suggests, yule logs are the sweet, edible version of the large wooden logs used to warm cold wintery houses during Christmastime. And as nature intended it, logs are not perfectly symmetrical, have nooks and crannies, uneven edges and aren't perfectly straight. This should all encourage those of us who haven't been baking yule logs since they could hold their first spoon. This dessert is not meant to look perfect, but naturally rustic!

Almond, Ginger and Chocolate Buche de Noel

For the genoise:
4 eggs
120 grams of sugar
60 grams of flour
60 grams of powdered almonds
A pinch of salt
For the filling:
1/2 container of mascarpone
2 tablespoons of minced crystallized ginger
1/4 cup of confectioner's sugar
For the exterior:
1/2 container of mascarpone
2 tablespoons of confectioner's sugar
1/4 cup dark chocolate, melted and cooled
1/4 cup of heavy cream
A pinch of salt
1/4 cup of toasted slithered almonds

For the genoise:
Preheat the oven to 350F. Separate the yolks from the whites. In a bowl, mix the yolks and sugar until the mixture whitens. Add the flour and the sifted powdered almonds gradually. In a separate bowl, add the pinch of salt to the egg whites and beat until the mixture forms stiff peaks. Gently fold the whites into the yolk mixture until the mixture is homogeneous and smooth.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the batter to form a 1/4 inch thick rectangle. Even out the batter using a spatula. Bake for 12-15 minutes. The cake is done when you can gently press the cake with your thumb and the imprint disappears after a couple seconds.
Mix the 1/2 container of mascarpone and confectioner's sugar in a bowl while the cake is baking. Fold in the crystallized ginger.

Lay a damp dish towel onto a flat surface and cover with a large piece of parchment paper. Once the cake is done, immediately invert it onto the parchment paper. Gently start rolling the cake (as you would sushi) until you form a log. This must be done while the cake is still warm in order for it not to crack. Leave the rolled cake to cool down.
Melt the chocolate and leave to cool. Beat the remaining mascarpone with the cream, pinch of salt and confectioner's sugar until smooth. Fold in the chocolate when it is cool enough so it does not melt the mascarpone.
To assemble:
Unroll the cake and gently spread the ginger/mascarpone mixture on one side. Make sure the layer is even and lave a small border. Gently roll the cake up again. An additional, optional step is to wrap the entire cake in plastic wrap, twist it at the ends, and let sit in the fridge for 20 minutes to compress the layers together. Cover the cake with the chocolate/mascarpone mixture. Top with toasted almonds and decorate as you please. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

DIY Christmas Ornaments

Here is the recipe I used to make these Christmas ornaments. You can find the rest of my post in the Kitchn section of Apartment Therapy's website. It's one of my favorite places to browse for new design and kitchen ideas and I'm honored to be a part of this year's holiday posts.

Adapted from Nick Malgieri
Makes about 24 large cookies, depending on the size cutter used

5 cups all-purpose flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)
4 teaspoons ground ginger
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
2/3 cup molasses
2 cookie sheets or jelly roll pans lined with parchment or foil

In a large bowl, combine the flour, spices, salt and baking soda. Stir well to mix.

Place the butter and brown sugar in the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed until well mixed, about 1 minute. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating smooth after each addition. Scrape down bowl and beater.

Lower speed and beat in about half the flour mixture. Beat in all the molasses then scrape bowl and beater. Add the remaining flour mixture, about 1 cup at a time, and beat after each addition until it has all been absorbed.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and give the dough a final mixing with a large rubber spatula. Scrape half the dough onto a large piece of plastic wrap and press it to about a 1/2-inch thickness. Wrap the dough securely and repeat with the remaining dough. Chill the dough for at least 2 hours or for up to 3 days.

When you are ready to bake the cookies, set racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.

Unwrap one of the pieces of dough and cut it in half. Re-wrap one of the halves and return it to the refrigerator.

On a floured surface, roll the dough until it is about 1/4-inch thick. Use a floured cookie cutter to cut the cookies. As they are cut, place the cut cookies on the prepared pans with about 1 inch between them on all sides. Repeat with remaining dough. Save, press together, and re-roll scraps (they don't need to be chilled before re-rolling).

Bake the cookies until they become dull and dry looking and feel slightly firm when pressed with a fingertip, about 12 to 15 minutes. Be careful not to over-bake the cookies or they will be very dry. Slide papers from pans onto racks to cool.

Store the cooled cookies between sheets of parchment or wax paper in a tin or plastic container with a tight-fitting cover.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Milk Chocolate Buttercream

This post will be a short one because I feel like a great batch of cupcakes really does speak for itself. I used Martha Stewarts' One-Bowl Chocolate Cupcake recipe, which works wonders to make the cupcakes moist (there is really nothing worse than a dry cupcake!) as well as my fail-safe chocolate buttercream to frost them with. The only tip I have for the batter recipe is to make sure you have a bowl with a beak to pour the batter into the cupcake liners because the batter is very, very liquidy and makes a huge mess otherwise.. and I speak from experience!

I have a very rustic approach when it comes to cupcakes - I like the frosting to not look perfect, and quite enjoy the uneven look of the buttercream as it finds itself a home atop of the fluffy cakey batter. I just spoon a good amount of buttercream on each cupcake and let it find its way.

I used milk chocolate in my buttercream this time, but this recipe works fabulously with bittersweet chocolate, or a heaping spoonful of caramel. If you're not a chocolate lover shy away from this recipe because these are intensely chocolately in the fabulously bad-for-you kind of way! But cupcakes come in small packages so it's all good right? Although I guess that's dependent on how many you have!

Milk Chocolate Buttercream

Frosts 15 cupcakes

1 stick of butter
1 3/4 cups of confectioners' sugar
3 tablespoons of milk chocolate, melted and cooled

Cream the butter with an electric mixer. Add the confectioners' sugar little by little. Mix for about 3-4 minutes until the mixture is smooth. Fold in the cooled chocolate and mix until the chocolate is entirely incorporated. Ice the cupcakes as you please. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Coconut-Chocolate Bars

Every once in a while, I get a little obsessed with a flavor combination. These past couple weeks, it's been chocolate and coconut. There's just something about dark, velvety chocolate and crunchy toasted coconut. isn't there? First, let me talk about toasting. Toasting coconut really, really makes a difference. Trust me, I'm a bit of a lazy cooks at times, but I never skip this step because of how much more flavorful the end result is. The same goes for slithered almonds- they taste that much better when slightly golden and toasted. In fact, just the smell of them while they're toasting in the pan reminds you what flavor you're actually cooking with.

These bars turned out to be delicious! They're not too sweet, and the combination of chocolate ganache, toasted coconut and chocolate base was really a winner. I'm planning out my Christmas baking packages, and this will be a great addition. Cut in smaller bit-size pieces they should be a great addition to my ever-growing list of must-bakes for the Holidays.

We bought our Christmas tree this weekend, and it has to be the nicest tree I've had with Oliver. It's plump yet elegant, and is just waiting to be dressed. I have a batch if gingerbread batter in the fridge waiting to be transformed into tree ornaments - it's hard not to be in the Christmas spirit now!

Coconut-Chocolate Bars
Adapted from BBC Good Food

100 grams (1 stick) of softened butter
100 grams (1/2 cup) of granulated sugar
2 eggs, beaten
140 grams (1 cup) of self-rising flour
1 tsp of baking powder
2 tablespoons of cocoa powder
2 tablespoons of milk

1/4 cup of bittersweet chocolate chips
A good splash of heavy cream

100 g of dessicated coconut

Preheat your oven to 350F. Butter and line and 20cm square tin.
Cream the softened butter and sugar with a hand mixer until pale and creamy (about 2 minutes). Add the eggs and beat until just combined.
Sieve in the flour, baking powder and cocoa. Beat in the milk. Place the batter in the tin making sure it's evenly distributed in the pan. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until the cake springs back when pressed.
Let the cake cool for a few minutes before removing from the tin.

While the cake is cooling, make the chocolate ganache. Using a double boiler, gently melt chocolate. Once melted, transfer chocolate to a small bowl and add a good splash of heavy cream. Whisk until the cream is fully incorporated.

Place a pan on medium heat. Add the coconut to the pan and stir until the coconut turn lightly golden. Remove from the heat. Stay close to the pan when toasted the coconut because it can burn easily. Remove from the heat as soon as the coconut is golden as it will continue to cook if left in the warm pan.

Cut the cake into small squares. Using a spoon, add a dollop of chocolate to the top of each square and spread to create an even layer. Sprinkle with toasted coconut. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
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