Bûche de Noël meringuée choco/framboise // Choc-raspberry Yule Log with meringue

Final Yule log

Final Yule log

This year, for the first time ever, I decided to try my hand at a yule log to take to Christmas lunch. The bûches de Noël I’m familiar with, however, tend to be a bit heavy for an Australian Christmas: lots of heavy chocolate and creamy mousse. Neither of which sounded particularly appealing in the middle of a warm summer.

The hunt was on, therefore, for a light, summer-appropriate recipe. Inspired by Evasion culinaire’s excellent-sounding bûche chocolat framboisesI decided to try my hand at the biscuit cuillère/chocolate/raspberry combination. Loving the look of meringue logs, I was keen to incorporate that element, too, particularly since the biscuit cuillère called for nearly twice as many egg yolks as whites. It would have the added advantage of cutting down on the ganache, which I tend to find overpowering at the best of times.

We had a few oven mishaps on the day, so this is my best approximation of the recipe. A friend has already put in an order for one as a birthday cake so I’ll have to revise as appropriate at a later date.

Ingredients

For the biscuit cuillère (d’après Evasion culinaire at the link above):

  • 9 egg yolks
  • 5 egg whites
  • 85 g flour (plain)
  • 130 g caster sugar

For the ganache:

  • 180g dark cooking chocolate
  • 100ml pure cream
  • 20g butter

For the meringue:

  • 4 egg whites
  • pinch of salt
  • 150g-250g caster sugar

For syrup, filling and decoration:

  • Crushed frozen raspberries
  • 8 or so whole rapsberries
  • 40g raspberry jam
  • 2 tbsp water
  • Mint leaves
  1. Biscuit cuillère: Preheat the oven to 220 degrees celsius. Beat the (5) egg whites into stiff peaks. As soon as they begin to seize, add the sugar in small quantities until you obtain a stiff, glossy meringue. Add the egg yolks while continuing to beat for about 20 seconds. Sift in the flour, gently mixing it in with a spatula to avoid deflating the mixture. Spread the mixture onto a baking tray (I recommend the use of greased baking paper or a silicone baking sheet) and bake for no more than 12 minutes or until set. Be careful not to overcook the biscuit – you’ll need to roll it later. (This step was difficult for me, as the oven died in the first minute so I had to finish it with a grill, fan & blowtorch combo. Will revise with working oven.) When you remove it from the oven, cover with a clean teatowel to avoid too much drying out.
  2. Ganache: Heat the cream in a small – medium saucepan. Remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate, broken into chunks. Whisk until completely incorporated, then add the butter, whisking again until you get a smooth mixture. Reserve. (If you’d like to skip the meringue and cover with ganache, use the recipe at Evasion Culinaire instead. In that case, half of the ganache should be used for filling, the rest to cover in lieu of the meringue.)
  3. Syrup: Heat the jam & water in a small saucepan until fully dissolved.
  4. Preliminary assembly: Turn the cake out onto a generous amount of baking paper or a silicone baking sheet. Coat one side generously with the syrup, using a pastry brush. Spread evenly with ganache (reserving just a little for final assembly), then cover with the crushed raspberries. Roll the cake gently along the length, using the paper or baking sheet to hold. (If you’ve ever made sushi, this technique should be fairly familiar to you.) You should obtain a long, thin log. Wrap the log in baking paper, twisting the ends to secure. Chill in a fridge to set.  (This video shows the assembly technique well.)
  5. Meringue: [Start the final assembly before the meringue, so that you can use the meringue straight away.] Add a pinch of salt to (4) egg whites at room temperature. Beat until peaks form, then slowly add the sugar in small quantities (while still beating). Continue beating until you have a stiff, glossy mixture that will hold its shape well. Use immediately.
  6. Final assembly: Unwrap the chilled log and slice the ends off diagonally, reattaching one at the side and one on top to resemble a log. Use the ganache you reserved from the preliminary assembly to “glue” the pieces in position.

    Assembled ready for meringue

    Assembled ready for meringue

  7. Spoon the meringue into a piping bag with a star nozzle. Pipe meringue over the entire log, swirling at the ends to resemble natural wood. Once the entire log is covered, use a creme brulee torch/cooking torch to crisp the meringue to golden brown. Don’t be concerned if it singes: the taste will be reminiscent of campfire marshmallows. SAMSUNG
  8. Dress with the mint leaves and whole raspberries.

    Decoration complete

    Decoration complete

Foodie finds: Braidwood

Things have been a bit hectic recently, so I’ve been on a blogging hiatus. However, last weekend Phoenix and I went on a road trip and in the process  made a few delicious discoveries.

 

The first stop on our food journey (and the first “Foodie find” post): the historic town of Braidwood.

Braidwood View

 

Braidwood is a haven of historic buildings and colonial-era charm. Being situated half-way between Canberra and the NSW South Coast, it’s long been a favourite driver reviver stop for Canberra locals.  In particular, Canberrans are keen on the Braidwood Bakery, a large and affordable country bakery in the middle of town with friendly service, handy bathrooms (for that break in travel) and all your country bakery favourites.

Needing a rest stop, and keen on some breakfast, Phoenix and I made sure to stop in on the way to the coast last weekend. Since it was a long weekend, the bakery was packed with out-of-towners. (Given the number of staff on hand, this is a usual occurence.) We stocked up on coffee and baked goods with the rest of the throng. Refreshed, we were ready to continue our journey when we made an excellent discovery.

 

Dojo Bread is located in an old cottage tucked around the corner from the better-known Braidwood bakery. We wouldn’t have noticed it but for the constant stream of locals heading in, and packing out the small space. We simply had to investigate, and found a paradise of artisanal breads, with sourdough, rye and spelt in abundance. The range wasn’t big, but it was clear from both the crowd and the smells that we were in the presence of true quality bread.

The Bakery

Worth more than a look

 

 

Despite our full belies, we purchased two golden pies for a later lunch – without so much as asking what was in them. When we finally had the chance to consume them some hours later, they were revealed to contain a delicious beef and red wine casserole, still delicious despite several hours in the back of the car. We resolved to return.

 

Sadly, on our return we’d missed the bakery’s opening hours. However, on our way through town I’d noticed a very sweet-looking cottage advertising itself as a restaurant and bar. We wandered down the main street to investigate and found it open, warm and welcoming. TorPeas (next to Torpy’s Guesthouse) turned out to be a real gem. A roaring wood fire kept things toasty, while the friendly yet unassuming waiter/owner recommended wines and brewed coffee. His wife, the outstanding chef, brought us our hearty Sunday roast and rich stew, all affordable yet delicious. Another unmissable Braidwood food spot.

Warm, welcoming and worth a detour.

 

Orange and star anise duck on roast beetroot & shallots

Last week I mentioned my dislike of Canberra cold to a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) aficionado. This gentleman kindly infomed me that I should eat more beetroot to warm my blood. As I rather like beetroot, and haven’t eaten any for a while, I thought it worth a shot. If nothing else, I’d get a good dose of antioxidants and delicious beetroot-y goodness!

My favourite beetroot recipes are roast beetroot, orange, walnut and feta salads, usually with some flat-leaf parsley. But to mix it up tonight, I wanted something heartier and warmer… and settled on orange and star anise duck on a bed of roast beetroot and shallots.

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Recipe via SBS Food, substituting duck marylands with duck breast and adding shallots to the roasting pan when adding the duck. Delicious! Next time, I’ll add green beans with flaked almond for a pop of green on the plate.

Lessons in breadmaking – part two, yeast fix results

In yesterday’s post, after fixing the failed yeast, the bread had risen to about halfway up the bowl (from under 1/3 in the first place). Within a few hours, the bowl was full. And it’s not exactly a small bowl!

 

In accordance with the recipe, once the bread had risen it was time to pop it in the fridge. I baked a few lovely bread rolls this evening, and this was the result (two eaten before I had the chance to take the picture):

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Rye, caraway and delicious.

Lessons in breadmaking

About a month ago,  via Steamy Kitchen, I (belatedly) discovered the fabulous peasant bread from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.  No knead bread so easy a four-year-old can make it? Sign me up!

After experimenting with a few versions, due to my love of rye I made the Pete Bakes! version my go-to, and bought the book online. (It’s still in the mail, but should be here any day for more delicious bready goodness.) Delicious bread was had.

Until today! I was in a hurry this afternoon, wanting to get the dough made before the sun escaped from the sky. With Canberra’s cold weather (and water), I knew I’d need a bit of warmth in the water and so boiled a little while I was mixing the flours. To make it lukewarm instead of boiling, I topped up the rest of the jug with cold water, but didn’t think to test it first. Alas, dear reader, the water was still reasonably hot!  To make things worse, I’d thought I’d save time by adding the salt to the water with the yeast. Two major mistakes. The result, that I’m sure keen bakers will have picked up already, is that my poor yeast did not survive. The bread steadfastly refused to rise, even when placed in a warm room.

I now had a large volume of less-than-ideal bread dough, and a diagnosis (courtesy of WikiHow): overheated, salted yeast. I could continue winging it, or I could do the sensible thing: ask the internet for help. Instinct said I should add another dose of yeast dissolved in water, with some flour in proportion to the water. But instinct hadn’t quite worked out earlier. Since the internet had provided me with the recipe, surely it could provide a solution.

eHow advised me that while the instinct of adding more yeast, water and flour was correct, I should also add sugar to help things along. This time I followed instructions, ensured that the yeast was active by waiting for a foam to rise on the water/sugar/yeast mix, then let things run their course.  The bread dough went to rest in my lovely warm lounge room, and puffed up right away. Success!

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Don’t be fooled, it’s a giant bowl!

Of course, the proof of the pudding (or bread, in this case) is in the eating, so I’ll have to bake & eat it to truly be successful. Photos to come!

Footloose & recipe-free: winging it with dinner

Following recipes can be quite hard for me at times – I always want to experiment & mix things up. (I’d make a terrible patissier!) Chocolate cakes become choc-raspberry, mocha, or chocolate/gingerbread; breads acquire rosemary or caraway. Sometimes it fails (and I end up with salted caramel sauce instead of salted caramel sweets); other times it works rather well.

Tonight’s dinner is the perfect example. We had some delicious-looking Tasmanian salmon in the fridge, along with a random selection of vegetables. My partner, who I shall call Phoenix (for reasons unrelated to this post), was keen to BBQ.  Despite the Canberra winter, because he’s hardcore like that. So we deemed it appropriate to combine a few of my favourite things and get our grill on.

The inspiration (& core ingredients):

  • Tasmanian salmon
  • Japanese-style mashed potato
  • dill (possibly my favourite herb)
  • lemon-infused Cobram Estate olive oil (anyone who doesn’t love it is a liar)
  • Brussels sprouts & bacon

The result:

For those wanting a recipe, here it is Pia-style:

Lemon-dill potato smash: Roughly chop potato, leaving the skin on. (Here, I used Royal Blue, which leaves a pinky-purple skin for texture.) Parboil in the microwave, covered, until soft.  Drain, add dill (preferably fresh) and a generous glop of mayonnaise for the Japanese mashed potato taste. Drizzle with lemon-infused olive oil, then mash, stirring occasionally.

Brussels sprouts & bacon (a staple since being introduced to it via a dear friend, Emma): Coarsely chop 2 rashers of middle bacon. Chop the ends off the sprouts and halve (if small) or quarter them. Rinse the sprouts, then parboil until soft. Meanwhile, cook the bacon in a semi-deep pan until almost crispy. Drain sprouts & finish cooking with the bacon.

Barbequed salmon (per Phoenix): Take the tasty Tasmanian salmon and drizzle the shizzle out of it with the lemon infused olive oil. Coat with the dill and on a hot BBQ, cook it for 2 minutes each side. Use the grill bit for this. Only losers don’t cross hatch their meat. Pay respect to your Adonis ancestors and eat the winning flavour.

The finishing step? Throw it on a plate and enjoy.  Dear reader, it was delicious.