Saturday, 22 December 2007

DB #14: Mini Ice-cream filled Black Forest Yule Logs

December has been a very busy and hectic month, hasn't it? But I knew that after just recently joining the Daring Bakers, I could not pass this month's challenge.

The December and last Daring Bakers Challenge 2007 is the Yule Log and the recipes which are from Perfect Cakes by Nick Malgieri and The Williams-Sonoma Collection: Dessert were chosen by this month’s hosts and Daring Baker Founders Ivonne (Cream Puffs in Venice) and Lisa (La Mia Cucina).

Ivonne and Lisa stipulated that as part of this month’s challenge, over 300 (wow!!) Daring Bakers from all over the world must use the recipes they provided to make:
1. Genoise Cake
2. Buttercream Frosting (preferably coffee flavoured, or any flavour that results in a dark coloured cream)
3. Meringue or Marzipan mushrooms to decorate our logs

Thankfully, the lovely hosts allowed for many modifications such as flavouring our genoise (e.g. chocolate, nuts, lemon rind), we have complete freedom to fill our logs with anything we wanted (e.g. fruit, jam, melted chocolate, pudding), and shape our logs to our preference.

With so much freedom to create my own version of the Yule Log, and influenced by the warm summer Christmas in Australia, I decided to make Mini Ice-cream filled Black Forest Yule Logs.

You can find the full recipe here. I will highlight my variations and tips that I found helpful.

Chocolate Genoise:
I reduced the cake flour to 1/3 cup, increase cornstarch to 1/3 cup and added 1/4 cup cocoa to flour mixture. Be sure to sift the dry ingredients and mix it well with a spoon or whisk before incorporating it into the wet ingredients.

IMPORTANT - After taking the cake out of the oven, immediately loosen cake from edges of pan and turn it upside down onto a fresh parchment paper. Carefully remove the parchment paper that was baked with the cake. Trim off stiff edges of cake if necessary. While cake is still hot, carefully roll cake and the fresh parchment paper from the narrow end. Cool on a wire rack.

Chocolate Buttercream:
I omitted the espresso powder and liqueur and added about 1/3 cup of melted and cooled bittersweet couverture chocolate.

Ice-cream filling:
1 can of pitted black cherries
Store bought vanilla bean ice-cream

Drain the cherries and reserve the liquid. Cut cherries into half. Quickly whisk ice-cream – this will make it easier to incorporate the cherries. Add a few dashes of kirsch and add the cherries. Mix it well with a spoon. Fill log(s) immediately before ice-cream melts. Freeze log(s).

*The kirsch I used was a gift from Eva of Sweet Sins who was born and raised in Bavaria, Germany. She bought this kirsch from a farmer's wife from a small country town during her last trip back to Germany.

Marzipan Mushrooms:
I chose to make marzipan mushrooms because even though Quikong hates it, I am addicted to that stuff (and I mean the marzipan). The biggest challenge for me was finding almond paste! So I used the recipe from here. I made mini mushrooms to match my mini logs. A few mushrooms did not make it to the logs, it was had to stop myself from popping them into my mouth...

Tips for Assembling the Yule Log:
- When you are ready to fill the log, unroll cooled cake and remove parchment paper. Brush the surface of the cake with a flavoured simple syrup (I used a mixture of the liquid from the canned cherries and kirsch). This will keep the genoise moist and prevents it from breaking while you are rolling it.
- Spread an even layer of the cherry & ice-cream filling over the surface of the cake.
- Use the parchment paper to help you roll the cake into a tight cylinder.
- Place the log in the freezer while making the buttercream.

The Verdict:
The process of making the genoise, buttercream frosting, filling and mushrooms took some time but was quite uneventful. As I stated earlier, my biggest challenge was trying to find almond paste. I was so worn out after making all the parts of the yule log that all I had energy for was decorate the logs with the mini marzipan mushrooms.

As for the taste test, I have a soft spot for Black Forest cake, so I already knew that I will like the mini yule logs. Filling it with ice-cream made me enjoy the log more because I don't like buttercream. But will I make this again? I doubt it - this is because I tend to shy away from recipes with too many steps. So I am glad that I took up the challenge, otherwise I never would have attempted mini ice-cream yule logs (Quikong is already hankering for an ice-cream cake for his birthday next week). The part of the challenge that I am most proud off? Making my own marzipan.

~~~ @@@ ~~~

Thanks Ivonne and Lisa for hostin this month's challenge! Do check out the Yule Log creations of the other Daring Bakers. The full list of the DB members can be found here.

~~~ @@@ ~~~

To those who celebrate Christmas:
Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones. May it be filled with lots of cheer and joy.

To everyone :
My warmest wishes for the New Year!

xx Nora

p/s: I probably will not have time to post till the new year. "See" you in 2008! :-)


Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Ukrainian Honey Cake

I really should call this my volcano cake (I’ll explain in a minute).

I am not good at lying. Ask my partner and family. Or my close friends. Even if I tried, my facial expression will be a dead give-away. Let me give you an example: if a friend had a new hairstyle and I did not think that it suited her, I cannot lie, so I wouldn't say, “Oh, you look great in that hairstyle”. What I do say is a comment like, “That’s a great hairstyle.” (which is true, see how I avoided lying). But of course, if my friends directly asks for my opinion, they can always count on an honest answer from me because like I said, I cannot lie.

The same goes with my baking. If I made a mistake or was in a hurry (like the time I had to make brownies from a package - *gasp* - yes, I’ve done that before), I have to confess straight away. It was the same story with this volcano cake. Why do I call it that? Well, I was trying to make 1 ½ recipe because I wanted to take a cake to work and make a small loaf for home. Although I used to get full marks (ahem!) for mathematics in primary school, all my calculation skills seems to have evaporated through the years. I basically added too much baking soda when I made this cake, hence the volcano effect. I was also tired and in a hurry and didn’t stir through the baking powder and soda well enough, hence the uneven looking crumb.

Rescue Mission: Can't waste a good cake, right? So what I did was chop off the volcano part off the top of the round cake and consumed it (yumm! so moist!) while I are prepared the cream cheese frosting. I covered my tracks by icing the cake with the frosting. I’m so clever (insert *evil grin* here).

But I did confess to my colleagues as soon as I saw them. I told you that I can’t lie. If you want to see what the cake is supposed to look like, have a look at Luisa Weiss’ (The Wednesday Chef) honey cake. See how even and lovely her crumb is. For a dairy-free version, have a look at Nic’s (Baking Bite) version.

I’m submitting this to the Blog Event: “Embarrassing Food; Skeletons in the Pantry....Dare to Share!” hosted by Katie of Thyme for Cooking. If you haven’t visited her blog before, do so because she’s got such a great sense of humour so I always get a good laugh and also learn terrific recipes whenever I visit her blog. You have till 29 Dec to 'fess up any of your own kitchen skeletons and misadventures. To find out more about this event, have a look here. Katie will do periodic round-ups to keep us all smiling, and a complete one on December 30th.

Uneven Crumb Volcano Cake

This Ukrainian Honey Cake recipe is from the beautiful book Home Baking: The Artful Mix of Flour and Tradition Around the World by the couple, Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid. I’ve already praised it highly here.

Ukrainian Honey Cake with Dates
Adapted from Home Baking by Alford and Duguid.

2 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
¼ cup sugar
½ cup honey
50g butter (salt-reduced), melted and cooled
1 1/2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup coffee (as strong as you want it!), cooled
150g dates (fresh if possible), roughly chopped

(The original recipe can be found here. I reduced the amount of sugar because the dates adds a natural sweetness to the cake.)

1. Preheat the oven to 180° C. Butter a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan or 9-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks and sugar til pale and smooth (about 10 minutes). Add the melted butter and honey, mix until well blended and smooth.

3. Sift the flour, baking powder & soda, and cinnamon in another bowl and stir it (to evenly distribute the baking powder and soda).

4. Add half the dry ingredients to the honey mixture and stir. Add the coffee and stir. Finally, stir in the remaining dry ingredients til smooth.

5. In a bowl (use the one that had the dry ingredients), beat the egg whites to soft (not stiff) peaks. Fold them gently into the batter together with the dates.

6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 40 to 60 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

7. Turn cake out of the pan onto a write rack to cool completely.

8. If you made a mistake like me and ended up with a volcano cake, chop off the required amount of cake from the top and consume it while you are preparing the cream cheese icing. Cover your tracks by icing the cake with the cream cheese frosting and make decorative patterns on top.

Cream Cheese Frosting

½ block of cream cheese (low fat is ok), softened
lemon zest from 1 lemon
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
Sifted powdered/confectioners’/icing sugar (to taste)

Beat all of the ingredients together till smooth.

Other recipes from the Home Baking book that has been tested by other food bloggers:
Tender Potato Bread (Daring Baker’s November Challenge, see here and here)
Russian Apple Pancakes (by The Village Vegan)
Brazilian Bolo Cake (by Murray of In My Kitchen)
Banana-Coconut Bread (by Molly of Orangette)
Vietnamese Mini Baguettes (by L of Cook and Eat)
Independent (Orange Choc) Brownies (by Murray of In My Kitchen)
Ciabatta by (Louise of Pâté chinois et Cie)

More date-centric recipes that I've blogged (I LOVE dates):

Sunday, 2 December 2007

SHF #38: Cardamom Scented Milk Pudding with Rosewater Syrup

The last Sugar High Friday for 2007 is hosted by Zorra of 1x umrühren bitte. With Christmas approaching and after 37 SHF themes, it was a tough job for her to find an interesting theme. Fortunately, she did a wonderful job of picking Pudding for this month.

When I heard that the theme was pudding, I instantly thought of my favourite pudding of all time, Sticky Toffee Date Pudding like Carol's or JenJen's. However, since Christmas in Sydney is always a warm affair, my taste buds long for something lighter. Thinking of the festive season makes me feel homesick - I miss my family back in Singapore very much. With all these ideas in mind, and since I am part-Arabian (Yemen), I was inspired to make a cold Middle-Eastern milk pudding scented with cardamom and rosewater (only use the good stuff!), which I think is a match made in heaven. The pudding has a silky, velvety texture that is nicely contrasted with the crunchy pistachios.

These flavours also remind me of Sugee, one of my favourite childhood desserts that my mom makes.
This pudding may remind some of you of Muhallabiya/ Muhallebi/ Muhallabeya, but those puddings are usually thickened with rice flour and/or cornstarch. You can even think of this milk pudding it as a slimmer version of the Italian pannacotta. ;-)

(A side note: Since Aussies don't want to miss out on all the rich, comfort foods that are traditionally associated with Christmas, it's common here to have "Christmas in July" parties since that's winter season for us. You can read more about the Christmas in July party that my partner and I hosted this year here.)

Cardamom Scented Milk Pudding with Rosewater Syrup
adapted from Donna Hay's Off The Shelf: Cooking from the Pantry
Serves 6

8 gelatine leaves
3 cups whole milk*
8 cardamoms*, split and crush seeds finely
1/3 cup caster (superfine) sugar

- Soak the gelatin leaves according to the package instructions. Gently warm the milk, sugar and cardamom in a saucepan. Add the squeezed gelatine leaves & stir. Heat for 5 minutes. Pour the mixture into 6 x ½ cup capacity ramekins or moulds. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
*Milk: I didn't have whole milk so I used skim milk. If you want a richer version, use cream. My mom has made a similar pudding using fresh coconut milk.

*Cardamom: When the pudding sets, specks of cardamom will settle at the bottom of the mould. If you prefer the pudding without the cardamom bits, use whole cardamom, bruise it and strain the mixture before filling the moulds.

Rosewater Syrup
¾ cup water
½ cup sugar
1 tsp rosewater
2-4 fresh cherries (for colour*)

- Place the water and sugar in a saucepan and stir over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. Simmer for 3 minutes. Add rosewater and cool.
- *Stain the syrup pink: I prefer not to use food colouring so I learnt this trick of using cherry juice: slice the cherries into half and squeeze as much juice till you get to the desired pink shade.

To Serve
Unmould* the puddings by running a knife around the top edge of each mould and dipping the mould into hot water for a few seconds. Turn it out onto plates and spoon over the rosewater syrup. Sprinkle puddings with roughly chopped unsalted pistachios.
(*I've not tried this but I read somewhere that oiling the mould before hand can make it easier to unmould).


Come join in the fun of the last SHF of the year. Post your favourite pudding recipes or be creative and come up with a new twist to an traditional recipe. Click here to see how you can participate. Post by Christmas eve and Zorra will be posting the round-up on 28th December.