Ivonne owns Cream Puffs in Venice, and the recipe can be found in this post. Lisa can be found at La Mia Cucina. Both blogs dish up passionate writings on food among other subjects, and I am an avid reader.
My mother was over last night for an early Christmas dinner. A picky eater - and she says the right word is "discerning" - my mother needs to be asked in advance what she would like to have for dinner. In a prior phone conversation she intoned, "anything for dinner is alright, but be sure to make the dessert good."
So, I made a bûche de Noël with a chocolate génoise sheet, filled with white chocolate mousse, frosted with Swiss meringue buttercream (SMBC), and adorned with French meringue mushrooms:
Now, I have never known my mother to ever finish her serving of dessert but last night she did exactly that. Halfway through the course, she and my aunt were taking pictures of the bûche with their cell phones. My heart was fat with flattery.
The most fun part of this endeavour was making the meringue mushrooms. The challenge recipe uses French meringue, which is the usual variety that does not require heating egg whites and sugar over a bain-marie. I almost always prefer Swiss meringue but the lightness of the French variety is a welcome change albeit one that I will not adopt in the future. It must be true what they say that once you've had Swiss there is no turning back.
It surprised me to read the many posts of fellow Daring Bakers expressing much consternation about curdling SMBC.
SMBC is my workhorse. I am not at all particularly careful with making sure that my butter is at room temperature, nor do I gingerly push tablespoons at a time into my Kitchen Aid. Yet, I have never made a batch that I have had to throw out. SMBC is about as adaptable and forgiving as frosting could be so I decided to investigate why there were unfavourable reports this month from my fellow DB'ers.
At first glance, I recognized the recipe as the same one that I use: 4 egg whites, 1 cup sugar, 3 sticks of butter. Then, it struck me that the written directions were a bit meager consisting only of two numbered items.
Instructional books often walk novice bakers (and I consider myself to be one) through making SMBC. Many authors point out that curdling is normal and expected. It is merely one stage of the process. When this happens, the mixer speed needs to be stepped up to re-emulsify the mixture. The result - without fail - will be a luxurious, satiny buttercream. The next set of four photos shows the curdled stage, which occur sometime after all the butter has been added to the meringue, reconstitution and final outcome. Click on the collage for a close-up:
Having been tipped by other DB'ers that the coffee buttercream is pale, I opted to add some melted chocolate to get a darker shade of brown and more importantly, to get some more chocolate in my dessert.
This year's bûche in some ways is a refinement of last year's giant version. I find it striking when dark cocoa génoise is embraced by white chocolate mousse so it is repeated this year. Sugared rosemary underscore the evergreen/woodlands theme, and chocolate cherry from Tickleberry add sparkle to this festive treat.
Happy Holidays to everyone
and see you all in the New Year!
and see you all in the New Year!
Curious about the bûche de Noël? See this Wikipedia article.
The white chocolate mousse recipe is from Martha Stewart, everything else can be found in this post.
Rolling the génoise from the short edge minimizes the chance that it will split. Many also swear by pre-rolling the génoise while warm, then unrolling it again later when it is cool so it can be filled. I have one caveat to add: when unrolling, do not attempt to flatten the génoise, it will for sure split.
A lot of eggs were used here. Brush up on egg safety here.
The Daring Bakers is now hundreds strong, and there are that many more gorgeous yule log blog posts this month on the web. Please have a browse at the Daring Bakers Blogroll.
All my Daring Baker Challenges are compiled here.