Saturday, December 25, 2010

Tartine's Buche De Noel

Merry Christmas everyone!!  We had a great Christmas Eve with loads of gifts for all, and my dear sis is currently working on our Christmas dinner in the kitchen.  After I got the Tartine cookbook a few months ago, I decided I simply  had to make a Buche De Noel for Christmas.  I didn't expect mine to turn out as lovely as Tartine's, but their instructions are very detailed so I figured how hard can it be?

This is probably the longest recipe I have ever attempted, and it take quite a bit of time.  I made the actual log the day before, and the decorations on Christmas Day.  But nothing about it is terribly difficult, although I should mention we skipped the meringe mushrooms since I didn't have the right tip size for piping and obviously nothing is open today.  C'est la vie, I used a cute chocolate Santa as well as some white nonpareils instead.

The log ends up being really long so we made two buche de noels since I didn't have a serving platter that was long enough.  I didn't really understand the whole bough thing, so I just made it into a simple log.  When looking for the recipe online afterwards I found a picture of what it as supposed to look like, and I'm glad I just stuck with the log.

At this point we haven't tried it yet, just the ends that were cut off before decorating.  The cake is light and spongy with a hint of lemony flavour.  The butter cream is oh so good.  Sweet and satiny smooth and probably way more calories than I would like to know about.

Basic Chiffon Cake  for Buche de Noel


1 C + 2tbsp or 5 1/2 oz All-purpose flour
3/4 C or 5 1/4 oz Sugar
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 C or 2 oz Vegetable Oil
3 Large Egg Yolks
1/3 C + 1 tbsp Water
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
3/4 tsp Lemon Zest
5 Egg Whites, at room temp
1/4 tsp Cream of Tartar

Directions:Preheat oven to 325, line the bottom of a 12x17 jelly roll pan with parchment paper to fit exactly, do not grease the sides of the pan.  Sift the flour and baking powder together into a large mixing bowl. Whisk in all but 3 tbsp of the sugar and all of the salt into the flour mixture.  In a small bowl whisk the oil, egg yolks, water, vanilla and lemon zest together.

Make a well in the flour mixture and pour the egg mixture into it, whisk quickly for 1 min, set aside
Pour the egg whites into a stand mixer bowl.  Using the whisk attachment beat on med-high speed until frothy. Add the cream of tartar and beat at the same speed until the whites hold soft peaks.  Slowly add the 3 tbsp of sugar and beat at the same speed until whites hold stiff shiny peaks.

Gently fold in about 1/3 of the whites into the yolk mixture to lighten. Then gently fold in the rest of the whites.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth with an offset spatula. Bake 20-30 min or until cake is just set to the touch. Set aside to cool in the pan. Once cool run a small knife along the edge to loosen, then invert the cake onto a cooling rack, peel off the parchment and set aside.

1 1/4 C or 10 oz Unsalted Butter, at room temp
1 C + 2 tbsp or 8 oz Sugar
1/2 C or 4 oz Egg Whites
1/4 tsp Salt
1/4 C or 2 oz Coffee, brewed double strength

Cut the butter into tbsp increments.

Fill a sauce pan with about 2 inches of water and bring to a simmer. Combine sugar, egg whites and salt in a stainless steal bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk together to combine. Place the bowl over the simmering water, making sure that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the simmering water. Whisk over the water until the mixture is hot to the touch (120 degrees), about 5 min.

Remove the bowl from the heat and place in the bowl into the stand mixer with the whisk attachment in place. Mix on high speed until the the mixture is thick, glossy and holds very stiff peaks, about 5-7 min.  Mixture should be cool by this point

Reduce the speed to med-high and add the butter to the mixture 1 tbsp at a time, making sure each addition is fully incorporated before adding the next. Mix in the coffee at a low speed, than increase to med to fully incorporate, set aside.  The buttercream was soupy and starting to separate when I added the coffee so I just beat it on high and it re-incorporated itself

Meringue Mushrooms

1/2C + 2tbsp or 2 1/2 ounces Confectioners Sugar
1 1/2 tsp Flour
2  large Egg Whites
pinch Cream of Tartar
1/3 C or 2 1/2 ounces Granulated Sugar

Preheat oven 175 degrees.  Sift confectioners sugar and flour together into a small bowl.  Combine the egg whites and cream of tartar in a mixing bowl. Using the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment beat egg whites on med speed until they hold soft peaks. Slowly add the granulated sugar, beat until stiff shiny peaks form.  Using a spatula gently fold in the confectioner sugar/flour mixture until just incorporated.

Piping Mushrooms:
Pipe immediately.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Transfer the meringue to a pastry bag. Place the bag in a tall cup, 1/2 inch tip already inserted, and fold the ends over the cup.  Pipe the mushroom caps first: hold the pastry bag horizontal to the sheet and squeeze the bag until you reach your desired size and lift away quickly. Smooth any tails away with a wet finger.  Next pipe the stems by making kiss shaped meringues: start by piping a small dot of meringue then release the pressure and slowly lift the bag to create a tail. 

Place the sheet in the oven and bake for 4 hours keeping the door slightly ajar with the handle of a wooden spoon.  The meringues should be very dry but should not color.  If you see that they are coloring reduce oven temp by 25 degrees.  When mushrooms are ready remove from the oven and let cool completely.  They may feel a little soft when they come right out of the oven, but they will firm up as they cool. 

Coffee Syrup

1/2 C or 4 oz Coffee, brewed double strength
1/3 C or 2 1/2 oz Sugar

In a small sauce pan, combine the coffee and sugar and bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and let it cool, the fridge will speed up this process.

Pistachio Moss:

1/4 C or 1 1/4 oz Pistachio nuts

In a blender or food processor process the pistachios into a powder.

Almond Ganache Bark

1 C or 3 1/2 oz Sliced Almonds
6 oz Bittersweet Chocolate, chopped
3/4 C or 6 oz Heavy Cream

Preheat oven to 350. Spread the almonds out on a baking sheet and bake for 5 min or until toasted. Stir halfway through to ensure even toasting. Transfer to a small plate to cool.  Place the chopped chocolate in a small heatproof bowl. In a small saucepan bring the heavy cream to just under a boil. Pour the cream over the chocolate and let sit for 1 min, then stir the mixture until it is melted, smooth and shiny.

Add the cooled almonds and mix gently. Place the mixture in the fridge for 15 min or until it has thickened and is a good spreading consistency.  If the ganache becomes too hard for spreading you can place the heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and stir with a wooden spoon until it softens to the right consistency.

Assembling the buche:

Place the cooled cake on parchment paper or plastic wrap.  Using a pastry brush, moisten the entire cake with the cooled coffee syrup.  Transfer all the buttercream to the cake and spread evenly with a spatula leaving a 1 inch strip on each long side of the cake void of buttercream.  Starting from the longest side nearest you, begin rolling the cake tightly, using the plastic wrap to help you. Don't worry about the state of the ends, they will both be cut off anyways. Refrigerate the rolled cake for at least 2 hours.

Using a sharp knife, cut a thick slice off each end at the diagonal . Set the cleanest best looking end aside. To frost the cake, use an offset spatula to spread the ganache bark evenly over the cake leaving the faces of the two ends exposed. Make sure you reserve enough ganache to frost the "bough" which is your reserved end piece.

Place the diagonal slice, the bough, on top of the frosted cake towards one of the cakes ends. Make sure the diagonal end is facing up. Next frost the sides of the bough leaving the top face exposed.  Transfer the cake to your serving dish. To assemble each mushroom use the tip of a small paring knife to whittle a hole on the underside of the cap where the stem will fit.  Using some of the ganache as glue, attach the stem to the caps.  Finish decorating the buche with the mushrooms, moss, and other decorations.  Finish with dusting of confectioner's sugar.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Hawaiian Snowballs

Probably the last Christmas cookie I'm going to make this year are Martha Stewart's Hawaiian Snowballs.  These yummy little treats are basically little sugar cookie balls filled with macadamia nuts and pineapple dusted with powdered sugar.  Perfect if you're dreaming about spending Christmas someplace warm but you're stuck in the rain or snow. 

This recipe is super simple, but the dough does need to be chilled so make these ahead if you need to.  The pineapple wasn't exactly finely chopped, it was actually pretty annoying since it kept getting stuck to the knife.  Next time I'll give it a try in my food processor.  My snowballs ended up a little malformed so I would probably spend a bit more time rolling them next time.  Also, keep in mind this recipe makes a boat load of cookies so if you're not planning on serving them for a party or giving them away I would half the recipe.  I got this recipe out of Martha's Holiday Cookie Magazine, it was definitely worth the $6!


(Makes about 8 dozen)
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups salted, roasted macadamia nuts, finely chopped
1 1/3 cups finely chopped dried pineapple
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar, for dusting

1. Beat butter and granulated sugar with an electric mixer on med-high speed until pale and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes.  Reduce speed to med, and add egg, vanilla, and salt.  Mix until combined.  Reduce speed to low and add flour in 2 batches, mixing until just incorporated.  Mix in nuts and dried pineapple.  Flatten dough into a disk and wrap in plastic.  Chill 2 hours or up to 1 day.

2. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Roll dough into 1-inch balls, place on parchment lined baking sheets, spacing 2 inches apart.  Bake, rotating sheets halfway through until edges are barely golden, about 15 minutes.  Transfer to wire racks to cool completely.  Dust evenly with confectioner's sugar and dust again just before serving.  Cookies can be stored in airtight container at room temp for up to 5 days.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Martha's Toffee Millionaires

Oh lordy are these good.  These bars are a buttery golden shortbread, topped with smooth chocolate toffee, and finished with coarsely chopped chocolate covered toffee bars.  Yuuuuum.  Another one out of Martha Stewart's Holiday Cookie magazine, these are seriously amazing.  I don't even want to think about how many calories are in one little square, so I won't.  It is the holiday season after all.

The recipe is very simple, just a bit time consuming.  Melting the toffee chocolate pieces took about 20 minutes, I seriously thought they were never going to melt.  Next time I make these I'll be sure to chop them up much finer than I did.  I used Heath bars for melting and Trader Joe's toffee almond bars for the topping.


Makes 16 squares
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pan
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 cup finely chopped chocolate-covered toffee bars plus 1/2 cup coarsely chopped chocolate-covered toffee bars (about 10 ounces total)
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream


  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees, with rack in upper third. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan. Whisk to combine flour and salt into a bowl.
  2. In a separate bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium-high until creamy, 2 to 3 minutes. Gradually add brown sugar; beat until fluffy, about 2 minutes more. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture; mix just until combined. Using plastic wrap, press dough into prepared pan. With plastic on dough, chill 45 minutes.
  3. Pierce dough all over with a wooden skewer. Bake, rotating pan halfway through, until golden brown and center is firm, about 70 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool 10 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, heat finely chopped toffee bars and cream in a saucepan, stirring constantly, over medium-low heat until smooth. Pour over shortbread in pan; sprinkle with coarsely chopped toffee. Let cool slightly. Cut into squares. Let cool completely.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Cream Wafers

Christmas = cream wafers.  I loooove these cookies, my Mom has been making them as long as I can remember so not only are they delectable, but very nostalgic for me as well.  I don't know why these are considered holiday cookies, but in my house they are only made once a year during the holidays.  Well, maybe twice.  I think they would be perfect for a baby shower or some other event that calls for dainty sweet things.

This recipe is from my Mom's Betty Crocker cookbook from the 60s.  These delicate cookies consist of a melt-in-your-mouth cookie and a creamy vanilla filling.  My Mom gave me the recipe years ago but I never made them until last year, I get nervous around recipes that aren't drop cookies.  But these are really easy to make, and the result is a cute, delicious treat.  And yet for some reason they never do taste quite as good as when my Mom makes them.

A couple notes about the recipe: I used vanilla for the creamy filling and doubled the recipe.  I like icing and there is no way what they recommend would cut it.  I also find these cookies taste best when slightly chilled so I keep them in the fridge until about 1/2 hour before serving.  Enjoy!

2 C all purpose flour
1 C butter
1/3 C whipping cream
Creamy Filling (to follow)

Mix flour, butter & whipping cream. Cover & refrigerate at least
1 hour.

Heat oven to 375 deg. F. Roll about 1/3 of the dough at a time
1/8 in. thick on floured cloth-covered borad (keep reamining
dough refrigerated until ready to roll). Cut into 1 1/2 in. rounds.

Transfer round with metal spatula to piece of waxed paper that is
heavily coated with sugar; turn to coat each round. Place about
1 in. apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Prick each round with a
fork about 4 times. Bake just until set but not brown, 7 - 9 min.
Cool. Just before serving put cookies together in pairs w/creamy
filling. About 5 doz. cookies

Creamy Filling

Beat 1/4 C. margarine or butter, softened, 3/4 C. powdered sugar
& 1 tsp. vanilla until smooth & fluffy. Tint with few (1 to 2)
drops food color, if desired. (You want a pastel color). Beat
in a few drops water, if necessary, until of spreading consistency.
Just before serving, spread about 1 tsp. of tinted filling between
2 cookies.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Torta Alla Gianduia (Chocolate Hazelnut Cake)

A dear friend was coming over last weekend for an early birthday dinner, and when asked what type of dessert she would like her reply was chocolate, chocolate, and chocolate.  No problem!

I found this recipe in Nigella's How To Be a Domestic Goddess and it sounded perfect.  Not only does it have two full bars of bittersweet chocolate in it, but it has Nutella in it as well.  Nutella has to be one of my favorite things in the world.  I could (and have) eat it directly out of the jar with a spoon.  There are also ground hazelnuts in the cake and whole toasted hazelnuts on top.  So yeah, not exactly good for the waistline.

This cake, while easy to make, did take some time, but it was worth it since the birthday girl loved every bite. We also made up some Frangelico-spiked whipped cream which in my opinion is a necessity for this dense rich cake.  In all honesty though, this isn't something I would make again.  Mike likened it to a truffle in cake form, and while I like truffles this was a bit much.  I generally don't care for flourless cakes, and I felt a bit like I had a rock in my stomach after eating it, which isn't really what anyone is looking for from a dessert.  It's pretty though isn't it?

for the cake:
  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup soft unsalted butter
  • 14 ounces nutella
  • 1 tablespoon Frangelico or rum or water (we used Frangelico, of course)
  • 1/2 cup ground hazelnuts, scant
  • 4 ounces good quality bittersweet chocolate, melted

for the icing:

  • 4 ounces hazelnuts
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon Frangelico or rum or water (Frangelico)
  • 4 ounces good quality bittersweet chocolate
Preheat oven to 350-degrees.
Prepare a 9-inch springform pan: grease and line with parchment.
In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites and salt until stiff but not dry. In a separate bowl, beat the butter and nutella, then add Frangelico, egg yolks, and ground hazelnuts. Fold in the cooled, melted chocolate, then lighten the mixture with a dollop of egg white before gently folding in the rest of the egg whites a third at a time. Pour into the prepared pan and cook for 40 minutes or until the sides come away from the pan and then cool on the rack.
Toast the hazelnuts in a dry pan until the aroma wafts up and they begin to brown. Transfer to a plate and let cool.
In a heavy-bottomed sauce pan, add the cream, liquer or water, and chopped chocolate and heat gently. Once the chocolate is melted, take the pan off the heat and whisk until it reaches the right consistency for icing just the top of the cake.
Ice the top of the cake and then dot heavily with roasted hazelnuts.

Pumpkin Bread

I love pumpkin bread.  I love the way my house smells while it's baking, it totally reminds me of fall and it is perfect for a cold blustery day.  A couple years ago I discovered Trader Joe's Pumpkin Bread mix.  It's divine.  Moist, flavourful, and super easy to make.  I prefer to bake from scratch when I can, so this year, I went in search of a recipe that would compare.  I tried a few (including Martha's pumpkin bread recipe which while very tasty, wasn't quite what I was looking for), and this recipe from hit it bang on.

I used half white whole wheat flour and would probably use just that next time.  I made these into muffins and the whole family loved them.  I also halved the recipe just in case they sucked, which they most certainly did not!  You could easily add pecans or walnuts, or even chocolate chips. Mmmmmm.

Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread


  • 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 3 cups white sugar
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour three 7x3 inch loaf pans.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, water and sugar until well blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just blended. Pour into the prepared pans.
  3. Bake for about 50 minutes in the preheated oven. Loaves are done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Pumpkin Tea Cake

I wanted to make something a little different for Thanksgiving dessert (yes fellow Canadians, we celebrate Thanksgiving in November now).  I like pumpkin pie but it isn't my favourite, and I wanted to stick with the pumpkin theme.  I found this recipe for pumpkin tea cake in my Tartine book, and it looked simple enough so I thought I would give it a try.  The recipe looks like a simple loaf cake, but oh, it is so much more.  The picture below doesn't even begin to do it justice. 

First of all, I will now be putting sugar on the top of all my loaf cakes.  The top was sweet, crunchy and oh so good.  And check out how much spice is in this cake.  I have never added that much cinnamon to a recipe that small before, but it was perfect.  Super spicy, moist, and great pumpkin flavour.  We had some plain (yummy) and also heated up with a scoop of vanilla ice cream (divine!).  Mike had a great idea to make this recipe in a whoopie pie pan to maximize the crunchy top.  Off to Sur La Table!

Pumpkin Tea Cake

1 2/3 cup of flour
1 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons of nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves
1 cup and 2 tablespoons of pumpkin puree
1 cup of vegetable oil (sunflower, canola or safflower)
1 1/3 cup of sugar
3/4 teaspoon of salt
3 eggs
2 tablespoons of sugar

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly butter the bottom and sides of a 9- by 5-inch loaf pan.

This recipe is easily mixed by a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or by hand with a whisk. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves into a mixing bowl and set aside.

In another mixing bowl, beat together the pumpkin purée, oil, sugar, and salt on medium speed or by hand until well mixed. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition until incorporated before adding the next egg. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. On low speed, add the flour mixture and beat just until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then beat on medium speed for 5 to 10 seconds to make a smooth batter. The batter should have the consistency of a thick purée.

Transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pan and smooth the surface with an offset spatula. Sprinkle evenly with the sugar. Bake until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for about 20 minutes, and then invert onto the rack, turn right side up, and let cool completely. Serve the cake at room temperature. It will keep, well wrapped, at room temperature for 4 days or in the refrigerator for about 1 week.

Lemon Wreath Cookies

I am so behind on my posts, but I wanted to start blogging my holiday baking before the holidays are over.  Other than my Mom's creme wafers (recipe coming soon!) I wanted to try some new recipes this year.  I bought Martha's Holiday Cookie recipe magazine and it has loads of delicious sounding recipes, we had a really hard time narrowing down which ones to make.

The first ones I wanted to try were the lemon wreath cookies.  I love lemon in baking and these cookies don't disappoint.  They are buttery and lemony and just taste like Christmas.  They are fairly easy to make and I think they're super cute.  I would definitely make these again.


Makes 6 dozen
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 3 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 7 to 8 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 4 lemons)
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons white nonpareils, for sprinkling


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Make the cookies: Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Pulse sugar and zest in a food processor until combined, about 2 minutes.
  2. Beat sugar-zest mixture and butter in a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla and lemon juice. Reduce speed to low. Gradually add flour mixture, and beat until combined.
  3. Scoop 1 tablespoon dough (or use a 11/8-inch ice cream scoop), and transfer to a lightly floured surface. Roll dough into a 4-inch rope. Bring ends together, overlapping slightly, and press together to form a ring. Repeat with remaining dough. Transfer rings to parchment-lined baking sheets, about 1 1/2 inches apart, as you work. Bake until pale golden on the bottoms and around the edges, about 18 minutes. Transfer to wire racks, and let cool.
  4. Make the glaze: Whisk together confectioners' sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl until smooth. Dip the top side of each cookie into glaze, letting excess drip off. Return cookies to wire racks, glaze side up, and sprinkle with nonpareils. Let dry completely.

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