Friday, December 11, 2009

Beginning at the End: Buche De Noel Part 1

That's right. In order to achieve the freshest tasting Buche de Noel you have to start with the elements that can be preserved the longest, in this case it's the decorations, which are actually last to go on the cake. I decided to decorate my cake with meringue mushrooms, marzipan leaves and a special guest you will get to meet at the end of this post.

So first for the meringue mushrooms. The recipe comes from the lovely Tartine cookbook which I treasure above every other book, except for the Bible.

Ingredients: Given in standard baking measures and ounces (which is more accurate)
1/2C + 2tbsp or 2 1/2 ounces Confectioners Sugar
1 1/2 tsp Flour
2 Egg Whites
pinch Cream of Tartar
1/3 C or 2 1/2 ounces Granulated Sugar

1. Preheat oven 175.
2. Sift confectioners sugar and flour together into a small bowl.
3. Combine the egg whites and cream of tartar in a mixing bowl, use the whisk attachment of a stand mixer or a handheld mixer to beat egg whites to soft peaks. Slowly add the granulated sugar, beat until stiff shiny peaks form.
4. Using a spatula gently fold in the confectioner sugar/flour mixture until just incorporated.

Piping Mushrooms:
1. 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. This will make it easier for you to transfer the meringue into the bag, see below.

2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 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 you finger. Keep in mind that different sizes are fun! 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. * I had a ton of extra meringue so I made some cookies too!*

3. Place the sheet in the oven and bake for 4 hours keeping the door slightly ajar with the handle of a wooden spoon. IMPORTANT: My meringues finished in 2 hours, but that could have because my oven only went as low as 200, so just keep an eye out after 2 hours. Your meringues should be firm but should not color.

Here are my finished meringues with Mr. Squirrly Squirrel.

Here's what the mushrooms will look like when they are attached, which I will do with some of the ganache for the cake on Sunday.

These are the extra cookies I made, they are melt in your mouth good. They literally do melt.

Next for my marzipan leaves. You can find marzipan at most grocery stores or at Sur La Table where I found mine. For those of you who are less familiar with marzipan, it is basically a sweet almond paste that is good for sculpting and, if you're me, eating straight out of the container.

1. Marzipan
2. Food Coloring

1. Take out about 1/4 of the can of marzipan and mix in green food coloring until you reach your desired shade of leafy green.
2. After the color is fully incorporated, form a ball and roll it out with a rolling pin untill you reach 1/4 inch thickness.
3. Cut leaf shapes into the marzipan using a pairing knife. Make sure and make little vein marks in each leaf for added effect!

And now are you ready for the surprise!? The joke from my last post has become a reality. I decided to sculpt a miniature David the Gnome to come popping out of my Buche de Noel! Complete with festive green sweater instead of blue, so don't give me crap about getting the sweater color wrong.

You can do something similar or something totally different to add more character to your cake, which is what the Buche de Noel is really all about. Heck you could even have Harry Potter and Hedwig perched on your log and call it the Deathly Hallow. Wait... that's a little morbid, maybe you could change it to the Merry Hallow. Yes I like that better! Merry Hallow everybody!

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