Book Club’s Just Desserts

This Sunday I hosted Book Club, The Holiday Edition 2015. To give you a little history on Book Club, we don’t read books. Wine labels, yes. Old text conversations from gentlemen suitors for intense review, yes. Social media captions that beg for ridicule, yes. But books, they are not our strong suit. Various times a year we get together to rea…uh, drink and during the holiday season it becomes my turn to entertain the ladies of Book Club – which I love! I really enjoy looking up recipes for us to try and if received well, I then try to master. Last year, I made an unexpectedly delicious dessert. Dare I say, a decadent dessert. It looks like it will make your teeth rot off but it isn’t event that sweet. It consists of various steps but well worth it. I got the recipe from epicurious.com or you can just follow it below. Epicurious.com calls it a Tiramisu Yule Log but because I am a snob and need to practice my French, I’m calling it a Tiramisu Bûche de Noël.

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much like myself, this doesn’t photograph well but it’s delish! i highly recommend catching the live show

Tiramisu Bûche de Noël

We got 6-7 portions, so it should be 10 servings as the recipes states

INGREDIENTS

For the cake: 

1/2 cup sifted cake flour (not self-rising; sift before measuring), plus additional for dusting pan

5 large eggs, separated, left at room temperature for 30 minutes

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

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getting things in order

For the espresso syrup:

1/2 cup espresso or very strong black coffee

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon Cognac or brandy

For the filling:

8 ounces mascarpone cheese

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon Cognac or brandy

1/2 cup chilled heavy cream

And finally the ingredients for the ganache:

12 ounces 60% bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (see my notes below)

3/4 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

Decoration:

Meringue mushrooms (recipe can be found after the assembly instructions below)

Unsweetened cocoa for dusting

Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

Raspberries

Mint leaves

Special equipment: A 15- by 10- by 1-inch rimmed sheet pan (aka jelly-roll pan; small offset spatula (optional, but really helpful); long rectangular or oval platter or wooden serving board

PREPARATION

To make the cake:

Heat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Butter pan and line bottom and sides with 1 sheet of parchment paper. Butter paper and dust with additional flour, knocking out excess.

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for once in my life, i remembered to butter and flour the pan BEFORE starting the mixture (self high-five!)

Beat together yolks, vanilla, and 1/2 cup sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at high speed until thick and pale and mixture forms a ribbon that takes 2 seconds to dissolve when beaters are lifted, 5 to 8 minutes in a stand mixer or 8 to 12 minutes with a handheld. Sift half of flour over yolks and fold it in gently but thoroughly, then sift and fold in remaining flour.

Beat whites with salt and cream of tartar in a large metal bowl with cleaned beaters at medium speed until they just hold soft peaks. Beat in remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, 1/2 tablespoon at a time, and continue to beat until whites just hold stiff peaks.

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mixing & beating

Fold 1/4 of whites into yolk mixture to lighten, then fold in remaining whites gently but thoroughly.

Stir 1/2 cup batter into melted butter in a small bowl until combined, then fold butter mixture into batter gently but thoroughly. Spread batter evenly in sheet pan and rap once on counter to help eliminate air bubbles.

Bake until top of cake springs back when gently pressed with finger, 7 to 10 minutes.

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springy from the oven!

Sift top of hot cake evenly with confectioners’ sugar and cover cake with a clean kitchen towel (not terry cloth) followed by a baking sheet. Holding sheet and cake pan together with oven mitts, flip cake onto cloth on baking sheet. Carefully peel off and discard parchment paper.

With a long side nearest you and using towel as an aid, roll up cake in towel, jelly-roll style, keeping it wrapped in towel. Cool cake completely, seam-side down in towel, on a rack.

To make the espresso syrup:

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my small sauce pan was missing in action so i improvised with my egg frying pan to simmer and reduce the espresso syrup

Bring espresso and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves, then boil until reduced to a scant 1/4 cup. Remove pan from heat and stir in Cognac, then cool to room temperature.

To make the filling:

Slowly mix mascarpone, sugar, cinnamon, and Cognac in a large bowl with an electric mixer until combined. If mixture is very loose after adding sugar, beat mixture briefly to thicken slightly .

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adding the cognac to the filling mix, cognac solely used for cooking (*cough, cough*)

Beat heavy cream in another bowl with same beaters at medium speed until it just holds stiff peaks. Fold whipped cream into mascarpone mixture.

And lastly to make the ganache:

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chocolatey and ganachey

Put chopped chocolate in a large bowl. Heat cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until it just comes to a boil, then pour over chocolate and let stand 3 minutes. Stir slowly with a whisk until smooth. If bits of chocolate remain unmelted, set bowl over a pan of barely simmering water and heat, stirring gently, until completely smooth, and remove from pan. Stir in corn syrup. Chill, stirring a couple of times, until it thickens to an easily spreadable consistency, about 15 to 20 minutes.

To Assemble: 

Gently unroll cooled cake on a baking sheet, keeping it on towel, then arrange baking sheet so that long side of cake that was inside roll is nearest to you. Brush all of cooled espresso syrup all over surface of cake. Spread filling with offset spatula evenly over cake, leaving a 1/2-inch border all around. Starting from long side nearest you, roll up cake without towel, leaving it seam-side down on baking sheet. Gently brush off any excess confectioners’ sugar.

Cut a 1 1/2-inch-long diagonal slice from each end of roll and reserve. Transfer cake, using 2 metal slotted spatulas as aids, seam-side down on platter. Using ganache as “glue,” attach end pieces, diagonal sides down, on top and side of log to resemble branches.

Spread ganache all over roll and branches with offset spatula, making it resemble tree bark.

Arrange a few meringue mushrooms, if using, around Yule log, and very lightly sift a little cocoa over log and mushrooms first, followed by a little confectioners’ sugar to resemble a light dusting of snow.

My notes:

  • I plan on using more confectioners’ sugar when sprinkling on to the cake after it is taken out of the oven to make sure that it does not stick to the towel.
  • You can make due with less chocolate for the ganache. This time around I made about 10oz of chocolate and it was more than enough for the log bark and meringue mushroom cap assembly and still had a lot left over. Next time I will probably only use 7 oz and adjust the heavy cream and corn syrup accordingly.
  • As you will see you won’t need all 25 mushrooms, just a handful will due. But make the whole batch for a nice little snack! 
  • I like to add raspberries with mint leaves around with the meringue mushrooms for color and the tiramisu/raspberry combo is soooooo good.

Cremini Mushroom Meringues

Makes about 25

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INGREDIENTS

3 large egg whites

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Pinch of salt

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Hershey’s; not Dutch-process)

3 ounces bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, melted (I used some of the left over ganache from the log bark)

Special equipment: Stand mixer; large pastry bag fitted with 1/2-inch plain round tip; 2 large baking sheets; small offset spatula (optional, but helpful)

PREPARATION

Heat oven to 200°F with racks in upper and lower thirds. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Beat egg whites with cream of tartar and salt in bowl of stand mixer on high speed until they just hold soft peaks. Beat in sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition, and continue to beat at high speed until meringue is very stiff, about 2 minutes. Beat in vanilla and beat again until very stiff.

Sift cocoa over meringue, and fold it in gently but thoroughly.

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gently but thoroughly folding in the cocoa powder and apparently the only picture i took of the meringue making process

Spoon meringue into a pastry bag fitted with tip. Holding bag vertically, about 1/2 inch above baking sheet, pipe meringue into 25 mounds, ranging in size from about 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter, to resemble mushroom caps.

Still holding pastry bag vertically, pipe remaining meringue vertically into 25 “stems,” 1 1/4- to 1 1/2 -inch-long lengths (make different lengths), making each base about 1 inch in diameter and tapering top end by pulling up on bag. (Pipe extra caps and stems with any remaining meringue in case of breakage.)

With a finger dipped in water, gently tamp down any peaks of meringue on caps to make a smooth mushroom cap.

Bake, switching position of sheets halfway through, until mushrooms caps are crisp and firm to touch, about 1 hour 45 minutes.

Turn off oven, then leave meringues in oven, with door closed, 30 minutes to dry. Slide parchment with meringues from baking sheets onto racks to cool. Cool completely.

With tip of a sharp paring knife, cut a small hollow the diameter of the tapered top of mushroom “stem” in center of the underside (flat side) of each mushroom cap.

Spread chocolate generously over flat bottom of a cap with offset spatula or back of spoon, then insert narrow end of stem. Let cap rest, stem end up, on a tray or baking sheet. Attach remaining stems to remaining caps, and let stand, stem ends up, at cool room temperature until chocolate is set, about 1 hour.

Et voilà!

The final product as presented to the Book Club ladies…

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my lovely bûche de noël, could have used more “snow” but it was being terribly mocked by my immature bookclub mates so i had to hurry the dessert presentation to shut them up with mouthfuls of cake
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