Sunday, December 27, 2009

Yule Loggin'......

We were blessed to be able to share in Melinda's Christmas eve tradition and thoroughly enjoyed spending time with 30 of her friends and family!  She always makes Lobster di Frivolo, which is a time honored tradition in her family.  It is, by far, fabulousity at its best!

I had been doing alot of "surfing" about the delicious treats we'd find in Paris and came across lots of information about the Bouche de Noel (Yule Log), which is served on every French table at Christmastime....I'm told not having one is equivalent to not having a turkey at Thanksgiving!

I was concerned that we wouldn't get the opportunity to enjoy this tradition since we are arriving in Paris after Christmas, so I decided to make one to take to Melinda's house for Christmas eve.  At first, I was overwhelmed with the recipes, but after doing considerable research, I realized this was something I could do IF I put all else was worth the effort.

The Bouche de Noel is a genoise cake (sponge cake) with chocolate mousse or buttercream inside and covered with chocolate ganache.  It is light, fluffy and a little rich, but not too much!

My end result looked "okay".....but there are changes I would make.  I thought my genoise cake was too dry, so I've updated the recipe to add more moisture.  I also didn't think I had enough chocolate ganache to completely cover the log, so I'm doubling the recipe the next time.

So, without further ado, here is the process that I followed (with updated recipe):

The first thing you need to do is prepare your sheet pan by spraying with Pam, the cover with parchment paper, which I buttered and coated in sugar (it's something I learned from Mom and it really does keep the cake from sticking).

The next thing you need to do is beat the eggs.....the recipe I had called for 4 eggs, but I think you'd do better with 4 eggs and 2 egg yolks.  You'll need to beat them for 5 to 7 minutes until they are thick and pale and have doubled (or tripled!) in bulk.  Then I added my sugar (3/4 cup), 1 tablespoon at a time, then add 1 tablespoon of good quality vanilla.  Take the bowl off the mixer and fold in 3/4 cup of sifted cake flour, 1/4 cup at a time. 
Then drizzle 5 tablespoons of melted butter (cooled a little) and carefully fold that in.  Pour the mixture into the pan and bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes....make sure it doesn't overcook....that's when it really gets dry!

While that was cooking, I started making my chocolate mousse filling.  I used Martha's recipe, which can be found here.  You start by melting the chocolate (semi-sweet) in a glass bowl set in the top of a pot with water at a slow simmer. 
Then you wisk in the egg yolks and set aside.  Put the egg whites in the mixer with the cream of tarter and whisk until they have stiff peaks.....fold in about a third of them to the chocolate mixture, then fold the rest.  Clean the mixer bowl and beat the heavy cream until it holds soft peaks and fold that in....then set in the fridge to chill for about an hour. 
Don't forget that cake in the oven!!!

Once the cake came out of the oven, I spread a clean dish towel over the counter, sprinkled with confectioner's sugar and turned out my cake onto it....make sure you loosen then edges of the cake from the pan first!  Then, using the towel to help, roll up the cake and let it cool.  Now for the ganache!

This part is EASY!  Again, I used Martha's recipe, but I suggest doubling won't need it all, but it will give a better coating than what I had. 

Chop up the bittersweet chocolate into pretty small pieces, then heat the heavy cream until it just comes to a simmer.  Pour the cream over the chocolate, let it sit for about 5 minutes, then whisk to blend.....set it aside to chill and get back to that cake! 

Time to fill it!  Carefully unroll the cake and spread the chilled mousse over the top to about an inch from the sides and bottom.....roll.....back to the fridge!  Once it's chilled, cut off about a 6 inch piece and trim the ends at an angle.......coat the larger piece in ganache, add the smaller piece, then coat that with the ganache and VOILA.....Bouche de Noel! 

You can decorate it any way you like.....from what I've seen on the internet, France has gotten quite creative with the ones they make now....most don't even resemble a log!  At the last minute I decided to brave making the meringue mushrooms.  They were also easier than I thought....but make LOTS....some just won't turn out quite right!

Again, I admit that I was a little intimidated at first....ok, alot intimidated.  But I'm glad I did was delicious!  I still hope that there are still some in the windows of the boulangeries in Paris.  If so, I'll let you know how they taste! 

Friday, December 18, 2009

Loafin' Around.....

When the cold weather sets in, it always takes me back to my childhood comforts.....the flannel nightgowns trimmed in eyelet lace that my mother made for me, the soups on the stove, the fresh cannister of cocoa that always appeared in the pantry ready for cold, windy days, the cans of condensed milk ready for snow cream......and meatloaf!

I have to admit that I wasn't always a fan.....I'd have rather she used it to make plump, juicy hamburgers!  The meatloaf my Mom made was full of oats, breading and lots of onions topped with lots of ketchup....and I've never been a ketchup fan!

Well, the cold weather has set in and it seems that meatloaf has also conjured up some memories for Dennis.  He was craving meatloaf!  After requesting this entree (?) several times, I finally caved in and decided to serve it way!

I try very hard to stay away from carbohydrates (most of the time I fail!), so I went to work trying to figure out how I could pull off this meatloaf without it being so dry......and without the globs of ketchup (which lasts much longer around our house now that the kids are on their own).

I had some ground beef, but decided to make a run to the store for some ground pork to add to it.  I also scouted out what I had in the vegetable drawer of the fridge.....mushrooms, tomatoes, green onions and roasted red peppers from the pantry....score!  The vegetables should help keep the meatloaf moist versus using oatmeal!

Now....what to do about the ketchup!  While at the store scouting out the ketchup section, I noticed chili sauce....lots more flavor and not so sweet......score #2.

I used my food processor to grind up the veggies semi-fine and added them to the meat along with an egg. 
Then I formed it into a loaf on top of parchment paper on my baking sheet.....baked it until it was somewhat firm (nothing worse than firm, dried out meatloaf!) and served it up.  It was a hit!

Since I made so much, I decided to take half and freeze it.....NOT a score!

 There was plenty for dinner.......but, as I found out later, not enough for a meatloaf sandwich the next day (not for me, mind you.....remember, I TRY to eat bread only on special weekends at Melinda's cabin and holidays!)

Since I'm not so much a meatloaf lover, I wasn't quite sure it was a hit until it was got rave reviews.....along with requests for more!  I have to admit, for meatloaf it was awesome.....the best I've ever had!

Sunday, December 6, 2009


I've been making omelettes for years! I try to keep my carbohydrates down, so it's really the perfect breakfast for me. So......last night I couldn't sleep and stayed up late watching a PBS program: Julia Child Memories: Bon Appetit!. I really was expecting 2 hours of Julia's shows, which I had been wanting to see again. Now, you do get to see portions of her shows, but it's really an info-merical to sell the DVDs of her shows, while at the same time raising monies for the PBS network (I'm all for that! I love PBS).
When Julia did the "omelette" segment, I thought, "How interesting can this be? I already know how to make omelettes." But.....I was wrong. I learned several little things that could make my omelettes a little easier to make and ensure they always come out right, because sometimes they just don't.....then I tell everyone they're eating scrambled eggs!
After sipping on a cup of coffee this morning, I decided to try my hand at her techniques! Guess what!!! They were perfect.......high heat (I always cooked mine slowly).....add a tad (I think that's what she said)of butter and let melt, add two eggs beaten with 1 teaspoon of water, let it sit for a few seconds, then move the pan in a circle until it's just about set....then move the pan up and down on the burner until it gathers in one corner......flip the omelette upside down on the plate and voila!
Then she did an omelette buffet with all kinds of fillings. She had spinach, mushrooms, fried liver (?) and lots of veggies and cheese. I usually use cheddar, but she used swiss cheese. This morning's omelettes had swiss cheese, sauteed shallots and mushrooms with bacon on top.I also made some hashbrowns for Dennis. .Great way to start the day!

Here's the video of her making an omelette: