Sunday, December 28, 2008

December Daring Baker's Challenge

This month's challenge is brought to us by the adventurous Hilda from Saffron and Blueberry and Marion from Il en Faut Peu Pour Etre Heureux.They have chosen a French Yule Log by Flore from Florilege Gourmand.

Thank you Hilda and Marion, it sure was a hell of an experience making this cake!

The most important thing I learned about this dessert is that it was NOT made for the tropical climate. REALLY. 5 minutes after I removed it from the freezer after freezing overnight, it looked like this:

So, let me run through the layers here. From the top, dark chocolate icing, raspberry mousse, vanilla creme brulee, Feuillete insert with cornflakes, dark chocolate ganache, and finally almond dacquoise. Decorated with some coloured buttercream icing flowers and leaves.

I have to say, some of the layers are absolutely drop dead gorgeous, like the mousse, the dacquoise, and the ganache. But, altogether, I just don't think they go very well. It is a real killjoy to slide through the icing and the mousse only to hit the rock hard creme brulee and feuillete, and then to have to hack through them, destroying the bottom layers in the process.
I definitely would not make the cake in its entirety again, but for a super decadent treat, I can imagine myself making the mousse, then ribboning the ganache through it to make raspberry dark chocolate ganache ice cream. YUMMMMMMMY.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Christmas cookies

My first time making christmas cookies, and it was a total blast! I tried my hands at two kinds this time, good old traditional cut out sugar cookies, and something a little more chic, stain glass cookies

The cookie base for both cookies were the same, a fairly standard sugar cookie recipe from foodnetwork. This gives a very soft dough, so it must be well chilled before anything can be done with it.

Since it was my first time at cut-out cookies, I had no idea it was so hard! At least for the first 20 minutes :P It takes some practice, and tips are always useful, but on the 21st minute, I started to realise it wasn't that hard afterall!

I have a couple of tips of my own, so here goes.

  1. It is REALLY important to dip your cookie cutters in flour after every cut. It stops the cut-out from sticking to your cutter.
  2. When rolling out your cookie dough, flour the rolling pin instead of the dough. As in, hold your rolling pin over the plate/whatever holding your 'flouring' flour, sprinkle generously over the rolling pin and rub the flour all around the rolling pin. Do this as often as it is necessary, some times after every roll. This way, less flour gets into your dough in the course of rolling, since less flour sticks to your pin.
  3. For the finicky excess parts of the dough u need to pick out from your actual cut-out, use a toothpick or cake-pick. Works like a charm!
  4. I know everyone emphasizes this, but I figure one more time can't hurt. Absolutely important that dough is chilled EVERY step of the process before it goes into the oven. Above mentioned finicky parts comes out easier when the dough is chilled too.

Because the sugar cookie plus the icing would've been sweet enough to send me to a nasty corner of the moon, I used my own icing recipe, which substitutes lime juice for water. Icing is really simple, and hardly requires a recipe. Take a couple tablespoon of liquid, water, juice, whatever, and mix in icing/powder sugar until desired consistency, either stiff enough to stand, or just spreadable, to your preference. Just remember that even a couple tablespoonful of liquid takes a whole lot of icing sugar to soak up. 2 tablespoon of liquid can give you up to 500g of icing sugar, so only make however much you need. I made way too much, and stored the rest in the fridge. Not sure if they'll still be usable, will update on that :P

Now, for the stain glass cookies. Aren't they ADORABLE??? I've read about these cookies for a long time, but never imagined that I could actually pull them off, despite assurances from writers that they are dead easy. Sugar and I have always been uneasy friends. But, they are simply too cute to resist, and so I tried them. And guess what? THEY REALLY ARE EASY. Recipe's here, same as the sugar cookie one, but again, you hardly need one.

Don't worry about getting your candy crushed extra finely, unless you want to do intricate-finicky stain glass miracles with them. The sugar will melt and fill out all the crevices nicely, so just roughly crushed will do. If you want some ideas beyond the really plain ones I have here, just google stain glass cookies, and you'll get tons of images of BEAUTIFUL cookies, truly works of art.

So, despite never considering myself as a particularly creative person, I had a hell of a time decorating these cookies =)