Monday, December 27, 2010

Buche de Noel!

This year I decided I wanted to do something a little different for Christmas dessert. Typically I'll do a couple of pies (pecan, pumpkin, sometimes banana meringue) but I wanted to get out of the rut.

I've been seeing a lot of lovely images of the traditional Buche de Noel, or the Yule Log, a French specialty.

I ended up using Martha Stewart's recipe: (but I consulted many, many links, which gave me a nice understanding of how it's constructed).

I started out making the meringue mushrooms. They took a LOT longer to bake than I'd been lead to believe (I think I had them in there an extra 40 minutes), but they finally felt dry enough to be done.

Then my boys helped me assemble them. Below, Colin is skewering a hole in a cap. Then Ethan is spreading melted chocolate on the underside and a stem is inserted into the hole.

The tiny bit of cocoa powder Martha tells us to put in made them look pretty realistic and the imperfections in my meringue piping worked to my favor.

The last image, above, is of the cake batter, all beautifully whipped up.

After baking, it's rolled up in a damp dish towel and allowed to cool (you pre-roll it so that it's less likely to crack in the final roll-up).

Chocolate mousse is spread inside the cake and the whole thing is rolled up once again.

A couple of bits are sawed off at 45 degree angles and attached to the log (one really short stump looks cute on top).

The whole thing is assembled with a chocolate ganache icing that is raked with a fork to give it a rough bark-ey texture. It can be assembled the night before, however the final touches should only be added the day of presentation. (I also added graham cracker crumbs to give it a nice "ground" to rest on and a few sprigs off the Christmas tree, which added a nice touch of color). A few shards of broken chocolate add to the rustic bark appearance and a light dusting of powdered sugar give it the feeling of snow.

It was tasty also! The mousse filling really kept it from being too rich and heavy. Serve each slice with a meringue mushroom (the recipe made enough to cover a field of buches that I just kept handy for little boys to snack on).

I'm embarrassed to admit that I took far more photos of my buche de noel than I did of my kids opening presents (well at all on Christmas) and spent a lot of time inserting as many references to my creation as possible all day ("Oh, just move the buche de noel over there... anyone up for a little slice of buche de noel? What do you think? Just a splinter? Buche, buche, buche?"), but really, I was very pleased with how it turned out!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Spicy Glazed Pecans Gift: Free Download!

I made these super yummy glazed pecans as a gift for my coworkers and neighbors. They turned out so well that I'm sharing the recipe and including the label as a free download!

First of all, make a batch of these delicious (and super easy!) pecan from Martha Stewart:

Go to Martha Stewart for the recipe.

Below is a nice big double batch (all piled together -- you'll roast them in a single layer).

I packaged my pecans in cellophane bags that were 3.5" wide. 

Cut on the crop marks. Each label looks like this:

Fold in half. The back will be white, leaving a nice place for a personal message.

The cute snowman graphic is from here: Free download! Love  the generous web! And it's a vector-based image, so I was able to easily lop off his arms, which didn't work with the design (sorry, snowman!).

Staple over the folded top of the filled bags (I put about a cup of nuts in each bag below).

A great little gift! Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Riddler: A Holiday Papercraft!

Some people call them fortune tellers. Some knew them as cootie catchers. Whatever you called them, these fun little origami toys were a mainstay of my grade school days.

And now, they're a cute little holiday gift!

I've filled this version with groaningly bad Christmas-themed riddles. They're truly terrible, but they're kind of jokes that my little boys would hoot at. I'm going to make them for all the little neighborhood kids. Super economical and easy to boot!

The pdf is available to download and all the instructions are included below!

Download the pdf template now.

Print the pdf out on regular weight paper (not cardstock).

If you don't remember how to fold these from when you were a kid, it's surprisingly simple. Just follow along with the images below.

First cut the excess paper off the edges of the design, using the crop marks (the crop marks extend all the way to the edges of the paper -- I find it easier to use a paper cutter for trimming when I do this). Do this carefully! If you are precise this paper toy will work better! You should end up with a perfect square.

First, fold the square diagonally, corner to corner. Unfold. Then fold diagonally, corner to corner the OTHER way. Unfold. This will give you two creases that will clearly show the exact middle of the square.

Fold each corner to this middle point. Turn it over.

As before, carefully fold each corner to the middle of the square, as shown in the images below.

When you are done, fold the item in half, as shown in the middle image below (not diagonally). Unfold and fold in half the other way.

 Put your fingers in the hollows under the "Ho" corners. Work the creases so it looks like the last two images above. Flip it over and you're done!

Insert your thumbs and index fingers of both hands (not as shown below -- I had to hold the camera with one hand!) and alternately open the riddler first one way then the other.

Ask the child their age and open open the riddler that many times. Then ask the child one of the riddles that appear.

Get ready for fun!