So that is Christmas done and dusted for another year! As we head rapidly towards the New Year I am conflicted on whether I should be reflecting on the year that just past or planning for the year that is about to come. Maybe a little of both. This year was a mixture of good and bad, I finished working in the hotel pastry kitchen due to ill health and I spent a year getting better and contemplating my navel (so to speak). I started blogging from which I met many wonderful people around the globe. I also started my own fledgling business which I have my fingers crossed for success. On the very annoying side every mechanical thing from lawn mowers to cars continuously broke down costing a bucket load of money to repair – I am going to sound like my mother here, but they sure don’t make things like they used to :). We spent time renovating part of the house and although there is much more to do I find our small oasis has suddenly started to show it’s potential.
I learnt that life isn’t perfect, but I find that in my imperfect life I am happy and I guess that is a pretty good way to start the New Year.
I volunteered to organise dessert as part of our Christmas lunch with friends. My initial ideas were for trifle or a pavlova but after exhausting endless recipe blogs and books for ideas an e-mail popped into my in box from Stella @ Brave Tart, it was her latest post and there it was the answer to my Christmas dessert dilemma: an Egg Nog Yule Log – da da da!
I put my own twist on this dessert by making a chocolate sponge teamed with two of my favourite chocolate accompaniments: cinnamon and pear. The filling is a pear and vanilla flavoured diplomat cream and I have covered the outside with chocolate ganache. Once the ganache was completely cold and firm I used Stella’s technique of brushing the top of the ganache with melted chocolate to give it that natural bark look. I also made the rather whimsical merengue mushrooms as per Stella’s recipe, don’t be daunted by these, they were actually incredibly easy to make.
Happy New Year xx
Chocolate and Pear Buche de Noel with Merengue Mushrooms
Adapted from Stella @ Brave Tart – Egg Nog Yule Log
Note: Make the merengue mushrooms and the crème patissiere for the diplomat cream the day before. Make the ganache before making the chocolate sponge to allow it time to set to the right consistency for spreading.
In addition to the ingredients listed in each section below you will need: extra cocoa powder for dusting, 80gm dark chocolate for the bark on log, green dust food colour for the moss and cherries for decoration.
- 400gm dark chocolate, chopped
- 150gm pure cream.
Place chocolate in a heat proof bowl. In a small saucepan bring the cream to the boil, remove from heat and pour over the chopped chocolate. Stir with a spoon or whisk until completely combined and the ganache is smooth and glossy.
Place in fridge until it reaches desired consistency to spread over the buche de noel. (It should be thick but soft and easy to spread not runny)
- 140gm plain flour
- 30gm unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 5 eggs
- 170gm light brown sugar
- pinch of salt
- 56ml vegetable oil
- 30ml pear flavoured liqueur
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract.
Preheat oven to 180°C. Spray a shallow sided baking tray with oil then line with baking paper. (my tray was 38cm x 25cm). Lightly spray the baking paper with oil.
Take two sheets of foil (longer than the baking tray) and fold the long edge together to form one large sheet – set aside for later use.
Place the flour, cocoa, cinnamon and baking powder in a bowl, mix together and set aside for later.
Fill 1/3 of a small sauce pan with water and place over a medium heat. Place the eggs, sugar and salt in a heat proof bowl and place over saucepan. Whisk the egg mixture for approx. 5 minutes until it is warm to the touch.
Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk for approx. 5 minutes on a medium speed until the mixture is foamy and light. Increase the speed and whisk for another 5 minutes or until the egg mixture is thick.
Reduce the speed back to medium and drizzle in the oil followed by the pear liqueur and vanilla.
Take the mixture off the stand mixer and sprinkle the flour mix over the top, fold in the flour mix gently so you don’t knock the air out of the egg mix.
Once the flour mix is combined pour evenly onto the baking tray. Use a spatula to gently spread the mix evenly on the tray. I try to pour the mixture all over the tray so I don’t need to spread the mix too much at the end.
Bake for approx. 15 minutes until the cake is slightly firm to the touch but it is still moist.
Immediately after the sponge comes out of the oven cover it with the prepared foil. Try to make sure the foil doesn’t touch the sponge and crimp in the edges over the cake tin to seal in the heat. Allow to cool completely before rolling.
While the sponge is cooling prepare the diplomat cream.
1/2 Recipe of diplomat cream flavoured with pear liqueur (I used 25ml ). Once made, place in the fridge to firm up.
Note: Make the Crème patissiere the day before assembly.
Remove foil from baking tray. Slide the sponge out of the tray but leave on the baking paper. (Note: the top of the sponge will be quite moist from being enclosed in the foil while cooling).
Spread 2 cups of diplomat cream in an even layer over the sponge leaving an inch around the edges to allow for spreading.
Starting at the long edge start rolling the sponge using the baking paper to turn the sponge over. Peel the baking paper off as you roll but use it to keep pulling the sponge tight while rolling. Once rolled, position the rolled sided down on a baking sheet and spread half the ganache over all of the sponge roll. Place in the fridge for at least an hour until ganache is cold and hard.
Cut the end of the sponge off on an angle to make the side branch ( I started at 8cm and finished the angle at 10cm).
Remove the large piece of sponge from the baking sheet and place on a serving tray. Be careful handling the sponge as it is easy to break. If it does break don’t worry as it will be covered with another layer of ganache so it can be disguised.
Position the smaller branch to the side of the large one, use ganache to join the two together.
Spread another layer of ganache over all of the sponge. No need to be super smooth you are looking for a really rustic look. Place log back in the fridge to harden completely.
Microwave 80gm dark chocolate until melted, make sure you melt it in 15 second intervals on the lowest heat.
Once the log is cold and hard, use a small clean (unused) paint brush to paint the chocolate over the log. Once you have painted over all of the log use any left over chocolate to go over different places on the log to build up the chocolate.
Refrigerate the log until cold and ready to serve.
Dust the log and plate with cocoa powder. Dust green food powder to resemble moss on a small piece of the bark and place the merengue mushrooms and cherries around the plate for decoration.
I warn you now the merengue mushrooms end up being the star of this dish!