Friday, December 24, 2010

Chocolate Buche de Noel with Home-made Tart Cherry Conserve

I love to celebrate the pagan roots of the Christmas holidays by preparing this fabulous dessert shaped like a Yule log. There's just something fun about the illusion.

Traditionally, this dessert is made with a yellow sponge cake rolled with rum-spiked chocolate filling and it is good, but a little boring. Furthermore, if the cake is even a little over-baked, it becomes to brittle to roll and cracks and falls apart and you're left with a bunch of cake crumbs... not fun at all.

This recipe however involves a flourless chocolate cake which is very pliable and rolls easily. The cake recipe is called Chocolate Cloud Roll from the legendary Rose Levy Beranbaum in her book The Cake Bible (see recommended cookbooks). It is indeed like a cloud, more like a rolled chocolate souffle than a cake. When filled with whipped cream it becomes ethereal.

I like to contrast the flavors of chocolate and cream with tart cherries. If you can find tart cherry preserves, they are perfect in this dessert. My problem is I can almost never find tart cherry preserves, and when I do,it is insanely expensive because it is usually imported from Germany. My solution? Make my own. The home-made tart cherry conserve is super easy, uses ingredients you can find in almost any grocery store, and comes together in about half an hour.

When all the elements come together, this desert is like a very light and fluffy Schwartzwald Torte rolled into a log.

Although it takes some effort, it is really worth the effort to make the meringue mushrooms for a garnish... everyone oohs and ahs over these sweet and crisp little decorations.

Chocolate Buche de Noel with Home-made Tart Cherry Conserve

Meringue Mushrooms:
2 egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 /2 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 200F.

Whip egg whites until foamy. Add cream of tartar and whip until soft peaks form. With mixer running, gradually add sugar and continue to whip until stiff peaks form. Gently fold in powdered sugar.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place meringue in piping bag fitted with large round tip. Keeping tip about 1 inch above parchment paper, pipe mushroom caps of varying sizes. This will leave a stiff point on the top of each cap. With your finger dipped lightly in water, gently tap down points to form round caps. Pipe taller mushroom stems.

Place meringue in pre-heated oven and bake for 1 hour. Do not open door during baking. After one hour, turn oven off, and leave meringues in the oven until completely cooled.

With a paring knife, cut a small hole in the underside of each mushroom cap and insert the tip of a stem. Gently dust each mushroom with a small amount of cocoa powder to make spots on mushroom caps.

Tart Cherry Conserve:
2 cups dried cherries, chopped
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup Kirsch

Combine chopped dried cherries, sugar and water in medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until mixture has thickened to jam consistency (about 15-20 minutes). Add Kirsch, stir and cook 5 minutes until reduced. Cool completely before using.

Whipped Cream Filling:
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup granulated sugar
(optional)1 pkg. Dr. Oetker Whip it (whipped cream stabilizer...can be found at higher-end grocery stores in the baking aisle)

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and whip cream until fluffy.

Ganache frosting:
12 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped (or chips)
1 2/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) softened unsalted butter
2 Tbsp Cognac

In a small saucepan heat cream until just boiling. Remove from heat and add chocolate and stir until completely melted and smooth. Transfer to a a large bowl and cool completely. Once cool stir in softened butter and cognac. Whip ganache briefly (2-3 minutes) until lightened slightly (do not over-whip or ganache will become grainy).

6 large eggs, separated
1/4 cup granulated sugar plus 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
4 oz. semisweet chocolate
3/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Line a jelly roll pan with aluminum foil , leaving a 1-inch overhang around perimeter of pan. Butter the foil.

In a mixing bowl, combine egg yolks and 1/4 cup granulated sugar, beat until light yellow-in color and fluffy (about 5 minutes). Add the melted chocolate and beat until incorporated.

In a separate mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until foamy, then add the cream of tartar. Beat until soft peaks form and then add 2 Tbsp granulated sugar, continue beating until stiff peaks form.

Fold 1/4 egg whites into chocolate mixture until combined, then fold chocolate mixture into remaining egg whites being careful not to deflate, until well combined. Pour batter into prepared pan, spreading evenly to all corners and sides. Bake 16 minutes.

Remove cake from oven, run a sharp knife around edges to free cake form pan. Sprinkle the top of the cake with 1 Tbsp cocoa powder and immediately cover cake with a slightly damp clean dish towel and allow cake to cool.

Remove dish towel from cake, and using the foil overhang on one of the long sides of the pan, gently remove cake (on foil) from pan.

Spread Cherry conserve over cooled cake. Next spread whipped cream evenly over cherry conserve. Gently roll the cake lengthwise, using the foil liner to assist in rolling. Once rolled, keep cake wrapped in foil and refrigerate to set (1 hour). While cake roll is cooling, prepare ganache icing.

Once roll is cooled, remove foil and place cake on serving platter. Cut about 1/4 off the end of the cake roll at a diagonal and place against the larger portion to create the illusion of a branch. Frost cake completely with ganache, then texture the icing to look like bark by scoring the ganache with a fork. Decorate with meringue mushrooms, garnish with holly and dust with powdered sugar just before serving.

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