Monday, December 28, 2020

Chocolate Yule Log with Mascarpone Cream Filling and Peppermint Meringue Mushrooms

 This year was just the worst. I decided the worst year deserved a special dessert to follow Christmas dinner, so I made my first ever Yule log aka bûche de Noël. A Yule log is a thin sponge cake rolled up with a cream filling and decorated to look like an actual log. I based my creation on a couple different recipes, and have combined them here just in case I endeavor to make this again or even turn it into a yearly tradition. I made this over 2 a day period. The first day I made the cake and filling, rolled it up, covered it, and refrigerated it overnight. I also started the cranberry and rosemary garnish. The next day I made the frosting and mushrooms, finished the garnish, and assembled everything. It's quite a time consuming dessert, and I had a few little helpers which was nice. I absolutely love how it turned out. It might be the most beautiful dessert I've ever made. See a few helpful notes and more pictures following the recipe. 

Chocolate Yule Log with Mascarpone Cream Filling and Peppermint Meringue Mushrooms
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 large eggs, separated
3/4 cup granulated sugar
5 TBSPs sour cream
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream, cold
3/4 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt
8 oz mascarpone cheese, softened, but still chilled

1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
1/2 - 3/4 cup powdered sugar

Meringue Mushrooms (Optional)
3 large egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
1 cup granulated sugar
1 TBSP unsweetened cocoa powder
4 ounces chocolate chips

Sugared Cranberries and Rosemary (Optional)
1/2 cup water
1 cup sugar, divided
1/2 cup fresh cranberries
4-5 sprigs rosemary

Cake - 
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 17×12 inch jelly roll sheet pan with parchment paper. Make sure the parchment paper sticks up at least an inch above the sides of the pan on all sides. You’ll use the parchment paper later to lift the cake out of the pan and roll it up.
2. Whisk the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl and set aside. 
3. In a large bowl, combine the egg yolks and sugar and whisk together until well combined. Add the sour cream, melted butter and vanilla extract and whisk together until well combined.
4. Add the dry ingredients and gently whisk together until well combined, then set aside.
5. Add the egg whites to a large mixer bowl and whip on high speed until stiff peaks form.
6. Gently fold about 1/3 of the whipped egg whites into the chocolate mixture to loosen up the batter. Add the remaining egg whites and gently fold together until well combined.
7. Spread the cake batter evenly into the prepared pan and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the top of the cake springs back when toughed and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
8. Remove the cake from the oven and immediately lift the cake out of the pan using the parchment paper and place it on the counter.
9. While the cake is hot, use the parchment paper the cake was baked in and start at the shorter end of the cake to slowly roll the cake up. Set the cake aside to cool completely.

Filling - 
1. When the cake has cooled and is ready to be filled, make the filling. Add the heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar, vanilla extract and salt to a large mixer bowl and whip on high speed until soft peaks form.
2. Add the mascarpone cheese to the whipped cream and whip until stiff peaks form. It will happen fairly quickly.
3. Unroll the cake roll very carefully, looking out for areas where it may be sticking to release it. You can use an offset spatula or something similar and run it along the parchment paper as you unroll the cake to help release it as it unrolls.
4. Spread the filling evenly onto the unrolled cake, then roll it back up without the parchment paper. Wrap it up in plastic wrap with the seam side down and refrigerate for at least an hour to firm up or overnight. 

Sugared Cranberries and Rosemary -
1. Place cranberries and rosemary in small separate bowls; set aside.
2. In a medium saucepan, bring the water and 1/2 cup of sugar and to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes until the sugar has dissolved.
3. Remove pan from the heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes. 
4. Pour sugar syrup over the cranberries and rosemary, dividing it evenly between bowls. Cover the bowls and refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight.
5. Drain the cranberries and rosemary from the syrup. Place the cranberries and rosemary in a large zip lock bag and add 1 cup of sugar to the bag. Toss to coat.
6. Pour the sugared cranberries and rosemary out onto a parchment lined baking sheet and let them dry for at least 2 hours at room temperature or in the refrigerator.

Frosting -
1. To make the frosting, in a small saucepan, bring whipping cream to a simmer over medium-low heat. Add chocolate chips. Do not stir.
2. Remove from heat and let sit for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, stir until smooth.
3. Refrigerate for 30 min.
4. Transfer to a medium sized mixer bowl. Stir in 1/2 cup of powdered sugar.
5. Mix on high speed until thick enough to spread adding an extra 1/4 cup of powdered sugar if needed.
6. To decorate the cake, use a large serrated knife to gently cut off a piece of the log about 3-4 inches in length. Make the cut with a slight diagonal. Arrange logs pieces on a platter or cake stand.
7. Use some of the frosting to attach the small log to the side of the larger log.
8. Spread the remaining frosting to cover the cake.
9. Using a fork, create bark-like lines by dragging the fork from one end of the cake to the other, wiping off the extra frosting that builds up on the fork.
10. Place in refrigerator uncovered to set frosting while making meringues.

Meringues - 
1. Preheat the oven to 225°F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a bowl, use an electric mixer to whip egg whites until foamy. Add cream of tartar, salt, and peppermint. Continue whipping until the whites hold soft peaks.
3. Gradually sprinkle in the sugar so that it does not sink to the bottom, and continue whipping until the mixture holds stiff shiny peaks.
4. Place a round tip (I used size 2A) into a pastry bag, and fill the bag half way with the meringue. To pipe the mushroom caps, squeeze out round mounds of meringue onto one of the prepared cookie sheets. Pull the bag off to the side to avoid making peaks on the top. For the stems, press out a tiny bit of meringue onto the other sheet, then pull the bag straight up. They should resemble candy kisses.
5. Dust the mushroom caps lightly with cocoa using a small sifter or strainer. 
6. Bake for 1 hour in the preheated oven, or until the caps are dry enough to easily remove from the cookie sheets. Set aside to cool completely.
7. Melt the chocolate chips in a small bowl in the microwave at half power, stirring occasionally until smooth.
8. Poke a small hole in the bottom of a mushroom cap. Spread chocolate over the bottom of the cap. Dip the tip of a stem in chocolate, and press lightly into the hole. When the chocolate sets, they will hold together. Repeat with remaining pieces. Store at room temperature covered and in a dry place until ready to decorate.
Decorate with mushrooms, sugared cranberries and rosemary, if desired. I even threw on a little of the extra sugar to look like snow and sprinkled some on the top. I also added some tiny pine cones. Go wild. 
Refrigerate the cake until ready to serve. 

A few notes:
1. I definitely recommend making this over a 2 day period and eating it the 2nd day. I wrote my steps in the order that I did things. Cake, filling, and start sugared cranberries and rosemary the first day. Frosting, meringues, and finish sugared cranberries and rosemary the second day. 
2. When I originally made this, I followed a recipe where the cranberries and rosemary sat overnight together in a bowl. This made the cranberries taste like rosemary, so if you want to eat the sugared cranberries, you should separate them from the rosemary (which I changed in this recipe) if not, then you can combine them in one bowl.
3. I changed the original meringue recipe from vanilla to peppermint. If you prefer vanilla meringue, use 1 tsp of vanilla extract instead of 1/2 tsp of peppermint.
4. After cutting the piece of the diagonal piece off of the log, I also cut a small slice off the other end of the large part of the log to make it look nice at both ends.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Pigs in a Blanket 2.0

 I found a new favorite crescent roll recipe 2 years ago and it's now the roll recipe I use to make pigs in a blanket. The dough is SO easy to work with and rolls out really nicely. I make these a few times a year, and sometimes do a double batch which makes 72 pigs! My kids love them for lunches at home and at school. 

Pigs in a Blanket 2.0
1 TBSP instant yeast
¼ cup warm water
½ tsp sugar
1 cup warm milk
½ cup vegetable oil
½ cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup flour
2 eggs
3-4 cups flour
1 (14oz.) package Lit'l Smokies sausages

1. In a 1 cup glass measuring cup, mix yeast with warm water and ½ tsp sugar. Let stand until bubbly.
2. In a large bowl whisk together warm milk, oil, ½ cup sugar, and salt. Add 1 cup of flour to mixture, and mix well. Add 2 eggs and mix vigorously by hand. Add yeast mixture and mix vigorously until smooth (I like to use my whisk again here). With a wooden spoon, stir in 3-4 cups flour to the yeast mixture ( I usually end up doing 3 1/2 cups). Dough should be sticky.
3. Pour the dough into a large bowl. Cover with a tea towel or plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 1-2 hours until it has doubled in size.
4. Once the dough has doubled in size, punch down and divide into thirds (each of my thirds weighs about 14.5 ounces). Roll 1/3 of dough on a floured surface making a circle about 12 inches round. Dough should be about ⅜" thick. Cut into 12 triangles (like a pizza). Place a sausage at the wide end of each triangle. Roll from the wide end to the point. Place rolls onto a lined or greased cookie sheet (I do 3 across and 6 rows down). Repeat with the other 2 thirds of dough. You should end up with 36 rolls, 2 pans with 18 on each. Cover rolls with a tea towel or plastic wrap and let rise for another hour at room temperature or until the rolls double in size. 
5. Bake at 375 degrees until light lightly browned, which is about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and brush with melted butter.

Monday, October 5, 2020

Sticky Cinnamon-Sugar Monkey Bread

 My daughter works at a sandwich shop and some nights she brings home extra bread dough. This is one of the things I like to make with that dough. It's super easy and yummy. The recipe calls for 2 pounds of frozen dough. Rhodes Bake n Serve White Bread dough works well for this. I have tried it with vanilla and butterscotch pudding and they are both great. This picture is with the butterscotch pudding. 

Sticky Cinnamon-Sugar Monkey Bread
2 loaves (1 pound each) frozen bread dough, thawed 
1 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup butter, cubed
1 package (3 oz) cook and serve vanilla or butterscotch pudding mix
2 TBSPs milk
2 tsps ground cinnamon

1. Cut dough into 1-inch pieces; place in a greased 13x9 inch baking dish.
2. In a large saucepan, combine remaining ingredients; bring to a boil. Cook and stir 1 minute; remove from heat. Pour over dough pieces.
3. Cover loosely with parchment or nonstick foil. Let rise in a warm place until almost doubled, about 45 minutes.
4. Preheat oven to 350°. Bake uncovered 20-25 minutes, until golden brown . Immediately invert onto a serving plate.
Serves 16

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Best Pumpkin Bread

I decided I wanted to try a new pumpkin bread recipe, but I didn't have to make a bunch of different loaves to find the best one, because there's a blogger that already does that! I read The Pancake Princess's pumpkin bread bake-off post and baked her winner. It comes from seriouseats.com and apparently is the pumpkin bread recipe for the San Francisco bakery Tartine and is actually called Pumpkin Tea Cake. It has great spice flavor and a fun crispy sugary crust on top. If you like chocolate chips in your pumpkin bread, don't be afraid to throw some in!

Best Pumpkin Bread
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 TBSP + 2 tsps ground cinnamon
2 tsps freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 cup + 2 TBSPs pumpkin or squash puree (canned or homemade)
1 cup vegetable oil
1 1/3 cups sugar
3/4 tsp salt
3 large eggs
2 TBSPs sugar for topping
2 TBSPs pepitas (optional but highly recommended)

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly butter the bottom and sides of a 9x5 inch loaf pan.
2. Sift or whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.
3. In another bowl, beat together the pumpkin puree, oil, sugar, and salt on medium speed until well mixed. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. On low speed, add the flour mixture and beat until just combined. Scrape down the sides again, then beat on medium speed for 5 to 10 seconds to make a smooth batter. The batter should have the consistency of a thick purée. Make sure not to overmix, or you will end up with a coarse, tough crumb.
4. Transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pan. Sprinkle the top evenly with half the topping sugar, then the optional pepitas, and then the rest of the topping sugar. Bake until a tester emerges clean from the center, about 1 hour
5. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for about 20 minutes. Then invert the cake onto the rack, turn right side up, and let cool completely. Serve at room temperature. The cake will keep, well wrapped, at room temperature for 4 days or in the refrigerator for about 1 week.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Rustic Strawberry and Peach Galette

 Summer is almost over, but there's still time for summer desserts! You only need a few ingredients for this recipe. It's pretty much like a pie but an easier version with less filling. You can substitute other fruit like blackberries or blueberries and make your own creation. We like it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!

Rustic Strawberry and Peach Galette
1 pie crust (store bought or my recipe here)
2 cups sliced fresh strawberries
2 fresh ripe peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced
2 TBSPs sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg beaten

1. Mix the peaches and strawberries together in a medium bowl. Add the sugar and vanilla, tossing well to coat the fruit. Set aside and allow the mixture to soak as you roll out the crust.
2. Preheat oven to 425°F (190°C). Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Set aside.
3. On a lightly floured surface, roll the pie dough into a 12-inch circle. Trim the rim of the circle to make a clean cut if desired. Transfer dough to the prepared baking sheet.
4. Spoon the fruit (not the juices) into the center of the dough, leaving a 2-3 inch border all around.
5. Gently fold the edges of the dough over the fruit, overlapping the dough as necessary. Press gently to seal the edges. Pour most of the reserved juices over the fruit, leaving about 1-2 TBSPs behind. Too much juice and the dough will become soggy. Brush the crust with the beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar.
6. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until the crust is golden brown, Remove from the oven and allow to slightly cool before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature. Tart tastes best on the same day it is baked. Cover and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Friday, August 14, 2020


 During the first days of quarantine, I was obsessively watching bake-along videos on Instagram. One of the Instagram accounts that I have diligently watched is Bread Ahead. They are a London Bakery and are famous for their doughnuts. I visited the bakery a few years ago and had one of those delicious doughnuts. I learned how to make them in a Zoom class recently too! The owner Matthew demonstrates how to make many of the items they sell in their shop on his Instagram account. I saved all the videos and have made quite a few of the recipes. One of the recipes I tried and fell in love with was the Focaccia. I have a great big rosemary plant in my garden and it's fun to snip some off for this bread. The recipe is special because it's a no-knead version. Instead of kneading, you fold the dough. Matthew shows his special folding technique on Instagram. I tried to describe it in words in the recipe, but I recommend watching him. Here is the link to Bread Ahead's original recipe and video on Instagram. The main change I made is that I use instant yeast instead of fresh yeast (you can't really find fresh here in the grocery store) and because I changed it to dry, the initial rise time is a little longer. I have also converted the recipe to standard American measurements.

adapted from Bread Ahead Bakery
4 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp dry instant yeast
2 1/4 cups warm water
2 tsps salt
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
Rosemary, washed and stems removed
Sea Salt

1. Measure out water into a medium sized bowl. Sprinkle yeast on top. Let it sit for a couple minutes to hydrate, then stir together. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, add salt and flour. Stir together. Make a well in the center and add water and yeast mixture. Stir to combine scraping down the sides of the bowl. Mix well until dough comes together.
3. Pour 2 TBSPs of olive oil around the edge of the dough where it meets the sides of the bowl. Scrape sides down so the the oil gets under the dough.
4. Prepare an area to dump out and fold dough with a little bit of olive oil so it doesn't stick. Dump dough into the surface. Maneuver dough into a square with your fingers (about 10 inches across). This is where we fold (FOLD #1). Watch this fold in action in the video link above at about 15:30 in. Grab one end of the dough and fold it across about 2/3 of the way over. Then grab the other end (straight across from the first end you grabbed) and pull it up and over toward the other side. Now you have a skinny rectangle. Take the skinny end and repeat the same fold (2/3 of the way over, then take the last side and and pull it over. Carefully flip the dough over and slide it back into the bowl. Cover and leave at room temperature for 1 hour.
6. After 1 hour, carefully slide the dough onto your prepared folding surface and repeat the above folding process (FOLD #2). Slide back into bowl. Cover and leave a room temp to rise for 30 minutes.
7. After the 30 minutes is up, repeat folding process (FOLD #3). Cover and leave on counter for another 20-30 minutes as you prepare for the next steps.
8. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Sprinkle a little flour or corn meal on the baking sheet. Slide dough onto baking sheet. Pull the sides a little to stretch out.
9. Drizzle about 1 TBSP of olive oil on top. Poke holes into the dough with your fingertips stretching dough out a little as you poke the holes. Stick small pieces of rosemary on top. Drizzle with another 1 TBSP of olive oil.
10. If you have a spray bottle, spray the top of the dough lightly with water (this will help to form a crust) and sprinkle with sea salt.
11. Bake for 17 minutes or until top is lightly browned.

Makes one loaf

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Sweet Zucchini Relish

I plant zucchini every year, and this year I planted 3 different varieties. Even after making lots of chocolate zucchini cake, zucchini bread, fried zucchini, cheesy zucchini rice, and zucchini casserole, I have extra. I decided to try zucchini relish and I'm so glad that I did. We have used it on hot dogs, in tuna salad, and even in meatloaf. Here's the recipe. :)

Sweet Zucchini Relish
adapted from manmadediy.com 
12 cups zucchini, shredded
4 cups white onions, shredded
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 carrot, shredded
5 TBSP pickling salt
5 cups of sugar
2 1/2 cups vinegar
1 TBSP dry mustard
1 TBSP corn starch
3/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp celery seed
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 TBSP red pepper flakes, optional
10-8 oz jars with screw bands and lids

1. Mix the veggies and pickling salt in a large bowl. Let sit at least 12 hours (or overnight). Drain the veggies in a colander; wash under cold water, then drain again thoroughly. Set aside.
2. In a large pot add sugar, vinegar, mustard, corn starch, turmeric, celery seed, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Simmer until slightly thickened, about 20 minutes. Add veggies to sauce and cook over low/medium heat for 25-30 minutes.
3. While relish is cooking, heat water in water bath canner or large pot to boiling. Place lids with rubber seal in a small bowl and add 1 cup of boiling water. Add empty jars and screw bands to the pot and boil for 10 minutes to sterilize. Remove jars and screw bands from pot and dry them with towel. When relish is ready, ladel it into the clean jars. Leave 1/4 - 1/2" of space at the top. Wipe jar rims and threads with a clean damp cloth. Cover with lid and screw bands on tightly. Place the filled jars into the canner. Water should cover jars by 1-2 inches. Bring to boil and process for 10 minutes. Carefully remove each jar and set aside for 12-24 hours to cool. Check tops of jars to make sure they have sealed by pressing middle of lids with finger. If lids do not spring back they have sealed properly. If they do spring back, refrigerate the jars. Makes about 10-8oz jars.