Stump de Noel

I’ve always been a person that is mostly “out of the box”. I tend to think a bit differently than your average Joe, so when I saw this recipe for a stump de noel vs. the traditional buche de noel, I was intrigued. It’s a very striking dessert that has that “wow factor” when you’re called to bring the dessert for the Christmas party or family gathering. It requires quite a bit of work, but you can scatter the work over a few days time so on the day of assembly you can just focus on pulling it together. It’s best to read through the recipe a few times so you understand all that is required. You can make the buttercreams 2-3 days ahead and keep chilled; when it comes time to assemble you’ll have to let the buttercream come to room temperature and rewhip with the stand mixer. The meringue mushrooms and the sugared decorations can be made a couple days before. The assembled cake requires chilling so plan to assemble it the day before service, and assemble on the platter that you’ll be serving it on-I used a large square platter that I found with room on the sides for the pretty garnishes.

Merry Christmas!

Stump de Nöel 

recipe: Baked Explorations by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, pages 144-145

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 pound bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 2 tablespoons instant espresso powder dissolved in 1/4 cup of hot water
  • 1 dozen large eggs, at room temperature, separated
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • Malted Buttercream and Dark Chocolate Buttercream
  • Meringue mushrooms, candied cranberries and candied rosemary sprigs, for garnish (optional; see Note)

 

Step 1

Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter two 12-by-17-inch rimmed baking sheets and line them with parchment paper, leaving a 1-inch overhang on all of the short sides. Butter the paper and dust with flour.

Step 2

In a small bowl, whisk the 1 cup of flour with the cocoa and salt. In another small bowl, combine the chocolate and espresso. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, combine the egg yolks with 2/3 cup of the sugar. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water and whisk until the sugar is dissolved. Transfer the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk and beat at high speed until the yolks are pale and thick, about 5 minutes. Beat in the melted chocolate mixture along with the vanilla. Transfer to a large bowl.

Step 3

Thoroughly wash and dry the mixer bowl and the whisk. Beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar on moderately high speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining 2/3 cup of sugar and continue beating at high speed until the whites are glossy, about 2 minutes longer. Whisk one-fourth of the egg whites into the cake batter, then fold in the remaining whites until no streaks remain.

Step 4

In a small bowl, whisk the melted butter with 1/2 cup of the batter; fold this mixture into the batter. Working in 2 batches, sift the cocoa powder mixture over the batter and gently fold it in. Divide the batter between the prepared pans, spreading it out to fill the pans. Bake for about 18 minutes, until the cake feels springy and dry; shift the pans from top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking. Transfer the pans to racks to cool completely. Run the tip of a knife around the edges, cover with parchment paper and a baking sheet and invert; peel off the parchment on top.

Step 5

Spread the Malted Buttercream over the cakes. Using a ruler, cut each cake precisely in half lengthwise, cutting through the paper; you should have four 6-by-17-inch strips of cake. Roll one strip into a tight coil, leaving the paper behind. Roll the 3 remaining cake strips around the coil in the same way to form a very wide, short jelly roll. Set the cake on a large plate, spiraled end up. Frost the outside of the cake with the Dark Chocolate Buttercream. Refrigerate until set, at least 8 hours. Decorate the cake with meringue mushrooms, cranberries and rosemary sprigs and serve, cutting the cake into wedges or horizontal slices.

FOR THE DARK CHOCOLATE AND MALTED BUTTERCREAMS

5 large egg whites, at room temperature

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

4 ounces good-quality dark chocolate (60-72%), melted and cooled

1/4 cup malt powder

12 malted milk balls candies, crushed

MAKE THE DARK CHOCOLATE AND MALTED BUTTERCREAMS

In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, combine the egg whites and sugar. Set the bowl over a pot of simmering water and whisk until the sugar is dissolved and the egg whites are just warm to the touch. Return the bowl to the mixer and fit it with the whisk attachment. Add the vanilla and beat the egg whites at high speed until firm and glossy, about 5 minutes. With the machine running, whisk in the butter a few tablespoons at a time. If the mixture begins to look curdled, continue to beat until smooth before adding more butter.

Transfer 1 1/2 cups of the buttercream to a bowl and whisk in the melted chocolate. Cover the chocolate buttercream and refrigerate.

Dissolve the malt powder in 2 tablespoons hot water, then beat it into the buttercream remaining in the mixer. Beat in the crushed milk balls. Cover the malt buttercream and refrigerate.

Meringue Mushrooms

Baked Explorations by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, pages 194-195

3 large egg whites, at room temperature

¾ cup sugar

¼ teaspoon cream of tartar

1 ounce good-quality white chocolate, melted and cooled (I actually used semisweet)

2 ounces dark unsweetened cocoa powder, (like Valrhona) for sifting over assembled mushrooms

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper.

Whisk the egg whites and sugar together in the heat proof bowl of a standing mixer. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (double boiler method). Cook, whisking constantly, until the sugar is completely dissolved and the mixture registers 140 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer, 6 to 8 minutes.

Transfer the bowl to a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat it on high speed until stiff peaks form. Add the cream of tartar when the mixture begins to thicken, or after 3 minutes. Keep beating for another minute or so until stiff peaks hold.

Fill a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip with the meringue. To make the caps, hold the pastry bag close to the parchment paper-lined pan and pipe out a small dome (about a tablespoon) of meringue, pulling up at the very end  of piping to give your cap some height.

To form mushrooms stems, hold the bag close to the parchment paper and pipe the meringue, pulling up as you go, into small cone shapes. Make the same number of stems as caps.

Place the pans in the oven and bake the meringue pieces for 90 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway thought the baking time. Turn off the oven, prop the door slightly open and leave the meringues in place for at least 2 hours longer, or overnight.

ASSEMBLE THE MERINGUE MUSHROOMS

Turn the caps over and use a toothpick to make a tiny hole large enough to fit the tip of the stem into. Fill the hole with a tiny bit of white chocolate (or semi sweet-which is what I used). Gently press the stem into place and allow the chocolate to set. Sift cocoa powder over the assembled mushrooms.

Sugared cranberries and sugared rosemary

¼ cup superfine sugar

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cinnamon stick

¾ cup fresh cranberries

10 rosemary sprigs

Line a half-sheet pan with parchment paper. Place the superfine sugar in a small bowl.

In a medium saucepan, stir together 1 cup of water with the sugar, then add the cinnamon stick. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from the heat and pour into a heatproof, wide-mouthed bowl. Let the liquid cool for a few minutes, then remove the cinnamon stick.

Drop the cranberries in the syrup and stir to coat the cranberries completely. Remove the cranberries, a few at a time, with a slotted spoon (tap the spoon to release excess syrup) and drop them in the superfine sugar. Toss the cranberries in the sugar to coat completely, and place on the parchment paper to dry. Repeat the above procedure with the rosemary. Decorate the stump as you wish.


THINGS HAPPEN FOR A REASON… A Homecoming for Oscar Boo

They say, THINGS HAPPEN FOR A REASON.

I always believed this, but the past year and a half, and almost two-this popular saying has been a bit hard to believe sometimes, as it has been a hard and painful road. I’ve had 2 back surgeries and as I type this I still have not been able to walk without pain, much less- been able to walk very far at all. My spinal surgeon said my nerve root was so compressed that it was “dented”. He tells me it could take a year to fully recover. Every day is a challenge as I heal, in more ways than one.  I lost my Mother in October of 2016. She had Alzheimers Disease and we watched her lively spirit slowly slip away.  Then 6 months later my Stepfather passed. My Faith has been severely tested, but never extinguished I’m happy to report. I’m not telling you this to feel sorry for me, but rather to paint the picture of my state of mind, as this story gets better, so stay with me…

In 2012 we moved to Taiwan (my Husband’s birthplace) from San Francisco to keep a closer eye on my Mother in Law who was not in good health at the time. We left our cuddle bug Jack Russell dog “Oscar” behind with one of our neighbors. Our neighbor was an elderly man named Bob who lived 2 houses down from us and adored our Oscar as much as we did.  I affectionately called Oscar my “Oscar Boo”.  Oscar was quite the character. We adopted him from a sweet gal named Sheerein, who operated her own dog shelter. I knew from the moment we met him that he was our dog. I bonded with him instantly. My Husband used to say Oscar was a reincarnated old man trapped inside the body of a dog. From the moment we got him we noticed he RARELY barked-but rather, he would just glare at you as if he was pissed at you for some reason. It was hysterical. A month in, and I had only heard him bark literally a few times, and I noticed it was when there was a suspicious noise outside, so we knew he would be a good guard dog. That dog had more personality than you could imagine. If he was left in the car (relaxSan Francisco is like 60 degrees year round, and we’re talking like 5 minutes left in the car) he would press on the horn, AND the hazard lights to get your attention. At first we thought it was a fluke, but then it happened again, over and over, time after time, so clearly he knew what he was doing. It was a riot. When you opened the passenger car door for him to get in, he would insist on scooting over to the driver’s seat as soon as you opened the car door to go somewhere instead of going to the backseat. He would give you this look like, “I’m the Captain, and I’m driving”. Eventually he would cave and go to the back. We had a convertible then and he loved to ride with the top down. It definitely fit his personality. He always acted like he was King. Oscar was not only smart, but agile and cunning like a human, I swear. If left in one of the rooms with a closed-door, he would rise up, take both his front paws and twist the door knobs to open either the door of the kitchen to get into the living room, as well as the door of the bedroom. We actually witnessed  him doing this. Like I said, just like a human.

He was the sweetest dog, but I remember the one time I was walking in the park in late afternoon near almost dark after barely having Oscar for a month, and I got a creepy feeling from this man who was walking behind me, so I slowed way down so that the man would pass me. The man tried to strike up a conversation with me and I kept getting a stranger danger vibe- and so did Oscar apparently because my sweet 19 pound Oscar all of a sudden stopped dead in his tracks, went full on CUJO, opened his mouth, snarled, and showed his teeth like I had never ever seen before. The man went running off scared like a 3 yr. old, and my sweet Oscar just looked over at me and kept trotting along as if nothing ever happened. From that day on, I knew he was more than just a lap dog.

When we moved to Taiwan, we decided to leave our dog with Bob, as we just could not bring ourselves to put our beloved dog through such a long quarantine of 6 months- which was required in Taiwan. (Oscar could barely handle being left for 6 minutes because he was originally abandoned at a doggy day care we learned when we adopted him), so anytime we left the house he went crazy. Besides, living in a high rise, concrete jungle was no place for a dog. Believe me, IT KILLED ME leaving him with Bob. In my mind I kind of knew it was a mistake-something JUST told me in the pit of my stomach, but I resolved that coming home to San Francisco from time to time to visit we could also visit Oscar and we knew he was in good hands.

Our friend Bob ended up hospitalized and passing while on a trip to Los Angeles and Oscar was sent to a shelter; we heard from Sheerein. Oscar was found running along a street in LA, a long way from his home in San Francisco.  My heart sank when I heard this. She tried to intervene on our behalf to try to get him for us, as at this point we were back living in the States, but she was not able to figure out where he ended up, as the shelter said he went to a “family member”, and they did not know where, or to whom. The funny thing is that, when we gave him to Bob we were never able to transfer his documentation status online to Bob for the microchip. I tried several times, and he tried several times and the computer just never accepted it, so we just let it go. Matter of fact- we were never able to transfer the chip to OUR name when we adopted him from Sheerein, so we left it as is, and I let Sheerein know as well.

THINGS HAPPEN FOR A REASON.

When we originally adopted Oscar and could not transfer his micro chip status in 2011 Sheerein always said it was fine as if anything happened to Oscar, she knew that the local shelters all knew her well, and they would contact her if he popped up on any scan. So we went about our life. We never knew where Oscar ended up after Bob passed as she tried desperately to locate any family members of Bob through the shelter where Oscar was found, to no avail. We knew Bob had family in Arkansas, so we assumed that’s where Oscar ended up, and I tried to just let it go. My heart sank thinking of all the sweet memories of Oscar and wishing he was back with us. She kept our information and said that if she ever heard of anything she would contact me. I figured it was a lost cause.

Fast forward- 2  1/2 years. Just when you’re feeling like nothing is going right in your life, and you’re starting to have one of those pitty party’s of one. Like seriously- Lord, throw me a bone here….the date is August 2nd, and I’m feeling rather blue. A typical day. I open my email. Wait, what????

I spot an email. It jumps off the screen. Subject line reads: “I have located Oscar”  its from Sheerein.

I can’t open it fast enough. I can’t believe what I’m reading. She’s telling me, Oscar was located near Sacramento. He was abandoned and brought into a shelter. Because his microchip is still in her name, they contacted her.

THINGS HAPPEN FOR A REASON.

I haven’t seen him in 5 years.

Long story short, my Husband drove 17 hours to California to pick him up, and then turned right around for another 17 to Arizona to bring him home.

But wait there’s more!….

When Oscar was brought into the shelter he came in with another dog, a female Jack Russell/Chihuahua mix named Bella. They said that Oscar bonded with her and “She was his girlfriend”. The shelter said the two were inseparable. When my Husband heard this from Sheerein he told  her to ask the shelter if they would let us adopt her. They reported most likely Bella would be put down if not adopted right away since the shelter was a “High kill shelter”.  Sheerein intervened on our behalf and they agreed.

I’ve been holding onto this story for a bit as today is “Clear the Shelters Day” Adopt a dog. Don’t shop. Rescue an abandoned soul. Oscar is what you’d call more of a “Sparkling Wine” kind of dog, and Bella is definitely more “Pabst Blue Ribbon” if you catch my drift. Love doesn’t always make sense on the surface.  What does make sense is Love is comfort. Oscar gives me comfort. Bella gives Oscar comfort, and certainly Oscar gives Bella comfort. Today give someone you love some comfort, whether that be a hug, a kiss, or a sweet passing sentiment. One thing I know is for sure.

THINGS HAPPEN FOR A REASON.

Here is a picture of Bella giving Oscar a kiss. Notice the smile on his face…

 “DON’T LOSE FAITH”

THINGS HAPPEN FOR A REASON….

 

 

 


Please Vote in the Best Food Bloggers Contest

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I would like to take this opportunity to thank all my faithful followers and I hope you will (share the love) and vote for me in the Friendseat best food bloggers contest. To vote, you will need to click on the orange whisk “Love” button to vote for me in the Best Baking Blog category. Voting ends tomorrow on the 17th! Thank you again for all my fans who follow me!!!!

xoxo,

Suzie


Pretty In Pink

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

I’m in the mood for pink.

I’m in the mood for pink pretty things.

Pink flowers, pink marshmallows, pink macarons and anything I can turn into pink that is edible. Let’s celebrate all of our ladies who have survived breast cancer and show off your pink.

Recipes coming soon…

Happy Healthy Life,

Suzie