Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas and buche de noel!

Ah, the fabulousness of a lazy day, with nothing to do but walk the dog and cook and eat dinner! Last night was lobster and salad and fresh bread. Today is crab cakes and duck on the rotissiere. And if I eat enough of that, plus the aforementioned bread, and save room for the dessert, well, then, the fresh pasta with mushrooms might just have to wait until tomorrow!

We have suffered mightily over the past two weeks here in the pacific northwest, home of the green and soggy Christmas - my personal favorite actually. Tons of snow finally melting, shoveling muscles very sore, many cars (not mine tho) injured in the slip slidey conditions.

The buche de noel is easy and delish - as many or as few little decorations as you care to add. This one is pretty plain, but the rich chocolate roll is filled with white chocolate mousse and frosted with chocolate buttercreammmmmmmmmmm. That is not a typo. It is very good.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Ultimate Fruitcake

This is a fruitcake to love, and to change people's minds about the whole fruitcake-hating thing. Which I have to say I don't mind the fruitcake haters too much because it leaves more for US, the smart and talented fruitcake lovers. This recipe benefits from lots of rum, and lots of yummy candied and dried fruit and nuts, with the candied cherries in there for a hit of color and tradition. Bake in a jellyroll pan, cool, remove from the pan, brush with more rum, then drape with a thin and lucious sheet of marzipan.

Check out Kim's posts at A Yankee in a Southern Kitchen for another really lovely recipe and some beautiful pictures!

The best part of this is baking it with friends right after Thanksgiving. I love the process and ritual of that so much that I wouldn't even mind if I ended up giving it all away, but of course I don't!

Ultimate Fruitcake

The Fruit and Nuts

8 oz. dried figs, stemmed and cut into pieces
8 oz. pitted dates – chopped
8 oz. candied orange peel
8 oz. raisins
8 oz. golden raisins
8 oz. currants
8 oz. candied cherries – cut in half
6 oz. almonds
6 oz. walnuts
½ cup dark rum

Cake Batter

2 ¼ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ pound butter at room temperature
1 cup dark brown sugar
4 large eggs

The Marzipan

½ pound almond paste
½ pound powdered sugar
2-3 T. corn syrup

The Syrup

1/3 cup corn syrup
3 T. dark rum


Toss the fruit and nuts with the rum and let sit overnight.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees; butter an 11x17” sheet pan and line with baker’s parchment. Stir dry ingredients together in medium bowl (flour through cloves). Cream butter and brown sugar in electric mixer – add eggs one at a time and beat until incorporated. Stir in the flour mixture and beat until smooth. Scrape the batter over the fruit and nuts and fold everything together by hand – this may take a while, but be patient, it will all come together. Scrape it into the parchment lined pan and spread evenly, smoothing the top. Press a piece of parchment onto the top of the cake and bake 50-60 minutes or until the cake is just firm – do not overbake. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack. Take the top piece of parchment off right away.

Make the marzipan frosting – pulse the almond paste in a food processor with the confectioners’ sugar and corn syrup until it comes together. Knead by hand to form a smooth dough and cover with plastic wrap until ready to use.

Stir the rum and corn syrup together.

When cake is cool or just barely warm, flip it out onto a board or another cookie sheet and remove the baking parchment. Brush the entire cake with syrup until it’s all used up. Roll out the marzipan to make an 11x17 inch rectangle. Drape it over the top of the cake and press down to make sure it sticks.

If you really want it to look perfect and beautiful, trim ½” off of each side of the cake, but I don’t think that’s necessary. The cake can then be cut into 6 squares, about 5”x5” each, that make a great size to wrap up and freeze or give away. The cake is somewhat difficult to cut when fresh, but if you refrigerate or freeze it, it then cuts beautifully into small squares. It keeps in the fridge for several weeks or many months frozen.