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  • pixeltheatre 12:02 am on December 22, 2007 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Yule log   

    Daring Bakers – 3rd Challenge: Yule Log 

    Daring Bakers Yule LogAs much as the Potato Bread challenge made my heart sing, this one made my heart sink. Don’t get me wrong. I’m fine with intricate and elaborate instructions, but having to reproduce anything realistically is just not my cup of tea. Mushrooms out of meringue or marzipan? Oy!

    Our hostesses this month were none other than Daring Bakers’ founders Lisa and Ivonne. I printed the six-page recipe and read it a few times, visualizing all of its steps. As with other Daring Bakers challenges, I found the recipe more daunting in its written form than in its execution. The genoise took no time to put together, thanks to my mom’s birthday gift of a very nifty Kitchen Aid mixer.

    Earlier in the month I caught an episode of Iron Chef America where Chef Tyler Florence tried to make a yule log and ended up with Yule planks when his genoise broke when he rolled it. Well, needless to say I had nightmares about this procedure after I saw this. If this Iron chef couldn’t do it right, how could I?…I stared at my pan for a long time before attempting the roll-over. I finally took a deep breath and just went for it. It worked. Kind of. My log is more oblong than round, but at least it didin’t break into planks. I was stoked.

    The mocha buttercream went a long way in camouflaging the unevenness of this log. I had a small slice of each end, and it tasted great. It’s now been frozen and will be flown to Toronto for the holidays. The test will be on Christmas day when it will be served at a small dinner. A picture of the final result will be posted at that time.

    Thanks again for a great challenge for the opportunity to stretch my sticky spatula even further… 🙂

    Update: In the end I did not have thee space in my luggage to bring the log to Toronto. Here’s the final result, created when I returned home after the holidays.

    Daring Bakers - Yule Log

    • Dolores 1:04 am on December 22, 2007 Permalink | Reply

      Repeat after me. Tyler Florence was under time pressure. And while he’s adorable and quite talented, he’s not a pastry chef.

      You did great!

    • culinography 6:17 am on December 22, 2007 Permalink | Reply

      Looks wonderful!

    • Chris 11:20 am on December 22, 2007 Permalink | Reply

      Great job! And thanks for the laugh…the Tyler comment? I would have thought the same thing! But, from the looks of things – you kicked his butt in Yule Logs. Liz – 1 Tyler 0! 🙂

    • Gigi 1:30 pm on December 22, 2007 Permalink | Reply

      I love it! Great idea on freezing the cake for a later time!

    • Kim 6:13 pm on December 22, 2007 Permalink | Reply

      You have achieved that which an Iron Chef did not. Challenged and victorious! Congratulations.

    • Claire 7:28 pm on December 22, 2007 Permalink | Reply

      Nice job! Though I was nervous, I did like doing the meringue mushrooms!

    • maria~ 7:29 pm on December 22, 2007 Permalink | Reply

      Looks great and I’m sure it’s delicious! I tell you, this challenge has uncovered my addiction to the fluffy, light, yummy meringues! 🙂 Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

    • lamiacucina67 9:09 pm on December 22, 2007 Permalink | Reply

      In your face, Tyler Florence!! hehehee But I mean that in the nicest way as I heart Tyler and want him to have my babies one day. 😀

      You did a wonderful job, Liz! As always. =)


    • desie the maybahay 10:17 pm on December 22, 2007 Permalink | Reply

      i had the same problem as you re reproducing anything realistically. the marzipan mushrooms took a lot of concentrating. your log looks great, nevertheless.
      i hope you had heaps of fun making it. happy holidays!

    • african vanielje 6:22 am on December 23, 2007 Permalink | Reply

      You did a fabulous job, and there’s one thing you’ve always got to remember about food: If it’s not absolutely perfect, eat the evidence and try again. There are worse things than eating a whole yule log, especially as your’s looks so yummy.

    • Hilda 7:04 am on December 23, 2007 Permalink | Reply

      Well there you go, you’re the titanium chef, and your log looks just great. (I had trouble with the meringue mushrooms too because I didn’t have a pastry bag). Happy holidays!

    • Dharm 5:25 pm on December 23, 2007 Permalink | Reply

      Well Done! Your log looks just great. Hope you have a great Christmas and I’m sure your log will be a hit at the party!

    • Mary 5:26 pm on December 23, 2007 Permalink | Reply

      HA! I’m so glad someone besides me was nervous about rolling it! Tyler Florence spooked me too. Mine traveled for 2 1/2 hours in the car fine thawed, so I’m sure yours will be great on Christmas! Merry Christmas!

    • Julius 7:01 pm on December 23, 2007 Permalink | Reply

      Hi Liz,

      I saw that episode of Iron Chef and couldn’t stop laughing. 🙂

      Your log looks great! I’m sure it’ll be a hit in Toronto.

      Happy Christmas to you.


    • Meryl 8:00 pm on December 23, 2007 Permalink | Reply

      I saw that episode of Iron Chef (and was a little freaked out by it) too! But icing hides a multitude of sins, eh? Your log looks wonderful!

    • Beth G 9:57 pm on December 23, 2007 Permalink | Reply

      YUM!! It looks fabulous~ great job!!

    • Elle 10:03 pm on December 23, 2007 Permalink | Reply

      Isn’t it great what buttercream will hide? Hope everyone in Toronto loves your Yule Log!
      Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!

    • Lisa 10:37 pm on December 23, 2007 Permalink | Reply

      You are better than an Iron Chef – you are a Daring Baker! Cute story 🙂

    • peabody 2:25 am on December 24, 2007 Permalink | Reply

      Yes, when I saw this challenge I totally thought of how Tyler Florence tanked the yule log. But you did a lovley job.

    • Claudia 12:56 am on December 25, 2007 Permalink | Reply

      Looks delicious – Taste is more important than the look. And your log looks much better than Florence’s log. Happy Holidays to you!

    • Paula 7:57 am on December 26, 2007 Permalink | Reply

      Way to go beating an Iron Chef! Great job

    • Tartelette 11:06 am on December 27, 2007 Permalink | Reply

      Yule log on an airlplane? Now, that’s daring! I love it! Glad everything turned out good in the end. Enjoy the holidays!

    • Deborah 6:07 pm on December 27, 2007 Permalink | Reply

      I think it looks wonderful. I’m always intimidated when the recipes are pages long, but then they usually come together!

    • Gretchen Noelle 7:53 pm on December 27, 2007 Permalink | Reply

      I think you did a great job at this recipe and even if things didn’t look super realistic, I am sure they tasted great!

    • Rosa 8:40 am on December 28, 2007 Permalink | Reply

      Great log! Well done!



    • Jen 6:25 pm on December 30, 2007 Permalink | Reply

      That looks like a yule log to me! And if it tastes good, well – that’s more than halfway there. Great job and happy new year!

    • dhanggit 8:36 am on January 2, 2008 Permalink | Reply

      congrats on your yule log cake!!

    • pixeltheatre 11:15 pm on January 2, 2008 Permalink | Reply

      Thanks to everyone who commented. Just as an update, the log never made it Toronto. But the time I was finished packing, there was no more space…We had ice cream crepes with orange sauce in the end for dessert.

      I did finish the log when I returned last week. I’ve added the final to the blog update.

    • Jenny 8:40 pm on January 4, 2008 Permalink | Reply

      Security probably would have “confiscated” it from your bags anyways! 🙂
      Hope you had a great Christmas!

  • pixeltheatre 9:56 pm on December 13, 2007 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , cooking challenge, cranberry, fudge, peppermint, profiterole   

    Blog Party#29: Another Bite of Dessert: Cheesy Fudge Cranberry Tarts & Peppermint Profiteroles 

    With wet snow falling outside my window this morning (again), it was a perfect day to tackle this month’s Blog Party Challenge: Another Bite of Dessert, hosted by the Happy Sorceress. The theme was straightforward: dessert canapés.

    So many choices…Last week, for the first time, I finally got access to the Food Network as part of my new digital TV system. And for the first time, I got to see the Iron Chef of America show. Well-timed, the show was titled: All-Star Holiday Dessert Battle: Cora/Deen vs. Irvine/Florence. From the Food Network website:

    In another All-Star culinary showdown, the Chairman has invited Paula Deen to partner up with Iron Chef Cat Cora and compete against Food Network’s own Tyler Florence and Robert Irvine.

    The hour was filled with a myriad of desserts and sweets. My fillings were hurting at the final offering to the judges. Tina Fey was comatose by the end of it all. But, I had found my inspiration for this challenge.

    Paula Deen’s Chocolate Cheese Fudge was intriguing. I had baked cream cheese with chocolate, but Velveeta cheese?…I decided to tone down the richness of that fudge by using it as a base and adding cranberries as a topping.

    Chocolate Cheese Fudge Cranberry tartsCheesy Fudge Cranberry Tarts

    Paula Deen’s Chocolate Cheese Fudge

    Press one tablespoon into greased mini cupcake molds. Refrigerate.

    1 cup frozen or fresh cranberries, roughly chopped
    1 tbsp sugar
    1/4 cup water
    Splash of Southern Comfort (could also use Grand Marnier or Cointreau)
    Fresh mint leaves, chiffonade

    In a small saucepan, heat up the Southern Comfort with the chopped cranberries over medium heat. Add the sugar and water, reduce. Remove from heat and cool.

    Unmold the fudge cups, spoon some of the cranberry mixture in the cup and garnish with mint chiffonade.

    The ladies also concocted a peppermint martini for the judges. This triggered my second canapé:

    Peppermint Profiteroles
    Profiteroles: Choux paste recipe

    Peppermint Pastry Cream:
    2/3 cup whole milk
    2 inch vanilla bean
    2 egg yolks
    3 tbsp sugar
    1 tbsp cornstarch
    1/4 tsp peppermint extract

    In a small, heavy saucepan over high heat, combine the milk and vanilla bean and bring to a simmer.Peppermint Profiterole

    Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch until well blended. When the milk reaches a simmer, remove it from the heat and gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the yolk mixture.

    Return the mixture to the saucepan and place it over medium heat. Cook, whisking constantly, until the pastry cream thickens and boils, about 1 minute. Stir in the peppermint extract. Discard the vanilla bean and cool.

    Chocolate ganache
    Candy cane, crushed

    Pipe the pastry cream into each choux. Dip each choux into warm ganache. Sprinkle with crushed candy cane.

    For the cocktail, I decided to keep it simple: Brandy Toddy, from DrinkMixer website.

    Brandy ToddyBrandy Toddy
    2 oz brandy
    1/2 tsp powdered sugar
    1 tsp water
    1 twist lemon peel

    Dissolve powdered sugar in 1 tsp. water in an old-fashioned glass. Add brandy and one ice cube and stir. Add twist of lemon peel on top and serve.

    Happy holidays all!

  • pixeltheatre 12:09 am on December 13, 2007 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , health, Smarties   

    Smarties smarten up… 

    Smarties BoxI was enjoying one of my favorite combination of flavors this week, chocolate and orange, when I noticed something different about my box of Smarties. There, in both French and English, a gentle reminder about the benefits of a balanced diet and physical activity. With obesity reaching epidemic levels, this effort by candy manufacturers to raise awareness is commendable. Just wondering how widespread this practice will become?…

  • pixeltheatre 11:20 pm on December 9, 2007 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Arsène Lupin, Biscuits, , Mrs Hudson, , Retro Challenge, Sherlock Holmes, Victorian   

    Mrs. Hudson’s Biscuits: Retro Challenge #10 and Novel Food Challenge #2 

    Mrs. HudsonAs December rolls in, there are plenty of cooking/baking challenges to keep anyone busy. While mulling (dreading) over the Daring Baker monthly Challenge, I tackled the Retro Recipe Challenge #10 and the Novel Food Challenge #2. Both required using a book as the source of the recipe used.
    Georges Descrières as Arsène Lupin
    Growing up in Québec, my early literary influences were naturally French. However, in the mid 1970’s, thanks to a French television series, this influence unexpectedly did a sharp 180 to the west of the English Channel into the Victorian foggy world of Baker Street. Arsène Lupin was a gentleman thief and womanizer plying his trade in late 1890’s, early 1990’s Paris. The literary creation of Maurice Leblanc, Lupin was a Gallic Robin Hood, doing good, on the wrong side of the law, usually with a very good looking woman on his arm. Portrayed by Georges Descrières, he was the consumate debonnair gentleman, drinking champagne, stealing jewellery and other priceless baubles while continuously evading the police (Inspecteur Ganimard, in particular). It wouldn’t be long before this character crossed swords with his English “counterpart” (1906). Following Arthur Conan Doyle‘s protest of Leblanc using the Sherlock Holmes name, the author changed it to “Herlock Sholmes” for the detectives appearance in “The Adventures of Arsène Lupin and Herlock Sholmes” and “L’Aiguille creuse” (“The Hollow Needle”).

    Jeremy Brett as Sherlock HolmesI became intrigued by the reed-thin detective from London and picked up one of the stories at my local library. Before long I had fallen in love with Conan Doyle’s writing and the Victorian world of gas lights, shady characters, hansom cabs, Inspector Lestrade, Mrs Hudson, the Baker Street Irregulars, Dr. Watson and, of course, the quirky and brilliant detective himself. It was a sad day when I realized I had just read the last of the original stories of The Cannon. The Granada series starring Jeremy Brett brought this world to life beautifully.

    So, when I came across these two challenges, the source to turn to was pretty obvious. I had come across a collection of recipes inspired from the stories. Dining with Sherlock Holmes: A Baker Street cookbook, by Julia Carlson Rosenblatt and Frederic H. Sonnenschmidt, first published in 1978 by Thames and Hudson,…

    “…was conceived when more than a hundred Holmes enthusiasts enjoyed a grand Sherlockian repast in Hyde Park, New York in 1973… every recipe in the book has its canonical raison d’être.”

    I picked up this book in the early 1980’s. Flipping through it, I foundMrs. Hudson's Biscuits a sweet recipe titled: Mrs. Hudson’s Biscuits. This is the one I chose for these challenges. I’m not sure what the origins are, if it actually pre-dates 1978, but it sure turned out really nice biscuits. Light and not too sweet, with the refreshing tang of lemon. They would be “spot on” with a nice cuppa’, sitting beside a blazing fireplace, listening to the strains of Holmes’ violin, as he ponders his latest case.

    Mrs. Hudson’s Biscuits

    125 g. butter
    125 g icing sugar
    2 tsp vanilla sugar or 2 tsp sugar with 2-3 drops of vanilla extract
    1 egg
    1 pinch of salt
    juice and grated peel of 1/2 lemon
    125 g. flour
    125 g. cornflour
    1 knife tip baking powder
    butter to grease pan

    100 g. icing sugar
    2 tbsps lemon juice

    Mrs. Hudson's BiscuitsWhip the butter until it is fluffy, then slowly add the icing sugar;
    Add the vanilla sugar, egg, salt, lemon juice and peel;
    Add the flour, baking powder and cornflour slowly and mix well;
    Grease a baking tray with butter;
    Fill a pastry bag with the dough and press small biscuits onto the baking tray;
    Bake in a preheated 400F oven for 10-15 minutes
    Make the glaze by mixing the icing sugar and lemon juice. Brush biscuits with it, and let it dry.
    Makes about 70 biscuits.

    • Simona 9:12 am on December 10, 2007 Permalink | Reply

      Your lovely post brought back memories of watching Arsenio Lupin when I was a child: I loved it! Then, later on, I read Sherlock Holmes in its original language and loved that too. I didn’t know there was a Baker Street cookbook. A very nice image of drinking tea, eating biscuits and listening to the master playing his violin.

    • pixeltheatre 11:53 am on December 10, 2007 Permalink | Reply

      Thanks Simona! I had not realized the series was also available in Italian. I came across a few sites offering tapes with “Arsenio Lupin” while looking for a picture for the post. It was a great series…:)

    • Mary 7:19 pm on January 4, 2008 Permalink | Reply

      How terrific would it be to reread some Sherlock Holmes mysteries snuggled under a quilt with a cup of tea and these biscuits!

  • pixeltheatre 6:23 pm on December 2, 2007 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , chain-letter, , meme, Q&A   

    Thanks for the meme-ories… 

    Received an invitation this morning from Julius, fellow Vancouverite and Daring Baker, to partake in aWinter day on Gore Street Q&A/meme/blog chain letter. The theme was, natch, food-related. With the weather being so inviting (see pic), I hunkered down inside to move this chain along.

    What were you cooking/baking ten years ago?
    I had recently moved to Vancouver 10 years ago and was living in a small apartment, sporting one of those tiny galley kitchen, with not much counter space. I don’t recall cooking much, or cooking very simply. I had a small tabletop barbecue on my balcony and, this being Vancouver, used that a lot throughout the year. I was not into my baking phase at that time either. I was traveling a lot for my job, taking and teaching night classes. Ramen, and derivative dishes, was often part of my diet…

    What were you cooking/baking one year ago?
    I had taken the Serious Foodie classes at NWCAV at the beginning of the year, which helped a lot with my confidence in the kitchen. (Little did I know at the time I would be enrolled in the Professional Diploma course a year later) I was now making gnocchi, risotto was a way to relax after work and I always had fresh tomato sauce to use on pasta or home-made pizza. I had started to bake once more, mostly cookies and mini cupcakes (see recipe below).

    The snack you enjoy the most:
    At this time of the year: mandarine oranges with cold smarties…But I’m not much of a snacker the rest of the time

    A culinary luxury you would indulge in if you were a millionaire:
    A small but complete commercial kitchen space; pastry course at the C.I.A.; a cooking vacation around the world.

    What do you bake the most?
    Home-made pizza

    Five recipes you know by heart:
    Shrimp risotto, tarte au sucre, linguine al vongole (baby clams), barbecued rack of lamb, buffalo chicken wings

    One thing you cannot/will not eat:
    I love dim sum, but I can’t bring myself to eat anything involving fish paste. The chicken claws are a close second…

    Favourite culinary toy:
    My Victorinox 8″ chef knife

    A must on your “last meal” menu:
    Lamb, barbecued either in rack format or shawarma or kebab, with tatziki.

    Happy food memories:
    My mom’s tourtière and ragoût de patte (pigs’ feet stew). Real Québec comfort food, ideal on a winter’s day (like today) …Which I will get to taste once more over the holidays…hum…

    Chocolate Mini Cupcakes

    8 oz cream cheese
    ½ cup sugar + pinch of salt
    1 egg
    1 package (1 cup) mini chocolate chips

    Cream cream cheese and sugar. Add egg and mix well. Add chocolate chips.

    1 – ½ cups flour
    1 cup sugar
    ¼ cup cocoa
    1 tsp baking soda
    ½ tsp salt

    Combine these five ingredients in a large bowl

    1 cup water
    ½ cup vegetable oil
    1 tbsp white vinegar
    1 tsp vanilla

    Combine these four ingredient well in a small bowl. Blend into dry ingredients. Mix well.

    Fill mini baking cups to ¾ and top with a dollop of the cream cheese mixture. Bake at 350F for 15-18 minutes. Freezes well.

    • Julius 9:43 pm on December 10, 2007 Permalink | Reply

      Hi LizG,

      Thanks for writing out the meme.

      It’s always great to read about other fellow bloggers. Gotta try cold smarties and Mandarin oranges sometime. 🙂


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