Friday, January 1, 2010

Holiday Fare, Part Deux: Easy Bûche!

I have a huge magazine problem. I keep telling my husband it's "market research" as I do, from time to time, sell an article to a national magazine. [Sheer laziness keeps me from doing that more intently and nor do I have a lot of patience with non-responsive editors, even those I have worked with before. Blogging, while it doesn't pay the bills, can be just as gratifying.] But being a foodie and loving lifestyle imagery in that "jump in the pavement painting" Mary Poppins-y way–even though I know from experience how staged these photos can be, at least those rooms look magnificent and inviting for that magazine moment–I would buy them any way. I also have a huge "can't-seem to throw-the-magazines-away" problem, but that's a blog post for another day. So is finding the answer to the question of "why do you even buy food magazines when most recipes are on line today?" I suppose for the same reasons that I will never buy an Amazon Kindle® (and I stand true to what I wrote in that blog post at Cupcake Chronicles two years ago). But it's a rhetorical question in our household and fortunately my husband doesn't even realize this fact or he would likely complain about my hundreds of cookbooks and the magazines.

So here's what's fun about piles of magazines, especially during a quieter holiday week at home like this or on winter evenings or when your husband and kids keep flipping back and forth between The Three Stooges and Looney Tunes marathons on New Year's Eve and you are feigning "quality time" with your family. Occasionally I will sit in my comfy chair and go through them, clipping recipes or ideas (my good artist and writer friend Edie uses them for her collage art). Many magazines actually survive "my cut" unscathed or missing only a few pages and I hate to just toss them. I used to give them to friends or the "swap shop" at the town dump back in New Hampshire and this might be one reason I've let them pile up here these past two years. [Yes, I have no friends! Well, or at least sensible friends here who don't read a lot of magazines...]

Seriously, if anyone reading this in Kentucky would like my magazine cast-offs, let's meet for coffee and they're yours! I will gladly meet you somewhere: Lexington, Berea, Frankfort, Midway (I'm always looking for new restaurants, too). I'll also be traveling back to New England by way of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Woodstock, New York and possibly northeastern Ohio in mid-February with a big empty Honda Pilot. If there are a lot of you, let's use this as a reason to meet up in the New Year: there are plenty for all. Old copies of Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, Victoria, Country Living, Country Home, Paula Deen, Old-House Interiors and the occasional O Magazine or MS Living in the mix, and oh so many random lifestyle and shelter pick-ups...I do keep all copies of King Arthur's Baking Sheet, Cook's Country, and Mother Earth News (and any magazine with an article of mine in it, of course). In sum, I do my darnedest to keep the foodie and shelter magazine trade flourishing.

When Gourmet suddenly went under this fall, I returned to Bon Appétit and might, I said might, even subscribe again. I can understand why Condé Nast kept that magazine over Gourmet (although there is so much about Gourmet that I enjoyed: Ruth Reichl's editorials, the essays about food from writers, Jan and Michael Stern's column on "Road Food") as the recipes are more user-friendly and there are great theme issues.

I could have bathed in this easy espresso cream, it was that delicious.

All of that was my usually lengthy preamble to a recipe from the December 2009 issue of Bon Appétit. I wanted to make a Bûche de Nöel this year but time, as always, was my enemy and it just looks, well, so needlessly involved (even though I, one day, will make meringue mushrooms). Also, when you have a friend who is an extraordinary baker, and could easily be, and has been, a professional, and who made the most magnificent bûche a few years back for your husband's birthday, the same one who makes amazing pies (Rosemary, sorry, I have to give you credit here), it's hard to imagine even coming close.

So when I saw this easy variation on those fabulous old "Famous Chocolate Wafer" icebox cakes–did your mother make those in the 60s with whipped cream?–I said, "She's gotta have it..." It was the perfect Christmas Day dessert which we brought to the Hursts for supper after Temple got his "Friendship quilt" (and yes, that will be my next blog post in the New Year: that marvelous quilt!). I would happily make it again for just about any occasion. [And kudos to King Arthur Flour Company for shipping out their espresso powder the very next day, along with some other ingredients, without my paying an additional surcharge. I used to get to their store and bakery several times a year when I lived in New Hampshire and now return from annual treks to New England with large sacks of their flours.]

Before I served this, the boys and I scattered fake candy "rocks" around it...and I forgot to bring some holly! But you could certainly make yours look more festive than in this picture!

Super-Quick Mocha Yule Log from Bon Appétit (December 2009)

Chocolate wafers. Coffee. Whipped cream. Does it get any better than this? [NOTE: I used chocolate wafers sold in bulk at our local Mennonite bulk foods store (for ice cream sandwiches). They were almost as good as Nabisco's Famous Chocolate Wafers® but certainly more readily available. And no, I did not make the meringue mushrooms, time!]
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar plus additional for garnish
  • 1/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons instant espresso powder [This would also be good in any chocolate cake.]
  • 2 cups chilled heavy whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 9-ounce package chocolate wafer cookies
  • 8 purchased vanilla meringue cookies [I couldn't find any...]
  1. Sift 1/2 cup powdered sugar, cocoa powder, and espresso powder into small bowl. Using electric mixer, beat cream and vanilla in large bowl until soft peaks form. Add cocoa mixture and beat until stiff peaks form.
  2. Spread 1 side of 1 chocolate wafer with 1 rounded teaspoonful mocha cream; top with another wafer. Continue layering wafers and mocha cream for stack of 5 cookies. Place stack on its side on long platter. Repeat making stacks with remaining wafers and some of mocha cream; form log on platter by attaching stacks with mocha cream. Using offset spatula or rubber spatula, spread remaining mocha cream over outside of log to coat. Cover; chill at least 2 hours. Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled.
  3. Place platter with yule log on work surface. Using fork, gently pull tines of fork along length of frosting on log to create design resembling tree bark. Sift powdered sugar over log to resemble snow. Arrange meringue cookies or Meringue Mushrooms (click for recipe) along sides of log. Cut log on diagonal into thick slices. Serve immediately.
Et voila! Bonne Année et bonne santé!


Abby Rogers said...

Hi, I noticed that you listed England as one of your interests. I thought that you might like my new blog: .

As often as possible I will post pictures from beauty spots around Great Britain for the pleasure of all the Anglophiles out there!

a Cupcake near you! said...

Well, first I have to stop laughing about the boys in our lives. My husband has been recording the Three Stooges marathon on TWO stations! Which means I can't watch anything else. Nevermind he literally KNOWS THEM ALL BY HEART! To make matters worse, my dear sweet brother sent us a huge collection of Looney Tunes for Christmas so I've been hearing Nyuk nyuk nyuk and What's Up Doc? for the past 48 hours.

Given that, I could easily dive into that expresso cream and my most favorite Nabisco Chocolate Wafers. I got your email about reducing the calories of the cream but honestly, what's the point? If you are going to indulge, just do it and satisfy that hunger.

Your Buche de Noel is adorable! All it needs is a little gnome.


Catherine said...

Rosemary, now that tops all! I'm ROTFL about that one as we speak...

You are right--what a stupid thing, trying to find a way to reduce the calories. An indulgence should be enjoyed for what it is and tempered with good choices the rest of the time...and that, my dear, I think is the secret of my slow and steady weight loss this past year: enjoying, on occasion, and not feeling GUILTY about it, while making changes in other areas.

Now go make that crazy husband of yours a some kind of bûche or turkey cheese ball to go with his nyuk, nyuks...

And gnomes! Oh my: I'm going to have to make some serious marzipan ones next holiday. Thanks for the suggestion!! ;)

Love, Catherine

Ladyfromthewoods said...

Save the magazines for us to go through on the 11th maybe? I have learned to pack away my holiday editions of magazines (back when I used to be a subscriber) in the bins with my yearly holiday decorations. Each year, I pull them out and flip through for recipes that I have grown into during the past year. "Hmmm, I think I could actually make that this year!"

Also, taste and texture preferences change for me each year it seems so this is my perfect solution. Plus, it's a laugh to look at the older mags and remember what used to be all the rage and style. A great reminder NOT to get caught up in this year's must-have decorations and styles - like fashion, they'll be wasted $ in 2 years. Stick with the tried and true.

Same with some of the recipes.

I've never experienced what you just made. I don't even know how to pronounce it. I've only seen them in magazines and finer blogs. Looks yummy.


Catherine said...

Teresa, it's funny that you mentioned that idea because that is just what I am doing with this year's PILE: they are going to be put aside for NEXT year. In fact, I just sorted, this week, a huge pile of magazines by category and theme, in chronological order, and, rather than buy new mags this year (well, for the most part), I'm going to slowly work my way through the pile, month by month and season by season...

But I should have some by the 11th! Great idea...


Catherine said...

Abby, Thank you for stopping by. Yes, I am a tried and true Anglophile even if I haven't been "on the other side of the pond" in almost 30 years!

Are these your photographs? The one on the beach with the rocks is beautiful.

Best, Catherine

Anonymous said...

Will you PLEASE quit putting pictures on your blog of things like espresso cream? Your comment about bathing in it reminds me of an old song: "If the ocean were whiskey and I were a duck, I'd go to the bottom and never come up." You do this just to make me hungry, don't you?

Yosemite Cat House

Catherine said...

Dear Yosemite Cat House Proprietress,

[I presume you are a lady, unless Cat Houses have gone all equal-opportunity on us in the new millenium?]

I would gladly whip up a batch of espresso cream and stick it in your mailbox, but I'm afraid it will freeze. Also, we wouldn't want the Cats to get into it as it might blow their diets...big time.

But, you can consider this a rain check for another time...

In the meantime, I'm considering a nip or two of Woodford's Reserve in my tea to ward off any and all chills.

And trying my darnedest to fermez mon bouche, if you know what I'm saying...

Yours, Catherine

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't the mailman have a fit if he found the espresso cream in my mailbox? My former (now retired) mailman loved to find goodies in the mailbox because they were usually for him. He was a big fan of my Bourbon balls at Christmas.

Can you imagine the wired cats I'd have if they got into anything with espresso?

Yosie Cat House Proprietress

Catherine said...

Yosie...first of all, you need to know I was a huge fan of JOSIE and THE PUSSY CATS when I was growing up in suburban Ohio. So "Yosie" just, well, fits!

As for bourbon balls for the mail man I just hope they weren't any bourbon cat hair balls in there...


Maroussia said...

It will be great to watch Mary Poppins, i have bought tickets from looking forward to it.