Thursday, 27 December 2012

Holly Jolly Christmas!

Christmas is the busiest time of year for me. I'm the only baker in the family, so at this time I'm always found in the kitchen fixing something up. Every family has their Christmas favourites, and in mine it's sausage rolls and mince pies (obviously). And these are just for the couple of weeks before Christmas. On Christmas itself, there's the all-time favourite: the yule log. Now I've heard people say its difficult to make, but its most certainly not true, I've made it quite a few times, and it is such a doddle! I've made it so many times, and tried a number of variations, but I think it's safe to say I've finally got it right (see below for my recipe).
Yule Log
6 Eggs (separated)
150g Caster Sugar
50g Cocoa Powder
1 tsp Vanilla Extract

300ml Double Cream (whipped)

100g Unsalted Butter
200g Icing Sugar
55g Cocoa Powder
20g Dark Chocolate (melted)

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4.
Line a swiss roll tin (or a baking tray with deep edges) with grease-proof paper.
Separate the egg yolks and whites into two separate bowls.
Whisk the egg whites until the mixture is thick and starting to peak, and then add 50g of caster sugar. Continue to whisk until the peaks hold in place.
In the other bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the rest of the caster sugar, until the mixture is pale and thick in consistency. Add the vanilla essence, sieve in the cocoa powder, and fold the mixture together.
Add the egg whites a bit at a time, carefully folding it in all the time, making sure the mixture doesn't lose any of the air that was whipped in.
Pour the mixture into the lined tin, and bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes until the top is firm, and the edges are coming away from the sides.
Cut a piece of grease proof paper, and sprinkle caster sugar over it. Turn the cake out onto the paper, cut off the edges, and before it cools down, roll the cake up tightly, and leave to cool.
(This is important, as the cake cools into this rolled position, and makes it easier to roll up later when the filling is put in it.)
While cooling, whip the double until it has a thick consistency.
Then prepare the buttercream, by putting the unsalted butter in a bowl, and sieve in the icing sugar a bit at a time. Mix together, until it's pale and fluffy, and then sieve in the cocoa powder. Melt the dark chocolate, and then allow to cool for 10-15 minutes, before adding to the buttercream, and mixing thoroughly.
When the cake is cool, unroll it (it may crack a bit, but that's fine, the icing will cover any mistakes), and spread the cream over the top of the cake.
Roll the cake back into position, and place the roll on to a serving board, before covering with the buttercream, like in the picture above. You can do this either with a piping bag, or using a palette knife (I use the knife, it tends to look more like bark).

And voila! Yule Log!
Serve either with a serving of cream, or, as it's morish enough, just by itself.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

All I Want For Christmas...

Obviously presents are a huge part of Christmas, and I love to give them, especially when it's something meaningful to the recipient. This year I decided to have a go at making my presents, and so I decided to start easy, and do some chalkboard mugs.

You will need:
Pebeo Porcelaine 150 Chalkboard Paint
Paint Brush
Masking Tape
White Porcelain Mugs

Cover the top half of the mug using masking tape (unless you want to paint the whole mug), and use it as a guide when painting the mug, so that there is a clean line.
Using the paint (it's important that its porcelain paint, as other chalkboard paint will not have the same effect), paint the bottom half of the mug, until it's in one even layer. You may notice that the paint is a bit gritty, but don't panic, it's meant to do that.
Leave to dry for a few hours, preferably overnight, and if another layer is needed, paint and leave for a few more hours.
Once dried, remove the masking tape.
Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas Mark 2.
Put the mugs into the oven, and bake for 30 minutes. This fixes the paint, allowing the mugs to be washed in a dishwasher without the paint chipping off.
Once the mugs have cooled, scribble some chalk over the chalkboard section, and just wipe off.
Hey Presto! Chalkboard mugs!

 Judging by my friends reactions, they loved them, and a few of them have told me that they've used them already. Success!