Cream Puffs

August 31, 2008 at 3:39 pm | Posted in Daring Bakers | 20 Comments
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My Chocolate Eclairs look like Cream Puffs, I know.  “And where’s the chocolate?”, you may be wondering.   It’s there, in a bowl on the side.

This months Daring Bakers challenge was hands-down my all time favorite.  I LOVED these!  Given the option of how to use the chocolate (in or out) I decided out and on the side.  Yes, I dipped one (or two) in the chocolate glaze.  I ate it (them).

But these didn’t need the chocolate.  They were perfect as is.  Lovely Pate a Choux (cream puff dough).  Vanilla bean pastry cream.  Lightly dusted with powdered sugar.

I began this challenge by making my cream puff dough, pipping it out into small circles and then freezing them.  I also made the chocolate sauce that was to be used in the chocolate glaze.

The next day I used my chocolate sauce to make my chocolate glaze.  I also made my vanilla bean pastry cream.

With everything ready, it was so easy to bake these, fill, and plate.

And they were so good.  I am counting the days until I can make these again.  Until then, I will be sitting here wishing that I had a few left overs.

My thanks to Tony and Meetak for the great Daring Bakers Challenge!

Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream (from The Secrets of Baking by Sherry Yard)

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar, divided
  • 1 vanilla bean split and scraped
  • 3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 large eggs, chilled
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened

Bring the milk, 1/4 cup of the sugar, and the vanilla bean and seeds to a simmer in a medium nonreactive saucepan over medium heat.

Meanwhile, sift together the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, the flour, and salt.  Whisk the eggs in a large bowl.  Add the sifted dry ingredients to the eggs and whisk until fluffy.

When the milk comes to a simmer, remove from the heat and ladle out 1/2 cup of the hot milk and drizzle it slowly into the eggs while whisking.  Once the 1/2 cup milk is incorporated into the eggs, pour the mixture back into the hot milk, whisking constantly.  Be sure to scrape all the eggs into the pan with a rubber spatula.

Immediately begin to rapidly whisk the pastry cream.  In less than 1 minute, it will boil and begin to thicken.  Continue to whisk for about 3 minutes, or until it has the consistency of pudding.  To test the cream for doneness, tilt the saucepan to one side.  The cream should pull away from the pan completely.

Strain the pastry cream through a fine-mesh strainer.  Add the butter and stir until it is melted and incorporated.  If the cream seems grainy, pulse in a food processor until smooth.  The cream is now ready to use, or it can be cooled to room temp and refrigerated for up to 3 days.  To prevent a skin from forming as it cools, place a sheet of plastic film directly to the surface.

Continue Reading Cream Puffs…

Almond Cake

July 30, 2008 at 12:27 am | Posted in Daring Bakers | 21 Comments
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I didn’t know what to title this Daring Bakers Challenge…Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream? What the heck is that? Oh, it’s one of those cakes. A genoise cake with syrup, buttercream, whipped cream, a glaze and ganache. Ugggg.

Thank goodness for Gretchen. She talked me down off the wall and I got to work. She helped me decide on an almond genoise (cake) brushed with an almond syrup, layered with almond buttercream, whipped cream, topped with an apricot glaze (I know, sounds wierd), covered by a chocolate ganache.

Whew! Did you get all that? If you are still having trouble picturing this cake, maybe this will help…

Or this…

How about this…

What you are looking at is an Almond Gateau with Almond Buttercream. It was…just okay. I had a slice. My hubby had a slice. That was it. Gretchen encouraged me to give it away, but why? It’s just not me. It’s not my kind of cake.

But, I’m glad I made this cake. I finally feel comfortable with genoise. I got a great rise out of this one. And this buttercream was okay. Probably the one I would prefer to make again if I had to.

I’m sure of the thousands of Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercreams, you will find many many more beautiful and great tasting cakes.

Daring Bakers Danish Braids

June 29, 2008 at 12:28 pm | Posted in breakfast, Daring Bakers, Dessert | 34 Comments
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I’m back home after a week long training in Sacramento and I just pulled my Danish Braids out of the oven, whew!

I’ll post prettier photos, the recipes and reviews later. For now, here’s what I’ve got sitting on my counter.

One Danish Braid filled with an apple filling:

One Danish Braid filled with a cream cheese filling and chocolate chips:

Be sure to check back later. And check out all of the other Daring Baker‘s Danish Braids…yum!

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Okay, it’s later…first of all, my family loved these! What a way to start a Sunday morning! My thanks to Kelly of Sass & Veracity and Ben of What’s Cookin’? for hosting such a fun challenge.

After doing this recipe, I learned that you have to allow time for the dough to rise. For me, it was late and I was tired. I gave my dough just one hour to rise. As you can see by my photos I didn’t get the great rise that others did. That being said, when pressed for time, it can work. I will try these again. And am trying a cream cheese with blackberry topping next.

Also, next time I will make the dough a day ahead. Then do my fillings, braiding, and final proof on my baking day. It will be much easier and I won’t be rushed for time.

My daughter and I agree that the apple filling braid was the best. The filling was the perfect compliment to the dough. Oh and the dough, the orange and vanilla bean were perfect and made this a tasty treat. I saved my $10 and skipped the cardamon spice…didn’t miss it at all.

My hubby and son agreed that the cream cheese with chocolate chip filling was the best braid. For the cream cheese filling I consulted The Secrets of Baking by Sherry Yard (yes, the book the danish braid recipe hails) and found her recipe for Cream Cheese Filling.

Here’s a look at some of those chocolate chips sprinkled on the cream cheese filling, yes I could have used more…live and learn.

Cream Cheese Filling

The Secrets of Baking by Sherry Yard

  • 3/4 pound cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Cream together until smooth. Spoon onto the danish and bake.

The Daring Bakers recipes…

Continue Reading Daring Bakers Danish Braids…

not a fan of the opera

May 28, 2008 at 8:30 pm | Posted in Daring Bakers, Dessert | 17 Comments
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I’m not a fan of the opera, but I love musicals.  Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera, Rent, Miss Saigon, My Fair Lady, Lion King, Beach Blanket Babylon…but the opera, I have no desire.

And maybe this was my problem when the Daring Bakers announced this month’s recipe, an Opera Cake.  The restrictions were no coffee or chocolate.  What, no coffee or chocolate in an Opera Cake?  That’s like an opera with no singing!  Or, at the very least, very bad singing.

So I dutifully made my opera cake with almond cake, vanilla bean butter cream, a caramel mousse and a caramel glaze.  Sure, the cake tasted alright.  But the cake didn’t rise.  Nope, not  one bit.  So my opera cake fell flat, literally.

There are, however, some amazing cakes out there.  So be sure to check out the other Opera Cakes.  Some, like my friend’s Passionfruit Opera Cake, require a curtain call.

Cheesecake Pops

April 27, 2008 at 6:00 am | Posted in Daring Bakers, Dessert | 51 Comments

Cheesecake Pops! This month’s Daring Bakers Challenge was Cheesecake Pops! I had a lot of fun on this challenge and will definitely make these again. Here are some of my creations…

White Chocolate with Oreo:

White Chocolate with Springtime Sprinkles:

Dark Chocolate with Rainbow Jimmies:

Dark Chocolate with Sweetened Coconut:

Of course, I did encounter some challenges with this one. I followed the recipes to a “t”. My cheesecake needed more than 55 minutes to bake. When I pulled it out of the oven, it looked like this…

I allowed the cheesecake to cool completely and then let it set up in the refrigerator overnight. The next day I attempted to roll my cheesecake into balls, but found that my cheesecake was still a bit soupy in the middle.

Wanting to use the cheesecake I had made, I decided to dump the finished cheesecake into my kitchen-aid. With a paddle attachment I let it run for a minute. It turned into baked cheesecake liquid that was thick enough to be filled into a pastry bag. Then I piped the cheesecake out into rounds and let these set up in the freezer…

Once frozen, they were so easy to dip. I think it actually made for a much neater and easier way to get the cheesecake into pops.

At first I thought it was a drawback that they had to be kept in the freezer. Turns out it was perfect for my family. It was like eating ice cream on a stick. Yep, I’ll make these again soon.

Thanks to Elle at Feeding My Enthusiasms and Deborah at Taste and Tell for this fun challenge! And be sure to check out the thousands of other Cheesecake Pops on the Daring Bakers Blogroll!

The recipe…

Continue Reading Cheesecake Pops…

Perfect Party Cake

March 30, 2008 at 6:00 am | Posted in Daring Bakers | 38 Comments
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It’s another Daring Bakers Challenge day! You are about to see hundreds of cakes pop up on blogs across the world. This month’s challenge; Dorie’s Perfect Party Cake. I was thrilled, just thrilled that we were to make a cake!

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Rather than one big cake, I decided to make mini-cakes. Still the same process, but rather than bake in two 9-inch rounds, I baked my cakes in 10 small ramekins. For the ramekins I buttered and floured ramekins and filled them about 3/4 high. The cake rose beautifully (higher than the ramekin). When it was finished and cooled, I sliced the top off to level it out. Then I cut the cake in half, then both sides in half again. Very do-able with a good serrated knife.I made several mini-cakes with the traditional raspberry jam and lemon buttercream.

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I also did some with fresh blueberries and the lemon buttercream.

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And for my “I only eat white food” son I made some with just the buttercream.

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This challenge was a lot of fun. I will be making this cake again. I think the recipe is just perfect as it is and wouldn’t change a thing.

My thanks and heartfelt gratitude to Morven for choosing the Perfect Party Cake. I had a lot of fun with this challenge and am looking forward to making this cake again!

Continue Reading Perfect Party Cake…

Julia Child’s French Bread

February 29, 2008 at 7:21 am | Posted in Daring Bakers | 26 Comments
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Julia Child’s French Bread is way outside of my comfort zone. And it’s exactly why I joined the Daring Bakers…to try recipes I would have never attempted on my own, to challenge myself, and to learn.

I decided to make my bread on a Sunday. It was raining. My daughter had a fever so I knew I would be home bound.

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I started at 8am by mixing the yeast and water, then flour, salt and more water. My dough was pretty wet, so I added a few handfuls of flour.

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I kneaded with my dough hook, finished by hand and started the first rise at 8:40am.

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An hour and a half into my first rise I knew there was trouble. My dough looked really wet. I was worried about the rise.

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Not wanting to waist the day, I decided to start a second batch. By 10:40am it was rising next to my first batch.

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Sure enough, after a three hour rise, my second batch had tripled in size while my first batch seemed to have stalled. I took the second batch, deflated it and started it’s second rise. After two more hours it looked good.

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I cut, rested it, formed the loaves and allowed it to double in size for it’s third and final rise.

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On to the oven.

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The bigger one on my pizza stone and then the other two on a large baking sheet.

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And finished…about 8pm…12 hours later. (A solutions note: Despite this being freshly baked french bread, it was after 7pm and I wasn’t hungry so I didn’t slice into it until the next morning)

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Now, for that first stalled batch. I sprinkled in more flour. And then more. And more still. I allowed it to rise and rise and rise. It never got that nice dough look, but it seemed like a waist to throw it out so I cut it in half, let it rest, and shaped the dough. I did one round and one braided. (I had already completed the challenge to it’s strict specifications). I allowed these two a final rise then baked them. To the braided one rather than brushing with water I used an egg wash and sprinkled it with poppy seeds.

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And the close up.

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I must say, this French Bread is beautiful! I wouldn’t say it’s the best bread I’ve ever eaten (I’m more of a sourdough girl), but it’s really good. I would make it again for a special event or dinner party.

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Right now, I am dying to pick up a wedge of brie cheese, sit down and enjoy!

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This month’s Daring Bakers Challenge was hosted by Breadchick Mary of The Sour Dough and Sara of I like to Cook. Thanks for the fun challenge ladies! Be sure to check out the hundreds of other Daring Baker French Breads!

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A photography note…of the 14 pictures on this post, 9 were taken on manual mode. #6-9 photos were on auto…partly because I was getting tired, partly because it was getting darker in my kitchen. Angela, you inspire me to do better!

Lemon Meringue Pie Tartlets

January 28, 2008 at 11:39 pm | Posted in Daring Bakers | 31 Comments
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My thanks to Jen, The Canadian Baker for hosting this month’s challenge, Lemon Meringue Pie. I love love love Lemon Meringue Pie. Unfortunately I’ve yet to find a recipe that didn’t turn runny…until now.

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I decided to use my mini-muffin tin and turn the one big pie into lots of little Lemon Meringue Tartlets. The crust was easy to make and reminded me of shortbread, sweet and buttery. For the filling I used meyer lemons, fabulous! It tasted bright, sunny, and smooth (would be great spooned over one of Rebecca’s scones). For the meringue, I used a pastry bag and piped the meringue over the top, making sure to completely cover the filling.

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Make sure you check out all of the Lemon Meringue Pies and Tartlets on The Daring Baker’s Blogroll.

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Lemon Meringue Pie

Makes one 10-inch (25 cm) pie

For the Crust:

  • ¾ cup (180 mL) cold butter; cut into ½-inch (1.2 cm) pieces
  • 2 cups (475 mL) all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup (60 mL) granulated sugar
  • ¼ tsp (1.2 mL) salt
  • cup (80 mL) ice water

For the Filling:

  • 2 cups (475 mL) water
  • 1 cup (240 mL) granulated sugar
  • ½ cup (120 mL) cornstarch
  • 5 egg yolks, beaten
  • ¼ cup (60 mL) butter
  • ¾ cup (180 mL) fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) lemon zest
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla extract

For the Meringue:

  • 5 egg whites, room temperature
  • ½ tsp (2.5 mL) cream of tartar
  • ¼ tsp (1.2 mL) salt
  • ½ tsp (2.5 mL) vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup (180 mL) granulated sugar

For the Crust: Make sure all ingredients are as cold as possible. Using a food processor or pastry cutter and a large bowl, combine the butter, flour, sugar and salt. Process or cut in until the mixture resembles coarse meal and begins to clump together. Sprinkle with water, let rest 30 seconds and then either process very briefly or cut in with about 15 strokes of the pastry cutter, just until the dough begins to stick together and come away from the sides of the bowl. Turn onto a lightly floured work surface and press together to form a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 20 minutes.

Allow the dough to warm slightly to room temperature if it is too hard to roll. On a lightly floured board (or countertop) roll the disk to a thickness of ⅛ inch (.3 cm). Cut a circle about 2 inches (5 cm) larger than the pie plate and transfer the pastry into the plate by folding it in half or by rolling it onto the rolling pin. Turn the pastry under, leaving an edge that hangs over the plate about ½ inch (1.2 cm). Flute decoratively. Chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Line the crust with foil and fill with metal pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes, until golden. Cool completely before filling.

For the Filling: Bring the water to a boil in a large, heavy saucepan. Remove from the heat and let rest 5 minutes. Whisk the sugar and cornstarch together. Add the mixture gradually to the hot water, whisking until completely incorporated.

Return to the heat and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until the mixture comes to a boil. The mixture will be very thick. Add about 1 cup (240 mL) of the hot mixture to the beaten egg yolks, whisking until smooth. Whisking vigorously, add the warmed yolks to the pot and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in butter until incorporated. Add the lemon juice, zest and vanilla, stirring until combined. Pour into the prepared crust. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming on the surface, and cool to room temperature.

For the Meringue: Preheat the oven to 375ºF (190ºC). Using an electric mixer beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar, salt and vanilla extract until soft peaks form. Add the sugar gradually, beating until it forms stiff, glossy peaks. Pile onto the cooled pie, bringing the meringue all the way over to the edge of the crust to seal it completely. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden. Cool on a rack. Serve within 6 hours to avoid a soggy crust.

Pie recipe courtesy of Wanda’s Pie in the Sky by Wanda Beaver, 2002

I’m a Daring Baker Yule Log Maker

December 22, 2007 at 11:42 pm | Posted in Daring Bakers, Dessert | 20 Comments
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When I first saw the challenge to make a Yule Log, I thought, “Yeah! A Yule Log! A Buche de Noel! I’ve always wanted to make one. What a great first challenge for me, a virgin Daring Baker!” Then as the realization set in that I would be making a Yule Log, a labor intensive Yule Log, a multi-step multi-part Yule Log, uggg. And now that my Yule Log is finished and looking so pretty with it’s mushrooms, well, I’m hooked.

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I started with the Plain Genoise (the cake). It was easy enough, I was just a little surprised to whisk the eggs over simmering water. The batter poured easily into my pan and I popped it in the over.

The Coffee Buttercream was a bit of a challenge. Again, whisking the eggs and sugar over simmering water was okay, but I think I was a bit hasty and didn’t allow it to cool enough before adding the butter. I wouldn’t say it curdled, but it wasn’t as smooth as it should have been.

The moment of truth came when I spread the coffee buttercream over the genoise and then had to roll the cake up. “Please Don’t Crack” Please Don’t Crack” Please Don’t Crack” I chanted. I was sure the cake would crack and break. But the dough was flexible enough…and…it…rolled!

I decorated with the Meringue Mushrooms and dusted with cocoa powder. All in all, I am pleased with my Yule Log. I will definitely try this method again. There’s lots more Yule Logs to see on the Daring Baker’s Blogroll, check it out!

My many thanks to Ivonne and Lis, Daring Bakers founders and this month’s hosts! I’m so glad you picked something I’ve always wanted to try, but never had a reason to, until now.

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Sources: Perfect Cakes by Nick Malgieri and The Williams-Sonoma Collection: Dessert
Serves 12
Cake should be stored in a cool, dry place. Leftovers should be refrigerated

Plain Genoise:

3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
pinch of salt
¾ cup of sugar
½ cup cake flour – spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off (also known as cake & pastry flour)
¼ cup cornstarch

one 10 x 15 inch jelly-roll pan that has been buttered and lined with parchment paper and then buttered again

1.Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F.

2.Half-fill a medium saucepan with water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat so the water is simmering.

3.Whisk the eggs, egg yolks, salt and sugar together in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer. Place over the pan of simmering water and whisk gently until the mixture is just lukewarm, about 100 degrees if you have a thermometer (or test with your finger – it should be warm to the touch).

4.Attach the bowl to the mixer and, with the whisk attachment, whip on medium-high speed until the egg mixture is cooled (touch the outside of the bowl to tell) and tripled in volume. The egg foam will be thick and will form a slowly dissolving ribbon falling back onto the bowl of whipped eggs when the whisk is lifted.

5.While the eggs are whipping, stir together the flour and cornstarch.

6.Sift one-third of the flour mixture over the beaten eggs. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the flour mixture, making sure to scrape all the way to the bottom of the bowl on every pass through the batter to prevent the flour mixture from accumulating there and making lumps. Repeat with another third of the flour mixture and finally with the remainder.

7.Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.

8.Bake the genoise for about 10 to 12 minutes. Make sure the cake doesn’t overbake and become too dry or it will not roll properly.

9.While the cake is baking, begin making the buttercream.

10.Once the cake is done (a tester will come out clean and if you press the cake lightly it will spring back), remove it from the oven and let it cool on a rack.

Coffee Buttercream:

4 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
24 tablespoons (3 sticks or 1-1/2 cups) unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
2 tablespoons rum or brandy

1.Whisk the egg whites and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Set the bowl over simmering water and whisk gently until the sugar is dissolved and the egg whites are hot.

2.Attach the bowl to the mixer and whip with the whisk on medium speed until cooled. Switch to the paddle and beat in the softened butter and continue beating until the buttercream is smooth. Dissolve the instant coffee in the liquor and beat into the buttercream.

Filling and frosting the log:

1.Run a sharp knife around the edges of the genoise to loosen it from the pan.

2.Turn the genoise layer over (unmolding it from the sheet pan onto a flat surface) and peel away the paper.

3.Carefully invert your genoise onto a fresh piece of parchment paper.

4.Spread with half the coffee buttercream (or whatever filling you’re using).

5.Use the parchment paper to help you roll the cake into a tight cylinder.

6.Transfer back to the baking sheet and refrigerate for several hours.

7.Unwrap the cake. Trim the ends on the diagonal, starting the cuts about 2 inches away from each end.

8.Position the larger cut piece on each log about 2/3 across the top.

9.Cover the log with the reserved buttercream, making sure to curve around the protruding stump.

10.Streak the buttercream with a fork or decorating comb to resemble bark.

11.Transfer the log to a platter and decorate with your mushrooms and whatever other decorations you’ve chosen.

Meringue Mushrooms:

3 large egg whites, at room temperature
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
½ cup (3-1/2 ounces/105 g.) granulated sugar
1/3 cup (1-1/3 ounces/40 g.) icing sugar
Unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting

1.Preheat the oven to 225 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. Have ready a pastry bag fitted with a small (no. 6) plain tip. In a bowl, using a mixer on medium-low speed, beat together the egg whites and cream of tartar until very foamy. Slowly add the granulated sugar while beating. Increase the speed to high and beat until soft peaks form when the beaters are lifted. Continue until the whites hold stiff, shiny peaks. Sift the icing sugar over the whites and, using a rubber spatula, fold in until well blended.

2.Scoop the mixture into the bag. On one baking sheet, pipe 48 stems, each ½ inch (12 mm.) wide at the base and tapering off to a point at the top, ¾ inch (2 cm.) tall, and spaced about ½ inch (12 mm.) apart. On the other sheet, pipe 48 mounds for the tops, each about 1-1/4 inches (3 cm.) wide and ¾ inch (2 cm.) high, also spaced ½ inch (12 mm.) apart. With a damp fingertip, gently smooth any pointy tips. Dust with cocoa. Reserve the remaining meringue.

3.Bake until dry and firm enough to lift off the paper, 50-55 minutes. Set the pans on the counter and turn the mounds flat side up. With the tip of a knife, carefully make a small hole in the flat side of each mound. Pipe small dabs of the remaining meringue into the holes and insert the stems tip first. Return to the oven until completely dry, about 15 minutes longer. Let cool completely on the sheets.

4.Garnish your Yule Log with the mushrooms.



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