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Rainy Day Baking for the New Year

January 1, 2007
(written on New Years Eve)

Chers Amis,

It is a rainy day in Georgia.  The trunks of the trees are black, accented by a bright  lichen green that seems to glow in the gloom.  The  forest floor is rusty with pine straw and forgotten leaves.   It has been pouring all day and the back of our property is puddling into several small lakes. The run off fills a tiny stream bed that winds down to the creek.  It is a warm 58 degrees so what are two outdoor girls to do but change their church clothes, run outside to splash in the mud, and "work" to clear the stream of fallen leaves so the water can hurry on its way.  I wish they looked this happy when I asked them to clean their bedroom!  Soaking wet and chilled to the bone they returned to the house where a dip in Dad’s hot tub awaited them. (He is the best!  He even put beach towels and their bathrobe in the dryer for apres le tub!)

I love a grey day! It is the perfect time to make a pot of soup and preheat the oven for a little baking.  In the south on New Years that means just one thing – black eyed peas for good luck!  I just put my dried peas in to soak overnight and dug out my recipe for Hoppin’ John with kielbasa. There are many explanations of the name, one that it is a derivation of a French Creole term for black-eyed peas: pois pigeons (pronounced: "pwah pee-JON").  Whatever the etymology, they are a southern tradition and a delicious one at that!

    While the girls – and Pippin – were in the hot tub,  I pulled out my stained recipe card for a special belated birthday cake for Jesus – a chocolate Buche de Noel – a cake roll.  My mil gave me a copy of the recipe and I make it twice a year – once for my husband’s birthday, and again for Christmas, or in this case New Years. I am not a baker, but over the years I have learned to make this  cake quite well, much to my husband’s delight.  It is not difficult and the presentation is gorgeous with a simple coulis de frambois (raspberries).  Logs are supposed to look rustique, right? Pas de probleme.  Mine of course will not look nearly as nice and I forgot to buy marzipan for the mushrooms, but my dh will LOVE it. Here is the recipe – I don’t think it is a secret because it came from an old book.  The frosting and assembly instructions come from here.

Chocolate Roll (Buche de Noel – Yule log cake)
Preheat oven to 325 F

In a large bowl:
Beat until stiff (hold a point) —- 6 egg whites and 1/2 tsp. cream of tarter

Beat in gradually (until glossy) — 1/2 cup sugar
In a separate bowl:
Beat until thick and lemon-colored —-6 egg yokes

Beat in —1/2 cup sugar

Sift together and beat into yolk mixture –4 Tbsp. cocoa, 4 Tbsp. sifted flour, 1/4 tsp. salt

Stir in — 1 tsp. vanilla

Carefully fold chocolate/yolk  into egg white mixture. (Note – add @ 1/4 of the white to the chocolate and fold first.  This will lighten the chocolate mix)

Spread 1/2 thick in shallow 15 1/2 x 100 1/2 pan lined with well greased paper.
Bake until surface springs back when touched lightly with finger (20-25 min.)
Immediately turn upside down onto towel sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar.
Immediately remove paper from cake, and roll up beginning at side. Note:  If a thick, shorter cake is desired (more circles of cake), begin to roll at short end.

After the cake has cooled you can fill it with whipping cream.
Whip 1 cup of cold whipping cream until stiff.  Beat in 1/4 cup sifted powdered sugar.
(Note:  I like to add a small amount of liqueur for flavor preferably Chambord)
Unroll cooled cake and frost heavily with whipping cream.  Re roll carefully and place seam down.  Refrigerate until ready to frost.

Frosting

3/4 cup whipping cream

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

5 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped

4 ounces milk chocolate, chopped
For frosting:  Bring cream and butter to boil in medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring to melt butter. Remove from heat. Add both chocolates; whisk until melted. Transfer to medium bowl. Let cool at room temperature until thick enough to spread, about 1 hour.

Assembly: "Starting 1 inch in from each end of cake, cut on diagonal to remove one 3-inch-long piece of cake from each end. Attach 1 cake piece at sides of cake near each end. Spread frosting over top and sides of cake and pieces. Using tines of fork, draw concentric circles on cake ends to resemble tree rings. Draw fork along length of cake to form bark design. Garnish with Marzipan Mushrooms."

I like to make a simple raspberry sauce – simmer frozen raspberries w/a little sugar to taste and a little water so they don’t stick.  When they have fallen apart, pour through fine sieve, pressing on solids to extract juice – not too hard or the seeds will pop through!

It is a fun dessert.  You can make it anytime, just omit the bark design and "branch".

I hope you all have a wonderful New Years  Celebration!

— Marjorie
PS – We must have a beaver at the mill because I found "bark and wood" missing from the cake before dinner!  Pippin did have a guilty chocolate smile.

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