Thursday, January 17, 2013

Tiramisu Yule Log

We've got a number of really wonderful Christmas traditions at my house that have developed since I went away to college and we essentially became a family of adults. We drink gin fizzes and eat cinnamon rolls before we open presents. We open presents one at a time in a circle on the living room floor until Dad gets impatient and just starts opening them out of turn. We drink beer and eat hot crab sandwiches after we open presents. And, for a number of years, my sister and I would get sloshed and try to make dessert for Christmas dinner. This, as you can guess, is a messy, and sometimes frustrating tradition. We have a great time, but not everyone sees the same humor in a melted ice cream cake or a burnt pumpkin pie that I do.

This year I had more time at home before Christmas than I usually do, so I decided to change the tradition: I would make dessert for Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve, sober.

The first step, naturally, was finding the single most complex dessert recipe I could, which is how I found the Gourmet Magazine recipe for a Tiramisu Yule Log. Without even glancing at the estimated time involved in yule logging, I shooed my parents out of their kitchen and got to work. If you're considering this project, I do suggest giving yourself at least 4 hours. You'll have time in between to take a lunch break and read your email, but this is an undertaking you need to plan on. While the Gourmet recipe is really very thorough and easy to follow, I've made a few adjustments from my own experience.

Step 1: Make a very, very fancy cake.
Ingredients for Cake:
1/2 cup sifted cake flour (not self-rising; sift before measuring), plus additional for dusting pan
5 large eggs, separated, left at room temperature for 30 minutes
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
To make Cake:
Heat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Butter pan and line bottom and sides with 1 sheet of parchment paper. Butter paper and dust with additional flour, knocking out excess.
Beat together yolks, vanilla, and 1/2 cup sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at high speed until thick and pale and mixture forms a ribbon that takes 2 seconds to dissolve when beaters are lifted, 5 to 8 minutes in a stand mixer or 8 to 12 minutes with a handheld. Awe at how fluffy egg yolks can get. Sift (yes, go find the sifter; I know you don't want to, but you have to; go) half of flour over yolks and fold it in gently but thoroughly, then sift and fold in remaining flour. Start to wonder, now about 20 minutes into this project, just what you've gotten yourself into.
If you're using a Kitchen Aid, transfer the yolk mixture into a medium bowl and wash the mixing bowl; wonder just how many dishes you're going to get dirty while making this cake. Beat whites with salt and cream of tartar in a large metal bowl with cleaned beaters at medium speed until they just hold soft peaks. Beat in remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, 1/2 tablespoon at a time, and continue to beat until whites just hold stiff peaks. Stop and consider the fact that if you'd just made a lemon meringue pie, you'd be pretty much done by now.
Fold 1/4 of whites into yolk mixture to lighten, then fold in remaining whites gently but thoroughly.
Stir 1/2 cup batter into melted butter in a small bowl (yep, that's 3 bowls already) until combined, then fold butter mixture into batter gently but thoroughly. Spread batter evenly in sheet pan and rap once on counter to help eliminate air bubbles.
Bake until top of cake springs back when gently pressed with finger, 7 to 10 minutes.
Sift top of hot cake evenly with confectioners' sugar (see, this is why I made you find the sifter the first time) and cover cake with a clean kitchen towel (not terry cloth) followed by a baking sheet. You may want to find someone to spot you during this step. You worked hard on this cake and don't want to break it. Holding sheet and cake pan together with oven mitts, flip cake onto cloth on baking sheet. Carefully peel off and discard parchment paper. Pat yourself on the back, rockstar. 
Call your clean-handed spotter back into the room for just in case you screw this up. With a long side nearest you and using towel as an aid, roll up cake in towel, jelly-roll style, keeping it wrapped in towel. I'm not sure here if the towel should be wrapped up in the cake, like filling, or on the outside. I went with outside. It worked perfectly. Cool cake completely, seam-side down in towel, on a rack.

Step 2: Make Espresso Syrup, Cream Filling, and Chocolate Ganache
For Espresso Syrup:
1/2 cup espresso or very strong black coffee
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon Cognac or brandy

For Cream Filling:
8 ounces mascarpone cheese
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon Cognac or brandy
1/2 cup chilled heavy cream

For Ganache:
12 ounces 60% bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons light corn syrup

To make Espresso Syrup:
Make 1/2 cup espresso for the cake. Actually, you'll probably want some too. Make a latte for yourself while you're at it, fancy-pants. Oh, you don't have an espresso machine? Instant will work, or pull out that french press you got as a gift and never use and let it steep for a really long time. Bring espresso and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves, then boil until reduced to a scant 1/4 cup. This is going to take a while. Remove pan from heat and stir in Cognac (or booze of choice), then cool to room temperature.

To make Filling:
Slowly mix mascarpone, sugar, cinnamon, and Cognac in a large bowl (still counting? that's 5) with an electric mixer until combined. If mixture is very loose after adding sugar, beat mixture briefly to thicken slightly.
Beat heavy cream in another bowl (yep, wash the kitchen aid bowl, again) with same beaters at medium speed until it just holds stiff peaks. Fold whipped cream into mascarpone mixture.

To make Ganache:
Put chopped chocolate in a large bowl. Heat cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until it just comes to a boil, then pour over chocolate and let stand 3 minutes. Stir slowly with a whisk until smooth. If bits of chocolate remain unmelted, set bowl over a pan of barely simmering water and heat, stirring gently, until completely smooth, and remove from pan. Stir in corn syrup. Chill, stirring a couple of times, until it thickens to an easily spreadable consistency, about 15 to 20 minutes. If you wait too long, you can heat it gently over the double boiler again to soften it. Don't worry.

Step 3: Assemble the Log
Gently unroll cooled cake on a baking sheet or, because it's really too big for that, a giant cutting board of somesort, keeping it on towel, then arrange baking sheet/board so that long side of cake that was inside roll is nearest to you. Brush all of cooled espresso syrup all over surface of cake.
Spread filling with offset spatula (any spatula will work, don't let Gourmet belittle your kitchen like that) evenly over cake, leaving a 1/2-inch border all around. Starting from long side nearest you, roll up cake without towel, leaving it seam-side down on baking sheet. Gently brush off any excess confectioners' sugar.
Cut a 1 1/2-inch-long diagonal slice from each end of roll and reserve. Transfer cake, using 2 metal slotted spatulas as aids or bring in that spotter for extra hands, seam-side down on platter. Using ganache as "glue," attach end pieces, diagonal sides down, on top and side of log to resemble branches. Don't show anyone at this phase, your cake will be ugly and according to my father, look like a double amputee.
Spread ganache all over roll and branches with offset spatula, making it resemble tree bark.
Gourmet says: Arrange a few meringue mushrooms, if using, around Yule log, and very lightly sift a little cocoa over log and mushrooms first, followed by a little confectioners' sugar to resemble a light dusting of snow. Seriously?

Did you actually do it? You deserve a pat on the back. Instagram that log. How better to solicit the approval of your peers?

1 comment:

MonroeTownshipNJ said...

The double amputee comment just struck me so funny after I saw the picture. Love your commentary!