Saturday, December 22, 2007

Yule Log with the Daring Bakers

Report from Day 1 of our first Daring Baker adventure

We started out by making butter cream on a Friday night. Whipping egg whites and sugar over simmering water turned out to be somewhat tricky, since either our thermometer was behaving oddly (wouldn't surprise me) or the temperature just wouldn't rise above the suggested 60°C. It just stayed. At 59°. Stupid meringue.
Anyhow, in the end I decided that 59° with the occasional visit at 60° had to be enough. The meringue had started to thicken. Since we don't have an American style stand mixer, I was planning to do the whipping by using a hand held electric mixer. Luckily, I realised that the food processor has a whisking attachment. So after heating the meringue, into the food processor it went. There it whisked for a rather long time, maybe 20 minutes before I dared to trust that it was cool enough to mix in butter. But it all seemed to work out fine. Possibly the cream is flat, as was threatened it would be if the meringue hadn't been hot enough, but we really won't know that since we haven't tried a correct version.

D. has had some ideas about how to flavour the cream (and all of the cake), so since we haven't bought the chocolate needed for that yet, I left the cream unflavoured except for some rum. But I had to fight to get any of what was left in the bowl after I put the cream into the fridge. So even unflavoured, it's decidedly tasty.

A couple of days later
We finished the log baking on the Sunday after this post was begun (which was on the Friday) but I haven't had time to complete my writeup until now (Thursday week after). If anything about this made me nervous it was the genoise. I'm not used to making cakes without baking powder. D. made a try with a genoise this spring, in a test batch for a cake he wanted to make, but it ended up rather flat and hard and for the final cake he ended up making my grandmother tried and true version of "sockerkaksbotten". But this actually ended up perfect, as far as I can tell. Since our small sheet pan is somewhat smaller than the jelly roll pan called for by the recipe, so we put a little into an extra pan to use for decoration. Then it was the time for flavouring the butter cream (this wasn't done on the Friday since we were out of chocolate, and the orange stuff wasn't made yet). We had settled on making the buttercream chocolate for the frosting, and to use buttercream for filling, but flavoured with milk chocolate and orange zest. The orange was caramelized during the Saturday, but it turned out a bit too caramelized and was actually rather hard on the Sunday. In the end we put it into an almond grinder... And it made for perfect bark in addition to go into the filling. Since we have no fireplace, we decided to make our log into a tree stump (more in accordance to the Swedish word for yule log).
Since my camera cable is still completely lost you'll have to make do with bad pictures taken with cell phone camera (at least, it has bluetooth). Did I say that I wrote Santa about getting a new camera for Christmas? (or rather, told everyone including my parents and D.) But for now, at least you can get an impression. Our stump was made by cutting the genoise in halves lengthwise and then rolling one of the halves (with filling). Then, covering the second half with filling, it was rolled onto the outside of the first part. The top was left unfrosted to resemble year rings of a tree, and the left-over genoise, which we purposely underbaked was crumbled, mixed with rum and covered with chocolate pieces which made a small, though rather tasty anthill companion to the stump. Finally we made a load of marzipan mushrooms. We only made half of the recipe for marzipan, but it still was a load of mushrooms. By now, most of the log is in the freezer, but the mushrooms were finished while waiting for dinner to cook.

All in all, the log ended up a bit buttery and heavy for our taste, but it was great fun to make. If I make it again, I will use other filling than buttercream. But I probably will make the genoise again, since I really appreciated the light consistency. And the feeling that we made it without using any baking powder what so ever, and it still turned out great....

Posting day now, and still no camera cable. The bad pictures are because of a bad cell phone camera. And I'll post right now, because tomorrow morning we're going north for Christmas...
Oh, and as soon as I get back, I'll hopefully be able to put links to the posted recipe and so on, but so far I don't know where to link to for this...

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Not much writing

I've been a bad blogger lately. It's not that I haven't been cooking (more on that in a minute), but it's rather that Christmas jumped on me and overwhelmed me. Not that I have the problem everyone seems to have, Christmas is actually under control. It was just getting there that was a problem. Surviving the last week of working, settling everything at work, or at least getting it into a state where it could be safely left until after the hollidays. Just the thought of getting out the computer at night after all that has been to much for me the last couple of weeks. But now I'm out of there! No more work before Christmas (I decided to take the day of tomorrow), and Swedish Christmas is celebrated on December 24, so Monday is a holliday. It's just wonderful. D. has been behaving like a five year old a couple of days before Christmas all night. And we're actually totally prepared for Christmas. Gifts bought, and almost all of them wrapped. Candy made. We're going away all of the holliday, so we've rather emptied the fridge than filled it. And now, with work done away with, everything feels just fine.

I did make marmalade by the way. Totally wonderfull, sweet and bitter ruby grapefruit marmalade. It might appear in a picture or two later, but so far, no camera cable found. The cell phone camera only makes do when I really need a photo. I mean, the pictures it takes doesn't really seem to depict reality, at least not in the colors I see it.
I also made cloudberry fudge. It turned out quite well, except for a bitter aftertaste that I'm not quite sure where it comes from. I made it into kind of sandwiches though, with a white chocolate lemon ganache in between two layers of fudge. And I made marshmallows for the first time in my life.

Marshmallows. Maybe I should explain. When I was little, marshmallows was a rare treat brought over from the US when Grandma and Grandpa had been there to visit. Nowadays it can be bought in many places in Sweden, but back then, it just couldn't. I still really can't resist the sugary taste, especially in hot chocolate. I've been thinking I should try for a long time. It's so simple, just sugar, more sugar (well, my mother's Better Homes and Gardens' Cookies and Candies actually calls for corn syrup, but since that's not available I substituted white baking syrup which seemed to work OK) and some gelatin. And an eggwhite. My marshmallows don't become as dry as bought ones, they are rather foamy. But I still can't resist, and I've been eating far too many of them while trying to coat them in powdered sugar to pack them. Far too sweet...

The grapefruit marmalade on the other hand was no way too sweet. I modified the recipe quite a bit (first of all halving it, but then I used a completely different amount of sugar too), but the original recipe is the one for grapefruit marmalade with gin that can be found in "Sylt och marmelad" av Jan Hedh. We used 4 ruby grapefruits and 1 lemon which was all thinly sliced and covered with water and left on the counter for 24 hours. Then all the water was drained of, another 1.5 litres of water was added and this was boiled for 30 minutes. All of it went into the fridge overnight, and the next day a little more sugar than a third of the weight of the whole mixture of water and fruit was added, together with a decilitre of gin. This was boiled to about 105°C and put into sterilised jars.

It's hard to describe the flavour, but I have to agree with someone who claimed that ruby grapefruit makes for a wonderful marmalade which is both sweet and bitter in a very good way.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Dinner guests

I didn't have time to write about this before, but this Wednesday I did another of my weird things. There was a guest from abroad at work, someone who was supposed to visit someone, but this someone urgently had to leave because of family matters. So the rest of us sort of had to make up for that. And after going for Indian food on the Tuesday I just didn't feel like going out for a second night in a row. So on a whim, I invited everyone interested over for dinner. We ended up five people, and we had no way planned a dinner for more than two. And that was at about 5.15, on the way home, and with those who didn't find their way on their own coming immediately.

I did have a vague plan though. Doubling the lasagna we were planning should work out and with salad and bread that should make a decent meal. I mean, everyone knew it wasn't a planned big thing, so I hoped they would understand that it wouldn't be something terribly fanciful. The lasagna is the one we usually make, fresh cheese (maybe this is called curd) mixed with spinach, nutmeg and grated cheese as the white sauce, and a tomato sauce as the red sauce. Top with more cheese and pour some milk over it all. I like this lasagna, better than anything I ever made with meat in it. And for Wednesday, one of our guests was vegetarian, so so much better.

We had planned to make this salad some day later this week. I just love it. We made it for the first time a little after the blog post appeared, and I realised that they actually sell butternut squash at one of the nearby supermarkets. Winter squash is not at all common in grocery stores here, but they have had it all of this fall. Now we made it as a side for the lasagna, to make the meal a bit more varied.

It was actually quite well received I think. People seemed to eat and enjoy themselves. Almost all of it was gone and I never had a chance to take any pictures. But I think it tasted great (after all, I wouldn't have made it otherwise) and I sort of enjoy being able to feed people. Must be some kind of feeding instinct.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Quick Dinner

We arrived home rather late after a trip to the gym on our way home from work. We had been planning to make some beetroot and potatoe-mashed together and fried thing (I have no idea what to call such a thing in English, rödbetsbiffar is what I would call it), but at least I was far too hungry by the time we got started. So we ended up with a quick lentil-and-tomato soup instead. But, with a dash of cinnamon, and some fresh cheese with crumbled feta and honey it tasted well enough, though not sensational. Excellent fast food though. And a thick, almost stewy soup is perfectly warming this time of the year. (Though, to my total dismay, it's been raining today. It's ice EVERYWHERE. I mean, snow's been around for almost a month, but as soon as December starts, it has to decide to rain?! Awful. I wish for cold and more snow to cover the stupid ice.)

The soup went something like this:
Carefully soften one minced red onion and a couple of minced garlic cloves in a little oil. When properly softened, add first about 1 Tbsp of paprika and then three diced potatoes and 2 dl of red lentils. Stir and add 1 can of peeled tomatoes (400 g) and 1 l water. Season with some vegetable stock (we used powder version, real vegetable stock instead of water might improve the result), some honey, oregano, white pepper and cinnamon.
Serve with some fresh cheese into which you have stirred some feta cheese crumbles and a little more honey. Maybe some black pepper.

Cooks in about 10-15 minutes of boiling.

Sunday, December 2, 2007


Well, it turns out baking before waking up is not always so god. My lussekatter turned out goodlooking, the dough was nice and light and everything seemed fine... until I realised that, after putting the first bunch into the oven that it was something wrong with the recipe. The recipe was in an e-mail from my mother, and it seems she wasn't 100% there when copying it onto the computer... sugar was not in the ingredient list. And I was sleepy enough when putting the dough together to not find it odd. So I quickly kneaded some sugar into the dough that was left, but I had already filled two out of three baking sheets before that. I was hoping that the lack of sugar wouldn't be that bad for those poor buns. It turned out it was though. Those last ones which had some sugar kneaded into them at the end were tasty enough. They look a bit odd, since the sugar wasn't completely incorporated which made them brown unevenly. The unsugared ones tasted like.. I don't know. Not saffron, but rather bitter. Eating a part containing a raisin provided a completely different experience though. Some sugar there. Anyway, since I put a lot of saffron into them, and since it seemed they only needed something sweet nearby, I ended up putting some sugar onto them, by stirring it with a little water. This means they are sticky, but hopefully eatable. I fell totally stupid. :)
Anyway, D:s parents arrived a little after my baking finished, bringing cookies and laughing with me at my not so perfect lussekatter. And they happily ate some too, though I chose to serve the ones that actually had gotten some sugar into them.

Oh well. The kind of things that happen. Maybe I'll make another batch before Christmas.

By the way, done right this is terribly tasty. This is my mother's recipe, or rather, ingredient list, with what I think is the right amount of sugar added. She doesn't bother to write down the method for me since she trusts me to be able to make bread, but I'll add a short description:

2 -3 envelopes of saffron à 0,5 g
2 teaspoons of sugar (for the saffron)
50 g fresh yeast
0,5 l milk
150 - 200 g butter
0,5 tsp salt
2-3 dl sugar
1 egg
250 g kesella 1 %
1.5-2 l flour

kesella is low fat fresh cheese (I don't really know the English word, but the Swedish and German word is "kvarg")

Melt the butter and add milk. Heat until lukewarm. Meanwhile, mash 2 tsp of sugar and the saffron together in a mortar. Add to the milk-and-butter mix together with the egg, salt and the yeast. Stir until there are no visible pieces of yeast. Put into mixer bowl, add kesella and about half of the flour. Start the mixer (with suitable kneading attachment) and add flour until the dough gets a dough-like consistency. Run the mixer until the dough is shiny and stretchy. Since I used less hard flour than I usually do when making bread this was rather quick for me. Let the dough rise until doubled (takes about 45 minutes - 1 hour - there's quite a lot of yeast in there). Shape the dough as in the pictures, one from before baking, and one after.
Decorate with raisins as in the pictures. Coat with some lightly whisked egg. Let the finished breads rest a few minutes before putting them into the oven. Bake them at about 250°C if small, until well browned and finished through. For a little larger ones, lower the heat to about 225°C.

And no, everything up here is not blue, even though the photos indicates that. The problem is probably the very low amount of daylight, even at midday in a kitchen with a window in the north. And a very crappy cell phone camera. I'm still searching for the cable for the real one. And if I'm lucky, Santa Claus might have something even better for me (at least I asked for that).


Yay! I just realised that if I use the camera in my mobile phone instead of my camera I can get the pictures to the computer EVEN THOUGH THE CAMERA CABLE IS LOST! So this morning is for making "lussekatter", a sweet bread made for Christmas. It contains a lot of saffron, and my dough does at the moment look like this:
Hmm... The mobile phone camera is really crappy. The bright yellowness doesn't come out, at least not on my screen.

A few more minutes of proofing, and a quick breakfast for me. Now it's time for shaping. I used to love this as a kid, now I haven't done it for a couple of years. I'm afraid my dough is a bit sticky and not kid friendly, but I expect good bread from that. And there are no kids around here. Be back later when finished baking!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

There Will Be More...

... marmalade! The two jars from last time got me hooked (we're still eating from the first one) so now I bought red grapefruits and I do have plans for them. It will need a lot of soaking though, so it won't be around untill next weekend. Tomorrow is reserved anyway, for making "lussekatter" and for having D:s parents visiting. They will bring gingerbread cookies!

Dinner today should maybe have been celebrating that we've lived in this place for exactly a year now. Or well, exactly a year ago we got the keys and managed to drop by here for taking a bath between work and a party. Just we, some clothes in a bag and a bath tub in a completely empty appartment, that was kind of fun. The next day the appartment got a bit more crowded, and by now it's full of stuff of course, but we like it this way too.

Anyway, we ended up far to hungry to celebrate, but rather finished of a batch of canneloni filled with chorizo and cheese in a tomato sauce which the recipe claimed was for 4 persons in no time at all. Stupid recipe. :) Tasty anyway, and I was so full afterwards when I started to think about it that I just fell asleep on the sofa. Oh well, that's what weekends are for?