Gingerbread Buche de Noel

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OH MY this one was fun to make, and what a beauty too!!  I feel like this baking group is pointing out what a sheltered life I have led!!  I have never tasted a yule log, let along bake one.  The whole thing was a new experience and wow did this recipe have some new and challenging tasks…it was so energizing to take it on!

Basically you have 4 steps: this yule log is a gingerbread cake rolled up around a praline and cream cheese filling with a marshmallow frosting topped with pralines.  The whole thing is made from scratch and the only item needed that wouldn’t be found in most kitchen’s is a candy thermometer which I had purchased some time ago for another recipe we baked.

Make the praline:

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Make and roll the cake:

This had an interesting step, not quite like using a double boiler, you whisk eggs and brown sugar in your stand mixer bowl while sitting IN a pan of simmering water until the mixture is very warm to the touch and then return to the stand mixer and whisk until thick and pale and doubled in volume.  It is a very light and airy batter and cake.

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Make the filling and assemble the cake:

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Make the marshmallow frosting:

This was a new experience: mix the sugar, cream of tartar, and water in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil and cover for 3 minutes.  Uncover and attach a candy thermometer.  When the mixture reaches 235 degrees, begin beating the egg whites which are waiting in the stand mixer.  When the sugar gets to 242 degrees, add to the mixer which is on medium and whisk until the frosting cools to room temperature and you have a shiny marshmallow frosting.

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Frost the cake:

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I unfortunately don’t have a picture of the whole thing with pecans on the top as I sprinkled it as I cut it and gave it to my testers.  But this is what a piece looked like 🙂

2014-12-12 20.07.14I have to say, this would be a very impressive dessert to bring somewhere!  It is beautiful and very festive for the holidays!!  Everyone who tried this, which was a bigger group this time since it was so big, absolutely LOVED this…they RAVED about it!!…me not so much but what is new?!!  I loved baking it so that counts for something right haha!!  My husband’s comment was that it was the combination of all the parts that made this amazing…each piece was just good but together it was over the top. It would be a keeper!

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Chocolate-Mint Nightcaps

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With all the baking we are doing with two cookbooks now…and Thanksgiving dinner, it was nice to have an easy one to fit in when I had the time. These are basically cake’ish chocolate cookies that are sandwiched together with a chocolate ganache.  If that wasn’t enough chocolate, you add a swirl of chocolate ganache on top to form a “nightcap”.

In all honesty, these weren’t anything too special…they look like they should be, but they were just ok….good, but ok.  I personally wouldn’t make them again.  You can make the parts ahead of time and then assemble the cookies when you need them, but I am always thinking, “if I was taking them somewhere or having people over, how would this work for me?”  They were a bit fussy for my liking…especially without the “wow” factor.  There are better recipes.

The Rugelach That Won Over France

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I was so excited to become part of the baking and blogging world…almost 3 years ago now!  When we started “Baking with Julia”, one of the first recipes we did was Rugelach.  At that time I had never heard of, nor tasted Rugelach, and neither had my tasters.  We knew then, we were in for a great adventure.  That Rugelach had a similar butter and cream cheese dough with some flour and sugar mixed in but the filling was very different.  We made our own prune lekvar and then added nuts and dried fruit and then the pieces were rolled in sugar and cinnamon.  They were beautiful and everyone enjoyed them.

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DSCF4634This “Rugelach that won over France” recipe was a bit different.  I found the dough to be easy to work with in the initial stages…kind of broke easily when you sliced the dough.

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The filling for this recipe is sweetened coconut, chocolate, dried cherries, and pecans…and the dough lightly buttered and sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. The dough is filled and then rolled into 12in logs and frozen for an hour to help with the cutting.

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After an hour of chilling, they receive an egg wash and sanding sugar sprinkled on top.  This is where things got difficult.  I had no problem cutting the rolls except that very often I would hit a dried cherry or pecan piece and that would make the dough tear apart.  I found it hard to keep them looking “pretty” and there wasn’t much I could do about it.  Perhaps my ingredients weren’t chopped finely enough but it would have been hard to make them much smaller. Anyway, did the best I could and popped them into the oven.  Baked them the full 17 min as instructed to ensure the centers would be cooked…might have been a little long in my oven.

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I wasn’t sure what kind of reaction I would get from my tasters, but surprisingly everyone loved these!  My in-laws were part of the tasting this time and my mother-in-law said, and I quote, “I am wild about these cookies”!!! They both couldn’t get enough of them.  They were small cookies so you had to have a handful to feel satisfied…and I even made them bigger than was called for in the recipe.  I didn’t think they were as pretty as the other rugelach that we made but it seems that they are just as yummy!