Thursday, February 22, 2024

Christmas round-up with a Bûche

Since we spent Christmas at home and were not hosting anyone, I was free to try new-to-me recipes. Cashew nut nog was bad enough that we threw it away, but white hot chocolate is great! (The recipe was printed from Oprah dot com in 2009; it is originally from Martha Stewart, but is not the same as the one on her website currently.) As for Advent calendars, I treated myself to the Mirzam Chocolate Spice Route Advent Calendar – it was great, and I hope they sell it again next year!

White Hot Chocolate
2 cups lactose-free cream
6 cups lactose-free whole milk
12 oz. lactose-free white chocolate, finely chopped
1 tsp. vanilla
1 block of dark chocolate, shaved into curls with a vegetable peeler (for garnish)

Place white chocolate in a medium heat-proof bowl; set aside. Place cream and milk in a medium saucepan set over medium heat until bubbles begin to form around edges of pan (about 4 minutes); do not boil.

Remove mixture from the flame. Immediately pour over white chocolate. When chocolate begins to melt, gently stir to combine.

Whisk in vanilla. Continue whisking until light foam forms. Serve immediately, garnished with chocolate shavings.

For dinner, I decided to make a turkey, and since I was intimidated by brining a whole bird and didn’t want to use up too much maple syrup, I skipped the maple-brined turkey in favor of a maple-glazed turkey with onion-cider gravy from the now-defunct All You magazine. I had to buy a rack for my roasting pan at the last minute, and for the life of me I could not find the baster that I know I didn’t declutter, but it all worked out.

Since I had Brussels sprouts left over from one-pan rosemary chicken, I made up my mind to try one last recipe meant to showcase them. I never got around to posting about Brussels sprouts with bacon and raisins (that I apparently made all the way back in 2016), and you’d think that if I don’t like sprouts that way I’m never going to like them, but then… There was this cream-braised Brussels sprouts recipe on Orangette that, the Engineer and I think, is just the way to go with these. It’s still not my favorite vegetable, but if I have to eat Brussels sprouts, this is definitely the best way to make them! They get caramelized, and the cream helps tame some of the bitterness.

Cream-Braised Brussels Sprouts
1 ¼ lb. small Brussels sprouts
3 Tbsp. lactose-free butter
¼ tsp. coarse sea salt, plus more to taste
1 cup lactose-free cream
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice, or more to taste

First, prep the Brussels sprouts. Trim the stem end of each sprout and pull off any ragged or nasty outer leaves. Cut the sprouts in half from stem end to tip, and then cut each half in half again. Ultimately, you want little wedges.

In a large (12-inch) skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the Brussels sprouts and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sprouts are nicely browned in spots, about 5 minutes or so. Get some good color here, so that they have a sweetly caramelized flavor.

Pour in the cream, stir to mix, and then cover the pan. Reduce the heat to low or medium low: you want to keep the pan at a slow simmer. Braise until the sprouts are tender enough to be pierced easily with the tip of a paring knife, about 30-35 minutes. The cream will have reduced some and will have taken on a creamy tan color.

Remove the lid and stir in the lemon juice. Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary. Let the pan simmer, uncovered, for a minute or two to thicken the cream to a glaze that loosely coats the sprouts. Serve immediately.

For dessert, I finally got to try a recipe I’d been eyeing in Ashley Rodriguez’s Let’s Stay In: her chocolate peanut butter bûche de Noël with salted peanut caramel. We’ve decided that, as good as it was, we would prefer it with a caramel more like this one and topped with salted peanuts, or no caramel at all. Note that I used Green Valley Organics lactose-free cream cheese, which I had finally found in stock again at Whole Foods, and Silk vegan whipping cream.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Bûche de Noël with Salted Peanut Caramel

For the cake
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup cocoa powder, sifted, plus more for dusting
6 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar, divided
½ tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract

For the peanut butter mousse
1 lb. 4 oz. (from 2½ 8-oz. packages) lactose-free cream cheese, at room temperature
2 cups (500 g) creamy peanut butter
½ cup powdered sugar, sifted
¼ cup lactose-free cream
¼ tsp. sea

For the chocolate ganache
8 oz. lactose-free cream
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 pinch pf salt
For the salted peanut caramel (see note above)
1 cup sugar
½ cup (6 oz.) Lyle’s Golden Syrup or corn syrup
¼ cup water
1 cup lactose-free cream
4 Tbsp. lactose-free butter, at room temperature
½ vanilla bean, seeds removed (optional)
6 oz. roasted and salted peanuts

For the cake
Preheat your oven to 350 °F. Grease and line a 12x17-inch jelly roll pan with parchment paper. Grease the parchment paper. Set aside.

Sift together the flour and cocoa powder in a bowl, then whisk to combine. Set aside.

Add the egg yolks to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium speed until frothy and just starting to shift from lemon yellow to butter yellow. Add 1/3 cup of the sugar in a slow and steady stream. Continue to beat until thick and pale yellow, about 4 to 5 minutes.

Add the whipped egg yolks to a large bowl, then clean the stand mixer bowl and whisk. Wipe dry, then add the egg whites.

Beat starting on low, then gradually build up the speed so as not to shock the eggs. Once frothy add the salt. Continue to beat until soft peaks form then steadily stream in the remaining 2/3 cup sugar. Beat until stiff peaks form.

Fold the egg whites into the whipped yolks. Gingerly fold the dry ingredients into the whipped eggs. Continue to fold until no streaks remain.

Use an offset spatula to spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until the cake slowly springs back when pressed.

Lay a piece of parchment paper, as large as the cake, on a clean flat surface. Dust it generously with cocoa powder. In one swift action invert the cake onto the parchment. Peel off the still warm cake’s parchment layer, then dust the cake itself with another generous flurry of cocoa powder.

While the cake is warm and pliable, gingerly roll it up with the parchment. Let the cake cool in this position. While the cake cools, make the mousse (or once cooled, wrap the cake tightly in plastic wrap then save the next steps for tomorrow).

For the mousse
In a large bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the cream cheese and peanut butter. Beat until smooth. Stir in the powdered sugar, heavy cream and salt and mix until well combined. (This can be made up to 3 days in advance. Cover and refrigerate then bring to room temperature when ready to use.)

For the ganache
Add the cream to a small saucepan and bring to a rolling boil. Watch the pot carefully as cream tends to bubble up and over rather quickly. Add the chocolate to a large bowl then pour the hot cream over the chocolate. Let this sit for one minute then whisk to combine. Stir in the salt.

Let the ganache cool until it’s firm enough to easily spread on the cake, about 1 hour. (Ganache can be made up to 1 week in advance; rewarm gently in the microwave or in a saucepan on low heat.)

For the caramel
Combine the sugar, golden syrup and water in a large saucepan. Stir gently to combine, then wash off the sides of the pan, using water and your clean hands to feel if any sugar remains on the side. If stray bits of sugar fall into the caramel, it can cause the caramel to crystallize, so it’s important to make sure all the sugar is in the bottom of the pan mixed with the water.

Set the pan over high heat to bring the sugars to a rolling boil. Continue to cook until the caramel turns copper in color, about 7 to 10 minutes. Carefully add the cream, butter, and vanilla bean, if using. The caramel will immediately seize, but let it come back to a boil. Once the sugar is all melted, stir in the peanuts. Let the caramel cool before serving. (This can be made up to three days in advance. If the caramel is too stiff, you can rewarm in a microwave or in a saucepan to serve. Store caramel in a sealable container.)

To assemble the cake
Carefully unroll the cake from the parchment paper. Add the mousse in an even layer, then roll the cake again. Don’t worry about any cracking or tearing in the cake, as the ganache is there to cover all that up.

Cover the entire cake with plastic wrap tightly, like a giant piece of candy, then refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Place the cake on your serving platter.

Spread the ganache all over the cake. Cut off the ends at an angle (I forgot to do that) and arrange in a way that resembles a log. Use a fork to create bark-like striping in the ganache.

Serve straight away or cover and refrigerate if you’ve made the cake in advance. Allow the cake to come to room temperature before serving. Serve with the salted peanut caramel.

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