A Buche de Noel….

Buche de Noel 1

Buche de Noel sounds rather more charming than Christmas Log doesn’t it although neither name really conveys the pleasure of eating this.  Never mind, the answer is to press on and try it for yourself to see how very, very delicious it is.

This came about because none of my family are very keen on mincemeat based puds which puts Christmas pudding, mince pies et al fairly firmly out of the window.  Indeed it came down to me to be solely responsible for the consumption of our Christmas cake last year (and the second one I made in January because I was so bereft when the first was finished, but that is another story).

So I set about finding something that is both festive and celebratory but avoided raisins or mincemeat.  Some sort of Buche de Noel came to mind and I liked the idea of Marsala as I find is heady warmth particularly suited to this time of year.  Tiramisu in its usual form is popular chez May so I decided this was the way to go.

This is both light and rich if that is not an oxymoron.  What I mean is that you feel as if you have had a proper treat, boozy and creamy and yet don’t immediately need to lie down in a cool room because you are so stuffed.  If that weren’t enough I think it is an absolute stunner – it brings to mind Biba mocha velvet with a cappuccino colour, floppy satin pussy cat bow….  Happy Christmas!

Buche de Noel 2

A Buche de Noel

This an easy pudding and you can make the components ahead of time.  The chocolate outer you see in the photographs was made a day before and kept rolled in a cool place before being filled – as you see it looks a picture and I must tell you, tasted divine.

5 teaspoons coffee (made with 1/2 a teaspoon of instant coffee and 6 of boiling water)

6 eggs

130g caster sugar

50g cocoa, plus extra for dusting

250g tub marscarpone

6 teaspoons Marsala

2 tablespoons icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 170 and line a swiss roll tin (approx 34x24cm) with baking parchment.  Put the egg yolks and sugar in one bowl and whisk until pale and doubled in volume;  put the whites into another bowl and whisk until soft peaks form.  Sieve the cocoa into the egg yolks along with 2 teaspoons of the coffee and combine.  Add a third of the egg whites into the yolks and mix well to slacken the chocolate mixture then add the remaining whites in two lots, combining very gently.  Pour the whole lot into the prepared tin and cook for 15 minutes until just firm on top.  Whilst it is in the oven dust another sheet of parchment with cocoa.  When the chocolate mix is cooked, carefully tip it out onto the cocoa dusted parchment and starting from the short end, firmly (but gently!) roll up, using the paper to help you and leave it to cool.

Meanwhile mix the mascarpone, marsala, icing sugar and 3 teaspoons of the coffee together and taste, you might decide you want a little more sugar or marsala…!  Carefully unroll the chocolate outer and spread the marscarpone mixture over it, then roll it up again.  It may crack but usually stays together pretty well and anyway, it really doesn’t matter.  If you want you can dust with more cocoa, a snow fall of icing sugar or a grating of chocolate – up to you.  Serves 6-8 depending on how generous your slices are and how much you want left over…..

Buche de Noel 4

 

 

 

Cheddar and Chive Bread

Cheese and Chive Bread 2

Prior to the big feasts in a week or so, it is a very much a soup time of year.  Nothing like a bowl of soup, cosy and warming to keep the chill out.  What I really like is something special to go with it to make a proper lunch rather than a simple token something to eat.  As I ever, I want a feast.  Earlier this year I shared the recipe for some cheese scones which were fabulous with my quick pea soup.  This bread is along similar lines but a little more versatile and could well be your star guest over Christmas.  Not only is it perfect with soup or any starters, but a warm loaf of this presented alongside cold turkey or ham will turn leftovers into something properly special.

I made this with the last of my Barber’s 1833 Vintage Reserve Cheddar which you may have seen feature in a couple of recipes recently – a knockout steak, cheese and sweet onion relish toastie and butternut stuffed with leeks and cheese.  In both cases this super tangy, full flavoured cheddar was king which, considering Barbers have been making this cheese since 1833 is unsurprising.  To get to the point, they  have really got the hang of it and their cheese is fantastic.

I make this bread with my regular white loaf recipe and if you omit the cheese and chives that is exactly what you will have, a good everyday loaf should you need one.  If you have some blue cheese hanging around over Christmas then use this instead for your bread with some chopped rosemary in place of the chives – it is a sensational combination.

Cheddar and Chive Bread

I usually use this amount to make two loaves, one cheddar and chive and the other gorgonzola and rosemary.  The 125g cheese is enough for one loaf, simply double that and the chives if you are making both loaves cheddar and chive. You could of course leave the second loaf plain and have it for breakfast.

500g strong white bread flour

10g fine salt

10g dry instant yeast

50g soft butter

300ml luke warm water

125g strong cheddar, cut into small cubes (this is enough for one of your loaves)

Small bunch of chives, finely chopped (this is enough for one of your loaves)

Mix the flour, salt, yeast, butter and water into a dough and knead for 10 minutes either by hand or with a stand mixer.   Cover with a tea towel and leave to rise somewhere warm for at least an hour or until doubled in size.  Split the dough in two and roll each out into a rough A4 rectangle, scatter over the cheese and chives and roll up into a log shape squidging the cheese into the dough as you go.  If you are leaving one of the loaves plain just form it into whatever shape loaf you like.  Place these onto a lined and floured tin, cover with a tea towel and leave for a further hour.  Preheat the oven to 200.  Slash the top of the loaves a couple of times if you like and then bake for 20 minutes until golden brown, some of the cheese may leak out but that is part of the charm and those bits will be delicious for whomever gets to them first….

Cheese and Chive Bread

 

Chocolate Peppermint Tart

Chocolate Peppermint Tart 1

The easiest pudding in the world I think, bar offering a bowl of apples.  Crunchy biscuit base, no need for faffing with pastry on this occasion.  Creamy, truffley chocolate filling with a hint of mint (hint of mint?).  A cross between a great big After Eight and a Viscount biscuit (remember those?).  You can have all the ingredients in the cupboard and fridge and then conjure this up when you have a few minutes to spare.  You will be greeted by oohs and ash when you bring out this little number and no one, but no one will believe you didn’t slave to produce your masterpiece.  Some crushed up candy canes makes this pure Christmas for me but if that is a step too far for you, please dispense with this final flourish.

This might look like a slightly small tart for eight but it is very rich.  A small slice would probably cover pudding and after dinner mint in one go.  Alternatively just make a bigger one.

Chocolate Peppermint Tart 3

If you want to go to the Chocolate Orange route then substitute Cointreau or Grand Marnier for the peppermint but bear in mind your tart will now contain a drop or two of alcohol.  This version would look stunning topped with some chocolate covered candied orange peel.

I usually make a chocolatey pudding around Christmas or New Year and if you want another to try, make my Chocolate Pudding Cake (December 2012) which is simplicity itself and better still, you can make it now and freeze until you need it.

Chocolate Peppermint Tart 2

Chocolate Peppermint Tart

I use the all chocolate Neos from Lidl which work a treat but you could use Oreos.  Choose the all chocolate ones rather than those with a white filling to keep the dark beauty of the base if you can but both taste delicious.

225g Neos or Oreos

50g butter plus a tiny bit extra for brushing the tin, all melted

Pinch of salt

150g chocolate, I use half milk and half plain

20g butter

150ml cream

1-2 teaspoons peppermint extract

Brush a 20cm tart tin with a removable base with a little melted butter.  Whizz the biscuits in a processor or bash them in a plastic bag until you have fine crumbs.  Mix with the remaining melted butter, a pinch of salt and then press firmly into the tin including the sides.   Chill this in the fridge whilst you get on with the filling.   Melt the chocolate, butter and cream gently in a pan.  Once this is all amalgamated add a teaspoon of peppermint, mix well and then taste, you might want a little more but don’t overdo it, you want gentle peppermint not mouthwash.  Pour this mixture into the biscuit shell and chill until set, a couple of hours.  Now, how easy was that?

Chocolate Peppermint Tart 5