Sunday, 22 December 2013

Chestnut and Mascarpone Yule Log

It’s time for some more Christmas baking fun and as the big day gets ever closer overindulgence now rules! The yule log or Bûche de Noël is a traditional Christmas desert but not something that has ever been a major part of our celebrations (we are much more of a Christmas pudding family!). And I had never attempted to make a yule log…until now that is, and after reading a few tips from The Guardian website I came up with a pretty delicious treat. And the great thing about the light and airy sponge that makes the base of the yule log is that it is often naturally gluten free and many recipes contain absolutely no flour but are just lots of whipped up eggs and cocoa powder, so a perfect gluten free addition to the Christmas dinner table, and not as tricky to make as you may think!!


6 large eggs, separated
150g caster sugar
60g cocoa powder

1 jar of chestnut jam (you can make your own by checking out this recipe)

100g frozen cherries (or other red berries as preferred)

150g mascarpone
50g icing sugar

200g dark choc
180ml double cream
Glug of rum

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C. Line a swiss roll tin (or shallow rectangular baking tin) with grease proof paper, being careful to fully tuck the paper into the corners of the tin so that they are neatly folded in as this will allow the cake to rise nicely.

Separate the eggs dividing the egg whites and egg yolks into separate bowls.

Add the sugar to the egg yolks and beat with an electric mixer until a thick and glossy mixture is formed. Add the cocoa powder to the mixture and continue to beat until fully combined.

Ensure that the electric mixer is fully cleaned and has no traces of the egg yolk mixture and then beat the egg whites until soft peaks are formed.

Gently fold the egg white mixture into the egg yolk mixture a little at a time until fully combined. But be careful not to knock all of the air out of the egg whites.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and place in the centre for about 25 minutes until firm to the touch.

Remove the cake from the oven, place another sheet of baking paper on top of the cake and invert onto the kitchen surface. Carefully remove the cake from the tin and peel off the baking paper that had lined the tin. Then, using the paper now underneath the cake carefully roll the cake up along the longest edge until a tight roll is formed. Leave the cake to cool rolled up (you can make the cake the day before you require it and leave it rolled up overnight before decorating the following day).

Once you are ready to construct the Bûch carefully unroll the cake (don’t worry if it cracks a little at this point, any little faults will be covered up with all the icing!)

I filled mine with chestnut jam which I had previously made (following this recipe, but if you don’t have a personal supply of chestnuts and enough time to make yourself some jam sweetened chestnut puree will work just fine) and sweetened mascarpone which I made by combining the mascarpone with the icing sugar. Spread the chestnut jam evenly over the cake. Then sprinkle with the cherries and top with the sweetened mascarpone. Carefully re-roll the cake using the baking paper for support as you roll.

Carefully transfer the roll to your serving plate and then liberally coat with chocolate ganache which is made be breaking the chocolate into a heat proof bowl, then bring the cream to the boil in a small pan, as soon as the cream begins to boil remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate. Stir the mixture until the chocolate has melted and a smooth glossy mixture has formed. Stir in a glug of rum and then pour the ganache over the cake and spread across with a spatula until it is fully covered.

I melted a little extra chocolate and piped out holly leaf shapes onto some non-stick baking parchment and once set used these to decorate my yule log but a liberal dusting of icing sugar would look just as festive.

Then get stuck in and enjoy this gorgeously indulgent chocolate desert…it is Christmas after all.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Mince pie cookies

Christmas really is fast approaching now, and although I am a right scrooge when I hear Christmas songs in the shops in September my ‘Bah Humbug’ attitude quickly dissipates once December arrives. This week I have been getting rather festive in the kitchen and have been having a massive kitchen baking session with cheesy Christmas music playing in the background whilst I have been liberally dusting every surface with icing sugar.

Now Christmas isn’t Christmas without a copious amounts of mince pies but I like to experiment a little with my mincemeat! And after making mincemeat Danish pastries last year I thought I would get creative again and so the mincemeat cookie was born. If you aren’t a big fan of pastry these are a perfect yule time treat with a little dollop of the sticky mincemeat mix hidden inside a gorgeous almond and vanilla cookie.


80g butter
150g golden caster sugar
1 egg
100g almond butter (you could use peanut butter here if you can’t find almond butter, but it is available in many supermarkets and all good health food shops)
2 tablespoons golden syrup
Seeds from half a vanilla pod
25g ground almonds
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
150g plain flour
50 g rye flour
1 jar of mincemeat (or if you feel a bit more adventurous you can make your own!)

Makes approx. 20

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/350°F.

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.

Add the almond butter, egg, golden syrup and vanilla to the mixture and continue to beat until smooth and well combined.

Finally mix in the ground almonds, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and both flours and fold in until a firm dough if formed. Wrap the dough in cling film and place in the fridge for 30 minutes to chill.

To construct the biscuits begin by taking a small ball and making a dent/well in the centre. Place a teaspoon full of mincemeat into the indent.

Take another piece of the dough and form into a small round disc and place over the top of the mincemeat.

Then work the two bits of dough together forming a fat disc of cookie dough with the mincemeat hidden inside.

Place the cookies on a lined baking tray, leaving a little bit of space between them so they have room to spread a little.

Bake for 10-12 minutes until golden brown. Allow to cool a little before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely. Will keep in an air tight container for a few days….but I doubt these delicious cookies will last that long!!!

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Chestnut Pesto

Before the year runs away with me and we all get engulfed by Christmas I wanted to post this autumnal recipe. I have previously blogged about my love of chestnuts and how I am fortunate enough that my parents garden contains a couple of chestnut trees, so I have grown up picking these little mahogany balls of yumminess straight from among the leaves on the ground each year, rather than having to fork out a considerable amount of cash for a small little net in a supermarket. And in the last couple of years I have experimented with the many different uses of the chestnut from chocolate pots, and truffle cake to gnocchi.

When my mum started bragging about how plump and delicious this year’s crop of chestnuts are I immediately put in my order and started researching possible recipes to use the chestnuts in. This was when I came across quite a few pesto recipes that replace the pine nuts often found in pesto with chestnuts instead. Pine nuts can be quite an expensive ingredient so I loved the idea of replacing them with something foraged for free. I’m also not a big fan of pine nuts so this seemed like a perfect substitution for me. I made a very chestnut heavy version of pesto but you could easily increase the proportion of the other ingredients to suit your own tastes, but I didn’t want the chestnut to be over powered by the basil in this recipe. The resultant pesto is great stirred into freshly cooked spaghetti with a few wild mushrooms thrown in for good measure or a little fried up smokey bacon to create autumn on a plate.


80g raw, shelled chestnuts
A large handful of fresh basil
80ml of good quality olive oil
25g grated parmesan
1 large clove of garlic, crushed
A good pinch of sea salt.

After peeling the chestnuts (this can be a little time consuming and I find if I slit the top of the chestnuts with a sharp knife and then plunge into boiling water for a few seconds it is a lot easier to remove the chestnuts from their shells) place in a saucepan of boiling water and cook for about 5 minutes until they are just starting to cook but are still firm and crunchy.

Drain the chestnuts and place with the remaining ingredients in a food processor. Blitz until a slightly grainy paste is formed (adding a little extra olive oil if needed to reach the desired consistency).

Use as you would with any other pesto.

Store in the fridge.

Disclaimer: I feel that I should say that unless you are 100% certain what you are eating it is best to buy your chestnuts rather than go foraging for them, conkers for example are not edible and should not be confused with chestnuts!!