December 22, 2009

Happy...uh, what holiday is it?

My children have a... let's say, slightly confused idea of winter holidays. Evelyn will argue to the death that angles are not angles, they are fairies (understandable) Briton asked me last week if Hanukkah was countdown to Solstice or Christmas. He's also been known to call Solstice Christmas Eve One. Humm. OK, so maybe the idea of exposing the kids to a wide variety of religions is a little confusing. But eventually, they'll get it. And let's face it, to kids, it's all about opening the presents.

Yesterday was Solstice. We don't have a huge number of traditions for Solstice but we do open one gift and I make a Yule Log. My Yule Log making actually goes way back to high school when a friend and I made (somewhat successfully) a Bouche de Noel for a French assignment.

Being a rolled cake, Yule Logs aren't easy, but given the fact that they are often, if not always, liberally coated in some kind of frosting, means that even if you screw up totally and end up with broken layers all over, you can cover things up and end up with a pretty little cake (until you cut it, but then you just smear the frosting across the cut to distort the lack of swirl.

I've actually gotten fairly good at rolling a cake without breaking the layers, but only after several tries and mostly due to a hot wet towel trick that I'll talk about in a sec. For yesterdays cake I was feeling kind of pumpkiny so I made a genoise batter for the cake and mixed whipped cream, pumpkin puree, sugar and pumpkin pie spice until I liked the flavor. Given the chance to do it all again (and I will next year no doubt) I'd use powdered sugar so the filling was a little smoother. Not that it wasn't pretty yummy as it was, I'm just saying.

So the genoise batter is a little fussy, but makes a nice light, not to sweet cake. The trick to rolling (or my trick to rolling I guess) is to cook in in a pan lined with parchment that I pull right out of the pan once it's cooked. While the cake is still hot, another layer of parchment goes on the top of the cake and a towel that has been dipped in hot water and wrung out goes on that. Roll the whole thing up and wrap in a tea towel and allow to cool. The hot towel seems to steam the cake into place and makes room for the cream filling later. When the filling is ready and the cake is cool, carefully pull the paper (and the towel) off, fill with cream and re-roll, covering the whole thing with cream (ideally so it looks log-ish) I'd show you a photo except that my camera cord has mysteriously vanished in the Holiday Chaos.