Friday, December 26, 2014

Meringue Mushrooms

I'm super crazy excited to share today's post because it's so friggin' adorable. Seriously, I am so smitten. As I may have mentioned several times, we hosted a Christmas party this year. It was the first time in a while that we were having such a big family bash. When I was younger, we'd have dozens of people (I have four aunts and two uncles and so many cousins) crammed into a small house and it was awesome. Since it was an extra special occasion, I wanted to do a fun and festive dessert, instead of the usual bread pudding. Don't get me wrong, bread pudding is awesome, but you can make that any time of year. I wanted something with a wow factor that would take a little more effort. I decided to make a bûche de Noël, a.k.a. a yule log.

So, because I'm not a professional blogger, I don't have the time or the means to make intense holiday desserts way in advance to share them here, which means I'm a little late sharing today's post. I mean, you can't make this for this year's Christmas. But that doesn't mean you couldn't refer back to this recipe next year and the year after and the year after, so I thought it would still be useful to share. Plus, it's one of the cutest desserts ever so I had to document it. Oh, and you could totally make the mushrooms whenever, because they're delicious and they're gorgeous.
Ingredients:
meringue mushrooms [yields 1.5 to 2 dozen mushrooms]
2 egg whites
pinch cream of tartar
pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup caster sugar
2 teaspoons cocoa powder
2 oz. chocolate chips

roll cake (for full directions on making roll cakes, refer to my my roll cake post)
6 eggs, separated
1 teaspoon lemon zest
6 tablespoons sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon baking powder
6 tablespoons cake flour
+ butter for greasing

cream filling
1 pint heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
¼ cup mascarpone
¼ teaspoon salt

ganache
4 oz. chocolate chips
½ cup heavy cream
Start with a clean bowl (glass or metal, never plastic) and crack in two egg whites. Reserve the yolks for some custard or ice cream.
Whip up some egg whites until foamy. Add in some cream of tartar, salt, and vanilla extract. Whip to soft peaks.
Sprinkle in sugar, one tablespoon at a time, incorporating each scoop of sugar well before adding the next. Whip to stiff peaks. The whites should be nice and shiny and sticky.
Fill up a piping bag with the meringue.
Line a sheet pan with parchment paper of a silicone baking mat. Pipe little domes for mushroom caps and skinny cones for the stems.
Pat down the peaks with a wet finger.
Dust the tops with a little cocoa powder, to mimic dirt. I used a tea strainer instead of a normal strainer or sifter for a more precise application.
Bake these cutie pies in a 225F oven for 45 minutes to one hour until the meringue is dry.
Let the meringue cool completely.
Then, it's time to assemble the mushrooms. Melt a little chocolate. I like using a double boiler but if you prefer, you can microwave it.
Poke a little hole into the bottom of the caps with a toothpick. Swirl the toothpick around to make the hole a bit bigger.
Dip the bottom of the cap into the chocolate and then poke the pointy part of the stem into the hole.
Leave the mushrooms alone until the chocolate sets.
If you're so inclined, you can also score some lines into the chocolate to mimic the spore grooves in actual mushrooms. This is optional, but adds a little sum'n sum'n.
And, you can dip the stems in the chocolate as well. This bit is also optional, as it serves no purpose. It just make the mushrooms look like they were plucked from the ground. I dipped a few and left a few.
And that's it! Look at how adorable these are. I was crying and whining as I was photographing these because of how cute they are. Yeah, I fake cry when I think something is cute. They look so amazing and realistic and just so awesome. I mean, sticking them in that ceramic berry container totally amped up the food styling too, don't you think?
If you've never eaten meringues, they're kind of like crisp marshmallows and they're awesome. Just sugary sweet goodness.
It was so exciting putting these to use. I made a little roll cake, decorated it like a log, and then used the mushrooms to accent the cake.

To create a bûche de Noël, make a batch of roll cake (without the lemon zest). Pour the batter into a half sheet pan and spread it out with an offset spatula.
Make a slightly chocolatey mascarpone whipped cream to fill the cake. Just chuck all of the ingredients into a bowl and whip it up.
Spread the cream on the cake and then roll the cake up tightly. Wrap it up in cling film and refrigerate for at least 2 hours to set up. The chill time will help the cake keep its shape.
To frost the cake, make a ganache. Pour hot cream over chocolate, let it sit for a few minutes, and then whisk to combine into a smooth chocolatey sauce. Let the ganache cool until it's thickened to a frosting-like consistency. Pop it in the fridge to hurry along the process, if you're strapped for time.
Meanwhile, trim the ends off of the roll cake and then cut two pieces off to create little branches.
Frost the cake. It works well to spread on a thin-ish layer (the crumb coat), refrigerate the cake, and then slather on a thicker layer of ganache. Let the ganache set up for about ten minutes.
Once the ganache has set up some more, use a toothpick to carve a bark-like texture into the yule log. Then, pop the cake into the fridge so the ganache can harden, at least two hours or overnight. Once the ganache hardens up, it'll lose its shine and take on a duller finish, which will make it look much more like an actual log.
Then, it's time to decorate the cake with meringue mushrooms!
If you wanted, you could dust the log with some powdered sugar, to resemble snow. However, this year, we had quite a warm Christmas (it was 55F) so we left ours snow-free.
Doesn't this look so festive and cute? This might be a new fun family tradition for us.
We had a feast-like dinner and almost 40 people were squished into our house. It was intense and fun and delicious. We had a roast turkey and prime rib. There was green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, stuffing, kale with bacon, roasted brussels sprouts, roasted carrots and butternut squash, rice pilaf, mushroom gravy, horseradish sauce, a huge salad, and in addition to this epic buffet, we had a table full of appetizers. I forgot to snap a photo but we had chicken liver mousse, bruschetta, cheese plate, and tomatillo salsa. It was an amazing Christmas.
This might be the most fun dessert I've ever made.
Here's the recipe page:

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