It is said that “presentation is everything” but of course, so is taste, right? Well, what about the preparation of food? At the very onset I had some reservations about making this holiday dessert given the lengthy and involved instructions. But not one to bow down to a challenge, I enlisted my mother-in-law, Mary Cochrane, who was out visiting from Western PA.
Truth be told, it was like an episode of Laverne and Shirley! Every step of the way we blundered one thing or another. The initial misstep was the separation of 5 egg yolks and whites. The very first egg I broke, I cracked the entire thing into a bowl, and realizing my mistake, I unsuccessfully tried to scoop out the bit of yolk left in the whites. Against my better judgement, instead of discarding that first egg, I continued to separate the remaining four into the bowl.
Mary getting ready to sift the 1/2 cup of flour a gazillion times.
When Mary noticed the yolk in the whites, she did say it probably would not beat into stiff peaks, but we just let it ride while she sifted the 1/2 cup of flour (again, and again, and again) and I beat together the yolks, vanilla and sugar.
The egg whites that weren’t forming stiff peaks…
Once we were ready to beat the whites, Mary held a hand mixer for what seemed like forever, without getting the results the recipe called for. Thinking a smaller metal bowl might do the trick, we dumped the mixture into another bowl and tried to beat those darn whites in vain. Finally admitting defeat, I separated another five eggs (correctly this time), but we had to wait another 30 minutes for them to come to room temperature.
Finally, stiff egg whites get folded into the batter.
Another essential ingredient was a 1/2 cup espresso and since the grocery store was out of instant espresso (was everyone making yule log cakes?), we bought a small amount of espresso beans and ground them at home. Problem was, I don’t drink coffee and was unfamiliar with how to use our state-of-the-art coffee maker—nor did Mary know how. Then I remembered Russ had bought a small espresso percolator when we were in Italy this past spring. Problem was, I didn’t know how to use that either, nor did Mary! So we did the next best thing and called Russ at work…
Mary filling the percolator with ground espresso.
And so it went… while the cake itself was supposed to bake for only 7-10 minutes, ours took longer because at one point, instead of adjusting the timer for a few more minutes, I accidentally turned off the oven temperature and neither of us noticed it and wondered why the cake was taking so long! Which resulted in an unfirm center, thus causing cracking when it was time to roll it.
Cake layer out of oven before rolling.
Another blunder? At this point Mary was doing most of the reading out loud and I was following (or more precisely, jumping ahead), when it came time to make the filling. First off, we couldn’t locate brandy or cognac, even though Russ and I “knew” we had some. Fact is, we used up the brandy for a pork dish several weeks prior and never replaced it. When in doubt, Google! Three different websites noted you could substitute scotch or bourbon. Being that we only needed 1 tablespoon, I wasn’t about to run out in the rainy weather to a jam-packed shopping center for that small amount. So what did we do? Place another call to Russ at work to get his opinion, which was in agreement with me–use the bourbon.
The blunder that did work!
Back to the filling. Just as I got done pouring the 1/2 cup heavy cream into the mixer with the mascarpone cheese mixture, Mary read aloud “Beat the heavy cream in another bowl with beaters…” Wait, what?? Realizing that wasn’t going to happen, and not having another 8 ounces of mascarpone, we decided to forge ahead and see if the mixture would all come together in ONE bowl, and luckily for us, it did!
Adding heavy cream to the melted chocolate for a ganache icing.
By this time we were more than punch happy. The kitchen was in complete disarray with pots, pans, and baking ingredients covering almost every inch of counter surface. What should have taken 1 1/4 hours took nearly four hours! Mary said she’d start washing up the dishes so I could try to finish the cake before Russ came home and saw the mess. And just as I was spreading the last of the ganache, he came walking in to find a gorgeous cake, clean kitchen, and slap happy wife and mother.
The Yule Log being prepared to wrap and refrigerate.
A couple of “touches” we opted to leave out this time around was the stumps for sawed-off branches and meringue mushrooms. Mary told me if I wanted to make those meringue mushrooms, she was leaving! That will be a challenge for another day…
In the end, it made a beautiful presentation and tasted good too!
OK, so the inside wasn’t as attractive as the outside…
Recipe found on Epicurious.com from Gourmet Live / December 2012 by Gina Marie Miraglia Eriquez
If you want a project, this one’s for you… Continue reading Tiramisu Yule Log