Petite Buche de Noel ~Bourbon Laced Apple and Walnut Filled Rolls

This was fun. I’ve had this idea to do a mini Buche de Noel rattling around in my head for awhile now. I spent the better part of an afternoon working out the details. Aren’t they just SO cute??? and frightfully delicious too.

Traditionally I make the classic Buche de Noel cake every year for my holiday table. I vary the insides but typically it’s a vanilla sponge cake with a chocolate mousse filling. The outside is covered in chocolate icing and sculpted to look like a log. I would make gum paste holly leaves and marzipan mushrooms to decorate it. All that sprinkled with a dusting of powdered sugar.

Not a thing wrong with any of that- it’s just that I wanted to try something different.

I got to thinking that the papery layers of Filo dough could be made to look like a shaggy bark- So maybe this is more of a Birch tree bark and not such a deep brown one, but you’ll work with me on that, right? I made cuts and snips in the dough on my various attempts and this is what I came up with.

The recipe is a Bourbon laced browned butter apple and walnut filling, inside layers of crunchy dough on the outside. The first batch turned out to have too much pastry and too much bite to contend with in order to get to the sweet center. I played around with proportions and thicknesses and came up with what I felt was a great balance. Lots of lovely crunch of the delicate layers on the outside to the right amount of sweet soft warm filling.

So maybe they’re more of a shaggy mini apple strudel if you really want to get technical, but I believe in the magic of Christmas, and my imagination is my best toy. You are welcome to call them whatever you wish- either way, they’ll make a great addition to any dessert table.

Petite Buche de Noel
You can premake the rolls and store them unbaked in the freezer until needed, when you can put them directly into the oven from the cold. They are great on their own, but a sauce of creme anglaise on the side is a nice touch. If you’re not into the boozy aspect of the dessert you can simply omit.
makes 6 5″ buche
2 large granny smith apples, peeled and fine diced
.5c walnuts, toasted and chopped
2T sweet butter
2T bourbon or calvados (optional)
3T sugar
2T flour
pinch of salt
3 sheets of filo dough
powdered sugar to decorate
Preheat oven to 350˚ and prepare a baking sheet, either greased or lined with paper
In a large sautee pan, warm the butter over medium heat until the butter browns. 
Add the apples, sugar and bourbon and sautee for a quick 2 minutes. You want the apples half cooked, not turned to mush.
Remove from the heat and transfer to bowl, reserving the pan. Sprinkle flour over the mixture and gently toss to incorporate
Lay one sheet of filo dough out and spray lightly with cooking spray. Fold in half bringing two short ends together. Spray the dough again.
At the bottom of the rectangle lay down an even 1″ layer of filling, or a third of the mixture, along entire length of the dough. 
Loosely roll up the filling. Trim one end on an angle, then cut in the center on an angle. 
With the sharp tip of a knife, make a series of small cuts in the outer layers of the dough, especially starting from the outer edge. Carefully roll each piece in the reserved sugar/butter that remains in the cooking pan, then set onto the baking sheet.
Repeat this process 2 more times for a total of 6 rolls.
Bake for approx 25 mins in the center of the oven. Allow to cool on a rack for 10 mins, then sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve.

Rustic Apple Tart with Dulce de Leche Glaze

Apple Tart with slices of Roelli Cheese Dunbarton Blue- a cheddar Blue combination.

I’m not trying to rush Fall by baking with apples, I just had to create a vehicle for this gorgeous cheddar/blue cheese that I found. I may be crazy but I just think this cheese is gorgeous! It has a beautiful ombre golden color with an interesting and striking line of moldy blue cheese running through. It is of the earth, something created in time with an artisanal hand- a creation. If this was granite I would use it on my countertops.

 Roelli Cheese is located in Wisconsin, the land of dairy and cheese. The family heralds from Switzerland and for years produced high production cheeses of little note. In 2006 the newer generation took on the challenge of creating small production artisanal cheeses and experimenting with different and exciting combinations- this is one of them.  The cheeses are handmade and spend 4 months in the creamery’s underground cellar to mature. The gorgeous blue vein comes from an inoculation of Penicillium roqueforti, which is introduced a week into the the aging process.

The result is a dense cheddar with a gorgeous earthy quality. It’s not the sharp variety you find in mass plastic packs at the market, but rather it’s meaty and woodsy, it’s toothsome and delicately aromatic. The blue adds just a fine layer of muskiness to the cheese, which makes a flavor profile that is pure genius.

What got me to make an apple tart had to with with the fact that my Dad has been on my mind a lot lately. He passed almost 4 years ago now, and from time to time I just miss him. He comes around in my thoughts and sits on my shoulder and just hangs with me for a time. This was one of those weeks where he has been my ethereal companion. He was the one that got me thinking about an apple tart.

Phil could get into his sweets. He would deny it, but I remember many a morning watching him eat Entenmen’s coffee crumb cake with a pat of butter on each bite. Remarkably he did not die with high cholesterol, in fact he never had a cholesterol problem and tended to be too lean. A fact that I still find to be astonishing. Those genes I did not inherit, (I have my Mother’s Latina hips).

Dad liked apple pie fine, but he liked his with a slice of cheddar cheese on top. Something I never, I mean NEVER, understood as a kid. Ice cream- sure! but cheese? A sweet should have a sweet, no? Not a savory! As you can see I’ve come around.

The tart out of the oven and glazed while still warm.

Typically I make a nice old fashioned crust. In the old days when there was Crisco in my kitchen, I would have used that. I really can’t recommend it as a nutritionist, but it does make the flakiest crust. As always I tilt more to the healthier, so I did a little research to find a “better” crust. I landed on Eating Well’s site to this recipe which uses a little canola oil and low-fat sour cream, which lowers the saturated fat level and reduces the calories by 60%. This recipe also exchanges a little whole wheat flour for the white. Not bad- and the crust was quite enjoyable.

I won’t kid you, it does not rival the classic, but but it yielded a satisfying crunch and texture. The whole wheat is also a better foil to the cheese, and the caramel in the dulce de leche. A full on whole wheat crust can be too tough for me, I found this to be a healthy happy medium.

The tart is pretty easy to make. The crust is rolled out and hand rough formed. To be a good ecologist, I place mine on recycled brown paper bag “parchment”.  Layers of apples march down the middle, and then a healthy sprinkling of sugar and a few dots of butter get layered on top.  Then into the oven it goes.

A slice of apple tart with the gorgeous cheddar-blue on top

Phil would have liked this recipe. He pretty much liked hippie versions of things, and the crust makes this tart read this way. He could poo-poo desserts, claiming the evils of sugar, but I can imagine him having at least 2 slices. Probably with extra cheese. It’s that good.

Rustic Apple Tart with Dulce de Leche Glaze
makes two tarts, serves 8
This is as simple as they get. Choose a good baking apple that is tart with good body, and don’t skimp on the sugar on the apples either- it’s one of the best parts.
1 recipe for Healthy Whole Wheat Crust, found here
2 large baking apples, peeled and sliced into .25″ half rounds
1c granulated sugar
2T butter, diced
3T dulce de leche, my recipe can be found here
.25# Dunbarton Blue, that can be ordered here
Preheat oven to 425˚
Roll out the dough into two 6″ x 12″ strips and place onto lined baking sheet.
Lay down the apples, then sprinkle tops with sugar and dot evenly with the butter.
Crimp the sides of the tarts in to finish.
Bake for approximately 30 mins- keeping an eye on the apples. 
Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
Prepare dulce de leche glaze by adding 1t of water and stirring smooth. Brush glaze over the apples.
Once completely cool, slice the cheese and lay on top of the tart and serve.
Best served and room temperature.