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.

SAVEUR Magazine’s Birthday Present to Me & the BEST Chocolate Cake EVER

Dark chocolate birthday cake

If’s official, I am over the hill- and I will be honest, I am loving the view from up here! Last week heralded a demi-century of loops around the sun. Of course this is mind boggling for a woman who still has conviction that she is 25 years old- but now that I’ve passed the mark- I think it’s pretty awesome.

This past year has been especially wonderful and all indications are that this trend will continue. Thank you to everyone who has supported this blog. It has given back to me in ways that I never have imagined and that just tickles me to no end. I really love writing and cooking, and I promise I will be around for awhile.
The big announcement that I alluded to in my last post is that the very day before my birthday SAVEUR magazine chose me as one of their “Sites We Love” (!!!!)
Nov 8, 2012

Sites We Love: A Stack of Dishes

Gorgeous photos? Check. Engaging writing? Check. Seriously inspiring recipes, tips, and culinary curiosity? Check, check, and check. The best food blogs all seem to have a lot in common—but what separates them out are the strong personalities behind them. In our Sites We Love series, we sit down with some of our favorite bloggers to find out how they do it—and why it’s as much fun for them as it is for us.

Needless to say I am overjoyed and over the moon!!!! I am humbled to be in such astute and talented company as well. I did not see this coming, and it will certainly go down in history as one of the dandiest birthday presents ever!

Unfortunately I am having trouble with the code for the badge, so I will have that up soon as we sort out the glitch.

I am making dinner tonight for another Scorpio pal of mine and so we are having my favorite chocolate cake. For those who have tasted my chocolate wedding cake, I regret to inform you that this is not the same recipe (sorry, trade secret), but this version is pretty close and sensational. Rather than icing I whipped up some sweetened whipped cream, which is a fantastic foil to this dark rich cake.

Dark Chocolate Cake
3 tiered 9″ cake, enough for 15 servings
2c boiling water
1c unsweetened cocoa powder
2.75 c all purpose flour
2t baking soda
.5t baking powder
.5t salt
1c unsalted butter, room temperature
2.25c sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
1.5t vanilla
Preheat oven to 350˚. Grease and flour 3 9″ pans and set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugar and beat moderately until light and fluffy. Do NOT minimize this step. 
Add eggs one and a time on low and stir until incorporated. It will look grainy and mucky. Stir in the vanilla.
In large mixing bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, bs, bp and salt and stir to combine.
Add the egg/butter mixture into the bowl, then add the hot water in 3 stages and stir smooth.
Divide the batter evenly between the pans and bake until the centers spring back from the touch.
The average baking time is 30 mins- but please don’t go by that. The best rule of thumb I can give you, is when you start to smell the cake it’s “getting there”. Alternatively, at 20 minutes check on it every few minutes until it’s done. 
Please don’t over bake this yummy cake.
Cool completely before frosting with whipped cream.

Coconut Raspberry Cake

So far this year I have spent Memorial Day in Guatemala and now, the Fourth of July in Thailand. Last night I spent the holiday at an event hosted by the US consulate here in Chiang Mai. The evening started out with glasses of wine that were handed out, tied with red, white and blue ribbons. On cocktail tables were decorations of stars and stripes- which, rather than making me feel at home- was a dramatic and harsh contrast to the Southeast Asian aesthetic.

Earlier in the day I had been thinking about what I would be missing at home- BBQ, backyard cocktails, fireflies and fireworks… There is nothing to fill the gap here, except the possibility of ordering a hamburger from a restaurant chain. Is it patriotic to go to McDonald’s to celebrate our American history? The sad but true answer is probably yes, but never in my world. No, there is no satisfying substitute, and nor should there be.

Instead I like the contrast. I like remembering that I am far from home, and recreating Americanization everywhere is by no means necessary. To my mind there is already too much (Starbucks are everywhere, KFC and Sizzler too). However, when they played the National Anthem after the introductions- I felt proud, tho a bit silly. I came here to be HERE, but I am proud to be an American and to stand up one day a year and proclaim so is the very least I could do.

When the anthem was over I wanted to say, “Play Ball!!”, but my joke would have been irreverent. I stood up. I mouthed the words to the anthem (like we all do) and raised my glass in a toast. I proudly, very proudly, represented my country.

Before leaving I made up this Coconut Raspberry Cake. Not really thinking about The Fourth, but this would make a fantastic addition to a casual picnic or cookout. It’s made in a sheet pan making it easy to tote along. Were I to serve it on The Fourth I would pair it with blueberry sorbet or ice cream- and proudly show my colors.


Coconut Raspberry Cake
serves 6-8
.33c sugar
1c AP flour
.5t baking powder
.5c sweetened coconut
pinch of salt
.5c milk-warmed
3.5oz melted butter
2c raspberries (can be frozen)
2c sugar
1T lemon juice
2 large eggs-beaten lightly
2c sweetened coconut
.33c sugar
Preheat oven to 350˚- grease 6×12″ pan
Combine sugar, flour, bp, salt and coconut in a large bowl and stir to combine.
In small bowl combine the butter and milk. Pour into the flour mixture and gently stir to combine.
Pour batter into the pan and spread evenly. Bake until just lightly browned-12-15mins. The cake is not very thick, so don’t be tempted to overbake and brown.
While cake is baking: combine berries, sugar and lemon juice in heavy saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil for 3-5 mins until thickened. 
Allow cake and jam to cool for 15 mins, then spread jam over cake, creating the middle layer.
In a separate bowl combine the eggs, coconut and sugar and stir to combine.
Spread coconut mixture on top of raspberry layer. Place back into the oven until coconut is golden brown- ~20 mins.
Allow to cool completely before serving- it’s even better chilled before cutting.