I had big plans to keep myself busy the weekend before Christmas. I wanted to make green, red and white cake-pops to take to work. I wanted to try my hand at working with white chocolate to make pretty shapes, snow-flakes for instance, freeze them and use them to decorate cupcakes. Reindeer antlers. Rudolph red noses. All that.
I also wanted to roast a whole chicken, stuffed with lemon and rosemary. And so much more.
But that weekend was a disaster. Sometime during the week I hurt my lower back and it got severely bad by Saturday morning. I spent all weekend in bed, pretty much unable to move.
Yes, I’ve seen a doctor. Yes, he has diagnosed it. Yes, I am working to fix this. But yes, I’m also quite hobbling around to get thing done by the end of the day. But then, my lower back has been a pain point, quite literally, for a few years now. And I try not to let it stop me from doing stuff. (Even if it means going overboard sometimes. Sigh.)
So, I baked a Yule Log. I had always really wanted to. And I was fairly pleased with how it turned out. I took it to Ketki’s house because she invited me over for dinner on Christmas Eve. Ketki is my best friend’s long time girlfriend. And he’s my long time best friend. And given that, I’m still surprised why we (girlfriend and I) never really met or held such awkward (and untrue) opinions of each other for close to eight years. But all is well that ends well. And yay! They’re official now! Parents and all! And I’ve been over the top with all of this. I cannot tell you how much I love them. Together. Gosh! I just really really want them to be happy! Forever! Because sigh. They’ve been through a bunch, just to be together. And they deserve every bit of this.
This is me, meeting my best friend and his girlfriend together. For the first time. EVER. (Which is, to say, since 2005). And she’s just about moved to Bangalore and is still setting up, so I knew dinner would be simple. He’d brought some wine from Bordeaux, on his way back from his student exchange program. And I wanted to make them a nice dessert to make everything feel amazing.
And that, dear reader, is the story of THIS Yule Log.
The real story of the Yule Log, however, has something to do with traditionally setting out a large-ish log of wood (called the Yule Log) in the fireplace and then cooking Christmas Eve meats over it’s flame (and heat). It is believed that the ashes from the log had magical powers and could ward off evil spirits, thus assuring people of all things good and a great year ahead.
I used this Nigella Recipe, to the tee. So, I won’t write it out again, here. I will, however, add everything else that I did to decorate it. And what I thought wasn’t quite right.
(no snow on this one, yet)
I’d intended to make some meringue mushrooms to decorate the cake. But back and all, I had to give up that. Instead, I quickly made acorns with melted chocolate and cereal.
And then, I made some berries: Parle-G biscuits, a teeny bit of milk and some red food colouring.
I’d also wanted to placed some candied rosemary on the log. I did need to step out to do groceries that weekend and I couldn’t find any rosemary (I went to four stores, broken back and all, yes, bad call). So I just picked up some greens from the florist, along with my usual weekly bunch of flowers for home.
And for the snow, just good old powdered sugar.
Right, that covers the acorns, the berries, the greens and the snow.
To get the effect of the bark, I ran a fork through the frosting when the cake had been refrigerated long enough.
The cake was immensely heavy. I couldn’t make it through a single slice, to be honest. It was delicious, yes. But too rich and chocolatey.
(bummer, you can’t see the text on the pictures, really!)
My biggest problem was the icing/frosting.
1. I don’t like icing. It is invariably too sweet.
2. The recipe calls for confectioner’s sugar (or icing sugar). I use powdered sugar (ground to a fine powder, at home) on the few occasions I DO need to make icing. And it usually turns out very smooth and pretty delicious. This time, however, it didn’t. It was grainy and overly sweet. I guess I’ll just stick with the icing recipe I used for this cake. (Well, I used icing sugar here. So may be it IS my fault after all.)
3. Yeah, next Christmas, I should perfect this recipe.
4. Oh, the interesting part is that a colleague brought in a cake to work a couple of days ago, and she made a very very similar chocolate buttercream frosting and her frosting with a little grainy too! And we arrived at the conclusion that using icing sugar would’ve been a smarter move afterall.
I’ve cooked some amazing things in 2013. I’ve gotten my baking mojo back. I’ve even successfully started baking bread. I’ve consciously started taking better pictures of food and even fewer pictures of myself. Yes, I’ve had a few not-so-great experiments (case in point, New Year’s Eve burger buns about which I’ll blog later).
The one thing I didn’t do in 2013 was travel. Travel to travel, that is. But I hope to fix that soon enough.
I hope 2014 is awesome. I hope there’s tonnes more amazing cooking, feeding people I love, getting to be with them a lot more. I hope there’s a lot of good progress at work (the last couple of months were meh.) I hope I can travel this year to that place I’ve been saving up for. And I hope to read a few more books this year. And then, I hope everything is just the kind of right it has been these past few months and it only gets better.
Enough sap. I’ll end this post here, then! And Happy New Year!