Sunday, December 26, 2010

Cakes of Cheese & Rolls of Chocolate

Can you taste Christmas yet?  Does the sting of gingerbread awaken memories from childhood?

My Mom's family's Christmas tasted of beef tenderloin, creamed pearl onions, and a chocolate roll (aka Yule Log/Bûche de Noël) for dessert.  My Dad's family's Christmas tasted of shrimp creole and myriad cookies.

This Christmas, I'm going back to the traditional desserts of my Mom's family and Tom's (my step-dad) family; chocolate roll and cheesecake respectively.  I continue to use my grandma L.B.'s chocolate roll recipe, written on an envelope with the cooking time omitted.  Sparing no caloric expense, my grandma filled her chocolate roll with sweet, whipped cream and covered it in 1-inch of mocha buttercream frosting.  The cheesecake is made based on a recipe used by Tom's Mom, a woman who lived to 100 years of age, thus causing me to think that cheesecake may just be the trick to longevity. 

Tom's Mom's cheesecake recipe is virginal in its purity.  I am a cheesecake purist, believing you should know how to make a perfectly tall, sour-cream-topped, cheesecake before ever adding such flair as chocolate, or fruit, or bits or pieces of anything other than cheese.  We need to learn how to kiss with our mouths closed before we add the decorative slip of a tongue, and the same goes for cheesecake.  It should be nude in all its creamy glory.  I believe these three tips make a perfect cheesecake.

Stiff froth in a sea of white
  • Whip your locally sourced egg whites until they are static, but smooth, in their stiffness.  
  • Fold the whipped egg whites into the cheese mixture with the same determined delicacy that you would brush a lover's hair.
  • Have a thermometer on hand to slide into the center of the cake until a temperature of 150 degrees, no more and no less, is registered on the dial.
Photos are not food-porn worthy, but this cake was "dense, but light, and complex but balanced," per Elisabeth

    My grandma's chocolate roll, like the cheesecake, is true in its flavor. . .no cognac or grand marnier, no fruit jams or flavored creams; just chocolate sponge cake and whipped cream.  The origin of the Yule Log is debated, some histories having to do with Napoleon and some with the Celts. . . either way the cake is constructed to look like a branched log - a symbol of light and warmth for the coming year.  I like the idea of consuming the hot exhale of a snowy forest.  Here are three tips for a superb chocolate roll.

    • Again with the eggs. . . .get those whites stiff!  Whip with confidence.
    • Blend the yolks and sugar until a pale, yellow ribbon dances from the tip of the spatula - imagine wrapping a gift or a neck with just such a silky adornment.  
    • Roll evenly and don't fear a cake that cracks or droops - that's why we frost it. . .plus, while logs are designed by Nature, they can be as rough to the eye as they are to a finger.

      This former-vegan-bird was reminded of the joy of baking vegan while whipping eggs and folding whites. . . working with eggs in the baking process requires an accurate and discerning eye, while flax seed need not be whipped or folded, just mixed.  Ah the ease of baking without eggs.

      Christmas is slowed and we have no snow, but the cheesecake was a success and the chocolate roll (with two-too many cups of whipped cream) was devoured.  Happy Holidays

      What does Christmas taste like to you?


      1. Ham. I would MUCH rather it taste like shrimp creole though! Yum.

      2. Hey Jeanne, my family's Easter used to taste of Ham. . .but now it's salmon and, of course, an abundance of chocolate eggs! ~ Trilety