Wednesday, 21 December 2011
Three things I learnt yesterday about the highly specialized field of sub-zero food photography:
1/ Icing sugar to simulate snow-on-a-log is pretty pointless when you also have actual snow on your yule log.
2/ Forget tables - plant pots with a drift of snow perched on top or sun loungers (oh the irony) make excellent surfaces.
3/ 'Shoot and run'. It's -6 C. No fancy moves, just a bit of exposure tweaking. Or your hands will fall off (gloves get in the way). Wrap up as if you're going skiing or taking the dogs for a walk. Yes, that means thermals (sexy, I know). Food photography is just another activity that has to be adapted to snow (and therefore darkened houses) when it just keeps on falling for days and days on end.
My frozen mind stuck onto 'shoot and run' while I was out there and somehow produced this:
"But I shot a log in snow,
Just to catch it glow,
When I hear that wind a' blowin',
I hang my lens and go."
Ahem. Anyway. Enough butchering of Johnny Cash.
I decided to keep this simple: light chocolate sponge (the one I used to make the chocolate & peanut butter mousse swiss roll), a chestnut-marscarpone filling and whipped dark chocolate ganache swirled over the top. It's a delicious combination. The chestnut gives a smoky depth and graininess to the filling.
Also - I passed basic patisserie! Despite a very stressful and frustrating practical exam my other marks pulled me up to a credit - I was so happy when I opened my certificate envelope at graduation.
Bûche de Noël
(sponge recipe adapted from David Lebovitz's Ready for Dessert)
For the sponge:
60g plain flour
20g cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
3 eggs, separated
35ml cold water
120g caster sugar
For the chestnut cream:
125g chestnut puree*
1 tsp icing sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
For the whipped ganache:
150g dark (70%) chocolate, very finely chopped
150g double cream
2 tsp light brown sugar
Preheat the oven to 170C. Line an oven tray with parchment paper. Sift the flour, cornflour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt together three times - the mixture should be a uniform pale brown. Place the 3 egg yolks and the water into the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk on high for 1 minute then sprinkle the caster sugar over the frothy mixture. Put back onto high and whisk for 5 minutes until the mixture reaches ribbon stage (i.e. if you lift the whisk, the ribbon coming off it stays on the surface for a few seconds) and is very pale.
In another clean bowl whip the egg whites to stiff peaks. Steady the bowl of whipped yolks on a damp cloth and sieve over a 1/5 of the flour mixture. Fold in with a rubber spatula, swirling around the edge of the bowl and flicking into the middle. Repeat with the next 1/5 and so on until you have incorporated all the flour mixture. Fold in 1/3 of the whites to loosen, then fold in the remaining 2/3. Scrape out of the bowl onto the tray then with bold strokes use a palette knife to spread out into a rectangle roughly 20x30cm.
Bake for 12-15 minutes until the sponge springs back when touched in the middle. While it bakes prepare two sheets of parchment bigger than the cake. Lay one on a table and sprinkle with a little caster sugar. When the cake comes out of the oven, let it rest for 1 minute then flip it out onto the parchment. Slowly peel the baking parchment off the top. Lightly score a line about 1cm from the end of one of the shorter sides with the back of a knife. Top with the clean parchment sheet then start rolling up from the scored end, tightly tucking in as you go. Once you get to the end, wrap the whole roll in a tea towel and leave to cool a little.
While it cools, beat the marscarpone until smooth in a bowl. Add the chestnut puree and sugar and beat again, then finally add the vanilla and combine until uniform.
When the wrapped roll is no longer hot to touch but is still warm, carefully unwrap it. Spread the inside with the chestnut marscarpone mix and then roll up again, using the outer parchment but discarding the inner. Place in the fridge to firm up.
Put the chopped chocolate into the bowl of a stand mixer. Place the cream and sugar into a small saucepan and heat until steaming, then pour over the chocolate. Leave for a minute then stir until smooth. Place into the fridge to firm up - you want it to be thick but not solid. When it's ready, fit the bowl into the mixer and whip until fluffy and a bit lighter. Dollop some of the icing onto the chilled roll and spread over the entire roll with a palette knife. Style the icing to your liking - I used an icing comb to create a bark-esque effect on the top, then a serrated knife to create the rings on each end. The roll keeps really well in the fridge - in fact we preferred it after it had chilled for a few hours.
(Makes about 10-12 slices)
*Here in Switzerland they sell tubes of prepared chestnut puree but you could easily create some by roasting some chestnuts then pureeing them with a little water to form a thick paste.