I am determined to see this challenge through. Even when my kitchen is completely enclosed in plastic from the restoration company, where there’s a will, there’s a way. There’s also a mother who lives 20 minutes away.
Yes, that’s right. The water is still turned off at my house and now the kitchen looks like a scene from the movie Outbreak. Sounds like it could be a couple more weeks until our house is habitable again. What else can be thrown at me during this baking challenge I’ve taken on? Well, in less than 2 weeks, I leave to celebrate the holidays with my sister and her family in France. There will be no baking in their kitchen since it’s a complete disaster. But I may see what I can do in the house we’ll be staying in. It’s an adventure, that’s for sure.
This weeks challenge was made in the kitchen of my parents. My mom used to bake a lot when we were kids. That’s probably where my love of it came from. But she only bakes a handful of times a year now, so her equipment and pantry are very limited. She’s got the basics: flour, sugar, eggs, butter. As for assembly; cookie sheet, stand mixer, and holiday sprinkles are about the extent of it.
The preheat this week was to make a treat showcasing toasted marshmallows in 45 minutes. I managed to snatch some marshmallows from under a tarp on our kitchen table and headed to my parents house. After some digging there, I found a jar of molasses and we were in business.
I whipped up a batch of my favorite spicy gingerbread cookies. Rolled out the dough and used a knife to cut out squares. About 8-9 minutes in the oven is all it took and while they were baking, I melted some chocolate and spooned it into a plastic ziplock bag. I located a small torch in a drawer which was a much better option than cooking marshmallows on the stove.
Assembly time. Torch the marshmallow, sandwich between two gingerbread cookies, and drizzle chocolate on the top, sprinkling colored sugar for holiday flair. Simple enough, but I realized that the marshmallows would need to be cooked more to get gooey all the way through and smash down. I didn’t have much time left so I stuck a plate of marshmallows in the microwave and heated for 20 seconds. Spooned them on the cookies and toasted from there. Voila! Gingerbread s’mores. They were good, but I thought the gingerbread overpowered the marshmallow slightly.
Onto the main heat: 2 hours to make a blinged out yule log. Didn’t have much in the means of bling in this kitchen, but I had an idea.
The torch I used earlier would be great to toast meringue to look like a log. And meringue goes really good with lemon. The first thing I did was grab a saucepan and make lemon curd. It needed time to cool and the jelly roll cake would only take 14 minutes to bake, which was the 2nd thing I whipped up. After the cake had a few minutes to cool, I turned it out onto a tea towel dusted with powdered sugar (which also dusted me and the floor in the process) and rolled it up.
Assembly would be relatively quick, so I started on the decorations. Pulled sugar! It was the first thing I ever wrote about on this blog. While being somewhat successful that time, it also resulted in slightly burnt fingers and a broken mercury thermometer. So you can see my hesitation pulling out the replacement thermometer I bought that was exactly the same, mercury.
Carefully started heating the sugar and water in a saucepan with thermometer holding on to the side. Used a pastry brush to brush water on the sides so as not to have sugar crystals. Walked to the other side of the kitchen to figure out what I could use as gloves since my mom didn’t have any, and came back to find my sugar caramelized. Great! But rather than dump it and start over, I used a fork to make little droplets on a silpat which I would call “tree sap.” The twist in the challenge was also to add a crunch so that solved that problem. I was originally thinking of rolling the log in crushed shortbread and then topping with meringue, but I was worried the meringue would make it soggy. And now I didn’t have to go that route.
Got another saucepan out and started on the sugar again. Watched it like a hawk and took it off the heat as soon as it hit 298F. Then I poured it on a clean silpat and prayed I wouldn’t burn myself. Sugar gets hard pretty fast. Once it was cool enough to handle, I added gel color and started pulling it. Holly leaves would be super easy to pull. I just pulled a piece about 5 inches long, and then grabbed it by the sides and pulled outwards in 3 sections. Then I took a knife and slightly scored veins.
I poured a little more sugar on the silpat, colored it red, and tried to blow sugar berries. One sort of worked, but it was more translucent than I wanted. So I just took some sugar and rolled them into balls.
With the decorations done and 20 minutes left on the clock, I went into panic mode, dropping spatulas and such as I went. Unrolled the jelly roll and spread on the lemon curd. Rolled it back up and put it on a plate. Whipped some egg whites and made a meringue, spread it on the cake, and got the torch going with 4 minutes to go. That’s when I figured that my cake would be adorned with uncooked meringue, but it really didn’t take that long to brown. Grabbed some “sap” and literally threw it on the cake. Then I carefully picked up the holly and berries, placed it, and threw my hands up with the ringing of the timer. Made it!
And I must say, I think my blinged out yule log rocks! This is the challenge I’m most proud of so far. The cake had a great crumb and was really freaking good. So good I had 2 pieces. Also, no mercury spillage. Success!
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup molasses
1 egg yolk
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
In a large bowl, cream together the margarine and sugar until smooth. Stir in molasses and egg yolk. Combine the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg; blend into the molasses mixture until smooth. Cover, and chill for at least one hour.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters. Place cookies 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, until firm. Remove from cookie sheets to cool on wire racks. Frost or decorate when cool.
Lemon Jelly Roll Cake:
1 cup sugar
2 Tbs lemon juice
1 Tbs cold water
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp lemon zest
1 cup granulated sugar
3 Tbs all-purpose flour
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup lemon juice
Preheat over to 375°F. Line a greased 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pan with parchment paper. Grease the paper; set aside.
In a large bowl, beat eggs for 3 minutes. Gradually add sugar; beat for 2 minutes or until mixture becomes thick and lemon-colored. Stir in lemon juice and water. Combine dry ingredients and zest; fold into egg mixture. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan.
Bake for 12-14 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly touched. Cool cake in pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes.
Invert onto a kitchen towel dusted with confectioners’ sugar. Gently peel off waxed paper. Roll up cake in the towel jelly-roll style, starting with a short side. Cool completely on a wire rack.
For filling, in a small saucepan, combine the sugar, flour, egg, water and lemon juice. Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil. Cook and stir for 1 minute or until thickened. Remove from the heat; cool to room temperature.
Unroll cake; spread filling evenly over cake to within 1 in. of edges. Roll up again. Place seam side down on a serving platter.
Heat 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar and 100 ml water in saucepan over medium/high heat. Bring to a boil and add 1 tsp lemon juice. Continue to heat until mixture reaches 298°F and remove from heat. Pour on silpat and use a scraper to fold over liquid until it becomes thicker and cool enough to handle. Pull sugar and shape.