Hi everyone! OK so I know it has been a long time coming but I am starting my Blog finally! There are so many topics that people have asked me to talk about (my trail running, wellbeing, life in France etc), but the resounding one seems to be FOOD! I will still cover some of the other topics but for now,... as the festive season is all about the F word....
It's true that life at Jouas for me tends to revolve around food, and lets face it, if you come to France on holiday, local delicacies, produce etc. are forefront on everyones mind. We don't tend to disappoint at mealtimes here for our guests and at pretty much every meal I am asked for recipes, if I want to go on Masterchef (you must be kidding!! LOL) or ...Do you have a cookbook?
So.... yes...that is the mega plan .... a cookbook! In the meantime however, I am going to Blog and Vlog ideas and recipes to give you all a heads up on the content of the up and coming book!
This week we held a Christmas party for my Do a dance and his friends aptly named "The Jolly Boys" and this first photo I posted had a load of Instagram and FB hits, as well as few different messages telling me to pull my finger out and get on the social media and cookbook train!
We often get asked how on earth we manage to serve to large numbers (often complex meals) yet still manage to sit down with our guests and enjoy the evening. There is no big secret honestly, It is all about planning, and finding recipes that can be done in advance or a least be finished quick enough for diners not to get restless between courses. This will be our 13th season at Jouas of trying out different menus and in all of my posts (and the book!) the focus will be on trying to help you to be organised so you can make the most of the time with your invites!
On the menu this week we had: Apero of Bierre de Noël with a gorgeous platter of toasts and a simple but so so delicious homemade Chicken liver & Pineau (or sherry) pâté with cornichons and mini pissalandiéres (these will be on my foolproof apero blog coming up soon!). Entrée consisted of individual smoked haddock tarts with a crisp and light parmesan pastry (forgot to take a photo sorry!), followed by slow cooked chorizo stuffed pork shoulder with a rich chipotle sauce and spicy veg! Following French tradition; cheese and homemade spiced pumpkin and apple chutney led into the 'piece de resistance', a chocolate log so decadent and rich it is almost naughty! (The other items will be coming up on another blog - linked here later!)
So here goes! My version of a chocolate log! I took ideas from the Hairy Bikers, Raymond Blanc and Michel Roux to come up with what I thought was just the perfect end to a dinner party, any time of year, but of course who can't resist a Chocolate Log or Bûche de Noël at this festive time of year! It would be perfect for NYE too, and you can dress it up or down as much as you like. I don't have step by step pics in this blog, that will come in later ones I promise!
The joy of this recipe is that it is simple (and I'll add some other simplifications) if you have the patience for the filling and unlike roulades with cream fillings, this can be make a day or two in advance too. The idea being to make it as stress free as possible on the day!
It was quite a challenge for me, as I have never made a French buttercream, in fact had no idea what it was. I considered standard buttercream, but I find it quite sickly and not very sophisticated. Be pre-warned you will need a food thermometer! If you can't be bothered, just use a mix of whipped cream and mascarpone laced with icing sugar and rum and make and fill on the day, or if it is for kids as well, then of course feel free to use your favourite buttercream!
A few facts: This serves about 8 people, however I made 2 for a group of 10 and had about 4 portions left as was quite generous. Decorate it anyway you like! I just melted dark and milk chocolate separately on low power in the microwave for around 1 minute and drizzled them over the top with a generous dusting of icing sugar. You could make more buttercream and cover it, adding some melted dark chocolate with the butter, or make a rich ganache that you pour over whilst on a cooling rack and decorate as you like! Feel free to also trim off the ends and reattach them to the sides to make it look like a traditional log, and I have suggested below you use the reserved whites to make little meringue trees, snowmen etc and pop them on or around the log to make it super festive, or some Ferrero Rochers sprinkled with gold leaf or edible glitter! My kids usually decorate our own ones!
I love roulades that use a meringue base as not only are they incredibly light, they hold their shape and don't crack easily, yet still very rich!
You will need:
A Swiss roll tin (23x33cm and a good cm deep), some baking parchment (the silicon stuff isn't really good enough for rolling afterwards). You need to grease the tin, line with baking parchment so it also comes up the sides, and grease the paper too. I usually use the empty butter foil/paper. Preheat your oven to 180°C/160°C Fan/Gas mark 4.
6 large free-range or organic eggs separated into two bowls suitable for whisking.
150g caster sugar (keep some aside extra for sprinkling)
50g good cocoa powder (no sugar added organic best)
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
What next? The cake!
Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together with an electric mixer until thick, creamy and fluffy, then sift over and beat in well, the cocoa powder and spices.
In a separate bowl (make sure it is completely clean and dry) whisk the egg whites until they form strong peaks, but are not looking dry.
Fold a heaped couple of spoonfuls of the egg whites into the chocolatey egg mix then as gently as you can, using a spatula or large metal spoon fold in the rest of the whites. You shouldn't see any white bits and it should seem light and bubbly.
Pour the mix into the prepared tin, spread out as gently as you can then bang the tray on the worksurface in one go, I find this evens out the bubbles and mix a bit better.
Bake as centrally as you can in your oven for around 20 minutes, it should be nicely risen and you should see the edges of the cake coming away slightly from the tin. As it cools it may sink a bit, and it is worth just running a sharp knife, or at least pulling the paper away from the edges at this time, then just leave it for a couple of minutes to settle.
I lay out my cooling rack with some parchment on it, and sprinkle it with sugar, particularly around the edges as they can be a bit sticky.
Take the whole cake with the paper out of the tin and lay it cake side down on the sugared parchment, gently peel off the parchment and leave to cool completely.
Now for that filling!
You will need a cooking thermometer probe. I have this lovely digital one, It can be attached to the wall or sit nicely on the surface. It is flexible enough to set a max temp with an alarm, °C or °F.
Ingredients for the French Buttercream:
70g caster sugar
3 large organic free range egg yolks (save the whites to make some mini meringues to decorate your log if you wish)
30ml spiced rum we used Captain Morgans (omit if you wish, you could add coffee essence, vanilla, chocolate for example)
240g unsalted butter at room temperature
Dulce de Leché/confiture du lait or salted caramel
You need to make a sugar syrup! And this has to be to exactly 121°C! Hence the thermometer! Heat the sugar and water in a saucepan until the thermometer bleeps at you or reads 121°C! I found it took a while to get up to 100°C then very quickly arrived to temp after that.
We are making a Sabayon now, so whilst you are waiting whisk the egg yolks and the 30mls of water until the are really pale and fluffy.
Once your syrup has reached the magic temp, reduce the speed of your beaters, you could add a pouring attachment to the bowl if you have a Kitchenaid for example. The idea is to drizzle the syrup very slowly in a stream down the inside of the bowl, whilst still whisking, so a standalone mixer is certainly easier, unless you have another set of hands to help! Make sure the syrup doesn't pour directly the beaters so you don't end up with a nest of caramel whizzing around your bowl! Keep whisking until it is nice and thick and shiny, and then keep beating until the mix is completely cool, you can feel this by touching the outside of the bowl sides. Now I did notice that a bit of the syrup solidified on the side a bit, that is fine.
Keep the beaters slow and add in the rum and then butter bit by bit. Once it is fully incorporated whisk well for a few minutes more. You now have a really silky, almost light and very sophisticated filling!
Raymond Blanc suggests adding some chopped candied chestnuts in at this stage, I didn't but it is an option.
Keeping the sponge on the paper, gently spread the filling, not too thickly all over. Keeping the long edge of the sponge close to you, drizzle some Dulce de Leché from one short end to the other about 1/4 of the way in from the long edge closest to you. Now get hold of long edge and roll it as tightly as you can away from you, using the paper to guide you and help smooth it out. Gently transfer it to a presentation board or a cooling rack if you are pouring over a ganache etc.