I avert my gaze from the screen in shame, readers. It’s been a long time.. and I apologize.
In my defense I can only say that Melissa and I had a wonderful time in Oregon for eight days, and an extremely productive week since we returned home last Saturday. Our friends Laura and Sasha treated us like royalty out there: putting us up, feeding us (something about food grilled outside in a foggy drizzle just tastes better,) and lending us their car for our various explorations around the Portland area.
Before I post photos from the trip though, I thought I’d share this fun little escapade from last night’s Thanksgiving preparation.
Bûche de Noël
While not exactly a sacred annual tradition, Mom did occasionally make a Yule Log over the years. The perfect symphony of sculpture and food, I’ve always loved these harbingers of the season and I decided to attempt my own last night, with help from my best assistant.
Meringue, obviously – but they take the most time, so start here. Beat 4 egg whites on Low. Once they’re foamy, add 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar and a cup of really fine sugar. We only had the regular, granulated kind but 30 seconds in the blender fixed that. Continue to beat, now on High, until you have thick, white peaks. Once you no longer feel grains as you rub a little between your fingertips, it’s ready.
Cutting a tiny corner off a plastic baggie, we fill the bag with the meringue and squeeze it onto a pair of cookie sheets with parchment paper. 30 blobs for mushroom tops, and 30 little rows as stems. A little over an hour in a 200-degree oven (turning them once midway through) finished them up.
2. Chocolate Frosting
Meanwhile, we followed the simple recipe on Hershey’s unsweetened cocoa to make the frosting. I won’t repeat it here, because again… it’s on the box.
3. The Log
We used three Sara Lee pound cakes to build the log. I sliced them lengthwise, and resident frosting expert Melissa “glued” them back together. Little by little, I cut the angles off the top and added them back below, creating a stair-stepped half round log shape. With the extra pieces (most of the third cake) I sculpted branches, and Melissa attached them. By putting a thick coat of frosting on the outside, you end up with a swirly, bark-like finish that really looks like a fallen tree trunk.
4. Assembling the Mushrooms, Final Touches
With the ’shrooms done, you can take a sharp paring knife and twist it into the underside of the mushroom caps. Make sure you don’t carve through the other side, though. Now take a stem, dip it in some of the leftover frosting and stick it into the hole you carved. Poof! Your mushroom is done. Now gently press them into your cake in creative positions. Include at least as many as the number of people who’ll be having a slice! That’s about it.
A couple other fun, final touches:
• I skipped the stems and cut the sides off some of the tops. They look like they’re growing right out the side of the log.
• Rubbing a little Hershey’s cocoa into the mushroom cap makes it look more authentic.
• A light dusting of powdered sugar on the entire log looks like morning frost.
Tomorrow I’ll be spending the day at the world’s largest convention centered around sustainable building practices and products: the Greenbuild Expo.
Though I’m always keeping up with all things architecture, design, and “green stuff”, and read DWELL reguarly… this one slipped past me until my college roommate, who’s working at an architecture firm in Seattle, checked in with me a couple weeks ago saying he’ll be in town.
I quickly grabbed a $75 one-day pass to the exhibits, and not the $750 all-conference pass where I’d get to see Bill Clinton give the keynote.
So I’ll get to have dinner and spend the day with ole’ pal Craden Henderson (cue: cheerful “Aw, Craden!” from the Prinos reading). Plus, we’ll get to walk around the expo discussing our lives over the past ten years… and collecting brochures detailing how to attach solar heated water tubes to the standing seam roof of a 200-year old barn.
Here’s a shot of Craden, Rett and myself way back in 1996. Rett will be joining us for dinner tomorrow night and since we graduated right around the time this photo was taken, tomorrow night will be the first time we’ll get to hang out in eleven years!