Two of the several quotes I liked from the book included;
”The bends in the alders speak of long-ago disasters. Spikes of pale chinquapin flowers shake down their pollen; soon they will turn into spiny fruits. Poplars repeat the wind’s gossip. Persimmons and walnuts set out their bribes and rowans their blood-red clusters Ancients oaks wave prophecies of future weather. The several hundred kinds of hawthorn laugh at the single name they’re forced to share. Laurels insist that even death is nothing to lose sleep over.”
”No one sees trees. We see fruit, we see nuts, we see wood, we see shade. We see ornaments or pretty fall foliage. Obstacles blocking the road or wrecking the ski slope. Dark, threatening places that must be cleared. We see branches about to crush our roof. We see a cash crop. But trees—trees are invisible.”
As per the usual – I wanted to come up with some interesting to food to go with the stories. One dessert I have never tried was a Buche de Noel. Now mostly I haven’t ever attempted it is because they traditionally have hazelnuts so never ate one. But I have been somewhat nervous about attempting a “jelly roll” or “swiss roll” type cake in any of the many forms.
But as I tend to do – I jumped in by attempting two variations on a “log theme”.
The first was a traditional carrot cake log with cream cheese frosting and meringue mushrooms. My first challenge was to figure out the frosting – I didn’t want to use chocolate frosting -but I did want some shade of brown of the “bark”. That meant going back to my color charts. 1 part red, 10 parts yellow and a few dashes of blue made the brown. I use gel food coloring in the traditional cream cheese frosting along with some vanilla and honey to keep the liquids minimal. The recipe for the carrot cake roll can be found here
Next up.. savory style!
With the savory version “log” I came across a flourless recipe that looked like it wouldn’t work, but it did. I loved all the flavors, and confident in the knowledge that I had the sweet version as a backup, I went for it.
I found a recipe online for a flourless, sweet potato and chive log with savory cream cheese, tomato and herb filling covered in cream cheese and spicey eggplant pesto frosting. The formal recipe for this can be found here.
The version I have below is my adapted version of the one they started with.
Note: they used metric measurements so I have converted them to US measurements.
For the “dirt” I just used ground nuts and rosemary for the savory one and ground graham crackers for the sweet version.
I also whipped up some meringue mushrooms the night before. But make sure to store them in an airtight container to keep them hard.
What you will need:
- Preheat the oven to 375°F and line a Swiss roll pan (30cm x 24cm) with parchment paper.
- Cooke the cubed sweet potatoes in a plastic bag in the microwave for 7-8 minute to cook
- Remove from the bag and add to a food processor
- Separate the 4 eggs.
- Add the yolks to the food processor along with the shredded cheese, clove, nutmeg, and ginger, salt and pepper to taste.
- Process the mix until smooth and a thick puree and pour into a large bowl
- Add 1/2 the chives and fold twice more.
- In a stand mixer (or by hand), whip the egg whites to soft peaks
- Fold in the egg whites to the puree and fold gently to incorporate
- Pour the mix into the sheet pan and smooth with an offset spatula so that its evenly distributed in the pan.
- Bake 10-12 minutes. You want it brown around the edges and spring back to the touch in the center
- Pull the pan out of the oven and cover the “cake” with another sheet of parchment and upside down sheet pan and flip it over. You want to cake to me on the parchment on the pan but without the edges, so you can slide it on the counter to roll easier.
- Remove the cake and paper to the counter.
- Roll the cake up with the paper attached ( as if it were filling) and wrap in plastic and chill for 30 – 60 min.
- While it chills – mix the cream cheese, black pepper to taste, pinch of salt, till smooth
- Remove the roll and unroll.
- Spread the cream cheese on it. work from the center out to the edges. ( I tend to use the stuff it in a plastic bag, cut the tip and make zig zags, them smooth them out technique so minimize breaking the cake)
- Then add the layer of tomato pesto and top with the diced chives
- Then remove one edge of the cake from the paper and slowly roll the cake up. Pull the paper away as you make each rotation.
Now – you serve this at this point. But I wanted a “log” so..
- Wrap in plastic wrap and chill.
- Mix the remaining two bricks of more cream cheese with the eggplant pesto, taste for salt and pepper etc. You can then add your gel colors to get the shade of brown you want as you mix it more.
- Then using a small spatula, cover the log in long strokes.
- Serve room temp.
Another version of this cake with flour can be found here but I have to say the flourless one was so good I don’t see the need.