This year we traded in the "Capitale de Noël" (Strasbourg for those of you not in the know and too embarrassed to ask) for a true winter wonderland at home in Montana. We missed the beautiful twinkling Christmas lights reflecting on cobblestone streets, the marché de noël with its oh-too-tasty, refillable glasses of vin chaud to keep us all warm and happy, the choucroute garnie and pâté lorrain filling our bellies, and the beautiful selection of professionally made bûches de noël in the windows of every pâtisserie, but we (ok - really it was mostly just me) did all that we could to bring as much Noël as possible to our little snowglobe we call Montana.
As you already know, if you read my last post, Noël chez us begins on December 6th with Saint Nicolas. And it officially ended on January 6th with our traditional stuffing ourselves on Galette des Rois in celebration of Epiphany. In between, there was ornament crafting, calendar making, a bûche-off, meat stuffed meat, sparkling rosé, and my first attempt at homemade pâté de campagne, pâté lorrain, and pâte feuilletée.
I love making ornaments and this year my ornament crafting took the form of a felt embroidered tour eiffel. I had big dreams of making multitudes of these to give to friends and even put on my Etsy store. That dream went the way of many of my other 2015 dreams - smothered to death by the pillow supporting my poor, exhausted, sick head. But it's a new year with all sorts of possibilities! And if I start enthusiastically making them now, lose steam for about 6 months and then pick it up again in late November, I could have a stock pile of at least 5 by next Christmas. I'd better hurry up and buy some more felt. Or...maybe I should make my own felt! I'll just need to learn how to make felt, buy all of the materials to make it, take the time to actually do the making, and then I can start on my ornaments. There go those big dreams again, and for some reason my head is getting so heavy and that pillow looks so nice and fluffy....
I do have to say that I am incredibly proud of my 2016 La France Calendar. It ended up being another overwhelming endeavor, that I was ready to give up on more than a handful of times, and took a village to pull off. And my old friend the internet - NOT a part of that hard working village. In fact all the internet did to help with these beauties was waste two days of my life as it led me on a wild goose chase. I didn't think that it would be so difficult to find a source where I could get nice calendars printed on good quality paper (with my design - not some cheesy template) and then bound with classy wire-o binding (at least I learned that term on my two day internet jaunt) with a lovely wire hanger in the middle - to up the class factor a couple notches. I was seeing calendars like this sprinkled all over these inhospitable internets yet somehow finding a source where I could have them made ended up feeling like a chasse au dahu. But in the end, my friend Jessie found a great place to get the calendars printed, my resourceful fisherman bought me a very classic wire-o binding machine off of ebay and after much trial and error the calendars were made and shipped off to family and friends just in time for the new year. And I did have extras printed of these so they, unlike the ornaments, are available on Etsy for anyone who wants a little practical art and French inspiration to adorn their walls!
And now to leave you with something sweet and delicious - the two Bûches de Noël that we made this year for Christmas Day. I normally only make one cake but I was challenged with a cake competition and competition is not something that I can easily pass up. However, what started out as a Bûche-off somehow ended up turning into me competing with me (story of my life) and baking both of the cakes. Since it was a competition, albeit with myself, I was forced to up my game quite a bit. In order to make THE MOST AMAZING Bûche EVER I decided it was finally time to learn how to make meringue mushrooms - scary stuff (turns out they are actually pretty easy but very time consuming). I went with a simple meringue recipe of granulated sugar, egg whites and vanilla. I did not use this Julia Child recipe that is much more complicated but you should totally watch the video because her lack of artistry is hilarious and she is so entertaining.
For the cake itself (both cakes) I used a flourless chocolate roll cake recipe that I love from Smitten Kitchen. If you try this cake just be sure not to overcook it or it becomes very hard to roll without falling apart. And if you've never rolled a jelly roll cake before I recommend watching this short Martha Stewart video. You will be happy you did.
The white cake I filled with a simple cream cheese buttercream frosting made with butter, cream cheese, powdered sugar and pieces of candied orange peel. For the outer frosting I used whipped cream and then decorated with the meringue mushrooms and more of the candied orange peels dipped in dark chocolate. The raspberry cake was filled with chocolate whipped cream with a little raspberry jam added for flavor and coated with plain chocolate whipped cream. Then the fisherman (the instigator of the whole competition thing) decorated it with meringue mushroom stems topped with raspberries. They were both beyond delicious. But next year I think I'll stick to one!
Looks like the pâté recipes will have to wait for another day. There was just too much Christmas fun and decadence to squeeze into one blog post!