Thursday, December 20, 2012

Food Art

Low-carb be damned—I just had one of the last pieces of a yule log, or Bûche de Noël. It’s a French dessert that’s basically a roll cake made to look like a log for the Christmas fire. I started making these for my family for Christmas several years ago, but I haven’t had an occasion in recent years. Then I remembered the orchestra board’s December meeting is a Christmas party with food, so I got to work making food art.

You start by baking a large, thin sponge cake. After it cools, you cover it with an espresso cream filling and roll it up. You cut off one end at a diagonal for a stubby branch and decorate it all with chocolate frosting. You can apply the frosting roughly to look like bark, or you can apply it smoothly and use a knife or fork to carve in wood grain. In past years, I have melted chocolate, chilled it, and broken it into bark shavings to layer on top of the frosting for added effect.

This year, I followed the part of the recipe I have always ignored and made the mushroom meringues that are meant to decorate the edges of this food art. Emily pointed out this is basically mock fungus, but I prefer to think of it as adorable accessories. I was content with the barky looking frosting but then decided to try the chocolate bark, too. It was a bust, I think, but Emily helped try to salvage the effect with powdered sugar and shimmery sugar flakes. I think I should have stuck with just the frosting, but this isn't permanent art. You eat this stuff, and then there is no evidence you've gone too far with your "art," unless, of course, you take a picture and then put it on a blog.

I come by this playing with food business naturally, I’m afraid. My mother once made a typewriter out of a cheese ball for a secretary’s party. And she used to rifle through the pile of green peppers in the produce department looking for just the perfect one. She made pepper people out of them, sort of like Mr. Potato Head but with real vegetables. She would cut up things like carrots, red peppers and olives and give the pepper a face and maybe some green onion tops for hair, and this creature, this food art, would be the center piece of some buffet.

My sister carves watermelon to look like actual baskets or even whales, and Emily and I used to spend hours making marzipan fruit shapes. So, turning cake into a log with mushrooms seems like a natural activity to me. It's a shame I can only do it at Christmas. On the other hand, I wonder if there is such a thing as a spring log, a Bûche de Printemps.


ejbisme said...

It tasted divine (yeah, I atheist using a god-referent, but what the hell? I don't believe in that either but it's such a handy phrase!)

...and was lovely to look at, too.

And do I understand that someone cast a censorious look? Fie upon that entity for revealing a decidedly provincial uh...provincialism.

Scout said...

I believe I was being teased with the "censorious look." And thanks.

savannah said...

i might have to try making one of these when we're visiting the coconut krewe! xoxox

dive said...

Hoo, boy! Are the mushroom meringues mushroom flavoured, Robyn?