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REMAKE OF A CLASSIC: The traditional Yule log dessert gets a Western makeover.

OAK TREE BUCHE DE NOEL

SERVES 12 TO 14 / 2 1/2 HOURS, PLUS TIME FOR COOKIES AND ACORNS

The valley oaks that dot central California's golden hills were the inspiration for this spin on the French holiday dessert. Guests are sure to be impressed, but the dessert is pretty easy to pull off if you start a day ahead. You'll need a jelly roll pan; a small offset spatula and small fine-mesh strainer are also helpful.

CAKE

Salted butter for the pan
1/4  cup plus about 2 tsp. flour
5    large eggs, separated
1/4  cup granulated sugar
1    tsp. vanilla extract


FILLING
1/4  cup hazelnut-flavored liqueur
1    cup heavy whipping cream
1/2  tsp. vanilla extract
2    tbsp. powdered sugar
1/3  cup each toffee bits, such as Heath, and
     finely chopped roasted hazelnuts


FROSTING AND DECORATIONS
8      oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2    cup salted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2  cups powdered sugar
6      tbsp. unsweetened cocoa
       Silver pearl dust (*)
       Lime-green color dust (*)
       Rosemary branches or other slim, nontoxic
         twigs, about 8 in. long, leaves stripped
       Oak Leaf Cookies (recipe at right)
       Marzipan Acorns (recipe at right)


1. Preheat oven to 350[degrees]. Make cake: Butter a jelly roll pan (*) (a 10- by 15-in. rimmed baking pan); line with parchment paper. Butter paper, then dust pan with 2 tsp. flour. In a large bowl, whip egg whites on medium-high speed with a mixer until they hold soft, distinct peaks, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl and set aside.

2. In the large bowl with mixer on medium-high speed, whip egg yolks, gradually adding granulated sugar, until very light in color, about S minutes. Whip in vanilla until incorporated, then add remaining 1/4 cup flour and whip to blend. Gently but thoroughly fold in egg whites.

3. Pour batter into prepared pan and gently spread smooth. Bake until cake is golden brown and center springs back a bit when lightly pressed, 12 to 17 minutes.

4. Let cake cool 3 to 4 minutes. Run a thin knife between cake and sides of pan. Turn out cake onto a smooth kitchen towel set on a work surface. Peel off parchment paper. Let cake cool completely on towel.

5. Make filling: Brush cake with liqueur, then cover with plastic wrap to prevent drying. In a clean medium bowl, whip cream, vanilla, and powdered sugar with a mixer on medium speed until thick, 3 to 4 minutes. Fold in toffee bits and hazelnuts.

6. Uncover cake and spread evenly with whipped cream. Lift towel on a long side and roll cake into a smooth, compact log. Cut 4 strips of parchment, each 2 to 3 in. wide, with 2 strips a little longer than cake and 2 a little wider. (These will keep board clean while you frost cake.) On a large board or flat platter about 14 in. by 20 in., arrange parchment strips in a rectangle a bit wider than cake. Lifting carefully, set cake seam-down on parchment.

7. Make frosting: Wipe mixer bowl clean. Beat cream cheese and butter on medium speed until well blended. Add powdered sugar and cocoa and beat until smooth.

8. Thickly spread frosting over top and sides of cake but not the ends, preferably using a small offset spatula. With edge of spatula, create irregular "bark" grooves in frosting. Run a knife along edge of cake to free frosting from parchment, but leave parchment in place. Chill cake, uncovered, until frosting firms, 45 minutes.

9. With a serrated knife, cut through cake diagonally 3 to 4 in. from 1 end, but leave piece in place. Pour a little silver pearl dust into a fine strainer over a plate. Gently tap strainer over cake to create as much gray outer "bark" as you like. Repeat with lime-green color dust to create spots of "lichen."

10. Carefully pull out parchment strips and discard. Lift short piece of cake with a wide spatula and fit diagonal end of cake piece against cake roll to create a forked log.

11. Arrange rosemary branches so that they appear to be sprouting from log. Add about 10 cookie leaves and 8 acorns to branches. Slice cake crosswise and serve remaining cookies and acorns on the side.

(*) Find Wilton pearl dust and color dust at Michaels stores and on amazon.com. Find jelly roll pans at nordicware.com.

MAKE AHEAD Through step 8, chilled, up to 1 day ahead (drape with plastic wrap after 2 hours).

PER SERVING WITHOUT COOKIES OR ACORNS 370 Cal., 59% (218 Col.) from fat; 4.9 g protein; 24 g fat (13 g sat.); 33 g carbo (1.2 g fiber); 165 mg sodium; 123 mg chol. LS/V

MARZIPAN ACORNS

MAKES 12 / 45 MINUTES

These little beauties add a lot of charm to the oak tree buche. A V-shaped bottle opener (church key) is helpful for scoring "shingles" into the caps.
6  tbsp. almond paste, at room
   temperature, divided
   Golden yellow, leaf green, and brown
   gel paste food coloring (*)


1. Put 3 tbsp. almond paste in a small bowl. Using end of a toothpick to dip into jar of food coloring, add 2 small smears yellow food coloring and a dot of green to tint almond paste; squeeze into paste to blend well, wearing disposable gloves, if you like, to prevent staining your hands. Add more coloring if needed until paste is the color of green acorns. Shape generous 1/2-tsp. portions into 12 tapered acorns about 1 1/4 in. long; set aside, covered.

2. Put remaining 3 tbsp. almond paste in bowl and tint with yellow, green, and brown coloring to create tan for caps (start with 4 smears of yellow and a dot each of the other colors).

3. For each cap, roll a generous 1/2 tsp. almond paste into a ball. Poke a small finger into center to form a cap, then set cap over largest end of an acorn. Pat cap into place and tap edges to join acorn. Score "shingles" in cap with V-shaped end of a church key or tip of a small knife. Repeat to make remaining caps.

(*) Find Wilton gel paste food coloring at Michaels stores and on amazon.com.

MAKE AHEAD Up to 1 week, airtight at room temperature (store in a single layer).

PER ACORN 32 Cal., 56% (18 Cal.) from fat; 0.6 g protein; 2 g fat (0.2 g sat.); 3.4 g carbo (0.3 g fiber); 0.6 mg sodium; 0 mg chol. GF/LC/LS/VG

OAK LEAF COOKIES

MAKES 18 TO 25 / 1 1/4 HOURS, PLUS 30 MINUTES TO CHILL

A cookie cutter and some food coloring are all it takes to turn sugar cookie dough into oak leaves. Wear disposable gloves if you like to keep the food coloring from staining your hands.
1/2          cup salted butter, at room temperature
1/4          cup sugar
1            large egg yolk
1/2          tsp. vanilla extract
About 1 1/4  cups flour
             Leaf green and black gel paste food
             coloring (*)


1. Using paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar in a medium bowl with a mixer on medium speed until smooth. Beat in egg yolk and vanilla. Add 1 1/4 cups flour and beat until well blended. Using end of a toothpick, add 2 small smears of green food coloring and 1 of black and blend well. Add more coloring as needed until dough is dark green. Flatten dough into a 1-in.-thick disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill about 30 minutes (or longer if it's still sticky).

2. Preheat oven to 300[degrees]. On a floured board, roll dough 1/8 in. thick. Cut out leaves with a 3 1/2- to 4-in. by 2-in. oak leaf cookie cutter (*). Set leaves on 2 ungreased baking sheets, then reroll scraps as needed. With edge of a small metal spatula or a toothpick, score leaves to make veins.

3. Bake cookies until slightly darker at edges, 15 to 20 minutes, switching pan positions halfway through. Let cookies cool on baking sheets a few minutes, then transfer to racks to cool completely.

(*) Find Wilton gel paste food coloring at Michaels stores and on amazon.com. Find Foose oak leaf cookie cutter on amazon.com.

MAKE AHEAD Up to 2 days, airtight at room temperature, or up to 1 month, frozen.

PER COOKIE 66 Cal., 53% (35 Cal.) from fat; 0.8 g protein; 3.9 g fat (2.4 g sat.); 6.8 g carbo (0.2 g fiber); 30 mg sodium; 1 7 mg chol. LC/LS/V

By Elaine Johnson
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Title Annotation:HOLIDAY BAKING
Author:Johnson, Elaine
Publication:Sunset
Article Type:Recipe
Geographic Code:1U9CA
Date:Dec 1, 2017
Words:1448
Previous Article:GREEN SHAKSHOUKA.
Next Article:SWEET TALK: Decadent dessert wines to top off your meal.
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