I did a lot of cooking over this festive period and now I’m going to talk about it. Enjoy! (There are some non vegan-friendly photos in here, so give it a miss if you don’t want to see turkey spatchcocking)
This year I didn’t order anything excessively fancy (no caviar or black truffle), but I did do a lot of baking, opting for three desserts over the traditional one. As you would expect, it took a considerable amount of time but the results spoke for themselves. Or perhaps “tasted for themselves” would be more appropriate? They were pretty good, is what I’m trying to convey.
I chose a yule log from BBC goodfood, a rocky road cheesecake pudding also from BBC, and a mango white velvet cake from delicious. I previously made the white velvet cake back in the Christmas of 2020 but I wasn’t entirely happy with the results for the amount of effort that it entailed. This year I decided to give it one more chance to see if it worked better using a slightly altered method.
The yule log was a chocolate swiss roll sponge with brandy buttercream, covered in chocolate frosting. The top was decorated with white chocolate leaves made by pouring white chocolate over the back of bay leaves. Once set in the fridge, the leaves are peeled off and the detail remains in the chocolate. It was incredibly rich but satisfying.
The rocky road cheesecake pudding isn’t something I would normally consider, but as I’ve said before, Christmas is a time for culinary experimentation and the recipe sounded interesting and…a lot. Cake, cheesecake, and rocky road rolled into one. I’m also a sucker for inverted desserts which can look really impressive, like the Charlotte Royale I made for Christmas a number of years back.
To line the bowl I made a vanilla and chocolate marble cake, and the rocky road was made with digestives, mini marshmallows and salted caramel pretzel pieces. Once set, the whole thing was turned out of the bowl onto a plate, glazed with a chocolate ganache (not exactly that, but close enough) and drizzled with white chocolate.
The mango white velvet cake was the most imposing and impressive dessert, and I made it as part of my birthday celebrations. The sponges are white chocolate buttermilk sandwiched with mascarpone and mango jelly, iced with cream cheese frosting and topped with a mixture of sour cream, double cream, and icing sugar. It’s huge, and the flavours all work in theory, but I’m just not sold on that kind of buttermilk sponge. I prefer a classic sponge texture, and multiple thin layers rather than thick.
Spatchcocking is the way to go as far as I’m concerned. Our 6 kg (13 lb) turkey cooked in about an hour and ten minutes. Anyone who has cooked a turkey the traditional way knows the oven is tied up for hours and most of the time the meat comes out dry and the thigh takes much longer to cook than the breast. Brining definitely helps with the moisture levels and helps to protect from overcooking. I’d say I cooked it for slightly too long this year, but it was still nice.
Most of the sides were roasted including the Brussels sprouts, which kept timings relatively simple, and the whole process was about as low stress as I’ve experienced. Preparing the vegetables the night before and getting the desserts started was a definite help. Next year I’ll aim to have the desserts finished and all the veg prepped on Christmas Eve.
Don’t forget the drinks
Christmas dining isn’t just about the food, although after eating all of that it’s hard to get the energy to do anything else. There are also the drinks to think about. We had a few different cocktails including a Negroni (equal parts gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari), the Boulevardier which is a Negroni with the gin swapped out for whiskey (either bourbon or rye), and a New York sour (whiskey-based with red wine floated on top). As part of my Christmas and birthday gifts I got a set of Nick and Nora glasses, a nice copper jigger and muddler.
What better way to spend the food coma times than playing a few great games on the PS4? Both the Horizon sequel and Resident Evil 8. They’re excellent and I’ll write more about them over the next few weeks once I’ve done a little more playing and a little less baking.