People ask me all the time if Jonathan and I want to some day have kids. Now that’s a pretty serious topic don’t you think? Certainly not one I feel comfortable answering for the both of us. But since I’m the one with the blog, and not Jonathan, I do feel comfortable sharing my thoughts on the subject. So here goes.
Sometimes I feel like raising children is like having your toilets cleaned– you’re glad it’s happening, but it’s that much better when you can pay for someone else to do it. I mean seriously, between all the travel I want to do in life, and all the money I’d like to spend—having children just seems like a wrench in my plans. And as much as I think that pretty much sums up how I feel about having kids of my own, that’s not the entire picture.
Because you see, there are these moments—few and far between as they are– when my heart is warmed by some childlike innocence. When I see some kid picking her nose and then eating the miniature morsel as if that’s what she was meant to do. Or when you see a boy making a squished sour face after his first sip of mommy’s vodka grapefruit, which he’d just screamed at the top of his lungs for, making his face purple with passion. Or like when I’m watching TO THE ARTIC in IMAX with my nephew sitting next to me, and he suddenly reaches over, breaking the most sacred adult social norm of keeping one’s hands to themselves, to hold mine, because he’s not sure if the mama polar bear and her kids are going to survive the winter. It’s sweet. It’s endearing.
And it’s in those moments that I want nothing more than to be a parent. To be the adult, who gets to say, “don’t eat your boogers,” and know that it’s advice like that, that’s steering a living creature down a life path of personal growth and self-betterment.
And when I’m feeling nostalgic, and thinking about my childhood, I always tend to gravitate towards Little Debbie’s and Hostess treats. And since I can never just follow a recipe as it is, I decided to make my version of the Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery Oh Ohs. Mine are made with a black cherry and elderflower liquor whipped cream filling.
Be forewarned, this recipe is based on the Oh Ohs recipe in Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery cookbook. The book is amazing, and I highly recommend you get it, even if just to salivate over the gorgeous food photography. But know that most recipes will require you to go on one or two scavenger hunts for some obscure tool or ingredient, and you might have to devote at least 48 hours to the task from beginning to end. Also know that nothing is going to come out looking as clean, pristine, and perfect as it will when the professional bakers at Bouchon make it. Taste is what you’re going for here, and that is there in droves. It’s the technique that will come over time….which, to be honest, if I’m going to have kids, I just don’t have the patience for.
Gourmet Homo ho-ho’s w/Black Cherry & Elderflower, or just Vanilla Filling
Ingredients for Chocolate Cake:
- 3 tblsp plus 2 tsp flour
- 3 tblsp plus 2 tsp almond flour
- 3 tblsp plus 2 tsp unsweetened alkalized cocoa powder
- ½ cup of whole eggs beaten
- 3 tblsp plus 2 tsp of beaten egg yolks
- ½ cup plus 1 tbslp granulated sugar
- 1 tbslp plus 2.5 tsp granulated sugar (this is a smaller amount you will use separately from the sugar above)
- ¼ cup plus 1 tblsp egg whites
Preheat the oven to 350°
Get all your ingredients measured out and ready, so you’re not slowed down during the process.
Line a rimmed baking sheet with a silicone mat (or spray it with non-stick spray, line it with parchment paper, and spray the paper with non-stick spray), and set the sheet aside.
Sift the flour, almond meal, and cocoa powder into a large mixing bowl and then whisk to combine and set aside.
Place the eggs, egg yolks, ½ cup and 1 tblsp granulated sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer with the whisk attachment and mix on medium-low speed for a minute.
Then increase the speed to medium and whisk for another 5 minutes until the mixture has thickened and is pale yellow, almost like an Orange Julius-foam.
Scrape down the sides of the bowl and whisk for another 5 minutes on medium-high speed until the mixture is thick enough that it folds back on itself when you lift the whisk out of the mixture and takes a few seconds before it dissolves on the surface and flatten out.
Empty the mixture into a large mixing bowl and clean the bowl of the standing mixer quickly so you can whisk the egg whites. If you have a second mixing bowl, that would be easiest. Start by whisking the egg whites on medium speed for 45 seconds until they’re bubbly and foamy, and then lower the speed, add the 1 tblsp plus 2.5 tsp granulated sugar and continue whisking on low speed for a few minutes until the eggs white make medium-hard peaks when you lift the whisk from the bowl.
Now you need to combine the ingredients. With a spatula fold the dry cocoa powder mixture into the thickened yolk mixture, adding the dry ingredients in three batches.
Then fold in the egg whites in two stages until everything is well combined and the batter is light, airy, and a light brown color.
Pour the batter into the rimmed baking sheet and with an offset spatula, spread it around, making sure to touch all the edges and the batter is in the corners.
Bake the cake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, rotating half way through baking, and until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. It will not be dry to the touch when it comes out of the oven, because this cake is almost like a soufflé. If you do see spots where the cake looks like it’s drier, then its definitely done.
Let the cake cool completely on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes, possibly more. The cake should shrink and pull away from the edges of the baking sheet. While it’s cooling, move on to preparing the whipped cream filling of your choice.
Ingredients for Vanilla Whipped Cream filling:
- ½ cup plus 2 tblsp heavy whipping cream
- 2.25 tsp powdered sugar
- ½ vanilla bean split
- 1/8 tsp vanilla extract
If you’re going to make the Black Cherry Whipped Cream Filling then you’ll need these additional ingredients:
- ½ tsp St. Germain (Elderflower liquor)
- ¼ cup black cherry preserves
- ¼ tsp black cherry extract (you can use almond extract if you can’t find cherry extract)
For the whipped cream filling whisk the cream, powdered sugar, and the seeds scraped from the inside of the vanilla bean split lengthwise in a chilled mixing bowl. With the standing mixer on medium speed, whisk the ingredients until the cream holds its shape when you lift it with the whisk. Gently fold in the vanilla extract with a spatula and then you’re done. That is if you want your whipped cream filling to be plain vanilla.
If you’re making the cherry filling continue with the next few steps.
In a small microwave safe ramekin/bowl, mix the cherry preserves, elderflower liquor, and cherry extract.
Heat these ingredients for 10-15 seconds in the microwave, just to soften and thin the mixture out. Stir preserves together to cool them off, and then fold this cherry mixture into the vanilla whipped cream. Make sure the cherry mixture isn’t “hot” or it’s going to liquefy the filling and make it runny.
Once you’re ready to roll the cake with the whipped filling, you should run a sharp knife along the edges of the cake, releasing it from the baking sheet and lightly spray the surface of the cake with non-stick spray.
Place a sheet of parchment paper over the cake, and then another baking sheet on top of the parchment paper. Invert the cake sandwiched between the two baking sheets and smack it a few times against a flat surface before leaving it upside down. Slowly lift the baking sheet on top until you can tell the cake has dropped from the baking sheet it was baked in. If done correctly, the moist chocolate cake should be flat on top of the parchment paper on top of the other baking sheet.
Carefully remove the silicone mat (or parchment paper) from the cake by gently pulling it back on itself from one corner of the sheet cake first. Use a knife to gently assist the cake if it’s sticking in spots. Now you’ll have a thin sheet of soufflé-ish chocolate cake on the parchment paper with the non-stick spray between the two so it doesn’t stick to the parchment paper it’s on.
Arrange the sheet so that one of the shorter sides is at the edge of your work surface area and facing you. With an offset spatula, spread a thin layer of the cherry (or plain vanilla) whipped cream filling all over the sheet, making sure to leave a quarter inch boarder of no filling at all four edges.
And here’s what it looks like with the cherry filling:
Using the parchment paper to help lift and roll the sheet cake on itself, start with the half inch nearest you, continuing to roll until you get to the middle.
Then turn the cake around and repeat from the other side.
Cut the two cakes apart, slicing down the middle of the two rolls. Wrap each log in parchment paper and secure with some tape. Place the wrapped rolls of cake and filling in the freezer to chill overnight.
For the chocolate coating
- 14 ounces of chocolate compound coating
- whatever you want to decorate with
For the coating you’re going to need 14 ounces of chocolate compound coating (looking for the word A’peels). You can use real chocolate if you want, but you’ll need to temper it, and tempered chocolate is fickle, and a lot harder to work with than chocolate compound coating, which is also known as chocolate glazing paste, or, as they say in French, cocoa pâte a glacer.
The main difference between chocolate and compound chocolate coating, is that compound chocolate coating is a cocoa product with vegetable fats instead of cocoa butter. These fats are often coconut oil or palm kernel oil, which are considerably less expensive than cocoa butter. So not only is chocolate compound coating a cheaper vessel for chocolate flavor, but it hardens at room temperature and it doesn’t need to be tempered. Once removed from its heat source, it will harden pretty quickly. The only potential drawback is that chocolate compound coating is sometimes less shiny on the surface than tempered chocolate, but that’s not always the case since improperly tempered chocolate has bloomed cocoa butter which turns gray and flat when it hardens. So do yourself a favor and find some compound coating from a baking supplies shop or gourmet market. Definitely call around before getting in the car, or you’ll be driving around for hours.
When you’re ready to assemble the ho-mo-ho’s (yeah, I’m still playing with that), heat the compound chocolate coating in a microwaveable bowl or plastic container that’s large enough for you to dunk the frozen logs in to coat in the melted chocolate. Heat the compound coating for 20-25 seconds in the microwave, stirring the chocolate coating before repeat for another 20-25 seconds in the microwave. Repeat the process until the chocolate is thin, has no lumps, and is easy to stir (approximately 120° C).
This is actually a photo of the disposable Gladware I used for the chocolate coating, but this is what it looked like at the end of the coating process.
Working with one frozen log at a time, remove the parchment paper, and with a sharp knife remove the quarter inch off each end (where there was no filling) and then slice each log in half, and then each half into quarters.
With rubber gloves (because believe me, you’ll want the control and this will get messy) dunk each log into the melted chocolate compound coating, making sure it’s covered on all sides.
Set the log onto some parchment paper or silicone mat, and then repeat, making sure to work with the cake before it defrosts and starts to fall apart. If you need to keep some pieces in the freezer while you work on others, so be it.
The chocolate compound coating will harden pretty quickly so if you’re going to decorate the tops of these with nuts, sprinkles, graham crackers, or decorative little chocolate tubes like I did, now is the time to add them.
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