Friday, December 16, 2011


Last year my bȗche de noël was a solidly chocolate affair:( This year we're having a more subtle log, mocha butter-cream wrapped in a vanilla génoise (sponge). It's an easy bȗche to make, really. The cake cooks in 10 minutes and the buttercream requires no cooking.

yolks make a ribbon
Set the oven to 375° and grease a jelly roll pan (bottom and sides). Line the pan bottom with wax paper or parchment and grease the paper.

3 tbs butter, melted and cooled
3 large eggs, separated
1/2 cup plus 2 tbs sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp cream of tartar (or substitute)
1/8 tsp salt
1/3 plus 1/8 cups flour, sifted

• Beat egg yolks one minute then add the 1/2 cup sugar a little at a time until mixture thickens, looks yellower and forms a ribbon when you lift the beaters (about 2 to 3 minutes depending on the mixer)
• Beat in vanilla
• Beat egg whites in separate bowl until foamy. Add cream of tartar and salt. Beat until soft peaks form
• Beat in the 2 tablespoons of sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form

stiff peaks
• Stir 1/4 of the whites into the yolk mixture. Fold in about 1/3 of the remaining whites until combined
• Then fold in the flour and the remaining egg whites, alternating
• Fold in the cooled butter
• Spread batter in the pan, lift the pan a couple inches off the counter and drop it (to remove air)
• Bake for 10 minutes

cutting off the edge

flipped onto the towel

While the cake is baking dampen a clean dish towel and lay it on the counter. Cover the the towel with wax paper. Sprinkle powdered sugar, through a sieve, on top of the cake after you take it out of the oven; then flip the cake over onto the towel, remove the wax paper from the cake bottom and sprinkle cake bottom with powdered sugar. Roll the cake up in the towel and cool completely.

Buttercream Filling
2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cup) unsalted butter
2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, melted
1 tbs instant espresso coffee powder
1 tsp vanilla

• Beat sugar and butter in the mixer on medium until light. This takes three or four minutes
• Add chocolate, coffee and vanilla and beat until smooth
• Unwrap the cooled cake and spread with about half the buttercream. Roll the cake up and put it, seam down, on a small cookie sheet
• Cut a diagonal slice off each end of the cake and set aside
• Frost the log, add the "knots" where you want and frost them too.

Now you can decorate. Being time-challenged, I only drew a few lines with a cake tester and added marzipan mushrooms and leaves. A little more elegant? Shower the log with shaved chocolate curls. Or lay a few live holly leaves on the roll and add red hots for berries. Hard to go wrong.

into the freezer
Now, if, like me, you would like to do all this ahead of time, make the cake today and when it's iced and decorated place it in the freezer and leave it there for at least an hour.

When the buttercream is frozen solid, lift the cake off the paper and wrap it tight (you want to eliminate as much air as possible) in layers of plastic wrap. Freeze the cake until you need it. Important: unwrap the cake before you thaw it to keep the icing perfect.

Thursday, December 15, 2011


Last year's ham post, still works. But Spanish hams are all the vogue so maybe you want to know about this:

5 Jotas - ham from Ibérico pigs is the specialty of this high-end outfit. This is the ham of poetry.  And it's a ham requiring serious financial commitment; in the $140-and-up per pound range, these aren't slices for your sandwich. Only in the highest-end markets so look to Boston or NYC (Fairway, Murray's, etc.).

Edwards smokehouse in Virginia cures its own version of Spanish ham, called American Surryano. We're giving it a try. You can buy a whole one (14-16 pounds) for $163 or a 12 oz package of thin thin slices for $34.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


The French Confection (72 East Main Road, Middletown  401-619-7816) is new, opened by Xavier and Karen Mauprivez. We went over to sample pastry immediately. Why drive from Providence to a pastry shop at one of the most congested, annoying intersections in the state of Rhode Island? Because Seven Stars, a Providence baking landmark, produces great bread, scones and giant sticky buns but no real pastries (sorry, the croissants don't cut it). Pastiche, on Federal Hill, turns out pretty cakes but no great pastries. And so on. Providence has any number of places to buy fabulous bread but where to get a Napoleon or a raisin pastry?

Xavier Mauprivez is the baker at this new venture. Originally from Reims, he's been in the states, baking and making pastries, since the 1980s. Karen Mauprivez is management.

Our excursion was for tea and something decadent so we settled on a Napoleon big enough to split. Waiting for our tea at the counter, we sampled, then purchased, the holiday fruit cake. The Napoleon custard was dense and delicious, made without a heavy hand on the vanilla. The pastry layers were maybe a bit tough. Purchased for later, pain au chocolate passed the test (large enough, tender enough) and the raisin pastries (known generally as raisin danish but not like danish at all) were almost, but not quite, successful. Good ones always have a yummy goo factor in the coiling while remaining firm. These were soft, limp actually, and needed more raisins. A retry later.

Cakes and pastries at The French Confection don't all look perfect like they do at Pastiche, but they do look real, which gives them an endearing quality. The French Confection also makes petit four size pastries which are good for serving to people who say they can't possibly eat an entire eclair (then go on to eat three little ones), and for people who want to sample everything.

It's a casual place where you order and pick up at the counter. Plenty of table space.

Quiche and other savory items are available so you can stop in for lunch. Worth a visit.

The website was not working at last check but a pdf with a menu appears when you search.

The French Connection is open Monday through Saturday, 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. weekdays and 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 on Saturday.

Friday, December 2, 2011


Beau Vistal, New Rivers' chef, will be in charge of a three course dinner, billed as "farm and vine", at Ocean House (1 Bluff Avenue, Watch Hill  401-584-7000), Wednesday night, December 7. Local organic produce and the not-so-local wines of Vins de Vienne ( are featured.

7:00 p.m.    $75 plus tax and tip    Reservations required

Thursday, December 1, 2011


The Garrison Confections (72 Ledge Street, Central Falls  4-1-725-0790) factory store is open. Here's the schedule:

December 1-3 (Thurs.-Sat.)
December 8-10 (Thurs.-Sat.)
December 15-23 (Thurs. through the following Friday)

11:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.

It's a good idea, I think, to call ahead.


Red Bridge Tavern (22 Waterman Avenue,  East Providence, 401-438-3899) isn't a place with lots of polished dark wood, a super-long old-world bar, or even vintage posters; it looks pretty much like somebody's basement rec room - lots of pine and standard issue tables and chairs. It's a local bar not in the image of an imaginary Ireland; this may be one of the reasons it has a following.

What Red Bridge provides is easy access to a pretty good burger. Yelp and Urban Spoon may be a little generous in their reviews but Red Bridge is okay. Yes, the burger is preformed (what is this about Rhode Island and the preformed burger?) but the taste is about right (can't be totally right unless it's made thicker in the middle) and the bun is minimalist instead of thick and/or seedy. You can take a seat at the bar, have a beer and cheeseburger and talk to the non-hipster bartender. The onion rings could use some work.

Getting to Red Bridge from Providence is easy: cross Waterman Avenue to the Henderson Bridge and take the first East Providence exit. This will return you to Waterman in East Providence. Red Bridge is on the left after the curve.

Red Bridge Tavern   22 Waterman Avenue, East Providence   401-438-3899