Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Yule Log 2015

This year's Yule Log cake admittedly came a few weeks after the Yule. We brought it to share at some friend's post-New Year Winter Open House party, since the three of us can't possibly eat the whole cake ourselves. The cake is a vanilla biscuit roulade, filled with a black cherry (Prunus serotina) mousse, frosted with chocolate buttercream, and decorated with chocolate and cocoa nib "bark". You often read in identification manuals that the outer bark of the black cherry tree looks like burnt cornflakes or chips, so I tried to figure out how to represent that in chocolate. I used the same black cherry puree that I had made for ice cream and jam, having a few small containers left in the freezer.

The meringue mushrooms are always fun to make too, with just some egg whites and sugar, and decorated with melted chocolate and candy melts. This year I made some oysters (Pleurotus ostreatus), Amanita muscaria with white gills and red tops, meadow mushrooms (Agaricus campestris) with dark chocolate gills, and one red-capped Russula with a white stem and white gills.

Black cherries in the summertime

Monday, January 4, 2016

Oysters in Winter

Fresh oysters and wood ear fungi

Paprika and garlic rubbed oysters
New England had been having an unusually warm autumn, as well as a late start to the winter weather. The warmth let us hike and hunt mushrooms up until Christmas day, with the polypores making a great showing, along with many, many logs covered with edible oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus). Oysters found this late in the season are great because they tend to be bug-free and can be found in great quantities. Wood ear fungi (Auricularia auricula) were also found and brought home to dehydrate for soups.

Pan fried oysters over a bittercress salad and polenta

Dandelion root
There were even lots of greens we collected into the end of December, most were bi-ennials starting to grow and some were plants that had seeded themselves then started to sprout. Leaves of garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) were growing from the first season's basal rosette, and large enough to use as a wrap! Yard onions (Allium vineale) leaves came back up and can still be plucked even as the ground starts to freeze. Rosettes of hairy bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta) popped up, and there were even tiny, white blossoms on some of them. Dandelion greens (Taraxacum officinale) that are picked now tend to be on the mild side, and roots can still be dug and roasted for a coffee substitute.

Fresh dandelion greens

Garlic mustard leaves and some bittercress