Christmas and a chocolate lovers’ dessert for beginners

by Forager on December 24, 2009

After a long drought of dessert posts, I’m following up the last one with another in quick succession. This one could even be tackled by dessert novices – like me!
The Co-pilot and I were catching up with some neighbours for dinner. It sounds odd, but yes – we seem to get along very well with our current/ex neighbours. But all good things come to an end and the neighbours on one side, John and Catherine, moved away 6 months ago and the neighbours on the other side, Lee-On and Evelyn, are relocating to China before the end of the year, so we thought it was high time to get back together for a catch-up on the local gossip (like whether my new neighbour of 6 months actually exists, and if he does what does he look like?). On the cards was dinner and drinks at our local pub followed by a dessert by Evelyn.
As the time drew closer, I realised that Evelyn might have more than enough on her plate with 2 young children scampering around the house and the house itself half packed into boxes. So I offered to make dessert.

What was I thinking??! I don’t do desserts! Especially ones I need to serve to guests other than my very polite and forgiving family!

Tossing up between buying something and making something, and then considering how little time I’d have after work and before dinner to prepare a dessert, I spotted a solution in the recipe for a frozen chocolate and coffee log in an issue of BBC Good Food. Perfect! An impressive-looking but easy dessert that I can prepare way in advance! And it required nuts – what better way to use up some of Nonno’s home-grown macadamias!

And as I also had to prepare something for the Sydney Foodblogger Picnic organised by GrabYourFork and ChocolateSuze, I decided to use the picnic and the rest of the blogging community as my dessert guinea pigs. Some would think that would be suicidal and a sure-fire way to alienate yourself amongst such accomplished bakers and discerning sweet-tooths, but you’ll be pleased to note that Sydney foodbloggers are a friendly and forgiving bunch too.

Chocolate and coffee log
(Adapted from a BBC Good Food Dec 09 edition recipe)

Serves 12

Chocolate & coffee log:

  • 1/3 cup (50g) sultanas
  • 5 pitted dates
  • 1 cup (60ml) freshly brewed coffee
  • 350g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 150g, unsalted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup (55g) caster sugar
  • 150g scotch finger biscuits
  • 1/2 cup (70g) chopped toasted macadamias
  • 1/4 cup (35g) chopped toasted pistachios
  • 1/4 cup (20g) baking marshmallows

1. Line base and long sides of a 26cm x 8cm bar cake pan with baking paper. Ensure that baking paper extends 4cm above rim of pan.

2. Combine sultanas, dates and coffee in a small bowl and soak for 1 hour.

Preparing the ingredients

3. Melt chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water.

My first attempt at melting chocolate – a mesmering, almost meditative process

4. Beat egg and sugar until pale, thick and doubled in volume.
5. Stir in chocolate mixture until combined. Gently fold in sultana, date and coffee mixture, then stir in remaining ingredients.

Mixing pot of delicious ingredients

6. Spoon mixture into prepared pan. Cover with plastic wrap and smooth surface with hands.
7. Refrigerate for 5 hours or overnight to set.
For the Foodblogger’s picnic, I stopped at this point in the recipe. I cut the log into slices, but as the log was frozen and brittle, it split into rather uneven slices and chunks. It turns out that I’d left the nuts and chopped biscuits as rather large pieces which didn’t aid cutting. It also didn’t occur to me that heating the knife might have helped too.

No matter, no matter. Those bloggers are a friendly bunch right?

I’d underestimated the heat slightly on the day and the chocolate coffee pieces started melting slowly into a goopy mess. No matter, no matter. Those bloggers are a forgiving bunch right?!
I offered a piece to Stewart from The Digestive Tract who bravely accepted my dubious offer of molten brown goo and watched him valiantly struggle to pick up and eat the goopy mess. Ok. I finally had to admit at this point, it was a bit of a failed attempt at dessert. It was not ideal picnic food. But as the remaining pieces were greedily cleaned up by friends and family, I took solace in that at least someone thought it tasted nice.

The Sydney Foodblogger’s picnic (photo courtesy of Simon of the heart of food)

This strengthened my resolve and I gave the dessert another shot in preparation for the neighbours rendezvous. This time I made the nuts and biscuits smaller to aid slicing, added marshmallows for extra colour and texture and made an accompanying raspberry puree to serve as I’d found the log too sweet and rich for my own taste.

Attempt 2: Chocolate and coffee log with raspberry puree
(Main chocolate and coffee log recipe as per above with addition of a handful of mallow bake marshmallows)

Making good use of my Foodblogger picnic Kris Kringle: a Vietnamese coffee filter
Adding marshmallows to the mix

Raspberry puree:

  • 150g fresh or frozen raspberries
  • 1/4 cup (55g) caster sugar

1. When the chocolate and coffee log is set and ready to serve heat raspberries and sugar together on medium heat. Stir and mash raspberries with wooden spoon until sugar dissolves and syrup reduces slightly (about 3 minutes).
2. When set, remove wrap and turn onto board. Us

ing a knife dipped in hot water, cut into slices and serve with dollop of raspberry puree.

Cutaway of the log interior

Chocolate and coffee log served with raspberry puree

Luckily, with my second attempt served in the right setting and at the right temperature, the dessert was very well received. After dinner we sauntered back casually from the pub, I made the raspberry puree and voila – dessert was made. Our neighbours John and Lee-On helped themselves to seconds, even thirds!
It was an incredibly simple make-ahead dessert that looked impressive, tasted ridiculously rich and chocolately and most importantly, could hide the non-existent dessert making abilities of even novices like me!
And although I hadn’t intended it, it was appropriately Christmassy too with its generous helpings of indulgent chocolate; a melee of ingredients not dissimilar with those in a Christmas pudding; and the pistachios, marshmallows and ruby red raspberry puree painting it a festive red and green.

And speaking of Christmas – that’s here! Hooray!

My alternative Christmas tree display: a leucadendron arrangement

I didn’t really celebrate Christmas until I met the Co-pilot and his family. As long as I’ve known them, Christmas has always been celebrated in their lovely home in Birchgrove, surrounded by friends and family, and of course an over-abundance of delicious food. This year we’re doing things differently and we’re celebrating Christmas at Pearl Beach up on the Central Coast of NSW. The decision was greatly influenced by the Co-pilot’s little sister, Phi, who has just returned from a year long sojourn in far-away, Paris. And though we’re breaking from tradition – no-one is complaining as it’s hard not to relax and breathe a sigh of relief when you’re on holiday at the beach.
So whereever you’re celebrating Christmas this year, I wish you a very relaxed and Merry Christmas surrounded by loved ones, good – no, excellent food and drink, and lots of laughter and happiness!

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

1 mademoiselle délicieuse December 24, 2009 at 7:36 pm

Merry Christmas, Forager! You underestimate your abilities =) Love your alternative 'tree' and look forward to reading more of your lovely posts soon!

2 Megan@Feasting on Art December 24, 2009 at 7:44 pm

Your alternative christmas tree is so pretty!

3 Helen (grabyourfork) December 24, 2009 at 7:47 pm

Ahh I never got a chance to sample your chocolate and coffee log at the picnic. A shame, and I love your variation for the dinner party. It looks so pretty and festive.

Have a lovely Christmas!

4 Y December 25, 2009 at 1:37 am

I love the plated form of your chocolate log! To be fair, it WAS a ridiculously hot day, the day of that picnic. Can't imagine much would have survived under those conditions.

5 Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella December 25, 2009 at 2:29 pm

Hehe first of all love the chic Christmas tree and glass baubles! Secondly I would have so gone for both versions of this. The second one does look very good though! I hope you and the copolit and mum and dad have a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year! xxx

6 Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella December 25, 2009 at 2:30 pm

Oops co-pilot-you know what I mean!

7 chocolatesuze December 25, 2009 at 4:11 pm

merry christmas trina! hope you have an awesome day!

8 Christie @ Fig & Cherry December 25, 2009 at 8:05 pm

Merry Christmas! I love the addition of marshmallows to the log – it really adds a lot to the presentation, so festive!

9 Belle@OohLook December 25, 2009 at 10:58 pm

Hope you had a great Christmas, Trina! If you had that chocolate log, then it must have been wonderful!

10 Ellie @ Almost Bourdain December 25, 2009 at 11:03 pm

Merry Christmas Trina and what an awesome dessert!

11 Trissa December 26, 2009 at 8:56 pm

Merry Christmas Trina – wonderful effort on the dessert – looks like you are on a roll here – looking forward to more desserts in 2010?!

12 Trisha December 27, 2009 at 12:16 am

Oohh this looks really good! I overstuffed myself with rocky road chocolate tonight, but there's always room for more!

13 Adrian @ Food Rehab December 27, 2009 at 9:04 pm

oooh, belated Merry Christmas! LOL That looks so decedant, yum! What a feast you all had.

14 Arwen from Hoglet K December 28, 2009 at 11:59 am

Looks just gorgeous served with the raspberry syrup!  

15 Forager December 28, 2009 at 9:46 pm

Hey Mademoiselle Delicieuse – Oh shucks! You're too kind! Thanks for the support!

Hey Megan – Thanks! We've just added a lovely bunch of Christmas bush to the mix and it looks even better!

Hey Helen – Thanks! And the dinner party version was much more civilised and successful

Hey Y – That's true it was a really hot day. Still I put the melty chocolate down to a silly rookie error. Certainly learned my lesson for next time!

Hey Lorraine – Aw, you're the nicest! Oh, mum and dad said Merry Christmas too! :)

Hey Chocolatesuze – Thanks and hope you had the best day too!

Hey Christie – Definately made the second log more interesting and colourful! Besides who doesn't like marshmallows?

Hey Belle – Thanks and hope yours was lovely too!

Hey Ellie – Thanks! And it looks a lot more impressive than it is! Especially if someone like me could make it!

Hey Trissa – Hehe, I think you might have a bit of a premonition there.. I think there may be more desserts coming..

Hey Trisha – Exactly what I was aiming for with this dessert – a frozen rocky road!

Hey Adrian – Thanks and hope yours was an excellent Christmas too! There was certainly more food at that picnic than could be eaten that's for sure!

Hey Arwen – The raspberry syrup was actually my favourite part as I'm *gasp* not much of a chocolate fan. Raspberries on the other hand..

16 Erica December 30, 2009 at 2:18 pm

That looks delicious!Happy new year!

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