When did food start getting smaller? I’m not talking super-sized fries or ridiculous restaurant portions here (global obesity statistics suggest that serving-size is anything but under control), but pre-packaged foods: the biscuits, chocolate bars and ice creams of this world.
The other day Carnivorous Fiancé was feeling a little bit under the weather. Food being my go-to solution for many of life’s smaller problems, I popped to the shops to buy him our ultimate childhood treat: a mint cornetto. Pulling it out of the freezer cabinet I was taken aback by how small it seemed, a thought only compounded by seeing it in Carnivorous Fiancé’s (much larger) hand as he polished it off in a matter of mere bites.
Size isn’t the only issue in question with these childhood treats and sweets. Where once a mint cornetto felt like the height of sophistication, I now can’t help but notice the slight synthetic aftertaste of the ice cream, its lurid green colour and minty taste more akin to toothpaste than garden. While a nostalgic part of me still enjoys these foods from time to time, the baking part wants to improve them, making my own versions with a nod to the original but an identity all of their own.
Take the mini roll. Staple of children’s birthday parties up and down the country (and lunchboxes if you were lucky. I wasn’t and tended to get carrots and raisins), the Cadbury’s mini roll is synonymous with childhood and, for me anyway, steeped in nostalgia. However, in line with what I’ve written above, they now seem particularly tiny and although I loved the taste when I was little, my grown-up palate would prefer something richer, more textured and full of flavour than the milky, vegetable fat-filled mini roll of today.
Hence the creation of these bite-sized mini rolls or Yule logs. After reading Felicity Cloake’s recent Guardian article on how to make the perfect Yule log, I was itching to get into the kitchen and experiment. We had a Christmas party to go to on Sunday for which I’d promised to do some baking, but rather than bring an unwieldy full-sized log that would need slicing and serving, I decided to attempt some miniature versions instead.
To replace the sweet yet slightly bland filling of a Cadbury’s mini roll, I’ve created a booze-laden cream, rich with melted chocolate and crunchy from crushed amaretti. The sponge itself is flourless and light, allowing it to stand up to copious amounts indulgent filling and frosting, so the whole thing is covered in a truffly chocolate ganache. Each mouthful is a combination of dark, smooth chocolate and creamy crunch with a kick of almondy alcohol to boot. And because it’s almost Christmas, I’ve finished the whole thing off with a snowfall of sugar and some dinky little decorations.
If you can’t be bothered to fiddle around with the miniature rolls, you could make this as a standard-sized Yule log, simply omitting the step where you slice the sponge into smaller pieces. But if you can, I’d highly recommend trying the smaller version: everyone gets their very own Yule log and they do look ridiculously cute.
If you have to be a grown up and accept that things simply are going to feel smaller as you get bigger, you may as well do it in style.
Mini Chocolate Amaretto Yule Logs
The recipe below looks like a lot of steps but they are all pretty simple. The most fiddly bit is covering the logs in ganache and if they don’t look completely picture perfect, they’ll still taste absolutely delicious. As noted above, you could omit the step where you slice the sponge into smaller rectangles and make this into one large yule log, if you like.
For the cake (Nigella Lawson’s Yule Log recipe)
6 medium eggs(separated)
150g golden caster sugar
50g cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
For the amaretto cream
200ml double cream
1 tsp icing sugar, sifted
100g dark chocolate, melted and cooled
1 tbsp amaretto liqueur
12 amaretti biscuits, finely crushed
For the ganache
200g dark chocolate, chopped
200ml double cream
60g light soft brown sugar
Mini holly leaves and berries made from coloured fondant icing
Icing sugar, to dust
For the cake
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Grease and line a large (mine was 23 x 33cm) swiss roll tin with baking parchment.
In a large, clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks begin to form. Add 50g of the sugar and continue whisking until the whites form firm peaks.
In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the remaining 100g sugar until moussy, pale and thick. Sift in the cocoa powder, add the vanilla extract and whisk to combine.
Fold one third of the egg whites into the chocolaty yolks to loosen, then fold in the remaining egg whites, taking care not to knock out too much air. Scrape the batter into your prepared tin, smooth the top and bake for 20 minutes.
Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool slightly before turning out onto a piece of baking parchment.
Using a serrated (or very sharp) knife, slice the rectangular cake across the middle (from one short side to the other) so you have two long strips. Using the same knife, very carefully slice each strip through the middle lengthways so you are left with four long strips, half the thickness of the original cake. Finally, slice each remaining strip into four equal sized pieces.
You should have sixteen little rectangles. Set aside while you make the filling.
For the amaretto cream
Whip the cream and icing sugar together until firm peaks form (being careful not to over-whip). Stir in the melted chocolate and liqueur then fold in the crushed biscuits. Fill a piping bag with the mixture and set aside.
For the ganache
Place the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl.
In a small saucepan, bring the cream and sugar to the boil, simmer for one minute then remove from the heat and allow to stand for one minute. Pour the warm cream over the chocolate and stir until the chocolate has melted and the mixture completely combined.
Take one of your chocolate cake rectangles and lay it on a piece of baking parchment.
Pipe the amaretti cream in a thin layer over the whole surface then roll the whole thing away from you. If any cream splurges out the edges, smooth it off with a palette knife. Repeat until all 16 rectangles are filled and rolled.
Using a palette knife, spread ganache over the top and edges of one of your rolls. Smooth flat then drag the tines of a fork across the surface to create a bark effect. Repeat until all the rolls are covered with ganache.
Decorate with holly leaves and berries, made with a small amount of pre-coloured fondant icing and firmed in the fridge for a couple of hours, dust with icing sugar for a snowy effect and serve.