The holiday season is here and for many keen cooks this also means that the challenge is on to create the most impressive Christmas dinner yet. And for those of you who think roasting a perfectly juicy 10 kg turkey, plus sides, desserts, and drinks aren't enough, we've got a few other projects for you to tackle.
Here are some of the most difficult and time consuming Christmas dishes from around the world for those who are looking for the real challenge these holidays.
1. Croquembouche, France
Croquembouche is an impressive feat for anyone to achieve. This tall mountain of pastries is made of the lightest cream puffs bound together by caramel then the entire thing is encased in airy threads of spun caramel.
It's not that the individual pieces alone are difficult to create. The challenge with the croquembouche is in the construction, which means that even the simplest things such as unevenly sized profiteroles or fiddly, the wrong consistency of caramel can cause the mountain to tumble.
2. Panettone, Italy
Some say that panettone is the Everest of holiday baking. This Italian Christmas cake (which in fact is not a cake, but a leavened sweet bread) is deceivingly difficult to make. A panettone with a silky, rich yet incredibly airy interior is a craft that takes years of practice, and hundreds of failed panettoni.
It's a study of the fundamentals of baking and a deep understanding of how live yeast works, from temperature to the amount of alcohol generated from the fermentation. The baking process itself takes three days from start to finish and the dough is famous for its tendency to implode like a sunken souffle. This one is best left to the professionals.
3. Beef Wellington, United Kingdom
First, you need to make the puff pastry. Then, there is the duxelle (chopped, sautéed mushrooms), and the seasoned, browned beef tenderloin. After numerous preparation steps, the entire thing is assembled and baked so that the puff pastry is crisp, not soggy, while the tenderloin inside is tender, medium-pink and resting on a bed of sautéed mushrooms.
Beef wellington is often used as a technical challenge for training chefs, and there are numerous things that can go wrong. If you dare accept the challenge, start here: Gordon Ramsay’s beef wellington recipe.
4. Turducken, USA
A chicken inside a duck inside a turkey: Turducken is not for the faint of heart. You start with deboning all the birds: the duck and chicken are boned completely, while the turkey is only partially boned, keeping the leg and wing bones. The entire thing is stuffed, then baked.
Technically it's not extremely difficult, but Turducken is a time-consuming dish. After all the effort, it often comes out dry well - food scientist J. Kenji López-Alt tackles this by cooking each of the elements from the inside-out rather than outside-in.
5. Schichttorte, Germany
Schichttorte is a 20-layer cake from Germany that is cooked on the grill - all 20 layers of it. Every layer takes just a couple of minutes to cook, which means hours of grill-watching with eagle eyes as you add a dollop of the cake mix, layer after layer, as it cooks. This is a true challenge of patience for the conscientious baker.