Sunday, December 5, 2010

Almost Christmas- Buche de Noel

Christmas is my favorite Holiday. It's a time when families come together and share special traditions, one of the most common aspects of family traditions is that it involves the kitchen. Baking cookies, breads, desserts, turkey, pies, anything that is edible.. Many households have specific meal traditions too, I for example eat codfish on Christmas Eve. We've been doing that since I was little and I still continue to do it every year. With the recent economic crisis we find more and more people making their own gifts to give to friends and family, and many of these gifts are coming straight out of their kitchen. I like giving food items because the person can enjoy them, finish them, and not have to worry about finding a place to store that thingamabob that so and so gave them. Cookies are a great idea, especially when you place them in pretty decorative bags that cost you only 10 cents each. I like to do something a little more special, I'll bake either a cake or a Christmas Stollen. This Buche de Noel for example.. It requires about 3 hours of your time, but it looks beautiful as a gift! I was inspired by Chef Diminique Ansel's (Executive Pastry Chef at Daniel) recipe for Buche de Noel in Food & Wine's December Issue.

I wanted more to have a more rustic look and worn wood so I used a completely different filling and coating, but here is the recipe I used.

3/4 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup bittersweet chocolate
4 oz cream cheese
Boil the cream and then pour over the chocolate. Let sit for a minute then whisk gently to emulsify chocolate and cream together.
Allow ganache to cool to room temperature.
When ganache is cooled, beat the cream cheese until soft, then add the ganache (gradually) and beat until incorporated.


  1. 6 large egg yolks, at room temperature
  2. 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  3. 5 large egg whites, at room temperature
  4. 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  5. 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  1. Preheat the oven to 375. Line a 9-by-13-inch rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the whisk, beat the egg yolks with 6 tablespoons of the sugar at high speed until the mixture is pale and fluffy, and leaves a ribbon trail when the whisk is lifted, 3 minutes; transfer to a large bowl.
  2. Thoroughly wash and dry the mixer bowl and whisk. Add the egg whites and salt to the bowl and beat at moderately high speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining 6 tablespoons of sugar and continue beating until the whites are stiff and glossy.
  3. Using a rubber spatula, stir one-fourth of the beaten whites into the yolk mixture, then fold in the remaining whites until no streaks remain. Working in 2 batches, sift the cocoa over the batter and fold gently until fully incorporated. Spread the batter on the prepared baking sheet in an even layer. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until the cake feels springy and dry; rotate the pan halfway through baking. Transfer to a rack and let cool completely.

Make the Syrup
1/4 cup strawberry preserves
3 Tablespoons boiling water
1. Dissolve the preserves in the boiling water by whisking vigorously until the preserves break down and form a thick liquid.
1. Brush the syrup onto the chocolate sponge.
2. Spread the filling in a thin layer on the cake.

3. Roll the cake into a log.

4. Cut off the two ends at an angle, making one slightly larger than the other.
5. Place the smaller end on top of the log and the longer end on the side.

6. Cover the log with frosting (I used a Chocolate Buttercream Frosting instead of the filling frosting), then using a fork make wood print lines.

7. Top with fondant decorations (if desired) and...
...Sprinkle with 'snow'

And Merry Christmas!!

 Now for a little History on the Buche de Noel... it litteraly means "Christmas log," referring to the traditional Yule log burned centuries past. The ingedients suggest the cake is most likely a 19th century creation. That's when thinly rolled sponge cakes filled with jam or cream and covered with buttercream icing begin to show up in European cook books. Marzipan and meringue, typically employed for decorative purposes, date to the Medieval Ages and the 17th century respectively.
"Christmas Yule Log. A log-shaped cake traditionally prepared for the Christmas festivities. It is usually made of rectangular slices of Genoese sponge, spread with butter cream and placed one on top of the other, and them shaped into a log; it is coated with chocolate butter cream, applied with a piping bag to simulate bark. The cake is decorated with holly leaves made from almond paste, meringue mushrooms and small figures.
There are also ice cream logs, some made entirely of different flavoured ice creams and some with the inside made of parfait or a bombe mixture. This cake is a fairly recent creation (after 1870) of the Parisian pastrycooks, inspired by the real logs which used to be burned in the hearth throughout Christmas Eve. Before then, the cakes of the season were generally brioches or fruit loaves."
---Larousse Gastronomique, Completely Revised and Updated [Clarkson Potter:New York] 2001 (p. 299)
"Genoise sponge. A light sponge cake that takes its name from the city of Genoa. Genoise sponge is made of eggs and sugar whisked over heat until thick, then cooled and combined with flour and melted butter. It can be enriched with ground almonds or crystallized (candied) fruits and flavoured with liqueur, the rind (zest) of citrus fruits or vanilla. Genoa sponge...differs from ordinary sponge cake in that the eggs are beaten whole, whereas in the latter the yolks and whites are usually beaten separately. Genoise sponge is the basis of many filled cakes."
---Larousse Gastronomique, Completely Revised and Updated [Clarkson Potter:New York] 2001 (p. 550)
"[In France] where the buche de Noel, a roll of light sponge cake, is covered in chocolate or coffee buttercream textured to resemble bark. The conceit is carried further by mounding the cream over small pieces of cake stuck to the main roll, to represent trimmed branches. The ends of the roll and the cut faces of the branches are finished with vanilla cream, imitating pale newly cut wood, and the whole is decorated with leaves made from icing, or meringue mushrooms."
---Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson, [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 1999 (p. 184)

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