Bûche de Noël
Bûche de Noël
Buche de Noel appear to be all the rage in Australian this Christmas.
For a long time, a decent Buche de Noel would only be found at a French specialist bakery, but this year they’re everywhere! Hurray!
In Paris, the revealing of patissiers French Christmas cake, the Buche de Noel is practically the release of a new season’s designer fashion collection. Take a look at Christophe Michalak to see some super vibrant colours and designs taking the pastry catwalk for the Christmas 2016 collection.
A lot of the new designs have moved away from the traditional Buche de Noel concept, which is a rolled sponge cake, kind of like our Aussie sponge roll, with a creamy filling, often some berries/jam and a chocolate buttercream topping with forkmarks dragged through to resemble a log. A yule log. Often dusted with icing sugar to add a little ‘snow’.
Many of the new designs are now more of an entremet, a mousse like cake with inserts or layers of other textures like jelly, fruits, sponge and biscuit, rather than the rolled sponge.
This history of the Yule log dates back to before the Medieval age, when at the end of December, at the Winter solstice, a log would be burned by Celts, often covered in and anointed with ingredients like salt, pinecones and holly, to ward off evil and cleanse away the year just gone, as they moved forward into longer days heralding the end of Winter. The ashes were kept for their powerful healing properties for the year ahead.
As Christianity popularised, families shared the tradition on Christmas eve, and eventually, as hearths became smaller the burning of the log morphed into the cooking of a cake, baked in that very hearth, the cake then decorated to resemble a log! Yum.
During the 1800’s French patissiers took things to a new level, and made the Buche de Noel fashionable, and here we are today, being treated to a contemporary sweet fashion show every Christmas.
I came across some pretty adorable Buche de Noel in Paris, (pics below at end) particularly by Jean Paul Hevin … which is no surprise, his chocolate work and blue packaging are always stylish. On offer this year he has individual portion sized mini Buche in the theme of the larger full size logs, and the one I tasted, was very, very good. Feather light, but chocolaty rich eating. The theme for this Yule log was ‘fashion’ and the Buche de Noel was fashioned to resemble a handbag ….. so adorable! Amongst other styles, the ladder to the moon and CanCan dancers were both pretty eye catching!
A fantastic one-stop shop in Paris is the amazing Galleries Lafayette food hall La Maison Le Gourmet. There are some great outlets for some big names patissiers and chocolatiers including Christoph Adam's super delicious eclairs at L'Eclair de Genie, Sadaharu Aoki's jewels of pastries and chocolates, Alain Ducasse, Pierre Herme and Dallayou. Downstairs is a paradise for all the big name French tablet (block) manufacturers including Cluizel, Valrhona and Bonnet.
My Buche de Noel recipe is ridiculously easy. The sponge is actually a meringue base … with just a few ingredients – egg whites and sugar whipped into a meringue, mixed with a cream/chocolate ganache. I think the recipe may have been a Laduree recipe I picked up years ago, I can't remember, so sorry Laduree if I've ripped it off! It's super, super light, and chocolaty for real, rather than cocoa powder that is often used in rolled sponges. It's like eating a chocolate cloud. You could keep the whole log lighter by using a much lighter filling if you so desired, but I like the contrasts of this one.
I’ve adapted my ‘no egg’ mousse to include a little hazelnut praline flavour with the addition of gianduja, and glazed it with a shiny glacage to add a more contemporary look to it. I’ve surrounded it with chocolate curls/shavings to add a little woodland feel to it, carried through with some ‘twigs’ of chocolate on the top which I think provide a nice contrast to the shiny glaze, and some forest berries strewn through the surrounding chocolate.
This is a very easy dessert, but needs to be made the day before so you can freeze it overnight for glazing. It’s actually pretty great frozen too, if you want to serve it from the freezer!
So if you’re looking for an alternative to a heavy, boozy fruit laden Christmas cake, this Buche de Noel will easily tick the entertaining boxes you need it to – easy, delicious, and can be made ahead of time!
Bûche de Noël
For a print friendly recipe, CLICK HERE!
Roulade (chocolate cake)
250g thickened cream
225g dark chocolate
250g egg whites
40g caster sugar
250g dark chocolate
100g milk chocolate
250g thickened cream
750g thickened cream (lightly whipped)
440g caster sugar
175g thickened cream
110g cocoa powder
18g leaf gelatin sheets
Heat cream and chocolate together, stir to create ganache, let cool slightly.
Whisk egg whites until slightly foamy, add sugar, beat until stiff peaks are achieved.
Gently fold egg whites into cooled ganache, 1/3 at a time.
Pour carefully onto lined baking tray (around 40cm x 30cm), and smooth with pallete knife/spatula, taking care not to knock the air from the meringue. Cook @ 190°C for around 12 mins, or until skewer comes out clean. Let cool in tray.
Heat cream until almost boiling.
Pour cream over dark and milk chocolate and diced gianduja, let stand for 20 seconds, then gently whisk until combined. Heat slightly if any solid lumps of chocolate still remain, and stir until smooth and silky.
Let cool slightly.
Fold through a small amount (about ½ cup) of the lightly beaten cream.
Add the rest of the cream, folding through until combined.
Refrigerate until mousse becomes firmer, however still able to be spread with a spatula. Around an hour.
Place gelatin sheets in cold water to bloom, until they’re completely squishy.
Bring water, sugar and cream to boil, stirring. Boil for 2 mintues.
Add cocoa powder, whisking in until no lumps. Bring back to simmer, and simmer for 5 minutes.
Remove from heat, and let sit for 1 minute.
Squeeze excess water from bloomed gelatin sheets, and add to glaze, whisking.
Pass through fine sieve, and let cool to around 35-40°C before glazing.
When roulade is cool, remove from baking tray, with baking paper still in place on base, and place on slightly damp tea towel on bench.
Spread mousse which is more firmly set, but still spreadable, evenly over the roulade with a pallete knife or spatula.
Supporting with the tea towel, lift up the edge of the roulade and begin to roll, away from yourself, tucking the roulade into itself firmly and peeling back the paper from the roulade as you roll.
Continue rolling as tightly as possible, without squishing out the mousse, tucking the roulade back into itself with your fingers on the baking paper before peeling it back off towards you.
Roll from the shorter edge for a thicker Buche de Noel, with more spiral, or from the long edge for a longer, thinner end result.
Continue rolling until complete, then finish with the edge/seam on the base under the Buche de Noel. Wrap tightly in baking paper, and freeze until frozen solid.
When glaze is at the correct temperature, remove roulade from freezer, remove baking paper, trim ends with a sharp knife and place on wire cake cooling rack over a tray to catch excess glacage.
Pour glacage from one end to the other, and after dripping has stopped, place palette knife under each end of Buche de Noel, and place on serving platter and decorate with chosen garnishes.
As traditionally the Buche de Noel is to resemble a tree log, shave/curled chocolate is effective around the edge, as are forest berries. Small mushrooms made from meringue or marzipan are also adorable. I made small chocolate twigs by piping tempered chocolate into cocoa powder and allowing to set, to decorate the top of mine.
Some Buche de Noel in Paris 2016!