Saturday, December 10, 2016

Buche de Noel




Buche de Noel is one of many traditional cakes baked at Christmas. As the name suggests, it is of French origin. The name of this recipe literally translates as "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. We find no person/place/company credited for having *invented* this particular confection.

"[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)


The yule log cake is served at the midnight feast that follows Mass on Christmas Eve. Although it does not take the place of our flaming Christmas pudding, it makes a nice dessert to serve at any time during the Christmas season.

Buche de Noel

4 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup sifted all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons melted butter
3 egg whites
Chocolate Butter Cream 1
1 teaspoon instant coffee
1 teaspoon hot water
2 or 3 blanched almonds
candied cherries
green sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Rinse the mixing bowl with hot water and wrap a hot wet towel around the base. Combine the egg yolks and sugar and beat for 5 minutes or until the mixture has doubled in volume. Fold in the flour and then the butter, which should be cooled. Fold in the beaten egg whites gently but thoroughly.

Butter a small, rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan (10X14) and dust it with flour. Pour the batter into the pan and smooth it evenly with a knife. Bake 10 minutes. Spread a damp towel on a marble slab or table. Run a knife around the edge of the baked cake and turn the pan upside down on the towel, leaving the pan on top of the cake until it is cool. Make the butter cream, using 5 egg yolks, and add to it the dissolved instant coffee. Spread the cake with the butter cream and roll it up lenghthwise like a jelly roll. Place seam side down on a long serving tray and cut off both ends diagonally. Put the remaining butter cream in a pastry bag fitted with a flat cannellated tip. Force the cream lengthwise over the surface of the cake to give the appearance of bark. Place a 'knot' here and there. Decorate the cake with almonds and a sprig of holly made with strips of angelica and little rounds of candied cherries. Sprinkle very lightly with green sugar."


©2016 Linda Sullivan-Simpson
The Past Whispers
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