The Bûche de Noël, otherwise known as a Yule Log, is a dessert that originally mimicked the the actual Yule Log – initially a tree, then a large log, burned at Christmas. The traditional Yule Log dessert is of a genoise sponge as a roulade, iced with chocolate. Flavours can be whatever you like, as can decorations. I chose to make meringue decorations as vanilla mushrooms and peppermint trees – or rather, ‘bush-de-noëls’ 😛
Icing sugar resembles snow – lumpy icing sugar is therefore even more realistic 😛 So there’s a hooray for lazy Christmas dessert preparation! 😀
Not to say that the bûche is simple and easy to make. This recipe is a bit weird, having no flour, so I can’t advise you on whether to roll the bûche while it’s still warm. I tried doing this, and it didn’t really work – but that may have been more due to the fact that my tin was too big (and therefore the sponge too thin), or that I chose a bad teatowel. Just make sure you let the sponge cool completely before spreading the buttercream, or the buttercream will melt and you will cry 🙂
Incidentally, the buttercream is French buttercream (it uses yolks and a sugar syrup) – the yolks make it much more rich than the Swiss meringue buttercream (egg whites and sugar warmed to a syrup to kill bacteria, and then whipped and butter added) and Italian meringue buttercream (whites whipped with sugar, extra sugar syrup added, and then butter). German buttercream, crème mousseline, involves pastry cream and butter.
Oh yeah, and here’s the obscure Christmas song: ♫”Up beside the bag of toys, little Joey hopped. But they hadn’t gone far when Santa stopped…” ♪
Timeline for preparation:
Make the meringue decorations up to 5 days prior to event – store in an airtight container in a dry place.
Up to 2 days before, bake the sponge, make the buttercream. Roll and refrigerate.
Up to 2 days before, make the ganache.
After letting the sponge-and-buttercream roulade refrigerate overnight to harden, cover with softened ganache.
On the day, attach the meringue decorations and dust with icing sugar.
Bûche de Noël
Recipe from Saveur
2 egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar (optional)
1/2 tsp flavouring
113 dark chocolate
6 Tbs sugar
3 egg yolks
227g chocolate (preferably dark), finely chopped
1 cup double/heavy cream (heavy cream is the American term)
7 egg whites
2 Tbs sugar
2 Tbs rum
340g dark chocolate
8 Tbs butter
2/3 cup double cream
*if you don’t have double cream, you can make a ganache with x grams butter, 5x millilitres normal cream, and 10x grams chocolate.
Whip the egg whites until frothy.
Add the sugar, cream of tartar, flavouring and colouring.
Whip to stiff peaks.
For mushrooms, pipe stems and caps separately (join them by chocolate on the underside of the cap after cooling), and dust with cocoa before cooking.
For trees/bushes, dot the inside of the pastry bag with food colouring for streaks of colour, and then pipe with a star nozzle, or with no nozzle (use a skewer to create a tree texture as I did).
Bake at 100°C for 1h 30m, with empty oven trays above and below to shield from intense radiation (and therefore prevent browning).
Melt chocolate in a double boiler.
On the stove, dissolve the sugar in the water and bring to 113°C – I don’t have a candy thermometer 😥 so I winged it…
Beat the yolks until pale and creamy. Pour in the sugar syrup and beat at high speed for approximately 10 minutes, until cool.
Gradually beat in the butter until fully incorporated
Stir in the chocolate.
Bring the cream to a boil, and then stir in the chocolate over a double boiler until the chocolate melts. Set aside.
Beat the sugar and egg whites to stiff peaks.
Stir a third of the chocolate into the egg whites – don’t worry about deflation.
Gently fold in the remaining chocolate, in two iterations.
Line a 35cm by 30cm square tin with baking paper (this is smaller than the original recipe, because I found the sponge too thin), allowing an overhang of paper so that the sponge is easily lifted out, and grease liberally with butter.
Pour in the sponge mixture and bake at 190°C for 10 – 12 minutes.
Sprinkle with rum, and cool in the pan.
Remove from the pan and trim the crisp edges.
Spread with cooled buttercream and roll.
Cut off the end, at an angle, and position like a branch.
Bring the cream to a boil.
Stir in a third of the chocolate and melt over a double boiler.
Remove from the stove and stir in the remaining chocolate until fully melted.
Stir in the butter until fully melted.
Use ganache to attach branch to log.
Spread over roulade, using a rough technique to create texture.
While still soft, use ganache to stick on meringue decorations.
Dust with icing sugar.
Heave a sigh of relief and enjoy Christmas! 😀