Fancy a log?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

I have wanted to make a Bûche de Noël for years - it's definitely been on my baking "hit list," but I never seem to get it done during the holidays, and a yule log cake in July just never makes since. As Steve and I celebrated Christmas day with just the two of us (and Charlie!), I decided I would go for the yule...if it worked well, we'd have a fantastically beautiful cake to feast on, and if not, we'd hopefully at least have some cake bits and pieces to munch on. Either way, there was no pressure.

Searching all over, I settled on this recipe from Saveur. It was fairly straightforward and traditional but with great instructions. My biggest complaint was the order in which they broke down the recipe, so I'm going to share it at the end of the post in a more user-friendly format.

{Note: not interested in baking details? Skip to the end for a picture of the final product!}

I started off Christmas morning with making my meringue mushrooms. They needed to bake for an hour and a half and then cool in the oven for an additional hour, so they were great to get out of the way (you could also do these a day or two in advance).

I piped out some sorry looking mushroom stems...

...and then some mushroom caps. I know, they look sad. I've only made meringues once before so I'm wondering if the consistency was just off - I couldn't get them to pipe nicely, nor could I get rid of the tales on top of the mushroom caps.

After they had cooled, I used a paring knife to carve holes into the underside of the mushroom caps...

...and then used frosting (made while the meringues were baking) to "glue" the mushrooms together. Not the prettiest, but I think it resembles a mushroom somewhat...a funny mushroom, that is.

As I said, I started on the frosting while the meringues were baking, because it had to thicken up for 4 hours at room temperature. I started with semi-sweet chocolate chips. I like the Whole Foods 365 brand chocolate chips - they're very reasonably priced as taste a 100 times better than any other brand I've bought.

I also grabbed my Whole Foods unsalted butter...

...combined the two and melted together in a sauce pan over a double boiler.

Once the two had melted together, I removed from heat and whisked in heavy cream. Organic heavy cream that is...nothing but the best for this bûche!

This picture isn't the greatest, but hopefully it gives you an idea of how silky smooth this frosting was. I was pretty skeptical that this super runny mixture would turn into a thick wonderful frosting, but over 4 hours it thickened up wonderfully, just as the recipe said.

For the cake or "roulade" the recipe called for a semisweet chocolate, so I used Green & Black's Dark Chocolate. Mmm.

I don't have step-by-step pictures of the cake, but it's a very light and airy cake composed of melted dark chocolate and cream folded into whipped egg whites. Using a 16 1/2" x 12" baking panned lined with buttered parchment paper, you then pour in the batter.

Then you pop it into the oven until a toothpick comes out clean (note: I baked over the 12 minute suggested time as I struggled to tell if it was done. After I removed it and it cooled, it was so delicate I thought it was underdone, but I think that's just the nature of the cake).

Once the cake is cooled, you spread with a filling that's a combination of semi-sweet chocolate, egg yolks, and simple syrup.

Using the parchment paper as an aid, you gently roll the cake bit by bit, pulling it away from the parchment. Steve was a huge help into rolling this up - 100% a two person job!

And voila! A rolled cake. At this stage, I wish I had popped the cake in the fridge for a bit to let it firm up. It cracked a bit when rolling, and overall was just really soft. Firming up in the fridge would have helped a lot.

When you are ready to decorate, you cut off a couple of inches from each end to create the tree "stumps." Again, if my cake had been cooler at this point, the stumps would have been easier to work with because they would have been firmer.

Use frosting to "glue" the stumps to the top and then heat some of your frosting to then pour over the stumps - an easy way to get them frosted. After that, frost away, add in your 'shrooms and dust the whole log with some powdered sugar.

The final product! Overall, I think this was a great first attempt. I wish I had made the stumps nicer, more realistic mushrooms, and a cleaner frosting job overall. But the taste? Amazing. It was perfect after chilling in the fridge for a bit and was so over the top chocolate goodness.

Bûche de Noël
from Saveur

For the icing:
12 oz. semisweet chocolate
8 tbsp. unsalted butter
2⁄3 cup heavy cream

Melt chocolate and butter in the top of a double boiler set over simmering water over medium-low heat, whisking often. Remove from heat and gradually whisk in cream. Transfer to a medium bowl and set aside at room temperature, stirring occasionally, until icing thickens, about 4 hours. (Don't refrigerate; it makes icing hard to spread.)

For the meringue:
10 tbsp. sugar
2 large egg whites
2 pinches cream of tartar
Pinch salt
1⁄2 tsp. vanilla extract
1⁄4 cup cocoa powder
1⁄2 cup confectioners' sugar

Preheat oven to 200°. Combine sugar and 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan, cover, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, swirling pan several times until sugar has dissolved, 1–2 minutes. Uncover pan and continue to boil until syrup reaches softball stage or 236° on a candy thermometer, about 4 minutes more.

Put egg whites in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a whisk and beat on medium speed until frothy, then add cream of tartar and salt. Gradually increase speed to high and beat until soft peaks form, about 30 seconds. Slowly pour in sugar syrup while continuing to beat until whites cool to room temperature and become thick and shiny, about 10 minutes. Stir in vanilla.

Use a rubber spatula to transfer meringue to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4" plain pastry tip. To make meringue mushrooms, hold pastry tip perpendicular to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and pipe meringue into the shapes of mushroom caps and stems of various sizes, then set aside for 5 minutes. Lightly moisten a fingertip in cold water and smooth out any "tails" left behind on mushroom caps.

Bake meringues for 1 1/2 hours. Turn off oven and allow meringues to rest in oven until dry and crisp, about 1 hour. Bore a small, shallow hole in center of underside of each mushroom cap with the tip of a paring knife. "Glue" stems to caps by dipping tips of stems into icing, then sticking into holes in caps. Sift a little cocoa powder on tops of caps. Meringues can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for several days.

For the roulade:
2 tbsp. softened butter
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup heavy cream
7 egg whites
2 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. dark rum

Preheat oven to 375°. Line a 16 1/2" × 12" heavy baking pan with buttered parchment paper, cut large enough to hang over sides of the pan by about 1". Put chocolate in a large mixing bowl and set aside. Bring cream just to a boil in a saucepan over medium heat, then pour over chocolate and whisk until smooth. Set aside to cool.

Beat egg whites in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a whisk on medium speed until frothy; increase speed to medium-high and gradually add sugar, beating constantly, then increase speed to high and beat until stiff, glossy peaks form, 30-40 seconds more. (Don't overbeat.) Mix one-third of the whites into chocolate using a rubber spatula, then gently fold in remaining whites in two batches, taking care not to deflate batter. Spread in prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 10–12 minutes. Set aside to cool in the pan.

For the filling:
4 oz. semisweet chocolate
6 tbsp. sugar
3 egg yolks
12 tbsp. unsalted butter

Melt chocolate with 2 tbsp. water in the top of a double boiler set over simmering water over medium heat. Stir to combine, then set aside to cool. Combine sugar and 3 tbsp. water in a small heavy saucepan; cover and bring to a boil over medium heat, swirling pan several times until sugar has dissolved, about 1 minute. Uncover and continue to boil until syrup reaches the softball stage or 236° on a candy thermometer, about 5 minutes more.

Meanwhile, beat yolks in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a whisk on high speed until thick and pale yellow, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium and gradually pour in hot syrup. Beat constantly until mixture cools to room temperature, about 10 minutes. Allow butter to soften, then beat into egg mixture 1 tbsp. at a time, waiting until it's completely incorporated before adding more; continue beating until thick and smooth, about 5 minutes total. Stir in cooled chocolate and set aside.

To assemble the bûche:

Transfer roulade with parchment to a clean work surface, sprinkle with rum (note: I skipped the rum), then spread filling evenly over top using a metal spatula. Grab the long edge of the parchment paper with two hands and gently roll roulade onto itself, pulling off paper as you roll. (At this point, I would refrigerate until cake feels firmer.) To make stumps, diagonally cut a 2" length from each end of bûche; then, to make the stumps thinner than the bûche, partially unroll each piece, trim off flap, and discard. Set stumps aside.

Using two long metal spatulas, carefully transfer bûche to a serving platter lined with strips of waxed paper. "Glue" stumps onto bûche with some of the icing. Melt 1/4 cup of icing in a saucepan over low heat, then spoon it over stumps to coat completely. Spread remaining icing on bûche, dragging spatula along icing to simulate tree bark. Remove waxed-paper strips. Decorate with mushrooms, then sift confectioners' sugar over mushrooms and bûche.


Anonymous said...

Wow, I'm super-impressed, I think it looks amazing!!!

Mrs. Hot Cocoa said...

This is very impressive!!

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