Thursday, December 13, 2012

Bûche de Noël

A Bûche de Noël is not for the faint of heart. The few times I've had this Holiday Classic, I've bought it at a French Bakery. Bûche de Noël is the traditional dessert served during the Christmas holidays in France, Belgium, Quebec and other French related countries. Basically it looks like a log ready for the fire.

The traditional Bûche de Noël is made from a Genoise (see recipe below) filled and frosted with buttercream. The Bûche de Noël is frosted to look like a piece of the branch has broken off. Sometimes there are fresh berries and meringue or marzipan mushrooms.

Bûche de Noël is one of my favorite holiday desserts. The log represents the hearth - -the center of the house, and this yule log (Bûche de Noël) will be the center of your holiday table.

Here's the Bûche de Noël recipe from Perfect Cakes by Nick Malgieri (HarperCollins, 2002) reprinted on Foodnetwork.com. If I were to make this, I know I'd do a more traditional chocolate butter cream, but the coffee buttercream sounds good. If you opt for chocolate buttercream, you could always add a little Kahlua.

Bûche de Noël

Ingredients

Coffee Buttercream
4 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
24 tablespoons sweet butter, softened
2 Tbsp instant espresso powder
2 Tbsp rum or brandy

1 Chocolate Genoise Sheet, recipe follows


Marzipan:
8 ounces almond paste
2 cups confectioners' sugar
3 to 5 tablespoons light corn syrup 
 
For Finishing:
Cocoa powder
Red and green liquid food gel
Confectioners' sugar

Directions

To make the buttercream: Whisk egg whites and sugar together in bowl of electric mixer. Set bowl over simmering water and whisk gently until sugar is dissolved and egg whites are hot. Attach bowl to mixer and whip with whisk on medium speed until cooled. Switch to paddle and beat in softened butter and continue beating until buttercream is smooth. Dissolve instant coffee in liquor and beat into buttercream.

Turn genoise layer over and peel away paper. Invert onto fresh piece of paper. Spread tlayer with half buttercream. Use paper to help roll cake into a tight cylinder. Transfer to baking sheet and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or until set. Reserve remaining buttercream for outside of buche.

To make the marzipan: Combine almond paste and 1 cup of sugar in bowl of electric mixer and beat with paddle attachment on low speed until sugar is almost absorbed. Add remaining 1 cup sugar and mix until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Add half corn syrup, then continue mixing until bit of marzipan holds together when squeezed, adding additional corn syrup a little at a time, as necessary; marzipan in bowl will still appear crumbly. Transfer marzipan to a work surface and knead until smooth.

To make marzipan mushrooms
: Roll 1/3 of marzipan into 6-inch long cylinder and cut into 1-inch lengths. Roll half the lengths into balls. Press remaining cylindrical lengths (stems) into balls (caps) to make mushrooms. Smudge with cocoa powder.  

To make holly leaves: Knead green color into 1/2 remaining marzipan and roll it into long cylinder. Flatten with back of a spoon, then loosen it from surface with  spatula. Cut into diamonds to make leaves, or use cutter.

To make holly berries: Knead red color into tiny piece of marzipan. Roll into tiny balls.

To make pine cones: Knead cocoa powder into remaining marzipan. Divide in half and form into 2 cone shapes. Slash the sides of cones with points with scissors.

Unwrap the cake
. Trim the ends on diagonal, starting cuts about 2 inches away from each end. Position larger cut piece on buche about 2/3 across the top. Cover buche with reserved buttercream, making sure to curve around the protruding stump. Streak buttercream with fork or decorating comb to resemble bark. Transfer buche to platter and decorate with marzipan. Sprinkle platter and buche sparingly with confectioners' sugar "snow."

Chocolate Genoise Sheet

Ingredients
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
Pinch salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup cake flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup Dutch process cocoa
Special equipment: 10 by 15-inch jelly-roll pan, buttered and lined with buttered parchment

Directions
Set rack in middle of oven and preheat to 400 degrees.
Half-fill medium saucepan with water and bring to boil over high heat. Lower heat so water is simmering.
Whisk eggs, yolks, salt, and sugar together in bowl of heavy-duty mixer. Place over pan of simmering water and whisk gently until mixture is just lukewarm, about 100 degrees (test with your finger). Attach bowl to mixer and with whisk attachment, whip on medium-high speed until egg mixture is cooled (touch outside of bowl to tell) and tripled in volume.
While eggs are whipping, stir together flour, cornstarch, and cocoa.
Sift 1/3 of flour mixture over beaten eggs. Use rubber spatula to fold in flour mixture, making sure to scrape all way to the bottom of bowl on every pass through batter to prevent flour mixture from accumulating there and making lumps. Repeat with another 1/3 of the flour mixture and finally with remainder.
Scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth top. Bake genoise for about 10 to 12 minutes, or until well risen, deep and firm to touch. (Make sure cake doesn't overbake and become too dry, or it will be hard to roll.)
Use small paring knife to loosen  cake from sides of the pan. Invert cake onto rack and let cake cool right side up on paper. Remove paper when cake is cool.

***

Now this is a lot of work. As I mentioned, when I have a Bûche de Noël, I buy one at my favorite French Bakery, but if you have the time... try this!

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