check out my Bûche
My good friends Anne and Nick love karaoke. They also love squeezing as many friends into their cute little two bedroom apartment as possible. As of late, every December they host a holiday potluck dinner and after bellies are full and the beer is gone, we all walk a couple of blocks down the road to a favorite dive bar and some people, not me of course, participate in belligerent Christmas carol karaoke. No secret santas, no gift exchange, just food, drinks, and carol karaoke. Not exactly your Norman Rockwell Christmas party, but extremely fun nonetheless. This year, Anne asked if I would bring a yule log to the potluck. I enthusiastically agreed, immediately recalling memories of a Christmas Eve at my Grandma’s house where my Aunt Nancy brought a Bûche de Noël for dessert and it completely blew my little 9 year old mind.
Now I realize that it is still quite early on in this whole blog thing, but I am sensing that it may or may not prove to become a common theme throughout these posts that I was most cruelly withheld sweets as a child. And as one might expect of a child reared under such dire circumstances, I have overcompensated spectacularly by going to pastry school and making a career out of my love of all things sweet. So growing up in a household where microwaved apples were confused with “dessert” (true story) and my only contact with candy being what I stole off my teacher’s desk while the other kids were at recess (also true), one could imagine how my memory of those first bites of that Bûche de Noël were practically life changing.
So what is a Bûche de Noël other than a fancy way to say yule log? It is a traditional European holiday dessert that is usually composed of cake rolled into a roulade (like a jelly roll) with chocolate ganache or buttercream that is then decorated to look like a hunk of wood. So why did the Europeans make a tradition out of eating a dessert that looks like wood? Maybe in the olden days they used to have to eat hunks of wood because there was no cake and then when they finally invented cake, they said “Hey! Why have we been eating wood all these years? Let’s eat cake in the shape of wood instead!” Actually, apparently the dessert is supposed to symbolize the log of wood burned in the fire in the celebration of the winter solstice. That’s what the internet says anyway so it must be true.
I of course wanted to make one from scratch for the potluck, so I set out into uncharted territory on a culinary adventure to make my own Bûche and I just so happened to take a few pictures along the way. …
First, you start out with a basic genoise, a simple cake leavened with whipped egg whites.
Then you make the ganache. Ganache is one of the easiest things to make and it is better than any chocolate frosting you have ever had. All you need is equal parts by weight of cream and chocolate, and a touch of butter.
Pour the hot cream over the chocolate.
Whisk until all of the chocolate is melted.
Whisk in soft butter and you’re done!
Then it’s assembly time!
Spread some ganache on the genoise.
Roll it up and throw it in the fridge overnight.
Don’t eat it yet!
Now it’s time to make it look like a log.
Cut off both ends at a bias.
Peel off the parchment and pick a serving platter.
Use the ganache like glue and stick on your stumpy branches.
Frost the log with ganache. I moved my Bûche onto a cutting board to make frosting easier.
Move the log back to your serving platter sprinkled with some cocoa for faux dirt.
Now it’s time for the garnishes! This part is the most fun and can’t be overlooked so dedicate at least an hour for the garnishes. Some yule logs feature meringue mushrooms and fondant holly leaves, but I made mushrooms out of marzipan (almond paste and sugar)…
and used mint leaves and candy berries for the forest floor look.
A sprinkling of powdered sugar snow and there you have it. My Bûche de Noël!
It held up well as a supplemental centerpiece at Anne and Nick’s place until the savory dishes started to disappear and then it was slowly devoured, starting with the marzipan mushrooms. Maybe I will create a new tradition of making a Bûche every year for the holidays. Or maybe I will jump on the novelty dessert bandwagon and start a Bûche business. We will make a Bûche de Thanksgiving, Bûche de Halloween, and my new favorite thing to say, Bûche de Birthday. Who needs a boring old birthday cake when you can have a birthday log cake? I think I am on to something…