Buche de Noël
French Christmas Yule log
8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
1/3 cup water
8 egg yolks, room temperature
¾ cup sugar
8 egg whites, room temperature
1/8 tsp. cream of tartar
7 Tbsp. sugar
½ cup cocoa}
¼ cup powdered sugar} mix cocoa and sugar together in a shaker or have a sieve handy.
Note: this cake is a genoise, which depends for its lightness on the air whipped into the egg whites. Handle the mixture with as light a touch as possible at every step, and don’t practice your clogging routine anywhere near the oven during baking.
Oil an 11 x 17-inch jelly roll pan (basically a cookie sheet with shallow sides). Line with waxed paper, leaving a three-inch overhang. Oil the waxed paper as well (essential!).
Melt chocolate and water in the top of a double boiler over simmering water. Cool to tepid. If you don’t have a double boiler, put the ingredients in a microwave-safe container and melt them in the microwave.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, whip egg yolks with ¾ cup sugar, adding it gradually. Whip the egg mixture until the mixture becomes light and fluffy and forms a “ribbon.” Blend in the chocolate mixture. Set aside.
In a clean bowl, whip the whites with cream of tartar and gradually add 7 Tbsp. sugar. Whip until fairly stiff peaks form. Fold a third of the whites into the chocolate/egg mixture, blending well. Combine this mixture into the remaining egg whites and fold well, BUT GENTLY, to thoroughly incorporate.
Pour mixture into prepared pan and place it in the middle of a preheated 350-degree oven. Bake for 17 minutes. The cake (genoise) will lose its shine and rise to a chalky-looking soufflé. Remove from oven and place two damp paper towels on top. Cool 20 minutes and remove the towels.
Loosen the sides of the genoise with a knife. Lay two sheets of waxed or parchment paper in front of you, slightly overlapping each other. Sprinkle with some of the cocoa/powdered sugar mixture. Bravely flip the genoise onto the prepared paper. Remove the waxed paper from the bottom of the cake and spread Crème Chantilly over the cake surface.
Starting with the side nearest you, roll genoise toward the middle. When you have just passed the mid-point, lift the other end over onto the rolled portion. Carefully pick up the rolled genoise and place on a platter. Spread with chocolate icing and rake the icing with a fork so it resembles bark. Decorate the log with any of the following: red and green candied cherries, meringue mushrooms, chocolate jimmies, cinnamon candies and more sieved chocolate and powdered sugar. Holly greens add a special touch as well.
Note: if you are not ready to spread the filling when the cake cools slightly, go ahead and roll it up as directed, but do not remove the wax paper from the bottom of the cake. The important thing is to roll the cake while it is still somewhat warm. To fill later, GENTLY unroll and spread crème Chantilly without completely flattening the cake.
1 cup heavy cream
3 Tbsp. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
Whip cream to firm peaks, flavoring with sugar and vanilla.
Chocolate Icing: *
7 squares semi-sweet chocolate
1 square bittersweet chocolate
¾ cup sour cream
11 Tbsp. butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tsp. vanilla
Melt chocolates in a double boiler over simmering water (or in the microwave). Stir in sour cream. Place butter, powdered sugar, and egg yolk in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process until smooth. Add melted chocolate mixture and vanilla and process again until well blended. Chill to spreading consistency and spread onto rolled cake, using a fork to rough up the surface to resemble bark.
Leftover icing can be used to form the “gills” of the meringue mushrooms.
*If the thought of making this “from scratch” chocolate icing makes you tired, do what I do: purchase a good quality dark chocolate (not milk chocolate) frosting. If you want to mitigate the store-bought taste, mix in some crème fraiche to taste, and spread!
And now, for the fun part!
Meringue mushrooms: **
4 egg whites
Pinch crème of tartar
1 cup sugar
Cocoa for sprinkling
Chocolate icing for forming gills (totally optional!!)
Place egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on low speed until frothy. Add the cream of tartar and beat on high until soft peaks form.
Add sugar slowly – about ¼ cup at a time. Continue beating until meringue is glossy and smooth.
Place meringue in a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip whose opening is maybe ¼ inch (use your own judgment). Pipe out mounds about 1-inch in diameter onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Sift cocoa sparingly onto each mound (these mounds are your mushroom caps).
Pipe out an equal number of “stems” onto parchment-lined cookie sheet. I find the difference between making caps and stems is simply a matter of how you hold the pastry bag, lifting slightly to make stems.
Bake the meringue mushrooms in a 150-200-degree oven for about an hour. Remove the caps and indent the undersides slightly, and then return to the oven for about 30 minutes more. Turn off heat and keep in oven for a while, if desired. You can even leave them in there overnight if you wish.
To form mushrooms, place a dab of leftover chocolate icing in the cap’s underside indentation and stick the stem onto it. If you want to form “gills,” you’ll need to place the chocolate icing in the pastry bag fitted with a very fine tip and draw radiating lines from the stem out to the edge of the cap’s underside. A lot of trouble for not much effect, if you ask me, but go for it if you wish!
**If you don’t want an enormous number of meringue mushrooms, halve these quantities.