Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Buche de Noel (Yule Log)

I have decided to start a new tradition. Every year, during the winter holiday season, I'm going to print one recipe on this blog from my Christmas repertoire. These are not original recipes, but they have become traditions at my Christmas Eve celebration. I printed one recipe before, Gascony Beef Stew. While I shared that in the spring, it is one of my Christmas recipes.

The Buche de Noel has sort of become "my thing" that I also take to work celebrations and sometimes other parties. Like the beef stew, it is from an early 1980's Christmas edition of Ladies' Home Journal which had a feature about a French holiday buffet. I believe I made almost all of the recipes in that article for the first Christmas Eve I ever hosted. This cake seems to be a favorite of everyone, so I believe I have made at least one (and usually more) every holiday season for the past 27 years.

1/2 c. + 2 T. all-purpose flour
3/4 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
4 eggs, separated, at room temperature
2 T warm water
3/4 c. sugar, divided
1 t vanilla extract
2 teaspoons confectioner's sugar

1 package (regular size) instant vanilla pudding (French vanilla is nice)
1 c. milk
1/2 c. heavy or whipping cream, whipped

Chocolate icing:
1 1/2 bars sweet baking chocolate
3 T. cold water
3 T. butter
1 t. vanilla extract

Cake: Preheat oven to 400 F. Line 15 1/2 x 10 1/2 jelly-roll pan with wax paper; grease paper. Sift baking powder with flour and salt. Set aside.

In large mixer bowl, beat egg yolks and water until doubled in volume and lemon-colored, about 2 minutes. Gradually add 1/2 c. sugar and continue beating until thick. On low speed mix in vanilla and flour mixture, beating just until smooth. In small mixer bowl whip egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add remaining 1/4 c. sugar, a tablespoon at a time, and beat until mixture stands in shiny peaks. Fold 1/2 cup beaten egg whites into egg yolk mixture with wooden spoon or rubber spatula until thoroughly combined. Gently fold in remaining egg whites. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan.

Bake on center rack 8 to 10 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly pressed with fingers. Loosen edges and turn out onto towel or waxed paper sprinkled with confectioner's sugar. Immediately peel off wax paper from bottom of cake and trim edges (I actually stopped trimming the edges after several years...more cake!) Whi; cool on wire rack.le hot, starting with long side, roll cake up in towel or wax paper in jelly roll fashion. Cool on wire rack

Filling: In medium bowl combine instant pudding and milk. Beat on low speed 1 minute. Fold in whipped cream. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Chocolate icing: In top of double-boiler (I just use a stainless steel bowl placed on top of a pan of simmering [not boiling] water), melt chocolate with water. Stir until smooth. Remove from heat: add butter and vanilla and stir until butter is melted and icing is smooth. let cool to room temperature, or if using immediately, stir over a bowl of ice.

To assemble: Unroll cooled cake and spread with cream filling. Reroll. Trim ends diagonally. Use one trimming to form a little stump on top of the log (this is how it's traditionally done, but if I'm making these for a lot of people, I just keep it in a long roll in order to provide more uniform, and simply more, servings). Spread icing over log and stump. Score icing with tines of fork to simulate bark.

If you want to be very traditional, you will garnish this with meringue mushrooms, but I gave that up after Year One. I generally use something to simulate snow: coconut or piped white icing around the border (the frosting gets kind of messy so you might want to camouflage the edges of your dish.) Also, I sometimes freehand some piped-icing snowflakes on the top. So far this year I have used coconut, marshmallows, and some snowflake-shaped sprinkles. Do what you want as well, but know this is probably Yule Log heresy.