Once upon a time in the land of St. Honore’, far off in the woods of the west country, lived a woodcutter. One day as he headed for home after a day of gathering wood, he came upon the largest, oldest, most amazing looking log you can imagine, half buried in moss and old leaves, surrounded with ferns and tiny mushrooms, and dusted with snow. He left the wood he had gathered and, with a mighty heave, pulled the huge log to his home. The days were growing short and the nights long as the Winter Solstice drew near. A good, long burning Yule log was a most welcome find.
It was not the easiest log to get started, but soon he had it burning and discovered that it had a wonderful unexpected charm…no matter how long it burned, it never seemed to get smaller.
As the days grew shorter and the night longer, the woodcutter became sadder and sadder. He missed the sunlight. Sitting in front of the Yule log, he took a nap. Hoping to cheer him up, his goodwife gathered her bowls and spoons and flour and sugar and eggs and butter and began to bake something wonderful.
First she made a flat layer of a cake like a sponge…called a genoise. Here she is sifting in the flour mixture, then folding it into the beaten eggs and sugar mixture.
While it was baking she made a delicious chocolate and Amaretto flavored buttercream. Once the cake had cooled enough to handle, she laid it on parchment and brushed it with more Amaretto liquor.
Then she spread half the buttercream over the cake and rolled it up like a jelly roll. A quick chilling soon had it firm enough so that she could work the magic she had in mind.
She cut off the ends at an angle, showing the swirl of light cake and darker buttercream. One of those ends was placed on the side of the roll. Oooh now do you understand? She is making a charmed log of her own!
The log and branch were then swirled with the rest of the buttercream. Now it really looked like a single piece of wood, especially when she took the tines of a fork and pulled them through the buttercream to look like bark.
For the final decoration, she had planned to create meringue mushrooms to place in tiny clusters about the log. Unfortunately she slipped on a mossy step and hurt her back, so no mushrooms. A dusting of confectioners sugar gave the appearance of a light snowfall.
When her husband awoke from his nap, she took him gently by the hand and brought him to the sideboard where the beautiful log she had made was sitting. Smiling sweetly she told him that this log, this Buche de Noel, was her Christmas gift to him. It would be gone much, much faster than the magic Yule log he had brought home, but it would carry memories of their time together this Christmas tide and the joy of sharing the cake with friends and family. She told him that she would make another one each year to remind them of the light returning to the world that Christmas brings.
The woodcutter was wonderfully cheered by the cake, impressed with her baking skills and with his goodwife’s kindness in making it. He knew that it would be a merry Christmas indeed.
As a Winter Solstice gift to you, Gentle Reader, the Daring Bakers from all over the globe have made many, many Buche De Noels. Our hostesses Lis and Ivonne, also the founders of the Daring Bakers, have chosen a superb recipe that reminds us of the presence of light during the darkest time of the year. Thank you Lis of Mia La Cucina and Ivonne of Creampuffs in Venice for this holiday gift, for all of your work in the background making this baking group such a wonderful online community, and for starting it all with a recipe for pretzels a little over a year ago.
I had never made a Buche de Noel and had such a good time playing with it that I again used the convention of a fairy tale to tell about making the cake. Unfortunately, the slip and fall is true, so that is why no mushrooms. *Sigh* Gentle Reader, the story is my own (as is the last one), but there are many stories today around the blogosphere. Check out the other Daring Bakers’ Buche de Noel’s by going to the Daring Baker Blogroll here. The recipe can be found at the bottom of this post if you want to make your own to capture your own winter memories.
(from Perfect Cakes by Nick Malgieri and The Williams-Sonoma Collection: Dessert)
Daring Bakers Challenge #14: December 2007
Hosts: Daring Baker Founders Ivonne (Cream Puffs in Venice) and Lisa (La Mia Cucina)
Posting Date: Saturday December 22, 2007 or Sunday December 23, 2007 (Note: To accommodate the fact that some of you want to serve this for Christmas, for the first time we're allowing you to choose your posting date. You can post on the Saturday or the Sunday.)
Recipe Quantity: Serves 12
Cake should be stored in a cool, dry place. Leftovers should be refrigerated
1. A genoise cake using the recipe below
2. A coffee buttercream frosting using the recipe below (Note: For those of you that have an aversion to coffee, you can use another flavour for your buttercream, however, the buttercream must be dark in colour. We don't want any white or cream-coloured Yule Logs!
3. Meringue or Marzipan mushrooms using the recipes below
Additional Information about Challenge:
If you are not going to use the coffee buttercream to fill your log, be sure to have the filling ready once the genoise comes out of the oven. If you do fill your Yule Log with fruit or with soemthing other than buttercream, please note that you may not be able to freeze the Log because the filling may not last.
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
pinch of salt
¾ cup of sugar
½ cup cake flour - spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off (also known as cake & pastry flour)
¼ cup cornstarch
one (1) 10 x 15 inch jelly-roll pan that has been buttered and lined with parchment paper and then buttered again
1.Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F.
2.Half-fill a medium saucepan with water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat so the water is simmering.
3.Whisk the eggs, egg yolks, salt and sugar together in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer. Place over the pan of simmering water and whisk gently until the mixture is just lukewarm, about 100 degrees if you have a thermometer (or test with your finger - it should be warm to the touch).
4.Attach the bowl to the mixer and, with the whisk attachment, whip on medium-high speed until the egg mixture is cooled (touch the outside of the bowl to tell) and tripled in volume. The egg foam will be thick and will form a slowly dissolving ribbon falling back onto the bowl of whipped eggs when the whisk is lifted.
5.While the eggs are whipping, stir together the flour and cornstarch.
6.Sift one-third of the flour mixture over the beaten eggs. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the flour mixture, making sure to scrape all the way to the bottom of the bowl on every pass through the batter to prevent the flour mixture from accumulating there and making lumps. Repeat with another third of the flour mixture and finally with the remainder.
7.Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
8.Bake the genoise for about 10 to 12 minutes. Make sure the cake doesn’t overbake and become too dry or it will not roll properly.
9.While the cake is baking, begin making the buttercream.
10.Once the cake is done (a tester will come out clean and if you press the cake lightly it will spring back), remove it from the oven and let it cool on a rack.
4 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
24 tablespoons (3 sticks or 1-1/2 cups) unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
2 tablespoons rum or brandy
1.Whisk the egg whites and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Set the bowl over simmering water and whisk gently until the sugar is dissolved and the egg whites are hot.
2.Attach the bowl to the mixer and whip with the whisk on medium speed until cooled. Switch to the paddle and beat in the softened butter and continue beating until the buttercream is smooth. Dissolve the instant coffee in the liquor and beat into the buttercream.
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
½ cup (3-1/2 ounces/105 g.) granulated sugar
1/3 cup (1-1/3 ounces/40 g.) icing sugar
Unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting
1.Preheat the oven to 225 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. Have ready a pastry bag fitted with a small (no. 6) plain tip. In a bowl, using a mixer on medium-low speed, beat together the egg whites and cream of tartar until very foamy. Slowly add the granulated sugar while beating. Increase the speed to high and beat until soft peaks form when the beaters are lifted. Continue until the whites hold stiff, shiny peaks. Sift the icing sugar over the whites and, using a rubber spatula, fold in until well blended.
2.Scoop the mixture into the bag. On one baking sheet, pipe 48 stems, each ½ inch (12 mm.) wide at the base and tapering off to a point at the top, ¾ inch (2 cm.) tall, and spaced about ½ inch (12 mm.) apart. On the other sheet, pipe 48 mounds for the tops, each about 1-1/4 inches (3 cm.) wide and ¾ inch (2 cm.) high, also spaced ½ inch (12 mm.) apart. With a damp fingertip, gently smooth any pointy tips. Dust with cocoa. Reserve the remaining meringue.
3.Bake until dry and firm enough to lift off the paper, 50-55 minutes. Set the pans on the counter and turn the mounds flat side up. With the tip of a knife, carefully make a small hole in the flat side of each mound. Pipe small dabs of the remaining meringue into the holes and insert the stems tip first. Return to the oven until completely dry, about 15 minutes longer. Let cool completely on the sheets.
8 ounces almond paste
2 cups icing sugar
3 to 5 tablespoons light corn syrup
1.To make the marzipan combine the almond paste and 1 cup of the icing sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat with the paddle attachment on low speed until sugar is almost absorbed.
2.Add the remaining 1 cup of sugar and mix until the mixture resembles fine crumbs.
3.Add half the corn syrup, then continue mixing until a bit of the marzipan holds together when squeezed, adding additional corn syrup a little at a time, as necessary: the marzipan in the bowl will still appear crumbly.
4.Transfer the marzipan to a work surface and knead until smooth.
5.Roll one-third of the marzipan into a 6 inches long cylinder and cut into 1-inch lengths.
6.Roll half the lengths into balls. Press the remaining cylindrical lengths (stems) into the balls (caps) to make mushrooms.
7.Smudge with cocoa powder.
Assembling the Yule Log:
1.Run a sharp knife around the edges of the genoise to loosen it from the pan.
2.Turn the genoise layer over (unmolding it from the sheet pan onto a flat surface) and peel away the paper.
3.Carefully invert your genoise onto a fresh piece of parchment paper.
4.Spread with half the coffee buttercream (or whatever filling you’re using).
5.Use the parchment paper to help you roll the cake into a tight cylinder.
6.Transfer back to the baking sheet and refrigerate for several hours.
7.Unwrap the cake. Trim the ends on the diagonal, starting the cuts about 2 inches away from each end.
8.Position the larger cut piece on each log about 2/3 across the top.
9.Cover the log with the reserved buttercream, making sure to curve around the protruding stump.
10.Streak the buttercream with a fork or decorating comb to resemble bark.
11.Transfer the log to a platter and decorate with your mushrooms and whatever other decorations you’ve chosen.