Sunday, December 20, 2009

Buche de Noel (Yule Log)

Ah, the yule log. A fabulously overwrought, complicated, holiday dessert that requires no fewer than 4 separate components and lots of attention. In other words, something right up my alley. It's a lot of fun to make if you have 4-8 hours to kill. My husband had this for breakfast yesterday, so I'm pretty sure it also tastes as good as it looks.

The yule log has its origins in Germanic paganism, which makes it a fabulously secular dessert. It also freezes well, so you can make this ahead of time and bring it to your office party to impress everyone.

Joconde (Biscuit)
Recipe courtesy of the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts
1 recipe makes 3 half-sheet pans of cake

7 oz. almond flour
7 oz. powdered sugar
4 oz. sifted flour
6 eggs
8 egg whites
6 oz. sugar
2 oz. butter (melted then cooled)

Preheat oven to 400.

*This recipe is easiest if you have two mixers. You are making an air-filled cake batter and then combining it with a French meringue, both of which are much, much easier with the aid of an electric mixer. You can mix one or the other ahead of time, but they'll start to deflate and the final product will suffer.the stan

If you're like most of the world, you don't have two stand mixers hanging around, but there is hope! Neither the almond flour batter nor the meringue can be over-mixed, so you can keep one going on the stand mixed while you do the other using a hand mixer.

Combine the almond flour, powdered sugar, and the flour in the bowl of an electric mixer and mix on medium speed using the paddle attachment. One by one, add the eggs. Once the eggs are incorporated, continue to mix on medium speed for about 15 minutes to incorporate air. Add the melted butter until fully incorporated. 

In a separate bowl, using the whisk attachment, add the egg whites and whip at high speed until soft peaks form. When the egg whites have reached soft peak turn the machine down to medium and add the sugar. Continue to mix on medium speed for about 3 minutes (or indefinitely...the meringue cannot be overbeaten).

Fold the egg white mixture into the almond flour batter until blended. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and spread batter over all the parchment paper until it is about 1/8 in. thick. It's important to make sure the batter is even, so use a spatula to even things out. Bake for 4-5 minutes.

Simple Syrup
1/2c water
1/2c granulated white sugar
Flavoring of choice (liquors, extracts, etc.)

Bring water to a boil and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Cool syrup. Mix in flavoring to taste.

You want to flip your cake to soak it with simple syrup. Put an additional sheet of parchment paper on the top and just flip. It sounds dangerous, but this cake is surprisingly pliable. Brush the Joconde with simple syrup to soak the cake and make it less likely to crack when rolling. You want it to be moist to the touch, but not so wet that it will disintigrate when you handle it.

Next, coat the cake with your filling of choice. Pastry cream, jelly, whatever strikes your fancy.  You can even sprinkle it with roasted nuts for some delicious texture. You're aiming for a layer about the same thickness as your cake. Then comes the fun part...rolling! Your cake should be quite pliable, so as long as you're gentle , rolling shouldn't be too difficult. Two sets of hands are better than one, so if you can get help, even better

It's best to cut/decorate when the log is cold, so chill the roll in the fridge for 1/2 hour to an hour. If you're making multiple logs, cut the roll on the diagonal. 1 sheet pan should give you 3 logs. Then you can decorate with chocolate buttercream. A basketweave tip/fork creates some fun looking bark texture.

Meringue mushrooms are traditional on the yule log, but you can have a lot of fun with decorations here. Sprinkle on some powdered sugar and you have some fun snow!