Bûche de Noël

This would be a second Christmas I am spending in France. For the first, my party and me, we bought a bûche de Noël, but this time I had a big kitchen and the abilities to do it, not to even mention the opportunity to do it for (it’s a bit of a large dessert to be making for one person!), so I am making one! It’s Christmas time in France, after all!

After an endless search, I finally found a recipe I would like to work with. This is the first time I am making a bûche, so I really don’t know what goes in it and how. I just know what it looks like. Or at least, what it should look like.

Ingredients for the cake:

6 eggs, separated

150 gr crystal sugar

50 gr cocoa powder

pinch of salt

½ tsp cinnamon

½ tsp 4 spice mix (the recipe calls for ½ tsp nutmeg, but I only have the 4 spice mix, which is a mix of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves and since they’re all Christmas season spices, I thought it couldn’t hurt)

1 tbsp crystal sugar

Preparation of the cake:

1. Preheat the oven to 180C and grease and line with parchment paper a cookie sheet 30×20 cm (original recipe suggestions) or do what I did: use the oven’s cookie sheet (and hope for the best, hope it’s the right size because you have no measuring tape :/) (Now, I’ve seen these only in the ovens in Europe, so you won’t have them in N. America. I am thinking that a regular size cookie sheet that fits easily in your oven should be fine. The cake should not be very high anyway.

2. Whisk the egg yolks with a mixer for a few minutes, then slowly add the sugar and keep mixing. Meanwhile, stir in the cocoa with the spices, and once the sugar is incorporated, add it in. (lower the speed, or you’ll get the cocoa in the kitchen, not in the bowl…) When everything is incorporated, it will be very thick. Mine kind of looked gummy (I can’t find a better word), but that is only because there are so many egg yolks and that much sugar; don’t fret, it’s all good)

3. In another bowl (or if you’re like me and have only one stand-alone mixer, then transfer the yolks in a clean bowl, wash the mixer bowl and continue with the recipe) beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. (make sure that your bowl and whisk are clean and DRY otherwise the egg whites won’t stiffen. You can use a pinch of cream of tartar if you’re afraid, but if everything is dry, it should be fine) Your easy test to see if they’re stiff enough, is to invert the bowl and see if the beaten egg whites will start sliding down the bowl. Be careful, you don’t want them on the counter. They shouldn’t move when they’re done.

start to mix the yolks and whites

start to mix the yolks and whites

4. By hand, blend in the egg whites in the egg yolk mixture. I say by hand, because you now have a wonderful volume in your egg whites and it would be a shame to lose it. Add few tablespoons at a time and fold. Slowly and with not too much force. This cake has no flour, so all you are baking is basically a chocolate mousse, and you want your cake to be nice, fluffy and light.

eggs incorporated

eggs incorporated

5. Spread all of this on the cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes until it bounces when you lightly press it. Remove from the oven and let it cool.

before baking

before baking

6. On a cooling rack place a sheet of parchment paper, sprinkled with crystal sugar. (the recipe says to put a tea towel over the rack and then the parchment paper, but the towel didn’t help me with the rolling or do anything for me)

out of the oven

out of the oven

7. When the cake is cool enough, run a knife around the edges of the paper to loosen it up, and transfer the cake, top side down on to the sugared parchment paper. Peel off the bottom parchment paper and using the parchment paper on the cooling rack, roll the cake together. Now, you can cover it with a tea towel if you like and let it continue cooling. This way it won’t dry and it won’t crack when you will finally be rolling it together once you put the filling in.

rolled up

rolled up

Ingredients for filling:

225ml 30% cream

250gr chestnut purée (I did my best to measure out in my debatable cup measurement 1 cup of purée and I am not sure whether 1 cup equals 250 gr, but either way, I was looking for consistency so I used more than 250 gr I think, and you will have enough from my chestnut purée recipe)

2 tsp brandy or rum (I used rum)

zest of 1 orange

1 ½ tbsp orange juice

sugar to taste

1 vanilla sugar packet (or 1/2 tsp vanilla extract)

Preparation:

1. Whisk the cream with a mixer until soft peaks form.

2. Add the chestnuts. Start with the 250gr at first and see how it looks like. if it’s too runny, then add more chestnuts. Add the sugar and taste if you’d like more.

3. Add the orange zest, orange juice and rum. Keep adjusting the consistency with more purée.

4. Transfer to a clean bowl and refrigerate until needed. When you need it, take it out of the fridge, and let it come close to room temperature so it’s easier to spread.

Ingredients for the icing:

285ml 30% cream

150gr milk chocolate (good quality, for cooking)

100gr dark chocolate

pinch of sea salt

Preparation:

1. Bring the cream to barely a boil and switch off.

2. Add the chocolate broken in pieces to melt in the cream and sprinkle with the salt.

3. Let it come to room temperature (or put in the fridge).

The assembly

1. Unroll the cake and spread with the filling. Spread the filling all the way to the edges of the cake.

2. Roll the cake slowly. Don’t press too much or you’ll press out the filling. Place on a large plate.

rolled up with filling before being iced

rolled up with filling before being iced

3. You can if you like, cut the ends to make them nice and clean, and attach one end on the side of the bûche, to make it look like a branch, but this is not necessary.

4. Spread the ganache over the cake and make the bark decorations with the tins of a fork.

bûche!!

bûche!!

5. Sprinkle some powdered sugar for snow decoration. Use your creativity to decorate however you desire!

Joyeux Noël!

P.S. Little heads-up: the recipe originally asks for double cream which is 40% fat. I used 30% because that is the most I could find in the fresh unsoured creams. If you can, it might be a good idea to use it. Why? I feel that my ganache is not thick enough or it comes way too fast way to close to room temperature and starts running a bit too fast for my liking. So, me glazing the cake is happening in stages. Glaze, fridge, glaze, fridge. Oh well. No one will mind the glaze running in their plate, because it is delicious and has tons of good chocolate. I read somewhere that to kind of come close to the thickness/fat content of double cream, one can stir in a bit of mascarpone after the cream has been beaten, but I didn’t. I thought it would harden enough once cooled to room temperature. Live and learn.

Also, for the filling: maybe it is because I added too many chestnuts or orange juice, but I would doubt it, I felt as if it was curdling. It is not curdled, nothing to fret, it just kind of looks like that to me. One might again need higher fat content in the cream, unsure. It still tastes great though and believe me, no one will be looking at this for a long time after the first bite (I think that the next time, I am making a filling of nothing but ricotta, sugar and orange juice and zest (if too runny, will add mascarpone); that would taste so great!)

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