Saturday, December 24, 2011

Buche de Noel

Before we get to the yule log, I have to wish my sister a happy birthday! She's actually in town visiting so we're going out to celebrate later! Happy birthday Alex!

Now, I love, love, love a good yule log. They're so fun and festive, and (sadly) you can only make them once a year! Actually, since we're not a Christmas family, I've never gotten to make one.

Until this year, thanks to our neighbor's holiday party.

I've bribed them for months with sweets like brownies and bars so when they're annual holiday party rolled around I'd be a shoe-in for dessert.

This cake is so fun, and I know it looks really involved, but I promise, it's not. Remember the pumpkin roll cake? Same idea but with a few snazzy embellishments. It is the holidays after all. And you can make it as crazy or as simple as you want. Go all out with fondant and meringue decorations, or simply cover the whole thing in ganache and call it a day. Drench anything in melted chocolate and people will go crazy for it. You can quote me on that.

 Buche de Noel (Yule Log)

For the cake
1/4 cup powdered sugar
4 egg whites
3/4 cup granulated sugar
4 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp cake flour, sifted
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a jelly roll pan with parchment or a silicone baking mat. Grease well with butter and flour or non-stick spray. Set aside. Lay out a clean dish towel and sift the powdered sugar evenly over it. Set this aside as well.
2. With an electric mixer, whisk the egg whites on medium speed until foamy. Add the sugar very slowly. Turn the mixer to medium-high and whisk for 4-5 minutes, or until stiff peaks form.
3. Sacrifice about 1/4 cup of the egg white mixture to the egg yolks, stirring well to combine. Add this mixture back to the rest of the meringue and begin to incorporate using a rubber spatula and folding gently.
4. Add the cake flour in 2-3 batches, folding just a few times in between each addition.
5. Before the batter is completely incorporated, sacrifice some of it to the melted butter, stirring well to incorporate. Add this mixture back to the rest of the cake batter and fold until the batter is completely incorporated. Don't overfold or you'll deflate the batter.
6. Pour the batter onto the prepared sheet pan and spread evenly with an offset spatula. Don't work the batter too much but try your best to get the batter even.
7. Bake 7-9 minutes, or until the edges are a light golden brown and the cake springs back to the touch. Immediately unmold the cake onto the sugared dish towel. Peel back the parchment very, very carefully, trying not to tear the cake. Starting with one of the long edges, use the dish towel to roll the cake up. You'll be rolling the dish towel along with the cake so it will end up rolled inside and around the cake. Set aside to cool completely.

For the icing:
1 lb unsalted butter at room temperature
6 oz shortening
1 lb powdered sugar
4 oz melted chocolate, or more to taste
4 oz fresh raspberries, crushed, or any other desired flavoring

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter until soft.
2. Add the shortening and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy.
3. Add the sugar gradually and beat until smooth.
4. Remove about 1 1/2 cups of the icing to another small bowl. Stir in the raspberries or your desired flavorings.
5. Add the melted chocolate to the remaining icing, beating on low just to combine.

For the meringue mushrooms, trees, etc:
2 egg whites
1/4 tsp acid (vinegar, cream of tartar, lemon juice, etc.)
1/2 cup granulated sugar

1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
2. With an electric mixer, whisk the egg whites on medium speed until foamy. Add the acid.
3. Very gradually add the sugar. Turn the mixer to high and whisk until very stiff peaks form.
4. Fit a pastry bag with a medium sized plain round tip. Fill with the meringue and pipe desired shapes onto the prepared sheet pan. Traditional ones include mushrooms, trees, and snowmen.
5. Bake the meringues for at least an hour, or as long as it takes for the shapes to dry out and harden.

To assemble the cake:
1. Unroll the cooled cake carefully and completely. Top the cake with the raspberry icing and spread evenly, all the way to the edges.
2. Re-roll the cake in the same way you did with the dish towel. End with the seam on the bottom.
3. Use a serrated knife and trim the edges of the cake on an angle. Cut off one or two small pieces, a few inches long.
4. Transfer the main cake roll to the serving platter you plan to use. Attach the "branches" either next to or on top of the log. Simply press them on gently until they stick.

5. Use a medium star tip and pipe the chocolate icing onto the log, covering the sides completely. You can leave it like this, or use an offset spatula to add more texture to the log. Pipe a swirl onto the exposed edges or leave them plain.

6. Dust with powdered sugar and garnish with meringue decorations.


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