It was a wonderful Christmas here in Mashpee. My mother managed to get here with only a minor delay - she could have been stranded like so many other travelers! It was the first time in 13 years that we spent the Holidays together...happy and sad - our first Christmas without my father, but also the first one for Emilie with Grand-Maman.
A huge part of these Holidays is the food...of course. Christmas Eve menu was quite traditional for us...Salmon Gravlax with Blinis, and Bob made his famous clam chowder.
Christmas day...Champagne to start, Breasts of Duck (magrets de canard) and a Mushroom Risotto, and the infamous Buche de Noel (Yule Log).
This year I changed the recipe a little...and the new Log was delicious! The cake is a chocolate base cake, the filling a light vanilla butter cream and the bark...a classic ganache flavored with Glenfiddish whiskey.
Buche de Noel
1 cup sugar, divided
3/4 cup cake flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder + 2 Tbsp for dusting
1 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
4 large eggs, separated
2 Tbsp vegetable oil (I used safflower oil)
2 Tbsp water
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 cup water
1 1/3 cup sugar, + 2Tbsp
2 cups butter (4 sticks), cut into large pieces, softened (not melted)
2 tsp vanilla extract
8 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
300 g heavy cream (1 1/4 cup)
300 g heavy cream (1 1/4 cup)
50 g butter (1/2 stick)
5 cl liqueur (your choice!) - I used Glenfiddish whiskey for this recipe
Prepare the cake:
Preheat the oven to 375F.
Line a 15x10x1-inch sheet pan with parchment paper. Brush with vegetable oil or melted butter. Dust with cocoa powder and set aside.
Sift 1/2 cup sugar, the cake flour, baking powder, the cocoa powder and salt into a small bowl.
Beat the egg yolks in the bowl of a stand mixer until thick. Beat the oil in, the water and the vanilla.
Gradually add the dry ingredients, beating until just blended. The batter will be very thick.
In another bowl, beat the egg whites and the cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Slowly ad the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar. Beat until stiff peaks but not dry.
Fold a quarter of the whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it. Fold in the remaining whites in two or three additions, being careful not to deflate the batter.
Spread the batter on the sheet pan, evenly.
Bake for about 12 minutes, until puffed and tester comes out clean.
Cool the cake for 10 minutes and unmold on a slightly damp kitchen towel dusted with cocoa powder.
Using the cloth, roll the long side of the cake (the kitchen towel will end up inside the cake!) and place seam side down on work surface to cool completely.
Prepare the Vanilla Buttercream:
In a bowl, combine the egg whites and the salt.
Place the water and 1 1/3 cup of sugar in a heavy saucepan. Stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar has dissolved. Bring the mixture to a boil over moderate heat, brushing the sides of the saucepan with a pastry brush dipped in water. Do not stir.
When the syrup starts to boil, begin beating the whites on medium-high speed. Gradually add 2 Tbsp of sugar and beat until soft peaks form - do not beat again until syrup is ready.
Return to the syrup and boil until a candy thermometer reaches 240F. Remove from the heat at once and, with the mixer on high speed, add to the whites, pouring it slowly down the side of the bowl. Keep beating, scrapping the sides occasionally with a rubber spatula, until the meringue has cooled, about 10 minutes.
Reduce speed to medium and add the softened butter one piece at a time. When all the butter has been added, add the vanilla and beat for a little bit longer until the buttercream is smooth.
Now prepare the ganache:
In a medium heavy saucepan, heat the cream. Add the chocolate, butter and liqueur. Whisk and remove from the stove. Let cool, whisking regularly. The chocolate mixture should thicken, but not become too hard.
Assemble the Yule Log:
Unroll the cake and dust with cocoa powder. Spread the vanilla buttercream evenly on the cake and, using the towel as an aid, roll the cake lengthwise (this time the towel should not be inside the cake!!).
When rolled, cut about 2 1/2 inches off both sides, diagonally, and place one piece on top of the cake, slanted side down, and the other on the side, slanted side against the main body of the cake. This should look like a wood log!
Spread the ganache on the cake, in an irregular fashion, and decorate with meringue mushrooms and other Christmas decorations.
For the buttercream, if the meringue has not cooled enough, the cream will become runny. Place the bowl on a bag of ice cubes and whisk; it should regain proper consistency.
It is a good idea if you like the biscuit a little more moist to brush it with an aromatic syrup (sugar and water and a liquor) before spreading the filling.