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Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Beginnings of Tradition

Since I think I expressed my adoration for this time of year earlier, I wont bother with reaffirming those sentiments once again. Instead, I think I'll offer for your close approaching Holiday pleasure, what is quickly becoming a tradition in our home, an annual Bûche de Noël, aka a Yule Log.

 The Bûche de Noël is closely related to (or has almost replaced) the tradition of the "Yule Log," when the carefully selected Christmas log was burned to bring warmth and prosperity to the home. Although it's now used in relation to Christmas traditions, it had its origins in a "Winter Solstice" tradition.  Some traditions suggest the yule log was burned with the remnants of last years log, while others suggest the 'log' was actual a bundle of sticks tied together, and as each binding broke they toasted with a beverage. There were apparently many variations of the Yule Log, but as people slowly replaced the hearth with other forms of heating in many countries, the tradition slowly declined and was replaced with the edible cake version.

The cake itself is typically prepared using some sort of sponge cake, buttercream frosting, and various decorations possibly including branches, fresh berries, meringue mushrooms, and powdered sugar. Once iced, the log is usually sliced and placed on the side or top as another branch. I didn't want the cake to dry out (and what's wrong with more chocolate!), so I iced this piece as well.

We had our first version of the Bûche de Noël a couple years ago as part of our Christmas Eve / Dad's Birthday celebration, and have managed to find an excuse to make a new one each year since. The extra dose of sweet from chocolate ganache I use to top the log makes for an exceptionally sweet dessert that looks nice and festive sitting on the table with just a little extra adornment.This is by far the most enjoyable recipe of the three that I've tried, so I thought it an appropriate time to share it with you.

For the Cake:
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 large egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar, divided
1/2 cup flour
4 large egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

1. Preheat oven to 425. Line a jelly roll baking sheet with a 17" x 10-1/2" with parchment paper. Butter & dust with flour. 
2. Boil water. Pour over cocoa and begin to stir. Add vanilla and continue to stir until smooth.
3. In a separate bowl, combine egg yolks and 1/3 cup sugar. Beat until smooth and pale yellow. Add chocolate mixture and beat until smooth and well combined.Add flour and beat one more minute.
4. In a clean bowl, beat egg white until soft peaks form. Add cream of tartar and sugar and beat until it holds stiff, glossy peaks.
5. Using a spatula gently fold 1/2 of meringue mixture into chocolate. Gently fold in remaining.
6. Using a pastry bag with wide tip (or coupler), place mixture into bag and pipe in long rows filling the prepared pan.
7. Bake cake 8 minutes, until it springs back when touched in the middle.
8. Remove from oven and place on a rack to cool. Place a damp towel over the cake. When cool, invert it onto the towel and gently peel parchment paper away.

For the Filling  Icing:
1 Stick Salted Butter, at room temperature

1/2 Tsp Pure Peppermint Extract
1/2 lb Powdered Sugar
3-4 Tbsp Milk
2 Tbsp Dutch Process Cocoa

1. Cream butter. Add flavoring. Add cocoa, powdered sugar a 1/2 cup at a time adding milk when needed to achieve desired consistency.

For the Ganache (outer frosting):
1-1/4 Cup Heavy Cream
10 Oz Semi-Sweet Chocolate finely chopped

1. Bring heavy cream to a boil. Pour over chopped chocolate and stir until smooth. Chill covered, and stir occasionally until set.

For the decorations, use your imagination! You can sift powdered sugar over the cake and make Meringue Mushrooms as I did here, or you can do whatever suits you, your guests, and your Christmas or Holiday wishes.



Fresh Local and Best said...

I think this is a great tradition to have for Christmas. I love the touch of the meringue mushrooms with chocolate ganache. Also, sponge cake is a nice light contrast to the chocolate.

Ana Powell said...

Moist and very well decorated.
Wishing you a lovely Christmas ♥

Debbie said...

Bravo to you!! I saw this cake, but in a hazelnut version a few months and thought it would make a great Christmas cake. I have never made a cake roll though and I think i'm too nervous! Yours looks amazing, even down to the little mushrooms, bet its yummy too!

Jennifurla said...

What a great job you did, gorgeous job of baking here.

Drick said...

great intro to the recipe, always love history associated with the presented foods... gotta love that cake, the filling I bet just makes it, or is it the wonderful ganache... beautiful with the wishes to the both of you for a very happy week ahead....

Hylic said...

Yum yum...wish i could make one.

Chow and Chatter said...

wow this is amazing and love the mushrooms Merry Christmas Rebecca

Anonymous said...

Love the mushroom meringue!! So cute and compliment the yule log so well.

jen cheung said...

Passion4Food here to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New year. May 2011 bring you lots of happiness and friendship. Have an awesome day with your love ones!!

jen @

sweetlife said...

i have always wanted to attempt this festive treat! i love yours, such a great tradition!! happy holidays


Magic of Spice said...

Very lovely...and the photo of the sliced piece is so tempting :) Hope your Holiday have been wonderful and that you have an amazing New Year!

Stella said...

So pretty, guys! I'm going to make something like this next year. This is really wonderful.
Happy new year to both of you btw. I hope 2011 is very happy and relaxing for both of you!

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