We decided to make a Buche de Noel or Yule Log this Christmas. This is not a tutorial on making one. I can suggest going here to Joe Pastry if you want to read all about it. I just want to tell you a bit about our experience.
The very wise suggestion was made by Joe Pastry to allow plenty of time, as in a week, to make all the components of this dessert. That was our saving grace! I’ve been staying up too late writing posts, doing some Christmas crafting and generally not getting enough sleep. This project entailed making a Génoise cake (a rich sponge cake), jelly-roll style, Swiss Meringue Buttercream for the filling, Chocolate Ganache for the frosting or bark and meringue mushrooms for garnish. Of those, I’d only made Chocolate Ganache and I’d never made a rolled cake of any kind.
Joe’s site has loads of information such as how to temper your eggs and butter so they’re not too cold when you start. I’d read through the various recipes before we started and the directions and steps with lots of photos really helped. But I still seemed to make every mistake I could.
The first thing we attempted were the Meringue Mushrooms. The problem on this was I didn’t get the egg whites quite as stiff as they needed to be so our mushroom stems and tops looks quite similar – we would have ended up with some squat mushrooms but I did some carving and gluing with powdered sugar-water paste to make taller stems out of some of the short ones. Mushrooms managed.
Next up was the Swiss Meringue Buttercream and it turned out great! But as we were just getting started, I was separating egg whites from egg yolks and I dropped some eggshell into the bowl of whites. Then I dropped an egg yolk into the whites but managed to get all uninvited ingredients out. Finally, while cracking eggs over the sink in an attempt to keep both shells and yolks out of the whites, I dropped part of an egg white down the sink! Argh! But in spite of that, it turned out. Whew. Swiss Meringue Buttercream dealt with.
Next up was the Génoise – a sponge cake baked in a thin layer in a large baking pan. After baking, the cake is flipped out onto a tea towel dusted with powdered sugar, then rolled up in the towel. Once it is cool it is unrolled, filled with the Swiss Meringue Buttercream and rerolled. Our Génoise looked good – a pale gold, and it came out of the pan without too much fuss. Parchment paper that had been greased and floured made a big difference. But when we stared unrolling the cake, it stuck to the towel and the inside edge broke completely off!
With determination (or stubbornness) we pressed on. Once we got it unstuck from the towel, buttercream surrounded the broken edge and glued it back together enough that we could roll it up where it wouldn’t show. Tasting the cake later, we both felt the génoise was a bit tough. But dressed up with buttercream and ganache it was really tasty. It was our first attempt at a génoise and I’d try it again (in a simpler dessert) before throwing in the towel.
Finally we had all the components and we were ready to put them all together. It all worked! I’d even made a batch of chocolate cherry mice and used those as garnish along with the meringue mushrooms. I wish I had made smaller mushrooms but overall I’m very pleased with pulling this one off. The presentation was lovely, the mushrooms looked as if they were growing out of the bark of our log. A dusting of powdered-sugar snow, sprigs of holly, olive and rosemary branches and three chocolate cherry mice surrounded the log.
Throughout the whole project Rem had been working alongside me. He read the recipe steps, piped mushrooms, sifted flour and sugar, simmered water, checked the temperature of egg whites and sugar, and washed bowls, pots, pans and counters. When I got frustrated with the whole thing he was calm and steady.
I’d promised my parents we would visit, cake in hand, in the later afternoon so they could see (and taste) our finished creation. Making the second batch of ganache (and waiting for it to chill and firm up) had taken more time than planned but they were patient when I called to say we’d be late. We wrapped it carefully and drove over. Molly was so excited to see us and curious about this item being carried in. We got inside and my folks oohed and aahed. The real joy was tasting it. The Swiss Meringue Buttercream was silky and delicious and balanced out with the dense, rich chocolate of the ganache. Each serving was garnished with a mushroom that melted into sweetness on the tongue. The Buche de Noel was declared a success.
Was creating this complicated dessert during a busy, stressful time of year a good idea? Maybe not. But allowing lots of time and spreading it out over most of a week made it doable. Sharing the results of our efforts with my parents was very rewarding. Hoping your holidays are sweet and satisfying. Thanks for your visit.