Sunday, December 12, 2010

MAKE AHEAD: EASY BUCHE DE NOEL

Simple Yule Log: I made this dessert at least a dozen times before I read pastry chef Francois Payard's recipe in the New York Times for a Muscadine Yule Log, an over-the-top gorgeous and delicious dessert. It took more time to produce and I fell back to making my standard all chocolate log because it's simple. But I learned something important from Monsieur Payard - the buche can be made ahead and frozen. The Payard buche looks straight out of a fancy patisserie. The recipe here is for a slightly more rustic log though you can refine the look easily enough.

You'll need a candy thermometer unless you have a practiced eye.

First, make the cake.

Cake
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla
6 tbs cocoa, sifted
1/8 tsp salt
6 egg whites

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a 10" x 15" jelly roll pan (cookie sheet with sides) with parchment or cut paper bags so that paper overlaps all sides. Oil. Don't think you can skip the oil and lightly butter the paper; the cake will stick. You can avoid all this by purchasing a Super Parchment (made by Kitchen Supply) at Amazon for $10.68. www.amazon.com/Kitchen-Supply-Co-2575-Parchment/dp/B000QJEYPW  Works like magic, no oil required. Buy two.

Beat the egg yolks until light; add the sugar and beat until creamy. Blend in the vanilla, cocoa and salt. Set aside.

In another bowl beat the egg whites until stiff but don't overdo it. Fold into the chocolate mixture. Do not panic if some islands of egg white appear when you pour and spread this concoction into the pan - it's better to have specks of white than to mix the ingredients to death. 

Bake for about 20 minutes. Poke with a cake tester to check. 
straight from the oven

Immediately turn cake over onto a dampish towel lined with a new piece of parchment (or super parchment) and peel the paper from the bottom of the cake. Roll cake up in the lined towel and cool on a rack. (You can roll the cake from the long side and have a long, thinner log or roll it from the short side and have a wide log. If you do it the long way you can actually make two little buches de noel for gifts.)
rolled and ready
Make the buttercream:
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
2 eggs, in a bowl, stirred
3 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted, or 1 cup cocoa

Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan and cook to "soft-ball" stage (234 degrees) - this is a few degrees above "jelly" on the thermometer. The sugar-water temperature shoots up to jelly rapidly and then it's a slow go. This recipe is forgiving. You don't want to burn the sugar or have it solidify so if you are new at this, go ahead, take it off the heat before it gets to 234 and start to pour it into the eggs. This is the important part: if you are using a hand mixer, one hand is mixing the two eggs on medium speed while the other is pouring in the sugar mixture to combine. Beat until cold (doesn't take long).

Cream butter (this is when having two mixers makes life easier) thoroughly. Then beat in the egg/sugar mixture and blend in the chocolate.

Put it all together.

Unroll the cake, sit it on a jelly roll pan or any other flat surface and spread with half the buttercream, not going too close to the sides. Roll the cake back up, seam down, and spread most of the rest of the buttercream on the top and sides. Trim the raggedy end pieces off; then, cutting at an angle, slice a piece of cake off each end and use these for knots, placing them on the top or sides. I mostly make a rustic looking cake, draw some wavy lines along the bark and around the knots and add holly leaves and little rose hips for berries. But you can just as easily ice the log to be perfectly smooth, draw even fork tine lines and place little candy mushrooms and berries on it to make it picture perfect. Children love it when there are lots of marzipan leaves and berries.

But decorations can wait. For now, if you are cooking ahead, just draw your bark lines and put the cake in the freezer, uncovered, for about and hour. 
into the freezer
Take it out and using a pancake flipper, lift it off the pan and place it on a large piece of plastic wrap; wrap the cake airtight using a couple of layers. Return frozen cake (now a dangerous weapon) to the freezer. And here's a plug for the best available wrap: Stretch-Tite www.stretchtite.com/

Thaw the cake, wrap removed, in the refrigerator. Refrigerator space being at a premium we have thawed the cake on porches, in cold basements, anywhere critter-free. It's a lot of buttercream so it's best not to have the log sit at room temperature too long before eating. Since the log is all chocolate and we also serve English pudding, we use brandied whipped cream for both. 
ready for you

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