Bûche de Noël

Bûche de Noël from Pinay In Texas Cooking Corner

Ingredients:

Serves 12 to 16

For the cake:

  • Unsalted butter for greasing
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 3/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • Confectioners sugar for dusting

For the syrup:

  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 to 3 Tbs. dark rum or coffee-flavored liqueur (I didn't have both so I just used brewed coffee instead)

For the frosting:

  • 10 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt

For the meringue mushrooms:

  • 3 egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup confectioners sugar
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting
  • Chocolate curls for garnish
  • Confectioners sugar for garnish

Procedure:

For the cake:

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 15 1/2-by-10 1/2-inch rimmed baking sheet and line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease and flour the paper and the pan sides.

2. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt until blended. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the eggs until pale and thick, about 3 minutes. Add the granulated sugar and vanilla and continue beating until tripled in volume, about 3 minutes more. Sprinkle the flour mixture over the eggs and, using a rubber spatula, fold gently until just blended. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake until the cake springs back when lightly touched, 13 to 15 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, lay a clean kitchen towel on the counter and sift confectioners sugar generously onto it, covering it evenly. When the cake is ready, remove it from the oven and immediately run a knife around the inside of the pan to loosen the cake. Holding the cake in place, invert the pan onto the prepared towel. Lift off the pan and carefully peel off the paper. Beginning on a long edge, roll up the cake and towel together. Set on a wire rack and let cool.

For the syrup:

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the water and granulated sugar and stir until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil and remove from the heat. Stir in the coffee and set aside to cool to room temperature.

For the frosting:

Combine the chocolate and cream in the top pan of a double boiler. Set the pan over but not touching barely simmering water in the bottom pan. (I don't have a double boiler so I used an improvised one, i.e., a bowl on top of a small saucepan.) Melt the chocolate, then whisk until well blended. Remove the bowl from heat. Refrigerate, stirring occasionally, until cold, about 2 hours. Instead of refrigerating, you may use an ice bath like what I did. To do this, fill a bowl halfway with ice and water. Put the bowl of chocolate on top of the bowl with ice and water. Whisk frequently until chocolate is cold. When the mixture is cold, add the vanilla and salt. Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the chocolate mixture briefly until firm enough to hold a soft dollop. The mixture will continue to firm up as it sits.

For the meringue mushrooms:

1.Preheat the oven to 225°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Have ready a pastry bag fitted with a small plain tip.

2. In a bowl, using a mixer on medium-low speed, beat together the egg whites and cream of tartar until very foamy. Slowly add the granulated sugar while beating. Increase the speed to high and beat until soft peaks form when the beaters are lifted. Continue until the whites hold stiff, shiny peaks. Sift the confectioners sugar over the whites and, using a rubber spatula, fold in until well blended.

3. Scoop the mixture into the bag. On 1 baking sheet, pipe 48 stems, each 1/2 inch wide at the base and tapering off to a point at the top, 3-4 inch tall, and spaced about 1/2 inch apart. On the other sheet, pipe 48 mounds for the tops, each about 1 1/4 inches wide and 3D4 inch high, also spaced 1/2 inch apart. With a damp fingertip, gently smooth any pointy tips. Dust with cocoa. Reserve the remaining meringue.

4. Bake until dry and firm enough to lift off the paper, 50 to 55 minutes. Set the pans on the counter and turn the mounds flat side up. Using a toothpick, carefully make a small hole in the flat side of each mound. Dip the tip of each stem into the remaining meringue and then insert each stem into the hole of each mound. Return to the oven until completely dry, about 15 minutes more. Let cool completely on the baking sheets.

To assemble the bûche:

1. Unroll the cake and brush it liberally with the cooled syrup. Using an icing spatula, spread one-third of the frosting over the cake. Gently reroll the cake and place, seam side down, on a cutting board. Cut both ends. Use the cut portions to make two branches on the log. Frost the top and sides of the roll with the remaining frosting, using long, rough strokes. Using a serrated knife, trim each end on a sharp angle.
2. Transfer the cake to a serving plate and garnish with the chocolate curls, a sifting of confectioners sugar and the meringue mushrooms. (I didn't decorate mine with chocolate curls and confectioners sugar but it still turned out pretty, right?) Pass the remaining meringue mushrooms at the table for garnishing individual servings. 

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