The Bûche de Noël is "THE" dessert served at Christmas dinners in France.
It is a cake that resembles a log that you would burn in your fireplace. The tradition originates from the days before central heating : the only way to keep a house warm was by the fireplace. So, when friends and family would come for the holidays, they would bring a log to put in the fireplace.
The tradition of burning the log began to disappear with the arrival of small stoves. The log was replaced by a smaller branch that was set in the middle of the table and surrounded by little "friandises" (sweets, delicacies) that were given as treats to guests. It is this branch that was eventually transformed into the cake known as the Bûche de Noël.
Obviously, with the title of our program being "French gastronomy", in our last pastry classes we had to produce our own Bûche de Noël.
The key components of making a bûche de Noël are
- a rolled cake based on génoise batter (similar to biscuit or sponge cake)
- crème de marron for the filling
- the decoration including butter cream, ivy leaves, fake mushrooms, chocolate, snowman and father xmas !
Of course there are many many recipes and variations especially for the cremes and the decoration. No limits to the imagination. Here is how our pastry chef Thierry taught us to do one :
For the log's foundation : spread the genoise batter on a baking sheet, bake ~15 minutes at 250° C, sprinkle both sides with a mix of rum ! and sirup, spread the crème de marron (chestnut cream), then roll firmly.
For the decoration we prepared the week before the fake mushrooms from meringue and the snowman and father Christmas from almond paste. That class felt a bit like in kindergarten, very playful.... We had a blast to see everybody's creations collected together. You could make very good psychological conclusions on some hidden character traits through the design of the figures. Look at Gil's Dracula-like Snowman (lower left section). He must have a dark side that we didn't know of yet.
Those are my fake mushrooms. The shape is not so easy to create....
The whole operations concludes with the decoration. Including spreading the butter cream, placing the figures, chocolate decoration and placing ivy leaves.
But the most fashionable Bûche de Noël and most discussed on TV and in food and design journals this year has been the one done in collaboration with designer Philippe Starck and the famous pâtisserie Lenotre. It is not only supposed to look like a real piece of wood but also has some wood flavour. I am sure it is delicious ! Joyeux Noël et Bon appetit ...