Friday, December 9, 2011

Buche de Noel

Buche de Noel, or Christmas Log is a dessert I was first introduced to as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  At the age of twenty-one I served an eighteen month mission in the beautiful country of France. When I returned home, I researched and tried several Buche de Noel recipes, and came up with this combination as my favorite.  Lucky for you, it’s naturally gluten free! No substitutions required!
In pre-Christian times the French people celebrated the Winter Solstice and honored God Thor by creating a large bon fire. As Christmas time began to replace the Winter Solstice the people cut down a yule log to burn in their fireplace. The ashes were thought to have magical and medicinal powers to chase away evil spirits and bless and protect the family for the upcoming year. When homes started to be built without fireplaces in the late 1800's a French pastry chef created a cake that looked like a log so the French people could still have a log around which they could center their family holiday traditions. 
While the Buche de Noel is a little more time intensive than many dishes, the end result is worth the effort.  It makes a beautiful center piece, and it tastes amazing!  I’ve tried to make one every Christmas as part of our family tradition.  It’s important to follow all of the directions exactly (I learned that the hard way!) Happy baking!
Chocolate Whipped Cream:
1 cup heavy whipping cream

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons granulated white sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons Dutch processed cocoa
Prepare chocolate whipped cream in advance.  In a large mixing bowl place the whipping cream, vanilla extract, sugar, and cocoa powder and stir to combine. Cover and chill the bowl and beaters in the refrigerator for at least one hour so the cocoa powder has time to dissolve. Beat the mixture until stiff peaks form.
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup white sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 egg whites
1/4 cup white sugar
confectioners' sugar for dusting
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a 10x15 inch jellyroll pan with parchment paper.  In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat egg yolks with 1/2 cup sugar until thick and pale. Blend in 1/3 cup cocoa, 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla, and salt. In large glass bowl, using clean beaters, whip egg whites to soft peaks. Gradually add 1/4 cup sugar, and beat until whites form stiff peaks. Immediately fold the yolk mixture into the whites. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the cake springs back when lightly touched. Remove from oven, and cool.
Once the cake has cooled, spread with the chocolate whipped cream (reserve 2 tablespoons) and then gently roll the cake, peeling off the parchment paper as you roll. The sponge cake will crack, and, in fact, this makes it look more like a real log. Trim one end of the cake at an angle and set it aside. Then place the sponge cake, seam side down, on your serving platter. Take the slice of reserved cake and, using the reserved whipped cream, attach it to the side of the sponge cake (to look like the end of a branch). Cover with plastic wrap and chill until serving time. Just before serving remove the cake from the refrigerator, dust with confectioners (powdered or icing) sugar (to resemble snow), and decorate with meringue mushrooms (if desired). You can also decorate the Yule Log with miniature pine cones and pine needles.

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