Two years ago, I wrote a column suggesting that readers
throw tradition out the window at their annual Christmas
dinner and serve
Key Lime Pie.
Not only is Key Lime Pie easy and foolproof but also
from my experience, guests prefer the tangy taste of key
limes in their pies to apple, sweet potato or any of the
other flavors more commonly found at the Christmas
This year, I have different advice. Take the time and
make the effort to prepare a
Buche de Noel. The
Yule Log, with its three separate steps—icing,
filling and roulade—isn`t something you can whip
together on a whim. But it is not hard to do by any
totally chocolate version—which rejects
mascarpone cheese or disgusting chestnut flavors—is
a treat that your family will be remember for years.
Real Yule logs—as in the kind that come from trees—have
played an important part in French history for
centuries. Until the late 1800s, the common custom was
that when large families gathered together as a group
under one roof, each brought a log for the fire.
With everyone standing around the fireplace, the family
would sing carols before going to midnight mass.
Buche de Noel didn`t become popular as a dessert
until the early 20th Century. With meringue
mushrooms adorning the log, the resemblance to a tree
trunk is unmistakable.
With our brief history lesson complete, let`s proceed
without further ado to the kitchen.
Like all experienced bakers, I know the importance of
mise en place. For most that means having all
your ingredients measured, your pans in place and your
In my case, I have one additional step before embarking
on a baking project of this magnitude. My beloved dogs,
Sparkle, must be shipped off to doggie day care.
As much as Fido and Sparkle love their kibble,
pastry is what sends them into frenzy. And with no
door on my kitchen…well, you can imagine.
The recipe that follows is based on one used by
Laduree, the world famous
French pastry shop that sells thousands of these
rolled, lip-smacking Yule Logs annually.
Begin with your icing.
This recipe makes a ton of it. I am of the school that
says there is no such thing as too much frosting. If
it`s too much for you, store what`s left over to pour
over vanilla ice cream to eat during the
Melt 12 oz. of
semisweet chocolate and 8 tbsp of unsalted butter.
Then add 2/3 cup of heavy cream. Whisk until smooth.
The frosting will become smooth enough to spread in
about four hours. Do not refrigerate.
Prepare your roulade
as the frosting cools:
Melt 8 oz. of
finely chopped bittersweet chocolate with 2 oz of
water. Boil one cup of heavy cream and pour over
chocolate. Whisk and cool. Separately, beat seven
egg whites, gradually adding 2 tbsp sugar, until
peaks are firm. Mix one-third of the whites into the
melted chocolate until incorporated. Then add
remaining two-thirds of whites. Spread the batter
into a buttered 16 ½" by 12" jelly roll pan lined
with parchment. Bake at 375 for 10-12 minutes. Let
cool in pan.
Melt 4 oz of
semisweet chocolate in 2 oz of water. Set aside.
Combine 6 tbsp of sugar with 3 tbsp of water in a
heavy saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil; swirl the
pan several times. Uncover and boil until the
mixture reaches softball stage—236 degrees. Place
three egg yolks in a standing mixer and beat for
about three minutes. Slowly and carefully add the
hot water/sugar mixture. Beat for about 10 minutes.
Then add 12 tbsp of softened butter one tbsp at a
time beating constantly for another five minutes.
Add the chocolate mixture.
From this point on, the operative words are BE CAREFUL.
Spritz about 2 oz
of rum over the cooled roulade. (Optional but
recommended). Spread the filling evenly over the
cake. Roll the long edge of the roulade over itself,
gradually removing the parchment paper as you go.
Using two large spatulas slowly and very carefully
transfer the roulade from the pan to a clean work
surface. (ALERT: don`t mess up now. If your Yule Log
transfer is unsuccessful, your Christmas mood will
vanish in a flash.)
Frost and Finishing
Spread the icing
along all sides of the Yule Log. Run the tines of a
fork along all sides of the log to create a
realistic log effect.
I don`t fool with
meringue mushrooms. While I stand in awe of the
presentation they create, they are more work than I
want to engage in. Making the mushrooms simply
delays eating the Buche de Noel. I add a few red and
sprinkles to the cake to give it a festive look.
Believe me, when your guests cut into your Yule Log,
no one will ask, "Where are the meringue
Final words of encouragement: Don`t be intimidated by
the Buche de Noel.
You can do it.
Joe Guzzardi [email
him], an instructor in English
at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly
column since 1988. It currently appears in the