Bonjour tout le monde!
Sorry for neglecting the blog so long, so much to do since I came back from my French & Vietnamese holiday, including moving houses, which is never fun and leaves you internet-less for several weeks!
I am aware that we are fast approaching Easter now, but it would be a pity not to mention my French Christmas and our very own Christmas puddings: the Christmas Log or Yule Log, as I have also seen it written many times. A French Christmas without a Bûche de Noël is not a real Christmas!
The log refers to the wood log burning in the hearth of the homes in Europe during the winter pagan festivities and was later fully included in the Christmas tradition. It was a celebration of the fire, so vital during those cold winter months. On Christmas Eve, a big log of hard wood would be brought back to the home with ceremony, would be placed into the fireplace and sprinkled with oil, salt and mulled wine while prayers were said. The log was then lit with firebrands from the previous year’s log. The log’s ashes were said to protect the home from the evil and thunderbolt. This tradition goes back the 12th century and could be found in most European countries, including France and Italy, up to the end of the 19th. The tradition died out when fireplaces were replaced with cast iron stoves, and smaller logs were then placed on the tables at Christmas as decorations.
These days the logs are edible, mostly consisting of a sponge cake coated with chocolate butter then rolled and coated again with more chocolate butter, streaked with a fork to give it the appearance of the tree bark groves and decorated with kitsch little gnomes, mushrooms and axes!
You can however find numerous different versions of the bûche: iced or not, chocolate or fruit-based, with as many flavours as you can think of!
The above bûche was bought from my parents’ local pâtisserie, Guillet, Maître Chocolatier, considered the best in town. They are particularly renowned for their “Vercors” ice-cream, a decadent combination of caramel, dark chocolate and vanilla ice-cream, named after the region’s beautiful mountain range. This ice-cream was on the top of the list I gave my mum of the things I really wanted to eat for Christmas, utterly delicious!
The day after I came home, my mother started on her own bûche, a fairly traditional one with a sponge cake and chocolater butter. She retrieved her favourite recipe that she has been using for years, cut out from an old ELLE magazine.
The initial recipe for the “Gâteau roulé” / Rolled cake calls for 5 eggs, 125g caster sugar, 75g corn flour, 25g flour, 30g almond powder, but we reduce the quantities a bit.
You first mix vigorously the egg yolks with the sugar until the colour becomes very pale.
Mix in the flour, the incorporate the whipped egg whites into the mixture.
Pour the mixture into a frame and put in a pre-heated oven for 10 minutes.
Remove from the oven, turn it upside down with the baking paper on top and let cool down a dry kitchen towel for a few minutes.
In the meantime prepare your chocolate butter cream, the “Crème au Beurre”.
Melt the sugar with a bit of water, just enough so that it becomes less runny and before it caramelizes and get some colour.
Beat the egg yolks while whisking through the melted sugar, as you would to make mayonnaise.
Add the egg-sugar mixture progressively to the softened butter.
Add some dark chocolate powder.
Place in the fridge to let it set.
After carefully removing the baking paper from the cake, use some of that mixture to spread on the sponge cake, and the rest to decorate the cake once rolled.
Roll carefully the cake using the towel and leave it with the towel around it in the fridge to set. Once it is a bit cooler, take it out of the fridge and apply the rest of the chocolate butter cream on the cake, and decorate to your taste.
This bûche was served on Christmas Eve, and as usual it was bloody delicious. You can’t beat a cake made with love by your mum on Christmas, can you! 😉