This year we started French class with Madame Arlene. I’ve always wanted to learn French and I was delighted when my kids told me they’d rather learn French than Latin or Spanish. (Hooray for me!) We have a tradition of studying a different country each year at Christmas time and since France was on our mind this year, we decided to make our Christmas a French one.
Madame Arlene told us about Buche de Noel, Papa Noel, leaving our shoes by the fireplace with oranges and chocolates, and a whole host of other fun French traditions.
I was a bit intimidated by this dessert. I’ve never made a roll cake and thought it would be hard. It turned out to be super simple and looked gorgeous! I promise…don’t let it intimidate you. It takes no time at all and was really easy to assemble.
This cake was a rich, delicious dessert after Christmas dinner…and so super cute to look at. We especially liked making the little mushrooms. They looked so realistic!
Buche De Noel (French Yule Log Dessert)
Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes
Butter, for the pan
1/3 cup all-purpose flour, sifted, spooned, and leveled
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp fine salt
4 large eggs, separated
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup plus 3 Tbsp confectioner’s sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp sour cream
1 recipe Chocolate Ganache
1 recipe merengue mushrooms
Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9×13 jelly roll pan and line with parchment; butter the parchment. Or use a silicone mat.
Whisk together the flour, cocoa, and salt in a small bowl.
Beat the egg yolks, vanilla, and 1/4 cup of the sugar in a medium bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high until light yellow, 3-4 minutes.
In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites (with clean beaters) on medium-high until foamy, 1-2 minutes. Gradually add 1/2 cup of the remaining sugar and beat until stiff peaks form, 2-3 minutes more.
Gently fold the egg yolk mixture into the egg whites. Gradually fold in the dry ingredients. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan and use an offset spatula to smooth the surface. Bake until the cake springs back lightly when pressed, 8-10 minutes (mine took about 11-12). Cool.
Whip the heavy cream, sour cream, and the remaining 3 Tbsp sugar in a medium bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high until stiff peaks form, 1-2 minutes.
Spread the whipped cream on the cake, leaving a 2 inch border along one of the short ends. Starting at the other short end, roll up the cake toward the uncovered border (letting the parchment fall away as you roll). Place the cake seam-side down on a serving platter. Drizzle with chocolate ganache over the top (recipe to follow). Let set for 5 minutes. Run the tines of a fork through the ganache to create “bark”. Decorate with merengue mushrooms, raspberries, and sprigs of rosemary or other edible greenery.
Recipe from Real Simple Magazine
Time: 10 minutes
Makes 1/2 cup
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
3 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
Bring the cream to a boil (just barely) in a small pot. Do not overcook. Remove from the heat; add the chocolate and let stand for 5 minutes. Whisk to combine. Cool slightly (until it’s a runny frosting consistency) before using.
From Real Simple Magazine
Time: 1 hour
Makes: 20 mushrooms
Rating: 8 (and super cute)
2 cold egg whites, large
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 cup superfine sugar
3 1/2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
1 pinch ground cinnamon (optional)
1 pinch cayenne (optional)
Cocoa powder for dusting
To make the meringues, first heat the oven to 225 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment or silicone.
In a bowl of a standing mixer, beat the egg whites on low speed until foamy, about a minute. Add the cream of tartar and beat on medium speed until the whites form soft peaks, another minute or two.
Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and add the sugar gradually until you have glossy, stiff peaks. This should take about 5 minutes.
Fit a pastry bag with a 1 1/2 inch round tip and spoon about half the meringue into the bag. Twist the top and pipe 1 1/2-inch rounds onto one of the lined baking sheets, leaving an inch or so between the rounds.
Add the rest of the meringue to the bag and using the second baking sheet, pipe the mushroom stems, starting a little thicker at the base then thinning out as you work up, creating a cone shape. (Count as you get towards the end of the meringue and make sure you have an even number of caps and stems– if not, pipe more of whatever you need).
Dip your finger in a little water and gently smooth the tops of the little rounds. (No need to worry about the stems, you’ll be trimming them after they’re baked.) Bake the meringues for 1 1/2-2 hours, until crisp and dry–do not let them brown. Let them cool on the baking sheets.
In the meantime, melt the chocolate in the microwave or a double boiler and whisk in the spices if using. Let the chocolate cool a little so that it thickens up a little and isn’t so runny.
While the chocolate is cooling, use a serrated knife to carefully trim about 1/4 of an inch off the pointed tips of the mushroom stems, creating a flat plane.
Dip the bottom of each mushroom cap into the chocolate, creating a thin layer, and then attach the narrow end of the stem, using the chocolate as glue. Arrange the mushrooms right-side-up on a baking sheet and refrigerate until the chocolate sets. Dust the tops of the mushrooms with cocoa powder (and rub it in gently for a more realistic look) to finish.