Bûche de Noël (Yule Log)

Yule Logs

INGREDIENTS:

Sponge cake:

  • 4 eggs (room temperature)
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup cake flour

Chocolate buttercream:

  • 7 egg whites
  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups plus 3 tablespoons butter, softened

METHOD:

Chocolate buche de noel:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Butter a 10-inch by 15-inch baking pan with a 1-inch lip (jelly-roll pan) and line it with parchment paper. Butter the parchment or spray it with cooking spray. Set the pan aside.
  2. Beat the eggs for 5 minutes, until they turn thick and foamy. Add the sugar, vanilla extract, and salt to the eggs and continue beating for 2 minutes. Fold the flour, a few tablespoons at a time, into the whipped egg mixture. Once the flour is incorporated into the batter, stop mixing. Do not overmix or the cake will bake up into a tough texture.
  3. Gently spread the batter into the prepared pan. There will be peaks of batter; gently smooth over them, but do not press the batter down. Bake the cake for 10 minutes, until the cake is just set. Invert the baked cake onto a clean, dry kitchen towel and peel off the parchment paper. Wait 3 minutes and then gently roll the cake, still in the towel, starting at the 10-inch end. Allow it to cool completely.

To make the chocolate buttercream:

  1. In a clean, completely dry bowl beat the egg whites on high until soft peaks form. Set them aside for a moment.
  2. In a small saucepan, bring the sugar and 2/3 cup water to a boil. Allow it boil until it has reduced into a slightly thickened syrup. Begin beating the egg whites on high speed again, and pour the hot sugar syrup into the eggs in a slow, steady stream.
  3. Pour the melted chocolate, espresso powder, and vanilla extract into the egg whites and continue beating them until the meringue has cooled completely, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the softened butter to the meringue, 2 tablespoons at a time, while beating on high speed, until all of the butter is incorporated into the frosting. If the buttercream becomes runny at any time in this process, refrigerate the meringue until it has chilled through and continue the process of beating the butter into the meringue.

To assemble the chocolate yule log:

  1. Unroll the cake and set aside the towel. Evenly spread 2 cups (or desired amount) of the chocolate buttercream on the inside of the cake and following its natural curve, gently form it into a cake roll.
  2. Cut off the ends of the cake roll on the diagonal and reattach them in the center of the cake with a bit of buttercream to fashion a “branch” coming off the main Yule log.
  3. Spread the exterior of the buche de noel with enough chocolate buttercream to cover it and gently pull a butter knife or small, offset spatula through the frosting to give the appearance of rough tree bark.
  4. Add a Pere Noel figure and meringue mushrooms to complete the festive look.
  5. Chill the cake before serving it, and refrigerate any leftovers.
  6. This chocolate yule log recipe makes 14 servings.

MERINGUE MUSHROOMS

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup white chocolate chips or candy coating
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder

METHOD:

  1. Prepare 2 baking sheets by lining them with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 95 degrees.
  2. Place room temperature egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. It is important that the bowl and whisk both be very clean, so that the egg whites whip properly.
  3. Begin beating the egg whites on medium speed. Once they are very frothy, stop the mixer and add the cream of tartar. Start the mixer again and continue to beat the egg whites. Once they form soft peaks, increase the speed to high and gradually add the sugar, a tablespoon at a time. Beat the whites until they are very shiny and hold stiff peaks, but are not dry or crumbly.
  4. Spoon the meringue into a large pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch round tip, or the open end of a coupler.
  5. First, pipe the mushroom caps: hold the pastry bag at a 90-degree angle about 1/2 inch from the parchment paper. Using firm and even pressure, squeeze out a round meringue disc about 2 inches in diameter and 1 inch high. Stop squeezing, then twist the bag and lift it from the meringue to get a clean “break” from the cap. Repeat in regular intervals on the baking sheet until you have approximately 2 dozen mushroom caps. You can smooth out the tops of your mushrooms by wetting your index finger and lightly running it along the caps.
  6. Next, pipe the mushroom stems. Again position the bag perpendicular about 1/2-inch from the baking sheet. Begin squeezing the bag to form a 1-inch round base. Continue to squeeze as you slowly and evenly draw the bag up, forming a tapering stem about 1.5 inches tall. Use the remaining meringue to pipe as many stems as possible—some stems invariably tilt and collapse, so you should always make extras.
  7. Bake the meringues at 95 degrees for about 90 minutes, turning them halfway through the cooking time to ensure even cooking. The meringues should be hard and dry to the touch, and you should be able to easily lift one from the parchment. Once the meringues are done, turn off the oven and let them sit in the oven for several hours or overnight.
  8. To assemble the mushrooms, melt the white chocolate in a small bowl in the microwave, stirring after every 30 seconds to prevent overheating. Use a toothpick to carve a small hole in the bottom of a mushroom cap. Dip the top of a stem in the white chocolate, and stick the chocolate-covered stem top in the hole of the mushroom cap. Place the mushroom on a baking tray to set, and repeat with remaining caps and stems.
  9. Place the cocoa powder in a sifter, and lightly sift cocoa over the tops of the mushrooms. Mushrooms can be stored for up to a month in an airtight container in a cool, dry room. Note that humidity can make the mushroom soft and collapse, so do not place them on a cake or in a refrigerated environment until immediately before serving.
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