Sunday, December 17, 2006

say "Mewwy Chwistmas" with a wog

The children, upon seeing their first buche de Noel at the Christmas party last night:

Elizabeth, age 3: It's a wock!

Ben, age 4: No, siwwy. It's a wog.

And indeed it is.

Until this weekend, I had always felt a little fraudulent: I was a French teacher who had never made a yule log cake, the traditional French buche de Noel. Ironically, the year I spent the holidays in France, we ate an ice cream cake shaped like a log, not the real buche. But this year all that changed. We attended a Christmas party with a group of some of Mr. Tart's oldest friends, and the theme was "holidays around the world." We started out with smoked salmon appetizers and New Mexican posole served with Norwegian lefse (mashed potato pancakes). Homemade ravioli with smoked turkey and cranberries served with gravy followed (Italy, of course), plus roasted turkey and all the trimmings. There was a lovely pinot noir for the wine drinkers, lamb's wool for the beer drinkers (an English precurser to mulled wine made with pureed apples, spices, and two kinds of ale), and hot cider. Then dessert was my buche de Noel and glogg, Scandinavian spiced wine with homemade candied orange peel and almonds and raisins.

We all agreed that the buche de Noel looked and tasted gorgeous, maybe even worth the effort it took to make Cook's Illustrated's persnickety version of it (including rules like "beat eggs for exactly 40 seconds"). It starts out with a sponge cake so rich that it only includes 1/4 cup of flour for lots of bittersweet chocolate and 6 eggs. You bake this in a jelly roll pan and then spread whipped mascapone cheese (flavored with coffee and made fluffier and, well, creamier with the addition of heavy cream) over it:

Then you roll it up, cut off the ends and affix them to the top with frosting to make it look more log-like, and then cover it all copiously with a ganache made of more bittersweet chocolate and cream and cognac. If you're feeling particularly ambitous and artistic (I wasn't), make meringue or marzipan mushrooms. Here's what it looks like inside:

Gee, that description makes it sound pretty manageable, doesn't it? Well, it took all afternoon, and I won't be making another buche de Noel any time soon, but it is by far the dish I am most proud of making this year.

You've seen the "before" picture; here's 1.5-year-old Charlie with the "after."

Mewwy Chwistmas!


Anonymous lis said...

i'm very impressed. that's some dedicated baking.

6:04 PM  
Blogger Lisa B. said...

I remember when I read Jacques Pepin's recipe--I think it was in the old Cuisine (r.i.p.)--and thinking, "Man, that is one cake I am NEVER going to make." So congrats on a feat of bakery that some--I--will never attempt because even reading about it is too damn hard.

9:06 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

lisa b, a friend who's taking classes at a cooking school told me at the party that he's made the buche de Noel cake from "Jacques and Julia" and that it was good and, perhaps more importantly, easier than the one from Cook's could look for that one and still be loyal to Jacques!

7:20 AM  

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