Thursday, December 29, 2011
Dark chocolate Buche de Noel with meringue mushrooms
This is the single, proudest moment I've had as a baker this holiday season. I really thought I lost my baking mojo until I produced this whimsical Buche de Noel. I'll admit I've made quite a few cheesy treats over my time. I like the glitz and the glam and the glitter and the flashing lights. I like the red and the green and the cartoon-type figures that please my toddler.
But a Buche de Noel, a traditional dessert served at Christmas, is for me evocative of a fallen log in a snow-dusted forest. It's untouched, it's pure. It's a quiet, delicious moment undisturbed by the usual din and racket. It's indulgent simply because it takes so long to create something that disappears in just a few minutes.
Making a Buche de Noel has been on my baking bucket list for a long time. I used to Google "Buche de Noel" every Christmas, vow to pick one up from a French pastry shop and run out of time. Then I had a kid, and I lost hope that I'd ever be able to find the time to attempt this. But when I saw Canadian Living's version of a Buche de Noel covered in shards of dark chocolate, I regained hope that I'd be able to master this one and avoid the amateur-looking yule logs you see with fork tine marks in the buttercream.
It took me several days. I started with the meringue mushrooms, which admittedly were not in the Canadian Living recipe but that I'd seen in other photos of yule logs. You can find the recipe on the Joy of Baking site here. They came together easily although I had to start over again I realized the egg whites I brought home were not in a sealed container. And then I thought the meringue would never peak. But it did. I kept these in an airtight container for several days and they were fresh as the day I made them.
I made the cake 24 hours before the dinner party and rolled it in a tea towel and stuck it in my fridge to chill. On the day of the party, I made the buttercream and rerolled the cake, which did in fact crack slightly - but I was able to mask the cracks with the cream.
Next, I prepared the shards of chocolate, meant to mimic peeling bark, and then I dusted icing sugar all over the log. I finished the yule log by dusting the mushrooms with cocoa powder and placing them here and there.
I'll be honest, I didn't get to taste this cake after it all came together, although I sampled the cream and bits of cake as I baked but I'm told it was delicious, and there was none left.
Substitutions: Well, the meringue mushrooms came from a different recipe, but I didn't substitute anything in the cake recipe itself.
Would I make this again? Oh, most definitely. I'm thinking I could easily make this again with a dark chocolate cake base, and white chocolate shards of bark to create a birch bark. One thing I should have done was lopped off the ends of the roll so they were more even. Next time!
Grade: Five stars out of five.