Sunday, December 26, 2010
Bûche de Noël
Christmas for me is all about the food. I love spending time with my family and keeping the tradition alive by cooking up a big feast and sitting around the table and eating until we can't eat anymore. I also like introducing new traditions and this year for Christmas, inspired by my in-laws, it was the Bûche de Noël.
The cake is meant to represent the log that once burned in European homes throughout Christmas. Made of layered or rolled genoise sponge cake filled with buttercream and decorated with meringue mushrooms, forest creatures, or holly leaves the cake is prepared, presented, and garnished to look like a log.
There are hundreds of variations of this cake, with flavours ranging from chestnut, coffee and peppermint but i think the orange perfectly compliments the rich chocolate buttercream.
Orange Vanilla Genoise Sponge
2/3 cup sugar
3 teaspoons Cointreau
2 teaspoons orange zest
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
130g (4.5oz) cake flour (or substitute for plain flour, less 2 level tablespoons)
Preheat the oven to 200C. Butter a 25cm(10") by 38cm (15") swiss roll pan and line it with baking paper and butter lightly. Set the pan aside.
In a stand mixer (or using hand-held beaters) beat the eggs for 5 minutes, until they turn thick and foamy. Add the sugar, orange liqueur, orange zest, 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 over mix or the cake will be tough.
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 baking 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.
Orange Cointreau Mascarpone filling
500g mascarpone cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup icing sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
1 tablespoon Cointreau, or other orange-flavored liqueur
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks
In a medium sized bowl, beat all ingredients except heavy cream, until smooth. Gently fold in whipped cream. Use immediately, or refrigerate, covered, up to 3 days. If you're refrigerating the filling, bring it to room temperature and beat until smooth before using.
Chocolate Meringue Buttercream
5 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon + 1/8 teaspoon Cream of Tartar
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup caster sugar
1/4 cup extra caster sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
250g unsalted butter, cut into pieces
113g good quality dark chocolate, melted and cooled
Place the water and 3/4 cup caster sugar into a heavy saucepan. Over medium heat, begin melting the sugar and water and stir until all the sugar has melted. Now turn up the heat and boil until the sugar syrup reaches 118C.
While the sugar syrup is bubbling away, place your egg whites in the bowl of a stand or hand mixer and start whipping them. When they look foamy, add the cream of tartar. Whip some more, and once you get to soft peaks, then slowly add the 1/4 cup of sugar and whip until you get glossy, stiff peaks.
As soon as your sugar syrup hits 118C, slowly add the boiling syrup to the egg whites and continue to whip on medium speed until they thick and shiny and are completely cooled. Try not to hit the beaters with the syrup.
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.
Now that all the butter has been mixed in, add the vanilla extract and then pour in your cooled melted chocolate and beat until it has all incorporated.
2 egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup white chocolate chips
1/4 cup cocoa powder
Prepare a baking tray by lining with baking paper. Preheat the oven to 100C.
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.
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.
Spoon the meringue into a large pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch round tip.
To Pipe Caps: Holding the pastry bag upright and close to the baking paper, pipe the meringue with even pressure, into even rounds building up the meringue to form a 5cm (2") round that is about 1 inch (2.5 cm) high. Sharply twist the bag and stop the pressure as you slowly move the tip off the meringue. Try to make the top as smooth as possible but use a wet fingertip to smooth out any bumps.
To Pipe Stems: Holding the pastry bag upright and close to the baking paper, pipe the meringue with even pressure, into a cone-shape, making the base of the stem a little larger than the top. The stem should be about 2.5 cm (1") high. Try to keep the stems as straight as possible. Some of the stems may fall over on their sides during baking, so it is a good idea to make extra.
Bake the meringues at 100C 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.
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.
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.
To assemble the Bûche de Noël:
Unroll the cake and set aside the towel. Evenly spread the desired amount of mascarpone on the inside of the cake following its natural curve, gently form it into a cake roll. Cut off the ends of the cake roll on the diagonal and reattach them in the centre of the cake with a bit of mascarpone to fashion a “branch” coming off the main Yule log.
Spread the exterior of the Bûche de Noël 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. Decorate with christmassy figurines, meringue mushrooms and dust with icing sugar to complete the festive look.
Chill the cake before serving it, and refrigerate any leftovers.