The Bûche de Noël is, aside from a fruit cake, probably the dessert most widely associated with Christmas. A very delicious tradition, I might add. I joined Tuesdays With Dorie right after this post last year, and had been determined to make it for Christmas this year. Yes, I have been thinking about making this for a whole year! I had only made one Bûche before, and don’t recall having such technique based instructions before. This was a great opportunity to improve and focus on technique, which is what I love more than anything about baking and cooking… learning new things, and developing/refining skill sets.
The night before, I spent ample time reading and re-reading the preparation, reading other blogger’s experiences last year, and watching Dorie’s video with the NY Times (which doesn’t really cover the Genoise preparation, but is good moral support all around). I even dreamt about proper rolling technique, guided by Dorie in my dream, natch (which seriously helped me out in the heat of the moment). My time frame for making this was really limited. My husband had a doctor’s appointment that I needed to drive him to, and running to the grocery store that morning had taken far longer than anticipated, leaving me with about an hour and a half to make the Genoise sponge, and have it wrapped up in the towel.
Having such a short period of time to complete this worked well for me. Often one to overanalyze or get caught in the weeds, I had to rely on my gut and just go for it. I did not spend a lot of time folding the batter or obsessing over it. By the time the sponge was done baking we had literally 5 minutes to be out the door. Moving with “the courage of my convictions”, as Julia Child would say, I quickly turned the sponge out onto the powdered towel, and was rewarded with that gratifying kthunk that lets you know there was no sticking! Equally quickly was the sponge rolled up in the sugared towel and left to cool. Only one small crack after I had filled and re-rolled it later on, which was easily covered with the frosting.
One thing that seemed to be a common thread among posters was that they seemed to have too much marshmallow fluff for the frosting. I used a technique from the Bouchon Bakery book… I sieved my egg whites to remove the chalazar, which helped me to also make sure I had an accurate measurement on the egg whites. I really only needed about three egg whites when it came down to it. I found that I had just enough frosting using this technique.
One other bit of advice I have is to just start your egg whites for the frosting sooner rather than later. I started whipping the eggs at the time the sugar had reached 235 degrees per the directions, but the sugar cooked so quickly that my eggs were still only foamy by the time the sugar reached temp, so I had to start my glucose mixture over again (I wound up with caramel). Lesson: it is easier to just keep the egg whites moving on low while you cook your sugar.
Finally, the cake was received with great delight. The flavors were delicate and very balanced together, although on their own, as separate elements, they might be considered overwhelming. Such a great change of pace as Bûches go. And that frosting though… that is a slippery slope. It is a good thing that I didn’t have more than I needed or I would have cleaned that bowl out. I even woke up my husband from a nap to help lick the whisk attachment! Not a huge plain nut person, I loved the pralined pecans. I will eat a candied nut any day. Somehow I wound up with more than I needed, and would gladly sprinkle these leftovers on top of a dish of ice cream. Or just alone.
Well, I appreciate each one of you readers, and hope that you all enjoy good food and company in this New Year! I look forward to sharing more culinary delights with each of you, and invite you all to my table for something delicious!