Thursday, December 16, 2010

bûche de nöel or how to look good this christmas

last year, about this time, i made a reference to nigella's fabulous bûche de nöel, without sharing the recipe with you. since i spent my morning making a double one to take to sabin's school play this evening and had a chance to photograph the process, i thought i'd share it with you now...just in time for you to look positively heroic this christmas. because this cake is a veritable masterpiece when it's done and it's dead easy. plus it doesn't contain any flour, so even those who live the gluten free life can partake.

as usual, i couldn't leave even the goddess-like perfection of nigella alone and i have made a teency weency adjustment to the recipe.

nigella's bûche de nöel a la julie

the cake:
6 eggs, separated
150g sugar
50g cocoa powder
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3-5 teaspoons of powdered sugar to decorate

the icing:
175g good quality dark chocolate, chopped
250g powered sugar
225g butter
1 T vanilla extract

the extra julie touch:
1/2 liter of cream, whipped

preheat your oven to 180°C/375°F.

whisk the egg whites until they are thick and and beginning to peak, then add 50g of the sugar and keep whisking 'til stiff peaks form. if you're like me, you let your kitchenaid do this bit while you're working on the next part.

whisk the egg yolks and the rest of the sugar until they are a creamy pale yellow, add the vanilla, whisk a bit more, then sieve the cocoa powder in and mix it well.

put a big dollop of the egg white mixture into your chocolatey egg yolks, mixing well, then fold the chocolate mixture carefully into the rest of your egg whites, taking care not to lose too much air.

pour the mixture into a swiss roll tin lined with baking paper. a little trick to keep the baking parchment from rolling up on you while you're trying to pour (seriously, why isn't part of pregnancy the growing of a 3rd arm - wouldn't that be handy?), you can put a little dab of butter in each corner and stick the baking paper to it.

bake for about 20 minutes until it looks done. i realize this sounds vague, but trust me, you'll be able to see when it's done.  remove it from the oven and let it cool very briefly (and i do mean very briefly) before turning it onto a new piece of baking paper and peeling off the baking paper backing.

don't let it get too cool before you do this, or you'll have trouble getting the paper off without taking quite a lot of cake with it. trust me, i've made the mistake so you don't have to.

while it's cooling. melt your chocolate in a double boiler (or in a metal bowl over a pan of boiling water, like i do).

put the powdered sugar down in your food processor and whip it up to get rid of any lumps. then add your softened butter and let the food processor do the work for you. add the vanilla once the butter and sugar are well-mixed.  once the chocolate is melted and cooled down a little bit (so it doesn't melt your butter), add it to the butter/sugar mixture and again, let the food processor do the work for you.

while it's doing the work, let your kitchenaid whip up some cream for you - but do keep an eye on it, you're not making butter here (again, i've made the mistake so you don't have to).

put the cake on a good work surface and spread a thin layer of the chocolate icing on top. on top of that, spread a good layer of whipped cream. it hit me today, when i was a little concerned about not having enough of the chocolate icing (i was making two cakes and doubled the icing recipe, but it didn't look like enough), that you could use the hazelnut goodness of nutella here on the inside, just to add another note to the cake. i did, however, have plenty of icing, so i needn't have worried.

i found the cake too heavy and dense the first time i made it, without the whipped cream, tho' nigella's original recipe doesn't call for it. i find it makes it lighter and more sort of dreamy and delicious.

let the baking paper help you carefully roll the cake up. then carefully cut each end at an angle (strangely, i failed to photograph this bit), so you can place it beside your main "branch" as smaller "branches."

place the cut ends at angles against the main cake - my cake here is actually two cakes, so yours will be half the size of this. spread the remainder of the chocolate icing over the cake, covering and using extra bits to stick your branches on. use a spatula and a toothpick to make it look like the bark of a tree.

dust it with powdered sugar so it looks like new fallen snow and decorate around it with greens and pinecones gathered outdoors.

it may sound a bit fussy, but you'll be amazed how easy it really is.  and your friends and family will never know (unless you tell them). so you can act like you slaved all day and get people to fetch you glasses of wine while you relax.


Elizabeth said...

thanks it looks delicious. you say 20 minutes but at what temperature?

Marion Williams-Bennett said...

Really? It's easy!?

I've always wanted to make this, but have been completely daunted by it. You've inspired me.

Bee said...

I was making a savoury palmier on Monday (from Delia Smith's Christmas Cookbook) and it had similar encouragements (with drawings, instead of photographs) along the lines of "this is easier than it sounds." On the basis of that successful experience, I may be willing to give this recipe a go. It sounds like chocolate roulade -- without the branches.

Molly said...

I'm guessing 180 degrees but yes, please confirm that for Elizabeth and I?
Also, what are the measurements of your swiss roll tin? I'm going to have to improvise here so it would help to know the dimensions I should be going for.
This year I'm going to make this bitch!

julochka said...

i swear the temp is there - right above the first picture! 180°C and my "jelly roll pan" is just the shallow pan with edges that came with my oven - it's 38cm x 27 cm and it works perfectly.

you seriously can't go wrong with this one! :-)

Nimble said...

Something to really say Ta Daaa! over. I'm so surprised there's no flour. I like the idea of your whipped cream addition.

Wind Spirit said...

Going to do this one next week. Have been planning to make one for a while as usually order on from the French bakery and know a home-made one would taste better! Thanks for the inspiration.

Magpie said...

Just this morning, I told my husband I was going to make a buche de noel this year. This looks like a lovely recipe.

Wind Spirit said...

I was surprised there was no flour in this cake as have read lots of the recipes for sponge cake and they always always had some flour. I added 2 Tablespoons and it turned out beautifully too. I have usually ordered a Buche from the $$$ bakery but it was fun and easy to do at home AND everyone said it was the best one we have had!! Hardest part was figuring out quantities in cups etc. but did figure it out. Math is not my strong suit! Thanks for the encouragement to try this again. I haven't made one since the 70's in Texas when I knew Bee as a little girl.

Magpie said...

Dumb question - did you roll it up the long way or the short way? Mine came out kind of short and fat - I think I should have rolled the other way.

Molly said...

Just made it too!
The only adjustment I made was to only use 250ml cream, my concern not being my waistline but how easy the cream 'n icing stuffed log would be to manage.
Turns out even with half the cream mine was a little floppy once rolled so I've left well enough alone and skipped cutting off 'branches'.
Maybe the fact that it's still 25 degrees despite being 10.30pm had something to do with it ...
Anyhoo, it looks gorgeous and is spending the night in the fridge - can't wait to eat it tomorrow!

Bee said...

I've NEVER attempted a yule log before . . . and you inspired me! I don't know it is a Dec 28 kind of thing, but I made it for a party tonight -- I was asked to bring dessert -- and everyone was very impressed. It is, of course, also delicious. Not really hard at all, and the icing is incredibly easy to work with. Like you, I added the whipped cream. Otherwise, it's just too much rich chocolate. (I realize that not everyone would agree.)
But really, J, do I need another Xmas baking tradition? Sigh.

I'm actually tempted to make it again for friends who are coming on the 30th.


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