Sunday, 22 July 2012

Tisn't the season: Buche de Noel

 Christmas in July. Only in Australia. And why not?

The mornings as cold and the days are cooler. Cooking a full roast dinner in an un-airconditioned kitchen is not the trial that it is in December.

So today we decided to go ahead and take the festive plunge. I'd never done a real Christmas in July meal before and I wanted to make it really special so, beyond the roast beef, Yorkshire puddings, chipolatas in bacon and roast vegetables, I decided to try making a traditional French buche de noel or Yule log and that way, no one would be in any doubt about the nature of our celebration.

The recipe I decided to adapt came from BBC Good Food and I chose it because it was flourless. I liked the idea of a softer, less cake-y, dessert. The reason that I decided to adapt it was that I thought the double cream would be a bit rich, especially when there was 250g of chocolate and 6 eggs in the mix. I wanted something a bit more tangy to offset the richness, so I bought a tub of mascarpone and a tin of black cherries and I was ultimately glad that I did.


For the base:
150g golden castor sugar
6 large eggs, separated
250g good quality dark chocolate 

For the filling:
250g mascarpone cheese
1 tin of pitted black cherries drained
a few drops vanilla extract

For the buttercream
125g unsalted butter, softened
225 g icing sugar, sieved
25g good quality cocoa powder
2 tbsps milk

  • Pre-heat the oven to 200C (gas) or 220C (electric), then grease and line a 23 x 33cm Swiss roll tin. Whisk castor sugar and egg yolks until pale. Melt the chocolate either over a bowl of hot water or in the microwave. Add the egg and sugar mix to the chocolate.

  • Whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Slowly fold into the chocolate mix. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for about 12 - 15 minutes. Allow to cool in tin.

  • Place a sheet of baking paper on the counter. Flip the base onto the baking paper and peel off the lining.
  • In a bowl, beat the mascarpone with the vanilla extract. Spread all over the base. Scatter the drained cherries evenly over the mascarpone.
  • Hold onto the long side of the baking paper and turn the base over, rolling it until you have got a log shape. Mine broke - right across the middle and in several other places. Do not worry about this. Keep rolling! It will hold together and it will look more convincingly log-like this way!
  • Leave rolled in the paper and place in the fridge to cool for 20 minutes.
  • Beat the butter then add the cocoa and the icing sugar. Add milk and stir until you have a smooth consistency.
  • Remove the cake from the fridge. Working at an angle, cut off about a quarter and place alongside the main long, so it resembles a two-pronged branch.
  • Cover with butter cream, use a fork to give texture.
  • Dust with icing sugar to give a snowy effect.

To make chocolate leaves:
100 g white chocolate
1 tssp cocoa
10  - 12 small leaves, washed and dried (I used rose and lemon leaves) 

  • Place the clean leaves on a baking tray lined with baking paper
  • Melt the chocolate in the microwave until runny
  • Use a spoon or pastry brush to coat the back of the leaves (the back of the leaves will make a stronger impression in the chocolate)
  • Leave to dry for 20 minutes then peel the leaves off
  • Use a pastry brush to dust the leaves with cocoa so that the impression is clear.
  • Use to decorate log

This is an utterly delicious cake. The base is more like a mousse and so very, very rich and chocolate-y. The mascarpone is creamy and tangy, the cherries are sweet and also have a little bite. I can imagine this with a little kirsch or rum. I had some fresh cherries so I threw these onto the serving platter to add a little colour to the sepia-toned yumminess.

It was a wonderful finale to our Christmas in July feast.  We did go all out to make things traditional as you will see from the pictures below. I was particularly pleased with the Yorkshire puddings!

You'll be glad to know that we took a walk between the main course and the dessert. After all, the sun was out, the skies were a true, clear blue and the temperature was a mellow 23C. That's the great thing about winter in Perth - we often have the best of both worlds, and it is on days like this that it really hits home how lucky we are.