December 29, 2009

We were invited to a dinner party, and I was asked to bring dessert. As the party was the day after Christmas, and we’re still in the official sugar holidaze, nothing but a Buche de Noel would do. So, in the midst of whipping up that Trifle, I was also carefully crafting the decorations for the buche.
If you’ve never seen a Buche de Noel, check out this wonderful post from Dorie Greenspan on the Parisian art that is the Buche.
The traditional “yule log” cakes are wonderful treats. They may look fancy, but they’re really just a jelly roll. A genoise, or sponge cake, is coated in a tasty filling, rolled up,
then covered in ganache or frosting, and decorated to resemble a log. I’ve made these before and, really, I just love the fussiness of all the preparations.
There are the meringue mushrooms. Tasty on their own, these meringue confections are a breeze to make and they impress everyone! As Maida Heater, Goddess of Chocolate Desserts, suggests, just tumble the little meringues in a straw lined basket for a fabulous centerpiece, then pass it around for dessert. They last for a month if the atmosphere is dry. (Humidity turns them sticky.)
There is the marzipan. Kneaded with food coloring then sculpted into leaves, berries or whatever makes you happy. I had fun with the leaves. Thought about sculpting other things, but I wasn’t happy with the execution. I need more practice! Marzipan also lasts forever, which means both mushrooms and marzipan can be made well in advance of making the buche.
Some Parisian buches are decorated with little people and I just love the idea of creating a whole winter wonderland, but there is the issue of GIANT LOGS and little teeny marzipan people – hey, it’s all about scale! Nevertheless, I scurried around the house, checking out all the doo-dads that I’ve collected for Christmastime, just to see what I might be able to include in the wintry scene.
These cats and dogs look a little scary up close.

(seriously, what’s with the tree growing out of that cat’s head?)

These little heads are fun, a little weird… but still not right…
I finally landed on the Christmas Tree Angels. They fit in perfectly.
I prepped the huge silver platter (my grandmother’s – what the heck did she do with this thing? it weighs a ton.) with greens and holly branches. Then, covered a piece of cardboard in foil, as I wanted to be able to frost the cake away from the platter, and, anyway, I couldn’t fit the massive platter in the refrigerator.
I used Martha Stewart’s recipe for the cake, making genoise,
ganache and mousse.
What isn’t mentioned in her recipe is the need for hours!!!! of chilling. I wish, in retrospect, I had made the cake and the mousse the day before the party. I would have rolled the cake up in the morning of the party, then frosted it a couple of hours later.
As it was, I baked the cake in the morning of the party, and made the mousse around noon, and I was a little worried it there wouldn’t be time to set up and chill properly.
All in all, it was a lot of fun to make. It was certainly enjoyed by everyone at the party, and made quite a splash. The buche served 8 easily, with a couple of pieces and a handful of meringue mushrooms left for the host & hostess.
So, no recipe in this post. Just a little bragging. It is pretty, don’tcha think?

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