Christmas Yule Log
By Charles Oppman
Christmas Yule Log
We’ve all seen the famous French Christmas Yule log―the bûche de Noël. A bûche is made by slathering butter cream on a sheet of pliable sheet cake called roulade, rolling it into a cylinder and decorating it with butter cream to resemble a small log. Making a bûche requires a bit of work, but it’s not beyond the skills of serious home bakers. Your family and guests will be impressed. They make great gifts too.
Serves: 8 Time: 2 hours
Roulade (Jelly roll cake)
4 egg yolks, from large eggs
1/3 cup white granulated sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
4 fresh egg whites, from large eggs
Grease a standard jelly roll pan (about 11 x 7 inches) and line it with parchment paper or waxed paper. Preheat the oven to 400ºF. These tasks must be done prior making the roulade.
Whip the yolks and sugar on medium speed until the mixture turns pale yellow and ribbons form. This can be expedited by warming the bowl intermittently over hot water or a low flame on top of the range. Once ribbons have formed, incrementally fold the flour into the yolks and sugar mixture with a curved rubber spatula. Folding is best accomplished by turning the bowl whilst you fold in the flour in stages. This provides uniform distribution of the flour. If you have only one mixer, remove this mixture to another bowl then wash and dry the machine bowl for whipping the whites.
In a very clean and dry mixing bowl, whip the egg whites until stiff and peaks form. Whipping should be done on medium speed as this will result in firmer, more stable meringue. High speed will result in a meringue that collapses easily. Combine the whites with the egg, sugar and flour mixture. This is a very delicate procedure. This is best accomplished by combining half the whites with the mixture and gently folding the remaining whites into the mixture. Take care to turn the bowl as the whites are added incrementally.
With an off-set palette knife, spread the entire mixture over the prepared jelly roll pan. The batter should be spread to a depth of only ½ inches thick as the batter will rise when baked. Place pan in the middle of the oven and bake for 5 to 7 minutes or until the edges begin to turn light brown. Do not overcook as it will become brittle and break when you roll it.
To check for doneness, insert a toothpick in the center and if it comes out clean the roulade is sufficiently cooked. Remove from oven and allow cooling before removing from pan. Remove the paper by beginning at a corner and gently pulling towards the opposite end.
Vanilla Butter Cream
1 cup water
3 cups white granulated sugar
9 fresh egg whites, from medium eggs
4½ cups unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
In a clean, heavy-bottomed sauce pan combine sugar and water. Rapidly boil the syrup to precisely 240ºF. A candy thermometer should be used to obtain the exact temperature. While the syrup is cooking whip whites on medium speed in a clean and dry machine mixing bowl. Once syrup has reached 235ºF remove it from the fire. The temperature will continue to rise to the desired 240ºF. With the mixer on high speed, slowly drizzle the hot syrup into the whites. Reduce mixer speed to medium and allow meringue to cool down to nearly room temperature, about 100ºF.
With the mixer still on medium speed, slowly add dollops of butter to the meringue. Allow each addition to incorporate before adding the next. Add vanilla. Chocolate butter cream may be made by adding ½ cup of melted dark semi-sweet chocolate to the batch. You can also make hazelnut butter cream by adding Nutella.
Assembling and Garnishing the Cake
Spread a thin layer of butter cream on the sheet of roulade and roll it into a cylinder. Wrap the cylinder in waxed paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. Once thoroughly chilled remove to cutting board and slice each end at a 45º angle. Place the cylinder on the serving platter with which you intend to serve the bûche. This will obviate the need to transfer the finished log and possibly damaging it in the process.
With an off-set palette knife or spatula slather butter cream ½ inch over the entire cylinder including the ends. Drag a pastry comb or the tines of a dinner fork along the length of the log to make textured lines that resemble tree bark. Make the bark design on the sides of the trunk only. The butter cream on the ends should remain smooth. If you wish, the ends can be made to resemble tree rings by piping alternate concentric rings of melted dark chocolate and butter cream. Refrigerate cake until service. You can even decorate the plate with sprigs of holly leaves.