A French Christmas

Now what a month of December! I broke my camera (which bloke invented these spiky metal thingies for reading memory cards), burnt my hand (very stupidly, things like burning oneself usually happen in the most silly manner, so silly that a disposition for self destructive behaviour should be seriously considered), then the freezer stopped working (I got into hysterics), the stray cat died and came back to life (for which I am immensely grateful) and me, trying to fix everything, first the dead cat (I think we can safely say she’s off the hook, thank God), then the freezer (kudos to our local appliance store) and my camera, luckily it was the body only, and I’ve been able to replace it by now. The burn has mended yet leaving me with another scar, but that’s fine. 

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When my initial plan was to slow down, a little baking here, a little cooking there, mulled wine with neighbours and a lot of reading with my feet stretched towards the minuscule old green oven in the study. Winding down, making up plans for the next year and otherwise being very happy.  

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Alas, turns out it was rather late in the evening when I finally got started on this Bûche de Noel, a traditional French Christmas cake, while my book resting  untouched by the bedside table. But then, some proper baking works well against the general feeling of being overwhelmed by things happening. 

For the filling and the frosting: 

Cut 250g of dark chocolate into small pieces, put into a steel bowl, make sure the bowl has room temperature. In a separate pan, bring 250ml of cream and 50g of sugar to boil and pour over the chocolate. Let sit for a couple of minutes until the chocolate has melted and whisk vigourously. Add 50g of butter and continue whisking until you obtain a slick shiny black wobbly mass. Don’t worry if little bubbles surface. Dip your finger in and try. Wash your hands after. Cover and let sit in a cool spot. This is the ganache, it will be used both in the filling and for the frosting. 

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Whisk 200g of fresh butter and 50g of icing sugar until it gets very creamy and light. It may take a couple of minutes, if you don’t intend on growing an upper arm like a weight lifter I recommend using a kitchen robot. Pour half of the ganache to the buttercream in small dollops while continuing whisking at high speed. This is going to be absolutely fabulous. Cover and let sit in a cool spot. 

For the Génoise: 

This is the bisquit dough that will be rolled into a log, layered with the buttercream. 

Separate four eggs. In a bain marie, which is a pot in a pot of simmering water (simmering, not cooking, mind), whisk the egg yolks with 125g of sugar until you obtain a foamy white fluffy mass. Again, this may take a couple of minutes. Take the bowl to a cool spot as soon as the texture is comme il faut and continue whisking until its cold. You may do this in front of a window slightly open for example. Add 75g of brioche flour, 50g of starch, and a teaspoon of baking powder. In a separate pan, melt 50g of butter, take away the white which will surface as soon as the butter melts. Add the molten butter to the dough and stir well. Whisk up the egg whites with a pinch of salt and carefully fold under. Pour on a baking tray, about a good half a centimetre thick, and as rectangular as possible. Bake at 180°C for 10min. 

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The tricky bit is the rolling of the Génoise. Therefore, as soon as out of the oven, put the Génoise upside down on an even surface and carefully remove the baking paper. Immediately cover with a wet towel and begin to gently roll. Let it cool in the towel for a good half an hour. 

Then gently open the roll and evenly spread out the buttercream. You may very well eat some if you have made too much. Roll the cake and cut off both ends. Cover in the ganache and make little scraps with the knife in order to make it look like a log. 

Decorate with whatever your heart desires. I made some fir trees covered in snow, the snow I made with a dollop of whipped egg white and powdered sugar. 

Keep in a cool spot for at least four hours, then eat (as) immediately (as possible). 

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Ps.: Apparently, I completely forgot to photograph the whole procedure, and I’d very much like to apologise for that. Blame it on December. I hope my written instructions make up for the omission and otherwise please just drop me an e-mail at lespoissonchats@gmx.ch.