Sunday, December 23, 2007

Daring Bakers Challenge: Bûche de Noël

This month's DB Challenge is a festive yule log. Hosts Lisa and Ivonne, both founders of Daring Bakers, took a génoise from Nick Malgieri's excellent Perfect Cakes, a tome that I've been meaning to purchase (hint, last-minute Christmas gift-givers), and a luxurious buttercream from The Williams-Sonoma Collection: Dessert.
Ivonne owns Cream Puffs in Venice, and the recipe can be found in this post. Lisa can be found at La Mia Cucina. Both blogs dish up passionate writings on food among other subjects, and I am an avid reader.
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My mother was over last night for an early Christmas dinner. A picky eater - and she says the right word is "discerning" - my mother needs to be asked in advance what she would like to have for dinner. In a prior phone conversation she intoned, "anything for dinner is alright, but be sure to make the dessert good."

So, I made a bûche de Noël with a chocolate génoise sheet, filled with white chocolate mousse, frosted with Swiss meringue buttercream (SMBC), and adorned with French meringue mushrooms:

Now, I have never known my mother to ever finish her serving of dessert but last night she did exactly that. Halfway through the course, she and my aunt were taking pictures of the bûche with their cell phones. My heart was fat with flattery.

The most fun part of this endeavour was making the meringue mushrooms. The challenge recipe uses French meringue, which is the usual variety that does not require heating egg whites and sugar over a bain-marie. I almost always prefer Swiss meringue but the lightness of the French variety is a welcome change albeit one that I will not adopt in the future. It must be true what they say that once you've had Swiss there is no turning back.

It surprised me to read the many posts of fellow Daring Bakers expressing much consternation about curdling SMBC.

SMBC is my workhorse. I am not at all particularly careful with making sure that my butter is at room temperature, nor do I gingerly push tablespoons at a time into my Kitchen Aid. Yet, I have never made a batch that I have had to throw out. SMBC is about as adaptable and forgiving as frosting could be so I decided to investigate why there were unfavourable reports this month from my fellow DB'ers.

At first glance, I recognized the recipe as the same one that I use: 4 egg whites, 1 cup sugar, 3 sticks of butter. Then, it struck me that the written directions were a bit meager consisting only of two numbered items.

Instructional books often walk novice bakers (and I consider myself to be one) through making SMBC. Many authors point out that curdling is normal and expected. It is merely one stage of the process. When this happens, the mixer speed needs to be stepped up to re-emulsify the mixture. The result - without fail - will be a luxurious, satiny buttercream. The next set of four photos shows the curdled stage, which occur sometime after all the butter has been added to the meringue, reconstitution and final outcome. Click on the collage for a close-up:

Having been tipped by other DB'ers that the coffee buttercream is pale, I opted to add some melted chocolate to get a darker shade of brown and more importantly, to get some more chocolate in my dessert.

This year's bûche in some ways is a refinement of last year's giant version. I find it striking when dark cocoa génoise is embraced by white chocolate mousse so it is repeated this year. Sugared rosemary underscore the evergreen/woodlands theme, and chocolate cherry from Tickleberry add sparkle to this festive treat.


Happy Holidays to everyone
and see you all in the New Year!



Notes:
Curious about the bûche de Noël? See this Wikipedia article.

The white chocolate mousse recipe is from Martha Stewart, everything else can be found in this post.

Rolling the génoise from the short edge minimizes the chance that it will split. Many also swear by pre-rolling the génoise while warm, then unrolling it again later when it is cool so it can be filled. I have one caveat to add: when unrolling, do not attempt to flatten the génoise, it will for sure split.

A lot of eggs were used here. Brush up on egg safety here.

The Daring Bakers is now hundreds strong, and there are that many more gorgeous yule log blog posts this month on the web. Please have a browse at the Daring Bakers Blogroll.

All my Daring Baker Challenges are compiled here.


85 comments:

Tartelette said...

I want that mousse...now!!! Beautiful Julius,glad mom like it!!
Happy holidays to you and your family!

redactedrecipes said...

Be.Au.Ti.Ful! :-)

Ann

Joey Biscotti said...

I wish we would have thought of a white chocolate mousse... Like you, we really didn't have any issues with our buttercream... Steven doesn't like to make Swiss buttercream so he leaves it for me...

Anyway, enough about us... Your BdN looks very festive!

Mike said...

Hi Julius

There are so many different Yule Logs there are out there. I do have to say that your buttercream does look amazing! This was my first ever buttercream & I do have alot to learn.

marias23 said...

Simply gorgeous, Julius! I can understand why your mom finished her serving. If I had been invited to your dinner, I would've loved two slices please *winks*

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

marias23 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rivka said...

your bouche is bou-tiful! :)

Happy Holidays!

Lewis said...

WOW! Those mushrooms look great! How realistic! You should do a post just on how to make those! Have a happy holiday!

Jennywenny said...

That is truly beautiful, its lovely the way you present the buche showing of your handiwork of perfectly rolling the genoise and the lovely white chocolate mousse against the dark chocolate cake. Well done and I'm glad your mother approved!

Mandy said...

gorgeous yule log! Your mum must be very proud of you. :D

sarah said...

Sensational, as always! Happy Holidays!

Merav said...

Your Buche is gorgeous! I love the look of the mousse and it sounds delicious!

Kim Stone said...

An absolutely beautiful yule log. Your buttercream is soooo perfect! Love the mushrooms too.

Gigi said...

Picture of perfection! The mushrooms are exquisite.

Beth G. said...

WOW- yours is GORGEOUS!! Beautiful photos- it looks delicious :O)

Jessica said...

Wow! That's gorgeous!
Happy Holidays!

Katia said...

Beautiful! You should be very proud of yourself. :) I will give this a try tomorrow afternoon, a little late, but better than not at all. Happy Holidays!

Jenny said...

What a beautiful Yule Log! Love your pictures.

Jenny said...

Looks amazing, and love the idea of white chocolate mousse in there. Would have added some lightness that was sorely lacking in mine.

Lis said...

I loved this when I saw it on the DB blog - such a pretty log, Julius! And I agree with you, now that I've actually made the cake - the recipe is lacking in instruction for the buttercream.

Your filling sounds FABULOUS! I want some! Glad your mom enjoyed it and I can just imagine your smile when she finished. =)

xoxo

broadcasting from a knitting parlour said...

Really nice job, Julius. Now that buche LOOKS and SOUNDS terrific! I think the chocolateness of the genoise is the perfect touch.

Megan said...

Love the color contrast. I'll be marking that white chocolate mousse for future use. Thanks for the tips on the buttercream. I'll be trying that again too. Mine was runny.

maybahay said...

this is a masterpiece, julius. i can just imagine how proud your Mum must have been of you. Happy Holidays. Maligayang Pasko!

glamah16 said...

Julius,
Just stunning.Thats all I can say. Pure perfection.

Ben said...

Great looking yule log. I had so much fun with my first DB challenge and I didn't have any trouble with the SMBC either. This is a great place to meet great bloggers like yourself. I am subscribing to your blog right away!

Merry Christmas and a Happy Yuletide :D

Bellini Valli said...

A fellow Canadian DB! Your Buche de Noel looks beautiful. I love the white chocolate mousse inside..my personal favourite...loved the shape...loved the mushrooms..your family was very lucky!

zorra said...

Julius, this is a real masterpiece! Does your mother not know that you are doing only good desserts? ;-)

Merry Christmas to you.

ostwestwind said...

Merry Christmas, your log is beautiful, especially the mushrooms

The Caked Crusader said...

Beautiful!
I love the contrast between sponge and filling - it looks delicious

Happy Christmas

Peabody said...

The white chocolate mousse against the chocolate cake is truly stunning.
It is always a good sign when people are pulling out a camera phone to take picutres. I would have swelled with pride too.
Outstanding job.

thepassionatecook said...

you clearly win in the mushroom department - in fact, i think it's one of the nicest yule logs around! well done.
have a great christmas and to more challenges next year!

Baking Soda said...

Ah.. the proof is in the eating! Glad you captivated your discerning audience to the point they actually stopped enjoying to take pics!

Claudia said...

Your yule log really looks delicious! Great mushroom - they couldn't be done better! Happy holidays to you and your family!

Maryann said...

You've got talent, kid.

anyafire said...

Wow -- just gorgeous. And thank you so much for the notes on the buttercream! (I'm one of the curdlers.) I'm definitely bookmarking this entry for reference.

Jen said...

Oh my, that looks AMAZING! Love the presentation and all those cute little 'shrooms :-) White chocolate mousse is a great idea for the filling - I must remember that. And, like you, I had no problem with the buttercream filling - it's definitely a good recipe for the culinary bag of tricks.

Happy Christmas!

vibi said...

An absolutely beautiful Yule Log, Julius... Wow... I'm very impressed!

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

Looks beautiful! I am sure your mom loved it! :)

Best wishes for a wonderful holiday season!

Carla said...

Beautiful as always. Love the cherries and your filling against the chocolate genoise is outstanding.

michelle said...

That looks *so* yummy!

Annemarie said...

I knew to expect something stunning from you and you haven't disappointed. The mushrooms look *so* realistic, and the cut-away of the rolled-up log is very striking. No wonder your mother took pictures!

greysaltismyfavorite said...

Julius your log looks beautiful. I love the white chocolate mousse and the chocolate covered cherries. Great idea!

Splurge Sisters said...

No doubt you'll hear this thousands of times - but that is a seriously stunning dessert. Wow - you truly inspire me.

bittersweetblog said...

Gorgeous, incredible work! I hope your mom liked it, too. :)

Lunch Buckets said...

Truly one of the best I've seen, great job!

kitten said...

Just gorgeous! I love your butter cream tips and your white chocolate mousse looks divine! Merry Christmas.

cerisegourmand said...

Your cakes are always so good looking, I can practically lick it off my screen! Great job!

Aamena said...

wow beautiful looking log! beautiful mushrooms and fantastic buttercreamn! mine has never managed to look like that!

Mindy said...

Swiss Meringue Buttercream is delicious! Good work- mmmmmmm

Claire said...

I love the white chocolate mousse...looks wonderful! That is HUGE flattery to have other people take pictures of your creation! Great job. Merry CHristmas!

Elle said...

If your mom wasn't impressed with your Buche de Noel, she would be a hard case indeed. It is beautiful and must have been luscious with chocolate genoise and white chocolate filling, plus the decadent buttercream. I agree that the buttercream seems easy to make and work with and is super delicious with all that butter.
Mery Christmas and Happy New Year. Great job!

Fruittart said...

So pretty and it must have tasted divine! I wouldn't call you a novice baker ;-)

Rachel said...

gorgeous!

Veron said...

Oh wow , your buttercream looks definitely luxurious and I love the assembly. Great job!

April said...

It looks beautiful, I love the sound of white chocolate mousse!

Jen said...

That is one pretty yule log! I was lucky and didn't have problems with my buttercream icing, but your description of the stages of of the SMBC was really helpful! thanks!

Julie said...

Of course it's adorable! I would expect no less. =) It looks so deliciously edible! Well done!

This SMBC surprised me. I've never had trouble with a cooked buttercream until this one. I've had buttercream look exactly how yours did at your curdled stage, but my curdles were, literally, like cottage cheese, and they wouldn't come together without heat. It started out in a very runny stage that wouldn't come together no matter how much I beat it, so I had to force it into the curdle stage in the fridge. The curdling was almost a relief compared to the runny stuff, since I really didn't want a "poured buttercream." I'm glad it ultimately turned out and was so wonderfully easy to spread and comb, and was delicious!

Madeleine said...

White Chocolate Mousse... great idea!!!

Beatiful log!!!! Congratulations!!! :)

the pastry princess said...

fantastic looking sponge cake...and the mousse sounds divine! i so wish i had participated in this challenge. great job and happy holidays!

Elisabeth said...

Just like the other commenters, that white chocolate mousse sounds absolutely wonderful.

Nice work and I'm glad mother was pleased! :)

Rasa Malaysia said...

Hi there, I found your blog on Facebook Group. What a nice blog you have here, just popping in to say hello. :)

Your cake is soooo cute and creative! WOW!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Extremely pretty! You did a great job there! Wow!

Cheers and Happy Holidays,

Rosa

eatme_delicious said...

I love how you put together the cake! It looks so cute. And a white chocolate mousse filling sounds perfect.

Nathalie said...

What a wonderfull bûche de Noël!
Nathalie

cadavreexquis said...

What an absolute beauty! Well done :)

landa said...

This is absolutely beautiful. Oh my goodness!

Nora B. said...

Fabulous decorations Julius. Wonderful to hear that your mom was impressed.

chou said...

Nice discussion of buttercream--I might just have to refer everyone to you. :) As usual, it's a pleasure to see what you've done and read your descriptions. Happy holidays!

my food affair said...

Your yule log looks absolutely beautiful..and delicious!! the white chocolate mousse looks good enough to eat by itself, and your mushrooms are so perfectly round! Great job!

-kk

Lane said...

Wow! What a gorgeous log! And your mousse sounds scrumptious!
Not to mention your mom taking pictures.
Congratulations, it's beautiful!
Jane of Vegan Bits

jef said...

I'm surprised to see that you switch over to the paddle attachment for your SMBC. I've never bothered and just whip the butter right in with the whisk attachment.

I, too, also throw caution to the wind when I make it. I usually mash the butter with my hands until I get a soft mass and then add it in 3 batches and whip to perfection. Nice to see that I'm not the only one.

Faery said...

Oh Julius this Buche de Nöel is so beautiful and the buttercream looks so yummy.

Gabi said...

Nice work on the Buche de Noel!
It looks lovely and I'm sure tasted great- very nice presentation on the SMBC too!
I wish you an upcoming year of happy baking for 2008!
xoxo
Gabi

Deborah said...

That mousse sounds delicious! Wonderful job on this challenge!

kiersten said...

Julius....love the cake! Your addition of color with the berries rocks!

Quellia said...

Beautiful, just beautiful!
I'm with you on the instructions for the SMBC - had there been a few more, I might not have had to make 4 of them!

lina said...

White chocolate mousse for the filling sounds just heavenly! I love the look of your log too, more cake than log. Best wishes for the New Year!

Jen Yu said...

Oh, what a totally gorgeous yule log! I love how dark your buttercream is. The whole thing is just a work of art. Great job as always!! Happy new year :)

jen at use real butter

Brittany said...

Julius- as usual, this is freaking stunning. Beautiful log and AMAZING photos!
The second I saw this log on the db blog, I knew it was yours. You kick ass at "baking occasionaly"

Dolores said...

Julius, your daring baker posts are a true treasure... you never fail to teach me something -- often many things -- I can employ immediately to make my baking better. Can't wait to see how you tackle January's challenge.

Happy New Year!

Andrea said...

Your cake looks beautiful, and your photo sequence on the buttercream is very helpful for anyone tackling the cake for the first time. Nicely done!

Katie said...

Wow I love the colour contrast you ahve got with your log, its stunning. Glad it was such a hit with your mum.

Tiffany said...

Oh wow, I love the look you came up with. Wish I had been able to read your post before I tackled the buttercream. Mine was horrendous! I much prefer regular old wedding-cake-type-buttercream!

linda said...

What a luscious looking log!

Yenping said...

This is a bit late, but these are really the most beautiful mushrooms I've ever seen.