My mom is coming over for dinner, and I was happy to be relieved of main course duties, which Patrick has taken over. Right now he is busily slow-roasting red peppers and Roma tomatoes and the scent of thyme is permeating our house. He is going to use those in his chicken-apple sausage pasta sauce for tonight's penne dish.
All his efforts leave me free to put together tonight's bûche de Noël.
While this cake can be assembled in one day, I find that the process is (only) enjoyable if spread over two or three separate days.
Make the meringue mushrooms on the first day.
On the second day, prepare the white chocolate mousse followed by the chocolate sheet (recipe below). Fill the cake with mousse and roll using the parchment. Refrigerate the roll overnight wrapped in parchment and a kitchen towel.
On the morning of the third day, make the chocolate ganache. When the ganache is frosting-like in consistency, assemble the cake. The frosted cake can chill in the fridge, but it tastes best if it has been set out for a couple hours so the ganache is at room temperature.
The sheet cake is based on Rose L. Beranbaum's Cocoa Soufflé Roll. Instead of separating the egg whites and yolks, as with a soufflé, I whipped the whole eggs and sugar, like a génoise. This method will result in a more deflated final mixture, so the amount of eggs was increased slightly to compensate.
Chocolate soufflé sheet
adapted from Rose L. Beranbaum's The Cake Bible
28 grams Dutch-process cocoa
1/4 cup boiling water
1 teaspoon vanilla
100 grams sugar
4 large eggs
a pinch cream of tartar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Preheat oven to 400 °F. Line a 10" x 15" baking sheet with parchment and coat evenly with nonstick spray.
Mix the first three ingredients together in a measuring cup. Leave uncovered and set aside.
Whisk the eggs and sugar together in the bowl of a stand-mixer. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water (the water should not touch the bowl). Continue whisking for three minutes, or until the egg mixture is hot to touch. Add the cream of tartar Quickly transfer the bowl onto the stand-mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and immediately whisk at medium speed for eight minutes. The eggs will thicken, and will fall from the whisk in voluminous ribbons.
Pour a quarter of the mixture into a bowl; into this smaller portion, whisk the cocoa mixture and melted butter until smooth.
Fold the cocoa/egg/butter mixture into the larger portion of whipped eggs. The mixture may appear soupy - not to worry.
Bake for 10 minutes. Cool in the pan. Loosen edges with a thin spatula and invert onto a rack lined with parchment. The sheet will be about an inch thick out of the oven and will fall to about half an inch, the perfect thickness for rolling.
Sugared rosemary provides a punch of colour.
For an even more festive look, I intend to plate slices of this bûche with some preserved cherries. No, no, never Maraschino. Instead, I will be using these wonderful non-alcoholic preserves from Mission Hill:
Happy New Year to everyone!
Patrick's pasta utilises ingredients from Granville Island Public Market, and it's gonna be great. Oyama sausages are always wonderful and the selections are forever varied - a reflection of the family business' deference to the seasonality of good food.
I am discovering that ganache icing is not for the impatient (that is, not terribly suited for me). Knowing that it takes a while for the proper consistency to be reached, I tried to rush the ganache by using an ice bath, which made it granular. I was able to salvage it with a quick 15-second zap in the microwave. If you are not keen on waiting, consider the chocolate Swiss meringue icing I used last year. It turns out lighter than ganache but it is just as delightful.
Initially, I wanted to have a white bûche de Noël. I was going to make an almond génoise filled with lemon curd and iced with meringue which I was going to finish by torching. The génoise recipe I used, it turned out was perfect for a tort but not so much for a rolled sheet. It cracked severely as I tried to roll it. That batch is now in the freezer waiting for some flash of creativity. Failing that, it might just get eaten as is - one good thing about baking mishaps is that few things really go to waste. Patrick has already taken some of it, stuffed it into a ramekin, piled more curd on it and slathered it with left-over white chocolate mousse.
No, no, never Maraschino. Why ruin it with those ubiquitous supermarket mummified cherries? Buy the sweet Rainier cherries when they are in season during the summer and preserve them, or try Edible British Columbia, purveyors of artisanal food products from all over BC.