A traditional French Christmas dessert: Bûche de Noël
From the second half of December, most French boulangeries start stocking their windows with fine patisseries known as Christmas logs, or Bûche de Noel.
Christmas logs (Bûche de Noel) — which are rolls of crushed biscuits with vanilla, hazelnut, chocolate or more exotic flavours — are an integral part of the French table during the holiday season.
Here's how such a simple and inelegant dish appeared on the Christmas table in a country known for its exquisite cuisine.
A French tradition
It didn't start with a biscuit log, but with a real one. On long winter nights, a huge log would be burnt in Northern European homes, and it would have to be really big to burn for as long as possible and not go out during the night, which was avoided because it was believed to bring bad luck.
The log provided warmth for the whole family and became a meaningful object.
In Provence, for example, the log was lit in a great ceremony by the eldest member of the family (representing the ending year) and the youngest (representing the new year). The log was sprinkled with wine or holy water to promote good harvests. Coarse salt was also poured over it to ward off witches and evil spirits.
People started decorating logs with ribbons, foliage and holly before carrying them into the house and today, the tradition continues in the confectionery industry, where ganache is decorated with sugar coins, cream leaves, and icing sugar.
Nowadays, every prestigious boulangerie comes up with its own unique Christmas log design.
Bûche de Noël: A family recipe
Shared by our French teacher, who is Parisian, this recipe has been passed down in her family from generation to generation.
Génoise (a type of biscuit)
- 3 eggs + 1 white
- 100 g flour
- 100 g sugar
- 1/2 sachet of yeast
Separate the whites from the yolks.
Mix the 3 yolks with the sugar, then the flour and yeast (electric mixer).
Add the 4 egg whites, and beat until stiff.
Pour onto the baking tray covered with baking paper; cook for 10 minutes in an oven preheated to 200°C
Turn out onto a damp cloth and leave to cool.
Buttercream (coffee or chocolate)
- 2 eggs + 1 yolk
- 200 g softened butter (taken out of the fridge the day before)
- 100 g icing sugar
- 125 g chocolate or 2 tablespoons coffee extract
Beat the softened butter with an electric mixer in the style of mayonnaise; it should remain fairly firm.
Mix the 2 whole eggs and the yolk with the icing sugar and the cooled melted chocolate (melted in a water bath or microwave with 1 tablespoon of water) or the coffee extract with an electric mixer.
Add the latter mixture to the butter and beat with an electric mixer.
Spread some of the cream on the sponge cake, then roll it up.
Spread the rest of the cream on the top and the edges, so that it looks like a wooden log.
Sprinkle with icing sugar. Leave to rest for 24 hours in the fridge.
And by the way, Bûche de Noel can be paired with a glass of Champagne, but if you're looking for a healthier alternative check out our delicious homemade drink recipes.
Credits for the Main photo: Freepik
Photo credits: Adobe Stock
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