Gluten-Free Buche de Noel
SERVES 10 TO 12
This classic French Christmas cake stems from the tradition of burning a yule log during the winter solstice. In southern France, some families still burn a log from Christmas Eve until New Year’s Day.
MAKES 1 CAKE
This delicate whole-egg sponge cake is perfect for layer and rolled cakes. It freezes nicely for up to one month.
6 large eggs
¾ cup organic sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
¾ cup cocoa
6 tablespoons gluten-free flour blend
¼ teaspoon xanthan gum
6 tablespoons clarified unsalted butter or margarine
Cocoa for dusting
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9x13-inch jelly roll pan and line with parchment paper or dust with cocoa.
2. Put eggs in their shells into a bowl of very hot (not boiling) water to heat (not cook).
3. Heat some water in a pot that’s large enough for a mixing bowl to fit in but not so large that bowl sits in the water. Place mixing bowl over hot water.
4. Crack warm eggs into mixing bowl. Whisk in sugar and salt. Continue whisking egg mixture until it feels quite warm. Remove from heat.
5. Use mixer fitted with a whisk to beat warmed egg mixture until it begins to thicken and ribbon. Add vanilla and continue beating until batter forms a ribbon that does not melt into rest of batter.
6. Sift cocoa, flour blend and xanthan gum together in a separate bowl.
7. Sift a third of cocoa mixture over egg mixture and fold in. Sift and fold in remaining cocoa mixture, half at a time.
8. Fold in clarified butter, half at a time.
9. Very gently, pour batter into pan and smooth top.
10. Bake genoise in middle of oven for 18 to 22 minutes or until cake is firm to the touch and pulls away slightly from side of pan.
11. Spread a clean kitchen towel on the counter and dust with cocoa. Invert baked genoise onto towel. Trim edges. Loosely roll cake up in towel. Place this on a rack to cool.
12. To assemble Buche De Noel, unroll genoise onto a clean towel or parchment paper. Spread with filling of choice (Gianduju Ganache and Chestnut Filling recipes below). Use towel or paper to roll cake into a tight cylinder. Trim cake ends diagonally, cutting 1 edge about 2 inches away from the end. Position the cut pieces like branches on the Buche De Noel, about 2/3 across the top.
13. Cover Buche De Noel with chocolate buttercream (recipe below), making sure to curve around the protruding “branches” on the top. Streak buttercream with a fork or decorating comb to resemble bark.
14. Transfer Buche De Noel to a platter and decorate with meringue mushrooms and marzipan holly (see sidebar). Sprinkle platter and buche sparingly with confectioners’ sugar to resemble snow.
*TIP If batter ribbon does not “melt” immediately into the rest of the batter, it is ready. Under-beating results in a thin, eggy-tasting cake. Over-beating results in a dry-cotton texture. I prefer to error on the side of over-beating.
Gianduja Ganache Filling
Gianduja is hazelnut milk chocolate. If you have a nut or milk allergies, use a chocolate appropriate for your dietary needs.
12 ounces Gianduja chocolate or quality dark or milk chocolate
1¼ cups heavy cream or non-dairy creamer
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter or margarine
1. Chop chocolate into pieces. Bring cream to a rolling boil. Pour hot cream over chocolate and whisk together until chocolate melts. Whisk in cold butter.
2. Let ganache sit and cool until it becomes thick enough to spread. If it gets too stiff to spread, carefully warm it until it loosens up.
This is the buche de noel filling my mother used to make when I was growing up. Canned chestnut puree is usually a seasonal item in grocery stores.
1 stick unsalted butter or margarine
½ cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 (8-ounce) can sweet chestnut puree
2 tablespoon kirsch,* optional
1. Cream butter until white. Add confectioners’ sugar and beat until fluffy.
2. Spoon chestnut puree into sugar mixture, tablespoon by tablespoon, and blend. Go slowly or the mixture may separate. Add kirsch, if using.
Chocolate Buttercream Covering
There’s no nondairy substitute for unsalted butter in this recipe. If you’re avoiding dairy, use a non-dairy whipped cream or make a non-dairy ganache (use 1 pound of melted chocolate combined with 1½ cups non-dairy creamer) to cover and fill the buche.
2 cups sugar
1-3 cups wate
¼ teaspoon cider vinegar or lemon juice
2 pounds unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
1 teaspoon vanilla
9 egg whites (1 cup)
4 ounces Belgian dark chocolate
1. Put sugar into a heavy-bottom sauce pan. Pour in water and swirl to dissolve sugar. Add vinegar, lemon juice or cream of tartar. Bring to boil. DO NOT STIR. Cook to soft ball stage. Remove from heat.
2. Before syrup reaches soft ball stage, start beating egg whites. As soon as whites are foamy and syrup is ready, begin slowly and steadily adding syrup to egg whites.
3. Continue beating egg white mixture while adding cold butter, cube by cube. Meringue will become soupy. Don’t worry; keep adding the butter. (At this point, use a large towel to make a “tent” over the mixture. This will protect you and your kitchen from spattering.) If buttercream is not thick enough after all butter is added, add more, tablespoon by tablespoon, until buttercream is the consistency you want. Add vanilla.
4. Melt Belgian chocolate and cool. Slowly drizzle cooled chocolate into buttercream and stir to combine. Spread on Buche De Noel as covering.
Variation: To make coffee buttercream, dissolve 2 tablespoons gluten-free instant coffee into 1 tablespoon warm water or a liqueur of choice. Add coffee mixture to prepared buttercream and beat until well combined.
Meringue mushrooms and marzipan holly are the perfect garnish for buche de noel or any other special sweet. These edible creations are fun to make. They enhance the beauty and taste of dessert.
For variety, vary the sizes of mushroom stems and caps. This candy can be stored in an airtight container for several weeks. Do not refrigerate.
2 egg whites
⅛ teaspoon lemon juice, cider vinegar or cream of tartar
½ cup superfine white sugar*
1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Lightly grease 3 cookie sheets and line them with parchment paper.
2. Beat egg whites until foamy. Add lemon juice and beat at medium speed until soft peaks form. Continue beating, gradually adding superfine sugar until whites are very stiff and glossy. If meringue batter feels gritty with sugar, continue beating until all sugar has melted.
3. Fill a pastry bag with ¼ cup of meringue and fit with 1/16-inch plain nozzle. Set aside to use for gluing mushroom cap and stem together. Put remaining meringue in a large pastry bag fitted with a plain nozzle.
4. To pipe caps, hold pastry bag upright almost touching the parchment paper and pipe meringue into even rounds, building up meringue to form a 2-inch wide round, about 1 inch high. (You can make varying sizes.) Try to make the top as smooth as possible; use a wet fingertip to smooth out any peaks.
5. To pipe stems, hold pastry bag upright almost touching parchment-lined cookie sheet and pipe meringue with even pressure, lifting the bag slowly away from cookie sheet to form a cone-shape stem base, a little larger than the top. Stem should be about 1 inch high. Try to keep stems as straight as possible. (Some stems may fall on their sides while baking, so it’s a good idea to make extra.)
6. Bake meringues for approximately one hour or until mushrooms are firm enough to be lifted from baking sheet without sticking. Rotate baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back in oven (about three quarters of the way through baking) to ensure even baking.
7. Remove from oven and with a small sharp knife, make a small hole in the middle of the underside of each mushroom cap. Using the small pastry bag fitted with 1/l6 inch tip, pipe a bit of meringue in the hole and gently press the top of stem into the hole.
8. Place mushrooms, caps down, on a parchment-lined baking sheet and return to oven for about 15 to 30 minutes or until mushrooms are dry.
9. Remove from oven and lightly dust tops of the mushrooms with cocoa powder. Use a small pastry or paint brush to smudge the cocoa powder, if desired.
Shape two leaves and three berries for each piece of holly. Arrange decoratively on your holiday dessert tray.
8 ounces marzipan
1–2 drops red and green food coloring
1. To make holly leaves, add 1 or 2 drops of green food coloring to 1/3 of the marzipan and mix until color is throughout. Roll marzipan into a long cylinder. Dust counter with cornstarch. Roll marzipan out flat. With a small, sharp knife, cut marzipan into small diamonds. Or use a small leaf- or diamond-shaped cookie cutter. Remove leaves from counter using a flexible spatula.
2. To make holly berries, add 1 or 2 drops of red food coloring to a small piece of marzipan. Mix until color is throughout. Roll into tiny balls.