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December 2007


Bûche de Noël

Bûche de Noël

Yields one 17-inch log

For the sponge cake:
Non-stick vegetable spray, for the pan
5 large eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp cornstarch

For the mocha buttercream:
1 1/4 cups egg whites (about 10 large), at room temperature
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 lb unsalted butter, cut into cubes, at room temperature
8 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
4 Tbsp instant espresso dissolved in 2 Tbsp hot water, then cooled
Confectioners' sugar, for decoration

For the meringue mushrooms:
2 large egg whites, at room temperature
Pinch cream of tartar
1/2 cup fine granulated sugar
Cocoa powder

Sponge cake
Spray an 11-by-17-inch jellyroll pan with non-stick spray. Line pan with parchment and spray again, covering bottom and sides. Position oven rack in center of oven and preheat to 350 degrees.

In the top of a double boiler (or large metal bowl) placed over simmering water, beat eggs, sugar, honey, vanilla and salt until sugar is melted and mixture is hot to the touch, about 160 degrees. With an electric mixer, beat on high until mixture is light and fluffy and has tripled in volume.

Remove insert from double boiler. Sift flour and cornstarch over the egg mixture and gently fold in with a rubber spatula just until incorporated.

Scrape batter into prepared pan, smoothing it with a metal spatula. Bake about 10 to 12 minutes, until cake is lightly browned, begins to pull away from edges and its center springs back when lightly touched. Place pan on a cooling rack. Loosen edges with a sharp knife, cover with a sheet of parchment the same size and remove cake by placing another sheet pan, right-side-up, on top and flipping. Peel off the original paper and then invert cake back so the smooth side of the cake is up. Let cool on parchment.

Mocha buttercream
In top of a double boiler set over simmering water, beat egg whites and sugar until hot to touch, about 160 degrees. Scrape mixture into bowl of a stand mixer and beat on high about 10 minutes, until stiff peaks form.

Set mixer on medium and beat in butter, about 2 Tbsps at a time, making sure each addition is fully incorporated before adding the next. Turn speed to high and beat for 5 minutes, until buttercream is light and fluffy. With mixer on low, beat in chocolate and espresso. If too soft, refrigerate until firm enough to spread.

Slide cake and parchment paper onto a flat workspace. Remove about 1/3 of buttercream and set aside. Using metal spatula, spread all but about 1/2 cup of buttercream evenly over cake and gently roll it up, starting at one long side and using parchment paper to help. Cut off a slice at an angle from one end to attach later.

Transfer the roulade, seam side down, to a serving platter. Spread reserved buttercream evenly over roulade; attach reserved slice to side of cake to resemble the end of a branch. Use tines of a fork to make surface look like bark. Chill until buttercream is set, then cover with plastic wrap until serving time.


Meringue mushrooms
Makes about 20

These can be made several days ahead of time and stored in an airtight tin.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Position two oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat to 200 degrees. Fit pastry bag with a 1/2-inch (number 6) plain round metal tip.

In bowl of electric mixer, beat egg whites and cream of tartar on medium speed until soft peaks form. Continue beating, increasing speed to high, gradually adding sugar until whites are very stiff and glossy. Using a rubber spatula, transfer meringue to pastry bag.

For the caps: Hold pastry bag vertically and close to parchment. Pipe meringue into even rounds about 2 inches wide by 1 inch high. Twist the bag as you stop pressing to form a kiss and slowly move tip away from meringue. If needed, smooth the surface lightly with a wet fingertip.

For the stems: Hold pastry bag vertically and close to parchment paper. Pipe meringue into a cone shape, about 1 inch high, with the top a little smaller than the base, preferably standing straight up.

Bake at least 2 hours, until mushrooms are dry and light and can be lifted from baking sheet without sticking. To ensure even baking, halfway through cooking time, rotate baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back.

Remove pans from oven. Using tip of a knife, make a small hole in the center of the bottom of each mushroom cap. Add a dab of reserved buttercream into the hole and gently press the top of stems into the caps. Sift on a little cocoa powder.

Before serving, remove cake from the refrigerator, dust with confectioners' sugar and add the meringue mushrooms. Cut crosswise into slices and serve.