Bûche de Noël chocolat-noisette

Chocolate-hazelnut Yule log

The Yule log, France’s traditional Christmas dessert, comes in many forms and flavors. In this version, a thin sheet of hazelnut genoise is coated with chocolate tiramisu-style cream, rolled up to form a log, coated with dark chocolate icing and decorated with roasted hazelnuts. It may be made in advance and refrigerated or frozen until serving.

Creating the log is a six-step process. First you make the filling. Next you roast some hazelnuts and grind the rest. These two steps may be done in advance. The third step is making the genoise. You then trim the cake, fill and roll it. The fifth step is making the icing, and the sixth is decoration. The process involves some dexterity, but it’s not as time-consuming as you might think. It took me about two hours, including clean-up time.

Before beginning, please read through all the ingredients listed under the six steps below. As for equipment, you will need either your oven tray or a very large rectangular baking pan. I used my oven tray, the bottom surface of which which measures 14 x 12 inches (about 36 x 30 cm). If you don’t have one very large pan, you could use two rectangular pans and make two smaller logs. You will also need parchment paper, bowls of different sizes, a wire whip, electric beaters, a rubber spatula, a metal spatula and a sharp knife.

One large log or two smaller logs will serve 8-10 people. Ready to go?

1) The filling
2 eggs
1/2 pound (250 g) mascarpone
3 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa
2 tbsp. strong coffee (espresso or 1 tbsp. nescafe mixed with 1 tbsp. hot water)

Separate the eggs, placing the yolks in a medium bowl and the whites in a small bowl.

Give the yolks a quick stir. Add the mascarpone, sugar, cocoa and coffee. Stir well.

Beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks.

With the same beaters, beat the mascarpone mixture until very smooth.

Gently fold the whites into the mascarpone. Continue folding until evenly blended.

Transfer to a clean recipient. Refrigerate.

2) The hazelnuts
1 cup (100 g) hazelnuts

Preheat the oven to gas mark 7 (400 F, 210 C).

While the oven is heating, grind half of the hazelnuts and place the remaining whole hazelnuts in a pie or cake tin.

Roast the whole hazelnuts for 5 minutes. Allow to cool. (Note: do not turn off the oven, as you will soon be baking the cake.)

When the hazelnuts have cooled enough for easy handling, slip off their skins. Perfection is not called for – if bits of skin don’t detach, not to worry.

3) The genoise
4 eggs
5 tbps. (70 g) unsalted butter
2/3 cup (150) g sugar
1/3 cup (50 g) flour
1/3 cup (35 g) ground hazelnuts

If the oven has been turned off, pre-heat it to gas mark 7 (400 F, 210 C).

Separate the eggs, placing the whites in a large bowl and the yolks in a medium-sized bowl. Whisk the yolks briefly with a wire whip. Set aside.

Melt the butter.

Place a sheet of parchment paper over your oven tray or baking pan. Using a pastry brush, coat the parchment paper with a little of the melted butter.

Measure out the sugar, flour and ground hazelnuts. Have them standing by. (If you have extra ground hazelnuts, reserve them for later.)

Beat the egg whites with an electric beater until they form soft peaks. Add the sugar and continue beating until they form stiff peaks.

Using a rubber spatula, transfer about 1/3 of the whites into the bowl of yolks. Whisk to blend. Now transfer the yolk mixture back into the whites and gently fold in. Turn the bowl a quarter-turn after each fold to achieve an even blend.

Sift the flour over the mixture, either with a sifter or by pushing the flour through a sieve. Sprinkle 1/3 cup of ground hazelnuts over the flour. Gently fold in.

Pour on the melted butter and gently fold in.

Spread the batter over the parchment paper to form an even layer 1/3 inch (1 cm) thick.

Bake the cake for 5 minutes. When it comes out of the oven, allow it to rest for 1 minute.

Cut away any bits of cake that may have spilled over the edge of the parchment paper. Gently lift the parchment paper, including the cake, onto the counter.

4) Filling the cake

Keep the cake on the parchment paper throughout this step.

Using a sharp knife, cut away the edges of the cake to form an even rectangle.

Place the rectangle so that the narrow side is facing you. Spoon the mascarpone filling evenly over the cake. Gently roll up from bottom to top. Turn the roll so that the seam is on top. Lightly fold the parchment paper over the roll. Transfer to a tray. Refrigerate.

5) The icing
8 ounces (225 g) dark chocolate
2 tbsp. (30 g) unsalted butter
1/2  cup (120 ml) heavy cream

Melt the chocolate and butter in the top of a double-boiler (au bain marie). When melted, turn the down heat. Stir in the cream.

6) Decoration

Remove your log from the fridge. Cut a thin slice off each end to even it off. Coat the seam side with the chocolate icing. Place a clean sheet of parchment paper over the log. Invert. Discard the other sheet of parchment paper.

Add the roasted hazelnuts to the icing. Spread over the log to cover all sides.

Refrigerate for one hour to allow the icing to harden, then transfer to a serving platter. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Just before serving, decorate your serving platter with pine branches, holly or flowers.

The Yule log will serve 8-10 people.

Note: When you trim the cake, you can keep the extra bits to serve as a simple (pre-Christmas) dessert for a couple of people. Place the extra cake in a bowl. Sprinkle with rum or brandy. Mix in some whipped cream. Transfer to small cups.

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