Buche de Noel with Salted Caramel Ganache

For years, every December, I dreamt of baking Buche de Noel as “The Cake” for the last week of festivities but always ended up baking our scrumptious traditional cake. However, this year I told myself that it would either be Buche or Nothing for Christmas. Since a cake-less Christmas is no-Christmas, and I didn’t want to wait for another 365 days to dive deep in the revelry, it was more of an ultimatum to yours truly than anyone else. And as self-flogging works sometimes, this Christmas Buche de Noel finally saw light of the day (or Star of David) in my kitchen.

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Buche de Noel or Yule Log is the cake traditionally  eaten during Christmas and New Year in France. I was very fascinated by the whole concept till I read that it was nothing but a jelly roll decorated like a log and that was a dampener. Who eats a simpleton like jelly roll on a festival like Christmas! But as I soon found out, Buche is as simple (or sophisticated) as you care it to be, and I started searching for all kinds of fillings ranging from mincemeat to eggnog and what not. I eventually settled for the salted caramel ganache, and it proved that my decision making was still intact despite the air heavy with all kind of good liquors.

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Baking this log had an emotional string too since the sister is settled in France now. My heart aches for her on most of the days, especially during festivities. As I whipped the chocolate genoise sponge, filled and frosted it, I imagined being in the same festival bubble with her (which she burst by cooking famous Indian sweet “Gulab Jamuns” instead to mark the occasion and her French family and friends loved them!)

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Food brings people together, bridges the distance and nurtures bonds. It also pushes you to tread unknown territories and surprises you in most amazing ways. I hope it does the same to you in 2017! Bonne Anne and Bon Appetite!

Buche de Noel
(Adapted minimally from here)
Baking a genoise based Buche de Noel comes with a few words of caution which must be paid heed to. The trickiest part is to roll the genoise, which should be done when it is still hot. Make sure to dust the kitchen towel heavily with the icing sugar before you turn the genoise on it, else it will stick to the cake. Though my log didn’t suffer any cracks, but I read that in case yours does, fret not, as they can be easily covered up in the frosting.

Ingredients

Chocolate Genoise:
• 6 egg yolks
• 1/2 cup white sugar
• 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
• 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
• 1/8 teaspoon salt
• 6 egg whites
• 1/4 cup white sugar
• 1/3  cup melted blueberry jam (for filling the cake during assembly)

Salted Caramel Ganache:
• 75 grams dark chocolate
• 75 grams milk chocolate
• 100 gram sugar
• 200 ml low fat cream
• 2 tablespoon butter
• Generous pinch of fine salt like Fleur de Sel

• Preheat oven to 190 degrees C. Line a 10×15 inch jellyroll pan with parchment paper.
• In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat egg yolks with 1/2 cup sugar until thick and pale, about 9 minutes. Blend in 1/3 cup cocoa, 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla, and salt.
• In large glass bowl, using clean beaters, whip egg whites to soft peaks. Gradually add 1/4 cup sugar, and beat until whites form stiff peaks. Immediately fold the yolk mixture into the whites. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan.
• Bake for 12 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the cake springs back when lightly touched.
• Dust a clean dishtowel with confectioners’ sugar. Run a knife around the edge of the pan, and turn the warm cake out onto the towel. Remove and discard parchment paper. Starting at the short edge of the cake, roll the cake up with the towel. Cool for 30 minutes.

For salted caramel ganache:
• Break both chocolates in a medium bowl
• Place sugar in a heavy bottom pan and heat over low-medium heat swirling intermittently till sugar turns to caramel.
• Carefully add cream to the caramel as it will splatter a lot and keep mixing till it turns to a homogenous mixture.
• Place a sieve over the broken chocolate and pour caramel mixture through the sieve.
• Add the butter and salt and mix gently till you get a smooth and shiny mixture.

Assembling the Buche:
• Unroll the cake, and spread the jam filling to within 1 inch of the edge. Top with the salted caramel ganache.
• Roll the cake up with the filling inside. Place seam side down onto a serving plate, and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
• Pour the remaining ganache and refrigerate the cake for another 30 minutes.
• Make bark pattern using a fork, sprinkle some icing sugar to resemble snow and decorate with marzipan or meringue mushrooms. I cheated and did with fondant, but kids loved them the same.

 

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Christmas Fruit Cake

Festivals always arrive a few days before “the” date. They can be felt in the air, smelled in home kitchens, heard in excited conversations of the children and elders alike, seen in the markets and just everywhere. The patient wait and the preparations for the celebrations, days in advance, make revelry even more special.  So, in our home Christmas  festivities almost always arrives in October, when I soak fruits in alcohol for this traditional Christmas Fruit Cake.

Camera360_2015_12_24_042809-001This cake is different from a regular fruit cake as it has a good amount of caramel in it. Caramel gives it a typical deep brown color as well as the toffee flavor which amalgamates beautifully with the alcohol and fruits, and at the same time keeps the cake moist. I prefer to bake my cake at least one week in advance and let the flavors mature with regular feeding of rum. The alcohol not only keeps the cake moist, it increases its shelf-life as well.

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Though I have been baking this cake for as long as I can remember, this year I baked two cakes. One is what you see here, and the other one using the same recipe, with brown sugar replacing the regular sugar and rum replacing the caramel altogether. That cake is still maturing and it will be another couple of days before I can update you on that one. Till then, here is the traditional Christmas Fruit Cake in all its goodness. Merry Christmas!

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(Update 28.12.2015- So, we finally had the rum cake and we did miss caramel in it. This cake was light brown in color unlike one with caramel, and more on sweeter side. It lacked the toffee-rum flavor which I feel is the very soul of the Christmas cake. So, I don’t think I am going to replace caramel with anything as for now! )

Christmas Fruit Cake
(Yields two 8 inches square cakes)

Ingredients

For the fruit mix:
• 500g chopped mixed dry fruits
• 1/4th cup rum/brandy
• 1/4th cup orange juice
• Zest from the peel of one orange
• Juice from one lemon
• 1 tbsp vanilla extract
• 1/4th tsp powdered cloves
• ½ tsp powdered cinnamon
• ½ tsp powdered nutmeg

For the caramel:
• 1 ½ cup sugar
• ¾ cup hot water
• 1 tsp instant coffee powder

For the cake:
• 500 grams alcohol soaked mixed fruit
• 2 cups plus 2 tbsp all purpose flour
• 200 gms unsalted butter, room temperature
• ¾ cup sugar
• 4 eggs
• caramel syrup
• 1 ½ tsp baking powder
• ½ tsp salt
• 2 tsp pure vanilla extract

To make the fruit mix:

• In a non-reactive bowl, place all the ingredients listed under the “fruit mix” and stir well.
• Cover with a fitting lid and keep under refrigeration for 3 days or more. I soak my fruits 3 months in advance
• Mix thoroughly every 3rd day and feed more alcohol as and when needed.

To make the caramel:
• Place sugar in a heavy bottomed pan. Keep the pan on medium-slow flame and let the sugar melt.
• Once sugar begins to melt, rotate the pan to swirl the sugar till it completely melts. Don’t fret if the sugar crystallizes, just keep stirring and it will melt to become caramel.
• Let the caramel reach deep amber color, at which point turn off the flame. Very carefully, slowly add the hot water into the pot and keep stirring. It’s a good idea to wear baking gloves at this time as the caramel will splatter A LOT. Keep mixing the caramel till it settles and dissolve a teaspoon of instant coffee powder to it. Reserve.

To make the cake:
• Heat the oven to 150° C. Grease two 8X8 inches square pans and line thrice with parchment paper. This step is very important since the cake bakes for a long time and not lining with enough parchment layers will result in hardening of the edges. Grease parchment paper as well.
• Toss the soaked mixed fruit in flour well in a large bowl so that the fruit is completely coated. Add the salt and baking powder and mix well. Keep aside.
• Beat the butter and sugar with electric blender till fluffy, about 2 minutes. Then add the eggs and beat well again
• Add the caramel syrup and vanilla extract and beat again till well incorporated. The mixture may appear curdled.
• Add the flour coated mixed fruit mixture to the butter mix and stir well.
• Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for about an hour. The cake, when done, will be dark golden brown on top and a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake will turn out clean.
• Turn off the oven and let the cake cool. Once cooled, poke several holes into the cake and feed it with rum. Cover the cake in multiple layers of parchment paper and let the cake sit on room temperature for about a week. Feed rum at least twice while the cake is maturing.

Extra notes:
1. Do not pack the cake directly with aluminium foil as the juices of the cake may react with the metal. Its better to cover in the parchment paper and clean wrap and store at room temperature.
2. Though it is better to mature the cake for at least a week, a minimum of two days is much desired.