We ended 2011 in rather bumpy fashion. Mira broke her elbow, Ava had a severe allergic response to the medicine she was taking for some mysteriously infected toes, and we were barred from celebrating with my family to protect my brand-new beautiful baby nephew from any possible contagion we might be harboring. Our final taste of the year was sweet, though, thanks to a traditional dessert served well past its official holiday.
Since my mother celebrates Hanukkah and my father celebrates Christmas, my sisters and I grew up with both holidays in our home. I was assigned the job of baking a Buche de Noel each year after the one I made with my fellow students in Madame Solonsky’s high school French class turned out well. My own daughters also have a father who celebrates Christmas, and we make a Buche de Noel each year to help make his holiday bright. This year, we baked our Buche de Noel for New Year’s Eve.
The girls were in charge of the marzipan decorations; I used to make meringue mushrooms, but those never hold up well in humid weather, and it always seems to be humid here when it’s Yule Log time. As much as I love a nice crunchy meringue mushroom, I love the more complex shapes marzipan lends itself to – This year, we had a Pokemon along with a collection of more native slugs, snails, beetles, and mushrooms.
Here’s the my gluten- and dairy-free recipe, adapted from the Buche de Noel recipe at Nourished Kitchen:
The day before you bake the cake, make the filling:
1 13.5 oz can organic coconut milk (regular, not reduced fat/light). Native Forest brand is BPA-free.
2 1/4 cups chocolate chips, your choice of type (I like bittersweet or semi-sweet)
dash sea salt
glug or two of orange liqueur or a dash of orange oil/extract (optional)
Heat coconut milk until almost boiling, then pour over chocolate chips and dash of salt in a medium bowl. Let sit for 2 minutes, then beat until chocolate is completely melted. Blend in liqueur if you’re using it. Let cool uncovered to room temp, then cover it well and let it rest in fridge overnight or until completely solid and well chilled.
For the cake:
6 large eggs, separated – Make sure there are no bits of yolk in with the whites
2 Tb maple sugar
pinch sea salt
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 cup cocoa powder, sifted if at all lumpy
1/4 cup rapadura or Sucanat, sifted if at all lumpy
1 tsp vanilla
fresh zest of 2 satsumas
coconut oil or other fat/oil to grease pan
cocoa powder to dust pan and towel
powdered sugar for dusting top of cake
Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a jelly roll pan (aka a large cookie sheet with sides) with parchment paper. Grease the paper with coconut oil or other fat/oil, then dust with cocoa powder.
In a very clean large bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar until foamy. Keep the beaters going while you slowly add the maple sugar, then continue to beat until soft peaks form.
In a separate bowl, beat together egg yolks, cocoa powder, rapadura, vanilla and zest until smooth. Stir 1/4 of the egg whites into the yolk mixture until well combined. Gently but with purpose fold this lightened mixture into the large bowl of egg whites, so that no pockets of whites remain. Pour into prepared baking pan and smooth top.
Bake for 8 – 15 minutes, or until center springs back when lightly touched (my convection oven takes 8 minutes, regular ovens take longer). Don’t over bake!
While the cake is baking, generously dust a clean lint-free kitchen towel or piece of cheesecloth with cocoa powder and lay it out flat, ready for baked roll.
When roll is set and springy, lift parchment paper and cake from baking tray and let cool on rack for 2 minutes. Meanwhile, spread the cocoa-dusted towel/cheesecloth out flat. Invert parchment covered roll onto towel, then carefully peel parchment from the cake. Immediately roll the cake up from the long side, letting the towel line the cake as it rolls onto itself. Set the cake/towel roll onto a rack to cool completely.
When the cake is cool, take the filling out of the fridge and beat the ganache until it has lightened in color and increased a bit in volume. Don’t beat it too long, or the coconut milk will heat up and start to turn back to a liquid; stop when it forms nice soft peaks.
Unroll cake and towel, spread inside evenly with ganache, leaving 1″ of cake naked along one long side. Starting from the opposite long side, roll cake back up without the towel. Don’t worry if the cake splits as you roll it – This adds to the faux bois look. Cutting at an angle, gently lop off a couple of inches from each end of the log and set these aside. Set the filled roll seam side down on a serving plate, then position the cut ends along the log to resemble branch remnants. Decorate with marzipan mushrooms and dust everything with powdered sugar snow. Serve immediately, or as close to that as possible.