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French Christmas log recipe (la "bûche de Noël")

In France, Christmas dinner is a lavish affair. Many different preparations are served, and (when the budget allows) nobler products are chosen to prepare more sophisticated dishes than usual. The Christmas meal traditionally ends with the unmissable "bûche de Noël". I'll tell you all about its history and secrets, and give you my easy-to-make recipe!


French Christmas log

What do the French eat at Christmas?


In France, Christmas dinner generally lasts for hours! We usually have dinner on December 24 with the closest family members, and lunch on the 25th with the whole family. We meet at noon and stay at the table until evening!

First we serve an aperitif: petits fours, canapés with lump roe or smoked salmon...

Then we continue with one or more starters: foie gras served with a slice of gingerbread and onion confit, pan-fried scallops, oysters, lobster, fish puff pastry...

The main course is often meat-based: poultry such as turkey, duck or capon, roast beef or game (doe, wild boar, stag, etc.) accompanied by potatoes (pommes duchesses, gratin dauphinois, pommes dauphines), chestnuts and vegetables.

Then comes the cheese platter, made up of different cheeses eaten with bread (no wonder the meal lasts for hours?).

And then, of course, there's dessert (or more than one!). The traditional Christmas dessert is the "bûche" (Christmas log).



History of the Christmas bûche


Originally, the bûche was not a dessert. It wasn't even edible at all! It was a large stump of wood decorated with ribbons and foliage, and left to burn for as long as possible (ideally until New Year's Eve). It was considered an offering to the gods to guarantee a good harvest the following year. This tradition is thought to have originated in Northern Europe, before the arrival of Christianity. It wasn't until the 19th century that the Christmas pastry was invented in a Parisian patisserie, but the exact origin of the dessert is not known.

It's traditionally a cookie filled with buttercream, praline, mousse, fruit, chocolate, coffee... and rolled into the shape of a log.



The Christmas log today


The traditional buttercream log has almost disappeared from pastry shops, to be replaced by more modern desserts, prepared in molds with lighter creams or mousses. Nowadays, the log can be with chocolate or fruit, iced or not... There's something for every taste and budget.



Great pastry chefs like Nina Métayer, Cédric Grolet, Pierre Hermé... create new pieces every year. They look for new flavors, light textures and, above all, modern designs. If you're looking for a log for your Christmas dinner, you'll find them in every pâtisserie in France (remember to order in advance!), but also in supermarkets. They're of lower quality, less original, but also less expensive, which makes them more affordable. There are also frozen logs, which you can find at Picard (a frozen food brand with numerous stores throughout France) or in the frozen section of supermarkets.



Chocolate-raspberry log recipe


If you prefer to make your Christmas dessert yourself, the rolled log remains the most traditional version (and the easiest too!). Here's my recipe:


Ingredients


For the "biscuit génoise" (sponge cake):

4 eggs

120g of sugar

80g of flower

40g of almond powder


For the ganache:

250g of dark chocolate

250g of full-fat liquid cream


To assemble the cake :

200g of frozen raspberries


Preparation


Start by removing the raspberries from the freezer. They should be well thawed by the time you use them.

Continue with the ganache: to do this, break the chocolate into pieces and place in a bowl. Bring the cream to the boil and add it to the chocolate in 3 stages. Mix well with a whisk and leave to cool.

Preheat the oven to 180ºC (356ºF) and prepare the sponge cake. Separate the yolks from the whites and beat until stiff. Using a whisk, vigorously mix the yolks with the sugar (the mixture should turn white). Using a spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the yolk/sugar mixture, then add the sifted flour and almond powder (to avoid lumps). Pour the batter onto a baking tray lined with baking paper and spread evenly with a spatula. Bake for approximately 10 minutes. The sponge cake is cooked when it is colored and no longer sticks to the finger.


Once out of the oven, turn the sponge cake onto a damp kitchen towel, remove the baking paper and roll the sponge in the towel (as in this video). Leave to cool. This step prevents the sponge cake from drying out and breaking, making it impossible to roll.

When the cookie has cooled, roll it out. Brush the sponge cake with raspberry juice. Spread 3/4 of the ganache over the sponge cake, add the raspberries to the ganache and roll again. The "seam" should be placed underneath to prevent the log from opening and unrolling.

For a neater result, cut off the ends. Cover the log with the remaining ganache. For a "woody" effect, you can use a fork to make ridges. You can also add chocolate shavings (obtained with a paring knife or grater) or sprinkle with powdered sugar to symbolize "snow".

Leave the log in the fridge until you're ready to eat it. You can add decorations such as little characters, stars or chocolate men... Let your imagination run wild. Bon appétit!

And in your country, what is the traditional Christmas dessert?


I wish you a wonderful holiday season! 🎄

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