Monday, 20 December 2010

Bûche de Noël: Le Making Of!

In a moment of insanity I decided to make a Bûche de Noël (and write a blog entry simultaneously). Here's what happened:

First crisis. I realise we don't have a swiss roll tin. I look it up thinking it looks like something you would bake a loaf-like cake in. It's not. Instead it looks like a baking sheet with slightly higher edges. I look for one of those and settle on a larger baking sheet, hoping that this first concession hasn't already doomed the Bûche.

I line the tray with baking paper. Then it turns into some sort of strange dash around the house looking for paper clips (according to the recipe, this is the next step) to clip the baking paper to the non-swiss roll tray. In the process I manage to send several paper clips flying (generally back at myself) and make my freshly washed hair smell chargrilled (I opened the oven). I know I shouldn't complain because this oven is better than the one I have it home. (i.e. It keeps the temperature and has a door that shuts properly and doesn't have to wedged shut with a chair) but still, FRESHLY WASHED HAIR!

I separate eggs and miss the many kitchen gadgets I own (most from my mother) that make you lazy but save you time. This kitchen makes you work for it anyway as we have twelve foot ceilings and tall kitchen cabinets (I'm 5'5) that require acrobatic leaps up and jumps down to procure mixing bowls, measuring cups, and the like. In the meantime, iTunes DJ wreaks havoc on my music collection playing only the most embarrassing hits of my childhood and songs from mixes from exes.

The next part is easy enough. I mix the appropriate eggs, flour, and other ingredients and get them onto the improvised swiss roll tin. I put it in and look at it maybe two minutes later and it's already turning golden. It's supposed to be in there ten minutes. Crap? As I look again it has air bubbles. I hope this is all supposed to happen. I take it out of the oven and throw a tea towel on it to keep in the moisture. Then I re-read the recipe and it says to use a DAMP tea towel. I put the freshly-squeezed tea towel back on it and watch it send up damp smoke while I decide to take care of the dishes before continuing.

Next crisis, I realise I am one egg short and have bought semi-skimmed milk instead of whole milk. Decide I'm going to go with it. After all this was only meant to be a test run.

I continue. My frosting isn't thickening. Oh dear, this is far more involved than I thought it would be. I skip ahead to read what happens next. In a way I wish it was one of those choose one of three options novels so that I could get the desired outcome. Things are not looking good. I also realise I've forgotten to add the gelatin sheets. I do so, and things have thickened up in the meantime. I try rolling out the cooled down sheet of sponge swiss roll but can't really get it to lengthen, despite the instructions in the recipe.

I half-heartedly whip the cream, which doesn't much smell like whipping cream. Part of the adventure of this recipe has been trying to figure out what everything is called in French, sometimes halfway through the recipe. I'm not sure I got that one right. I frost the inside add the crushed fruit and roll it. It starts to break but I persevere. It looks OK, not phenomenal, but OK. I cut off the edges and frost and decorate it. It looks really pretty now, but it's the taste that's more important and I may have failed on that front.

Currently the beast sits in the fridge chilling. In two hours it might be ready for consumption, until I find out I've used something terribly different from whipped cream. Perhaps I should stick to baking cookies and tarts...

On second thought, I've cleaned up the kitchen and tried some of the non-frosted swiss roll. It's delicious. Perhaps the only thing that needs to change is the white frosting. Eric tried the swiss roll and said it was délicieux (and that the bûche looked beautiful). Maybe there's hope after all? Stay tuned for the final word!

Addendum:
After chilling in the fridge for two hours I reluctantly agreed that we could have the bûche for dessert tonight. Despite being very rich, it was actually rather tasty. I suppose my pessimism comes from the fact that I do not enjoy baking (although apparently according to some people I'm really good at it) and always feel a need to distance myself from my creations for at least a day before I can even think of eating them. That being said, this was not the easiest recipe and you won't truly know what the frosting is going to taste like until it's chilled and hardened a bit. Bonne Chance!

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