Christmas on Becca's Books | Mireille’s Bûche de Noël, from The French for Christmas by Fiona Valpy

~ Mireille's Buche de Noel  ~

From 'The French for Christmas' by Fiona Valpy

“Preparing beautiful food is nourishment for mind, body and soul,” says Mireille in The French for Christmas. For those who aren’t so keen on Christmas Pudding, a French Bûche de Noël (or Yule Log) is a delicious alternative – a sponge roulade, filled and covered with decadent chocolate mousse and an indulgent hazelnut praline for added crunch. Here’s how to make the entire thing from scratch, as Mireille would have done… sure to impress your Christmas guests with your Domestic Goddess-ing à la Française!

You will need a shallow baking tray that measures 30cms x 40cms. This will serve about 12 people.

First make the Chocolate Mousse:
6 egg whites
A squeeze of lemon juice
200g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids at least)
40g butter
4 Tablespoons caster sugar

   1. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Add the butter, remove from the heat and keep stirring until butter and chocolate are completely combined. Set aside to cool.
   2. Beat the egg whites with the squeeze of lemon juice until they form firm, snowy peaks. Add the sugar, one spoonful at a time, beating well between each addition, until the mixture become glossy and stiff.
3. Add a couple of spoonfuls of the egg white mixture to the melted chocolate and mix it quickly to loosen the chocolate. Then tip the chocolate mixture into the rest of the beaten egg white mixture and fold in carefully, trying to keep as much air in the mix as possible, until well incorporated.
4. Set the mousse aside in the fridge to keep cool and firm up a little.

Next make the Sponge Cake for the roulade:
4 eggs
A squeeze of lemon juice
125g caster sugar
125g plain flour
A few drops of vanilla essence

1. Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees C. Butter your 30cms x 40cms baking tray and line it with a sheet of non-stick baking paper which overlaps the sides all round.
2. Separate the eggs into two large bowls. Set aside 3 tablespoonsful of the sugar and add the remainder to the bowl containing the egg yolks, along with the vanilla essence.
3. With an electric mixer, whisk the yolks, sugar and vanilla until the mixture turns pale and frothy.
4. Wash the whisk attachments and dry them thoroughly. Add the squeeze of lemon juice to the egg whites and then whisk until stiff peaks form. Then add the three tablespoonsful of sugar that you reserved and whisk again until glossy.
5. Take a couple of spoonsful of the white meringue mixture and fold this into the egg yolk mixture until well incorporated.
6. Then gently fold the remainder of the egg white mixture into the egg yolk mixture - being careful to keep in as much air as possible - until they are combined.
7. Sift the flour into the mix and fold carefully to keep the air in the mix.
8.  Pour the sponge mixture into the prepared baking tray, gently encouraging it to spread evenly into the corners. Bake for about 10 minutes, until sponge is a golden brown colour and the centre springs back when gently pressed.
9. Wet a clean dishcloth and wring it out well, then spread it on your kitchen surface. Carefully lift the sponge out of the baking tray, using the edges of the baking paper, and place it onto the wet dishcloth. Place another sheet of baking paper over the top.
10.  If you like, at this stage you could sprinkle a little brandy, Amaretto or other favourite liqueur over the sponge to add a certain je ne sais quoi!
11.  Using the wet dishcloth, carefully roll the cake into a sausage and leave it wrapped in its layers of baking paper and dishcloth. Set aside to cool.

Then make the pralime:
200g hazelnuts (or 100g hazelnuts plus 100g almonds if you prefer)
150g caster sugar

1. Put the sugar and nuts into a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Over a medium heat, leave the pan until the sugar melts and turns a golden caramel colour. Don’t stir or agitate the mixture until the sugar has turned to caramel but once it has you can tip the pan carefully to make sure the nuts are evenly coated.
2. Tip the caramel and nuts mixture out onto a sheet of baking paper and spread out evenly. Leave to cool.
3. Once cool, break the praline up with a knife into rough chunks, then wrap in a cloth and break into fine pieces using a rolling pin. Then you can put it into a blender and pulse until it’s ground into fine grains, depending on how chunky or fine you like it.

Assemble your Bûche de Noël…
Take your room-temperature sponge and your chilled chocolate mousse. Carefully unroll the sponge and spread it evenly with the mousse, then roll up again, peeling off the baking paper as you go. Cover with more mousse. Then sprinkle the praline over until well coated. Decorate with a sprig of holly and chill in the fridge until ready to eat. Bon appétit!


Fiona Valpy spent seven years living in France, having moved there from the UK in 2007.

She renovated an old, rambling farmhouse with her husband, developing new-found skills in cement-mixing, interior decorating and wine-tasting. 

All of these inspirations, along with a love for the place and the people, found their way into the books she wrote there. They have also been translated into German, Norwegian and Turkish. 

You can find Fiona Valpy on Facebook | Twitter | fionavalpy.com
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