My Buche de Noel 2009
What is a buche? (it should have the little pyramid symbol above the u, but I don't know how to do that on blogger) Buche means log, but since my French is so bad, when I say it, my neighbors wonder why I would be making a 'mouth cake of mango and raspberry'. Buche is pronounced with an 'ew' sound, and Bouche (mouth) sounds exactly the same to me, but is pronounced with a 'oo' sound. Luckily, my neighbors are used to my non-sensical French, and manage to translate it for themselves into something comprehensible.
In the US, we usually use a flat sponge cake, rolled with buttercream, and covered to look like a rustic piece of wood, bark made with a fork run through the frosting and decorated with meringue mushrooms. Maybe some spun caramel, if you follow Martha Stewart's or Julia Child's recipes. I made a Buche de Noel for Christmas dessert, it was a little hairy, as EVERY store in the greater Wynnewood, PA area was sold out of heavy cream, and making a whipped cream frosting is pretty difficult without whipped cream, so I made a mocha buttercream instead, and covered it with a chocolate ganache, made a diamond design with string, placing chocolate covered cocoa nibs in the intersections, and sprinkled it with rock sugar, and surrounded by sprigs of sugared rosemary. Making the meringue mushrooms was fun, even though I had to give up the oven for the appetizers, so the last batch was a little gooey, all the kids wanted to eat them before they went on the cake. Click Read More for the Mango Raspberry Mousse.
Buches are ubiquitous during the holidays in France - Buche de Noel - usually covered in chocolate, but it can be any flavor. Click here to see a slide show of the famous buches of 2009. Some patisseries use the rolled cake version, but most use a log-shaped mold, making the assembly much less prone to a broken cake - which will look square instead of round. The molds are bread-loaf shaped, with the rounded top at the bottom, and squared-off edges to hold the mold upright. I don't have a picture, but imagine the mango buche upside-down to get an idea.
Chef JJ's Buche
Chef JJ started the demonstration by preparing the 'creamy raspberry' - raspberry puree with sugar and potato starch, although we ask, there doesn't seem to be a reason for choosing potato starch over cornstarch, maybe just to show us if we are ever stranded on a desert island, making a pastry cream, and run out of cornstarch, we can pivot, use potato starch, and feed a cannibalistic tribe to save our lives. It is good to be ready for a survival situation. The creamy raspberry is the filling for the buche, and it takes a long time to set, so as Chef JJ took the tram to work, he thought of a new way to mold it. Instead of pouring it on a tray to freeze, cutting it to size, and trying to pull it off the tray without breaking it, he lined to mold with paper, ladled the mixture in, and froze it in the mold. Then it had time to set properly and would need much handling to place it on top of the mousse. Of course, being JJ, he made some other shapes, rounds, little rectangles and a blob, to play with later. The mango mousse is made like a pastry cream with mango puree instead of milk as the base, "lightened" with butter and whipped cream. A quick flat dacquoise serves as a middle layer and base of the buche. A simple crumble adds texture to the outside of the cake. The chef makes a few different shapes - the buche, some rounds, and also some cute petits fours. It is a great breakfast for the whole class, although I find some of the cakes much too busy - the mango mousse is a beautiful color, why cover it with crumble and crazy raspberry strips?
Same Ingredients - Different Look
I never like when a different chef supervises our practical - they always want us to do it their way, instead of what the demonstration chef showed us. I understand learning other methods, but it is frustrating when you know that you should do it one way, and the chef won't allow it. Chef C. (the hot chef) was adamant about not using Chef JJ's raspberry cream invention, and specifically telling me not to freeze the mixture, the fridge would be fine. I knew I should do it JJ's way, but my French is not good enough to explain to him. But I make the raspberry cream his way and keep going.
In the practical kitchen, I start on the mango mousse, the pastry cream method is difficult for me to perfect, I seem to over or under cook it every time. And, right on schedule, I overcooked it, with nasty lumps of congealed mango puree and eggs ruining the texture. Now that I am in Superior Patisserie, I know what to do: wait until the chef is out of the room, toss the whole thing in the trash, hide the evidence of the browned bits in the pot by dropping it under the water in the dishwasher's sink, with a quick "Desolee" (sorry) and get back to start separating the eggs to get the yolks ready for another batch. The second mousse turned out perfectly, but I was behind the rest of the class. Luckily, one of my friends helped me get back on track by beating two quantities of whipped cream (no mixer today) for both of us, so I could get to work on the dacquoise, whisking eggs whites by hand, just like in Basic Patisserie. Just 10 minutes in the oven, and into the fridge to cool.
The assembly of the buche is not difficult, just getting all the pieces together takes time. I line the mold with plastic, pipe the mango mousse in the bottom and spread it up the sides, then check the raspberry cream and realize it is NOT set, and frowning in the hot chef's direction, I scrape it piece by piece into my mold. Pipe a little mango mousse on top, place a thin layer of dacquoise, another layer of mousse, then the base of dacquoise, smooshing it all down into the mold to have a smooth finish. Into the freezer to set, and get the decorations ready. Raspberries, mango, cookie crumble, pistachios. I ask the chef if he minds if I don't use all that crap, and just use raspberries for my decoration, I think he agrees, but he is a winker, and I am a little distracted by his ridiculous good looks. Before you get any romantic ideas, he is happily married, and I am pretty sure if he wasn't, he would be dating a young Brigitte Bardot look-a-like.
The interior would have been even prettier if I had followed JJ's raspberry method
After waiting 30 minutes, we check our buches, and realize the freezer isn't working, the timer has gone off, we notify the chef, and he chides us for not checking sooner, we are in Superior, and should know better, well, that is what I think he said. We run the buches downstairs to the blast freezer, but now we are running late, I clean up my area while we wait 10 minutes for the mousse to set. Everyone stills seem set on adding all their decorations, but when I unmold my buche, I think it is so pretty and clean, that I almost don't want to add a thing. I notice a little bit of raspberry coming through the yellow mango, and a few airholes (Jeannie would call this a 'holiday' - the mousse went on vacation in that spot). I cover it with a little more mousse, smooth it very gently and pipe more mousse on top to glue the raspberries. I was very happy with the result. I am not sure what the chef thought, because the rest of the class went a little wild with decorations, but I stand by my design, even though the photo is crappy, I had to rush as the next class was lined up at the kitchen door to start their practical.