By Beverly Barbour
A Yule Log is just a gussied up jelly roll
If everyone realized how easy it is to make a beautiful Yule Log, they would be found on every Christmas table. Even this simple version is very easy to make and perfectly delicious. It does come filled with calories but then this is the time for total indulgence. Calorie counting starts in January.
You should allow two to three hours to complete the lovely log but much of it can be done bit-by-bit ahead. Actually you can begin 3 to 5 days ahead to make the butter creams. On the following day you can bake the cake and on the third day ahead you can shape the dessert. Once assembled and frosted you can cover it lightly, but air tight, with foil and it will keep 2 days in the refrigerator. Because of the whipped cream it must be kept chilled until served. Even we who work can play pastry chef.
Buche De Noel
Just before serving decorate the chocolate frosted log with mint leaves, or even sprigs from your Christmas tree and with clusters of fresh cranberries dipped in egg white and rolled in granulated or sparkling white sugar. The cranberries can be done ahead. If you can't find hazelnut liqueur you can substitute rum or bourbon.
1 1/2 cups hazelnuts
Two Butter Creams (Caramel-Hazelnut and Chocolate): Preheat oven to 350 F. Bake hazelnuts until golden under the skins, about 15 to 20 minutes; let stand until cool enough to work with. Rub nuts in a towel to loosen skins. Lift nuts from towel and shake away the skins. Beat 5 egg yolks at high speed until thick, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, boil 3/4 cup granulated sugar with 1/4 cup water, stirring until sugar dissolves, then boil until syrup reaches 232 F, about 5 minutes. Still beating yolks on high speed, slowly add syrup, avoiding beaters. Beat until bowl is cool to touch. Whip butter, a few chunks at a time, into the yolk mixture. Beat until smooth before adding more butter. Put 1 2/3 cups of this mixture in a separate bowl. Set aside the bowl holding the remaining 2/3 cup of the butter mixture. Melt chocolate in a pan over very low heat or in a microwave; let stand. In a food processor, whirl 1/2 cup hazelnuts with 2 tablespoons hazelnut liqueur until they form a smooth paste; scrape container sides. Stir chocolate into the 1 2/3 cups butter cream and then stir in the ground nut mixture. Set aside. Melt 1 1/3 cup granulated sugar in a 10- to 12-inch frying pan over high heat, tilting pan until all of the sugar is melted and amber-colored, about 3 minutes. Pour caramelized sugar at once onto a sheet of buttered foil. Let cool. Put caramel in a heavy plastic food bag and coarsely crush with a rolling pin. Coarsely chop the remaining nuts. Add caramel and nuts to remaining 2/3 cup butter cream. Set aside or store in refrigerator tightly covered.
Cake: Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter a 10- by 15-inch rimmed pan. Line with waxed or parchment paper cut to fit; then butter paper and dust with flour. Separate the 5 whole eggs. At high speed whip yolks, gradually adding 1/4 cup granulated sugar. Mix in 1/4 cup flour and beat to blend well (do not over mix or cake will toughen). Stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla. Wash beaters with soap, rinse and dry well. Whip egg whites until they hold soft, distinct peaks; fold thoroughly into yolk mixture. Pour the batter into prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake until cake is browned and center springs back when lightly touched, about 15 minutes. Let stand 3 to 4 minutes on cooling rack. Run a thin knife between cake and pan rim, then turn cake out onto a clean towel. Gently remove paper and trim cake edges to make a neat rectangle. Lift towel and cake onto rack to cool. Spoon 4 tablespoons of liqueur evenly over cake. Slide cake and towel off rack onto a counter.
Creating the Yule Log: Whip cream until it holds soft peaks, and then stir in 2 tablespoons confectioners sugar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Dot cake evenly with spoonfuls of caramel-hazelnut butter cream, then spread butter cream gently (don't tear the cake). Swirl whipped cream over butter cream to cake edge. Lift towel on a long side of cake and let cake roll into a smooth compact log. Very carefully set cake on a large flat platter. With a very sharp knife, cut through cake diagonally about 3-inches from an end. Fit diagonal end of short piece against the cake to look like a forked log. Spread chocolate butter cream over the cake (not the ends). With fork tines, swirl butter cream to create the appearance of "bark." Chill, uncovered, until frosting firms, about an hour. Decorate with cranberries and any available leaves and serve. Makes 18 to 20 servings, don't worry it will disappear.
A Yule Log is almost as much fun to make as it is to eat!