My woodland scene includes a pure-white marzipan pig which I swiped when my brother and SIL hosted us at a wonderful holiday luncheon at Scandinavia House a few weeks ago. Piggy is truffle hunting, and has just come upon a gigantic cache of truffles (yes, I'm aware that's not how it happens) next to a prehistorically gigantic yule log. The scale's kind of off, but I was going with a concept, ya see.
Each Christmas Eve we go to my beloved cousin's home for a family dinner. We always have a good time, and feel very lapped in the best sort of family love and warmth. And each Christmas I bring several multiple sets of cookie assortments -- one for the holiday table, one for cousin Diane and her husband to stash away for themselves, and various other gift assortments. One year I tried bringing just one cookie assortment for the table, and since there were other desserts, Diane tried to put it away while no-one was looking. Unfortunately she was discovered in the act and other family members raised a battle cry. Ever since then, I bring enough cookie stashes for all.
In addition, I'm generally called upon to make some sort of chocolate cake, since this is far and away the favorite family dessert. However, because of younger family members and their preferences, it's got to be straight-up chocolate -- no coffee or orange or raspberry, no rum or cognac, and certainly nothing as outré as chestnut, which was an idea I toyed with for a while, and then set aside.
This year I thought a bûche de Noël would fit the bill, as long as I kept it to straight chocolate, with maybe a vanilla filling. I used a bittersweet chocolate roulade recipe from Cooks' Illustrated, which I will not reprint here, since I would not use it again. It wasn't ghastly, and in fact everyone oohed and ahhed and gobbled it all down quite nicely. But it was very labor intensive -- lots of beating of yolks, and then separate beating of whites -- and then it all deflated when the flour and cocoa were added after the whites had been folded in -- a direction I thought rather bizarre to begin with. Then it shrank strangely in the oversize pan that I purchased specifically for this purpose. And then it cracked when I rolled it. In addition, it was just a teensy bit rubbery for my slightly perfectionist taste -- perhaps too high a proportion of eggs to other ingredients. I had expected it would be like a fallen chocolate soufflé cake, rolled around the vanilla filling and iced with ganache. Truthfully, it all tasted quite lovely. But then again, I probably could have filled the towel I rolled it in with vanilla-bean mascarpone filling and iced it thickly with bittersweet ganache and that towel would have tasted pretty damn good, too. I have, however, overcome any trepidation I might have harbored about roulades or yule logs or buches, since the easiest and most fun part of the whole thing was rolling, assembling and decorating.
So I'll leave you to find your own yule log recipes, and with wishes for the happiest and loveliest of new years, in which you may all find your hearts' desires. I know I've found mine -- but more about that in a later post.