This year I decided I wanted to do something a little different for Christmas dessert. Typically I'll do a couple of pies (pecan, pumpkin, sometimes banana meringue) but I wanted to get out of the rut.
I've been seeing a lot of lovely images of the traditional Buche de Noel, or the Yule Log, a French specialty.
I ended up using Martha Stewart's recipe: http://www.marthastewart.com/recipe/buche-de-noel (but I consulted many, many links, which gave me a nice understanding of how it's constructed).
I started out making the meringue mushrooms. They took a LOT longer to bake than I'd been lead to believe (I think I had them in there an extra 40 minutes), but they finally felt dry enough to be done.
Then my boys helped me assemble them. Below, Colin is skewering a hole in a cap. Then Ethan is spreading melted chocolate on the underside and a stem is inserted into the hole.
The tiny bit of cocoa powder Martha tells us to put in made them look pretty realistic and the imperfections in my meringue piping worked to my favor.
The last image, above, is of the cake batter, all beautifully whipped up.
After baking, it's rolled up in a damp dish towel and allowed to cool (you pre-roll it so that it's less likely to crack in the final roll-up).
Chocolate mousse is spread inside the cake and the whole thing is rolled up once again.
A couple of bits are sawed off at 45 degree angles and attached to the log (one really short stump looks cute on top).
The whole thing is assembled with a chocolate ganache icing that is raked with a fork to give it a rough bark-ey texture. It can be assembled the night before, however the final touches should only be added the day of presentation. (I also added graham cracker crumbs to give it a nice "ground" to rest on and a few sprigs off the Christmas tree, which added a nice touch of color). A few shards of broken chocolate add to the rustic bark appearance and a light dusting of powdered sugar give it the feeling of snow.
It was tasty also! The mousse filling really kept it from being too rich and heavy. Serve each slice with a meringue mushroom (the recipe made enough to cover a field of buches that I just kept handy for little boys to snack on).
I'm embarrassed to admit that I took far more photos of my buche de noel than I did of my kids opening presents (well at all on Christmas) and spent a lot of time inserting as many references to my creation as possible all day ("Oh, just move the buche de noel over there... anyone up for a little slice of buche de noel? What do you think? Just a splinter? Buche, buche, buche?"), but really, I was very pleased with how it turned out!