Garden Diary - December 2009

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Wednesday, 23 December 2009
Yule Log

Think of the hearth as the warm heart of the family. In the short, cold days of winter a fireplace is very nice. Problem is that fireplaces are inefficient. Much of the heat goes up the chimney, and even after you allow the fire to go out the damper is still open, allowing additional warm air to float up and out. Wood burning stoves are better for heating. Only to be expected, there are traditions and rituals for the longest nights fires. One is that of the yule log. A sizeable log would be burned, using coals saved from the previous year's log to help light it. But as people moved to cities, using furnaces rather than a hearth for heating, that tradition has pretty much been lost.

The Yule log has undergone some changes. Rather than firewood consumed by flames it has morphed into a cake, consumed by happy diners. Enter the Bche de Nol.

A Bche de Nol is prepared, presented, and decorated so it looks like a log ready for the fire.
Traditionally, a gnoise, a thin light sponge cake, is baked, tightly rolled into a cylinder and filled
with a flavored butter cream, chocolate to contrast with the yellow cake. Our tastes have changed,
and today a lighter flavored chocolate mousse is popular. One end of the cake cut at an angle
and set to the side. Frosting with chocolate buttercream increases the log-like resemblance,
something that's completed with decorations traditional or innovative, depending on the baker.

Meringue mushrooms, delicately dusted with cocoa, are traditional.

Marzipan is tinted, then cut into holly leaf shape, with veins delicately
incised. Colored red, the marzipan is rolled into bright holly berries.

Here's Lisa, pastry chef at Frenchtown's Bridge Cafe, displaying one of her
custom-made Bche de Nol. I like her use of tinted marzipan on the "cut"
ends of the log. Advance and special order only. Keep her talented baking skills
in mind for a heart-warming dessert next year, in the long dark nights of winter.

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