When I was younger, Betsey always had a Buche de Noel at Christmas Dinner. I never liked it that much, but what I adored were the meringue mushrooms on top - sealed with dark chocolate and speckled with cocoa, they were by far my favorite. I have tried several times to make them, but I can never get them as crisp and toasty, as sweet and cut with the savory chocolate, the way that she can.
I have noticed in the past week that as the full-size ones come out for Christmas, some of the boulangeries have these buchettes as well. How could I resist? Une buchette praline yesterday at our favorite bakery and breakfast was all it took for me to cut into it. Not only am I a buttercream slut (sorry, but there's just no other word to describe my absolute submission to the stuff), but buche de noel is filled with sponge cake, which, as long as it isn't dry, is always delicious with the heavy frosting. Finally, the log is gilded, dare I say, with the meringue mushroom, and, in yesterday's case, a plastic ax (which Liam quickly fell for). Two fresh eggs scrambled and a hunk of baguette laden with butter later, and I ate my four bites of shared log more quickly than Liam could ask, "what is buttercream made from again?"
The reason I write about this love is not just because I have decided I must sample all buchettes in the 75004, but also because we then went to dinner at a friend's house (one of our French friends, yes, we do have them!) starving last night, still recovering from our little log. We ate a 1/4 pound of olives each, a few cherry tomatoes, and then a first course of salmon toasts, mache wilted salad with mushrooms and bread. They indulged in foie gras for the season and later Bulgarian beef four ways while I happily ate gnocchi and those risotto balls that they fry in Sicily with cheese inside. Our friend was not be outdone by contemporary times, and we had entire French meal which meant four cheeses for dessert (one man warned me "roquefort is very strong!" read: ye american gal): saint marcellin, saint felicien, and brie as well. Finally, after my brain was tired of all-French-all-the-time and several glasses of wine, a collective laugh squeaks out of our full bellies when our host says he has dessert also: a buche de noel!
From Le Notre, our host had picked up the most striking of buches I've seen to date: fire-engine red leaves along its sides, a candied leaf to cradle 6 raspberries, three macaron adorning the top with ornamental thread to hang on your tree if they made it that long and the inside: the lightest sponge cake with raspberries, lemon butter cream, and the fantastically poisonous and luscious red leaves around it. I was actually a little sad that Liam and I split a piece.
And so dear friends, despite the fact that I am mostly a grinch about Christmas and end of year festivities, I will happily sample the buches and buchettes in my neighborhood in the next few weeks and just hope the sun stays out so I can walk it all off into 2008.