The heavy winter has really come and it is so difficult to get out of our blankets The only reason to get out – as you can imagine – is to make some sweets!
Every year we make with a lot of love a Christmas roll cake for Mrs. Christina for her celebration. This year we decided that her cake would taste chestnut. A light, sweet chestnut roll cake is a perfect winter gift…
Apart from chestnuts, the second basic ingredient that we will include in our roll is the extra virgin olive oil. We will use it in an original way, making a chocolate ganache with it! As you may have noticed, in our latest articles we prefer olive oil to butter in our recipes. This is because first of all it is much healthier, and it is also much more Greek, since at Eat Dessert First Greece we support our local products and local producers.
A festive roll, then, filled with chestnut cream and olive oil ganache coating, to accompany us on our journey in the history of the Christmas roll cake, the English yule log and the French bûche de Noël … This cake is made in many European countries during the festive season, but how many really know where it comes from and why it is called yule log?
Yule log is called a large tree trunk that burns in the fireplace as a custom. The name is probably associated with a tradition that dates back to pre-Christian times, the celebration of the winter solstice (the longest night of the year) at the end of December in the Northern Hemisphere. We learned that at that time many people had customs that included lighting a flame for the longest night.
One of them was the lighting of the large log in the fireplace, which seems to have started in Norway and was adopted by the peoples of Northern Europe and North America. Other researchers attribute the tradition to the Germans or the Anglo-Saxons. The tradition passed to Christianity and was very widespread in the Middle Ages. Records of the custom exist as early as the beginning of the 12th century.
The yule log was originally a large trunk or even an entire tree, the edge of which went into the fireplace while the rest had to stay in the room! It burned continuously for twelve days, as it was considered bad luck to extinguish it. After the twelve days, the remains were kept by the family to bring good luck.
The French Christmas yule log is called bûche de Noël, where bûche is the French word for the trunk they set on fire. According to an interview with Nadine Cretin, a holiday historian and anthropologist, the trunk had to have a sacred character and so a little wine or oil was poured under it. The trunk was placed on the fire by the oldest and youngest member of the house, symbolizing the family and the transition. Depending on the area, it burned only on Christmas night or for twelve days, until the Epiphany. The remnants of the wood were kept to be thrown into the fire if there was any difficulty, in order to chase away the misfortune.
In the 19th century the tradition of the Christmas trunk gradually began to be abandoned. We read that the reason was the evolution of technology, which led to the replacement of large fireplaces with stoves. The huge wood became smaller and instead of burning in the fire, it now adorned the center of the house table, often decorated. From there, we will assume that the road to Christmas cake was short…
In History magazine, Stephanie Butler reports that judging by the ingredients of the sweet Christmas yule log, it could exist as early as the 17th century. Decorations with almond paste and meringue were common in the Middle Ages. The sponge cake used on the yule log is one of the oldest types of cakes, known since at least 1615, where the first published recipe in Gervaise Markham’s book “The English Huswife” is found. However, it gained its great reputation in the 19th centur thanks to Parisian confectioners.
Which French confectioner first created the bûche de Noël remains an unresolved issue. We have found possible suspects that it is the Parisian confectioner Antoine Caradot, a colleague from Lyon, as well as Pierre Lacam, a confectioner of King Charles III of Monaco.
What we do know for sure is that the French Christmas yule log is traditionally made with génoise sponge cake, and with this we will make our own. It has a chocolate or mocha flavored buttercream for coating, but here we have to be forgiven, since we want our roll cake to be lighter, so we will cover it with a thin layer of olive oil ganache. For decoration it had leaves or mushrooms, which we will replace with chestnuts dipped in our ganache.
After all, modern confectionery has now made its own interventions, creating a plethora of delicious variations of the classic yule log or bûche de Noël, so we do not have so much remorse. Yule log is a dessert that is offered for improvisations, both with the filling and with the coating, and why not with the taste of the sponge cake. As for the decoration, it may vary from an elegant and minimal form to warm and homemade decorations. We like both types equally!
We would say that our Christmas roll cake is somewhere in between… It is quite minimal, since we did not put many decorative elements other than the chestnuts that we dipped in chocolate, but on the other hand it has the feeling of homemade, with the engraved surface that we wanted to look like wood. But before getting to the decoration, it all started like this…
Christina’s yule log for Christmas
For covering the yule log we experimented and… we succeeded! We made a chocolate ganache with extra virgin olive oil instead of heavy cream and it turned out perfect! Our ganache came out smoother and shinier on the one hand, as well as healthier on the other, since it contains the good fats and nutrients of olive oil. It is also a fasting choice, and also ideal for vegetarians and vegans, as it does not contain dairy.
Ingredients for the olive oil ganache
|Couverture 60%||250 gr|
|Olive oil||85 ml|
How to make the olive oil ganache
Finely chop the couverture and place it in a metal bowl (not plastic because it will be used in a bain marie). Put a pot with a centimeter of water to boil. When it starts to boil, place the bowl with the couverture on top and stir slowly until it melts. Add a tablespoon of honey and stir.
Remove from the heat and wait for the temperature to drop a little (10-15 minutes). Then add the olive oil and mix well with a hand whisk to homogenize the mixture. At first they will not mix well, but with a little patience you will achieve a uniform, smooth mixture. Set aside for about half an hour to cool. No more time should pass, because your ganache will thicken and will not spread well. So we must have already predicted that our roll cake is ready.
Ingredients for the sponge cake (génoise)
Génoise is an Italian sponge cake from Genoa, often found in Italian and French confectionery. The difference with the classic Greek sponge cake is that it does not contain baking powder or soda, but it gets its volume only thanks to the good beating of the eggs.
|All-purpose flour (sifted)||45 gr|
|Corn flour (sifted)||45 gr|
|Vanilla powder||1 tsp|
How to make the sponge cake (génoise)
Put the eggs, sugar and honey in the bowl of the mixer and beat for 5 minutes until fluffy. Lower to medium and beat for another 3 minutes (8 minutes total). Remove from the mixer, pour half the flour into the eggs and fold gently with a spatula, taking care not to lose its volume. Add the remaining flour and fold until incorporated.
Place parchment paper, or even better a silicone mat, in a pan and spread with a little melted butter or oil. Carefully spread the mixture with a spatula to get a rectangular shape, but without pressing it. It takes a little patience, but in the end it will spread just fine! Bake in a preheated oven at 200°C for 7-8 minutes. You must be careful to get a little color, but not much because if it is overdone it will harden and will not wrap, but break. Allow to cool to room temperature, without removing it from the silicone surface.
A little secret!
If, nevertheless, the sponge cake is cooked more and becomes more like a biscuit, put it in the fridge overnight uncovered and it will soften… the yule log will simply be postponed for tomorrow! If you want to serve it today, don’t get disappointed, but cut it into pieces and make a cake with layers, or individual pastries, or even a dessert in a glass with shredded pieces of sponge cake!
Ingredients for the chestnut cream
|Boiled chestnuts (or roasted in the fireplace)||250 gr|
|Heavy cream||200 ml|
|Powdered sugar||120 gr|
|Bitter almond extract||1-2 drops|
How to make the chestnut cream
First we boil the chestnuts and clean them (we can also buy ready boiled chestnuts to save time). We had baked ours in the fireplace and we had them ready! Put them in the blender and grind them until they become a paste. Because our chestnuts were roasted and did not have enough moisture, we added a tablespoon of boiling water. If they are just boiled, logically you will not need to do so. The texture we want to have is like a paste but spreadable, not too thick.
Whip the cream with the powdered sugar into a light whipped cream. Pour in the chestnut paste and mix well with a spatula to homogenize the mixture. Add the bitter almond extract, being careful not to drop too much, because it has a very strong taste. Your cream is ready!
How to assemble the yule log
Carefully transfer the sponge cake together with the parchment paper / silicone mat from the baking tray on your kitchen counter (so that the baking tray does not prevent you from wrapping). Spread the chestnut cream all over the surface, so that the outer parts do not remain complaining. But be careful not to squeeze the cream too much so that the sponge cake does not make holes.
Grasp the edge together with the silicone surface and start rolling, rolling the sponge cake so that it slowly comes off the surface. When you reach the end, place it with the joint underneath so that it does not unfold.
Transfer – with care not to break – the roll to a baking tray or plate (not the good one because it will be filled with chocolate). Pour over with plenty of the ganache, to go everywhere. We are not worried about the amount left on the tray, because we can keep it in the fridge for our next preparation, or eat it as it is! Wait for about a quarter for the ganache to stabilize a little, and then take a fork and carve the surface so that it looks like wood.
Finally, decorate with whatever you like – we decorated the roĺl with chestnuts dipped in ganache. For the chestnuts, dip them in the ganache, place them on a plate and put them in the fridge for a quarter to thicken the chocolate. Then, decorate them on your yule log.
Our Christmas yule log is a very light sweet, perfect to close the festive table, but also for any other time. The only problem is that it is so delicious and light that one roll is definitely not enough!
Enjoy everyone and happy festive preparations to all!
Finally, we warmly thank the company Staliá for the products they sent us to make our festive yule log: