A French Buche de Noel isn't an easy dessert and after one traumatic, terrible attempt a few years ago I vowed to never make it again. But then I was told that this is the typical dessert served at a French Christmas. I was somewhat mollified when I realised that the rest of the French Christmas dinner menu is a simple to prepare affair with plenty of fresh seafood so I invested my time in the dessert.
I made this over a period of three days and then froze it and that seemed to be the key to clinging onto my already tenuous grip on sanity. Are you ready for the seven components? Unfortunately it's utterly delicious so I do recommend giving this a try when you are feeling bullish and have a surfeit of time.
Mango and Coconut Buche de Noel
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You will need a long loaf tin (mine was 27.5x7.5cms or 11x3inch) or a buche tin (a long half cylinder mold).
Number 1. Crème brûlée layer
1/2 cup cream
1/2 cup Milk
4 egg yolks
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon coconut extract
Step 1 - Preheat oven to 100C/F. Line your tin with parchment. Heat the milk and cream. Whisk egg yolks and sugar until thick and fluffy. Pour the heated cream mixture over the eggs and add coconut extract and stir. Pour this mixture into the prepared tin. Bake for 1 hour. Cool and then freeze. It will be much easier to handle once frozen.
Number 2. Crisp layer
50g/1.7ozs. white chocolate
30g/1oz. shredded coconut
Step 2 - Trace the outline of the tin on a sheet of parchment making sure that you trim off half an inch or so from each side. Melt the white chocolate and butter together in a double boiler or microwave. Stir in the coconut and spread it out inside the outline very thinly (don't worry if it doesn't reach to all sides, it's important that this is thin to be able to cut it).
Number 3. Dacquoise layer
80g/2.8ozs. almond meal
50g/1.7ozs. icing sugar
2 tablespoons flour
3 egg whites
50g/1.7ozs. caster sugar
1 teaspoon coconut extract
Step 4 - Preheat oven to 180C/350F. Measure your tin and trace the dimensions of it onto parchment. My tin was more narrow at the top (once you overturn it). Mix almond meal, icing sugar, flour and vanilla. Whip egg whites until soft peaks. Add caster sugar and whip until you get stiff peaks. Fold the egg whites into the almond mixture with the coconut extract. Spread out onto the tracing, around 8mm thick. Bake for 15 minutes.
Number 4. Mango Jelly
200g/7ozs. mango puree
2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons powdered gelatine
Step 5 - Sprinkle gelatine over water. Microwave for 20 seconds or until liquid. Mix with the mango puree. Line the tin and spread the mango puree along the bottom. Allow to set completely. Place in the freezer until needed.
Number 5. Mango Mousse
Note: do not make this until the above four components are made
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons cornflour
200ml/7fl ozs. cream
200g/7ozs. mango puree
3 egg whites
1/2 cup caster sugar
3 teaspoons gelatin
1 tablespoon water
Step 6 - Beat the yolks and cornflour together. Heat the cream and pour a small amount over the yolk mixture. Pour the yolk mixture into the saucepan and allow to thicken for 3 minutes. Sprinkle gelatin over water then heat briefly in the microwave in 20 seconds bursts until liquid and then add to the egg yolk mixture. Start to cool and add mango puree (but do not allow to set completely).
Step 7 - Beat egg whites until you get soft peaks. Add the caster sugar and whip until you get stiff peaks. Fold the whites into the mango mixture.
Number 6. Gingerbread Houses
125g/4ozs. butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup golden syrup (you can also use 1/2 cup brown sugar instead)
Step 8 - Beat butter and sugar until pale. Add the golden syrup and egg yolks and beat until combined. Stir in the flour and spices and form into a ball. Roll out between two sheets of parchment. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Step 9 - Measure the height of your tin and cut out house shapes-I used a ruler and knife as I didn't have a cutter. Preheat oven to 180C/350F. Bake for 15-18 minutes and then cool for 5 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack.
Step 10 - Place the icing sugar in a food processor and whizz to remove any lumps. Add in the egg white. The royal icing should be a pipeable consistency but if it isn't, add a drop or two of lemon juice if it is too stiff or add more icing sugar if it is too runny.
Step 11 - Reserve 3 tablespoons of the white icing for piping and place in a tightly covered bowl. Divide the remainder into three bowls and tint these pale pink, blue and green. Place in little parchment piping bags and pipe an outline around the cookie. Then add a little lemon juice and flood the centre with the runnier icing. Allow to set overnight.
Step 12 - Fill a small parchment piping bag with the white royal icing. Pipe patterns on each house. I left the roof until the end as I wanted the rest of the icing to dry before using the sprinkles in case they got stuck to the icing. Use tweezers to adhere the sprinkles. Allow to dry completely.
Number 7: Mirror Glaze
Do not make this until your buche is assembled below and frozen
3 sheets gelatine
175g/6.1ozs. white chocolate
150g/5ozs. caster sugar
A few drops of Wilton white on white colouring
Step 13 - Soak the gelatine in cold water for 3-5 minutes. Melt the chocolate and heat with water, sugar and cream in a saucepan and dissolve the sugar. Whisk to remove any lumps and add the white colouring. Squeeze the water from the gelatine sheets and add to the chocolate mixture removing from the heat. Pour into a jug and cool slightly. Make sure constantly check it - timing is important with this glaze. If it pours smoothly but can coat the back of a spoon well then it is ready.
Step 14 - Line a baking tray with cling film and then place a wire rack on top. Place the frozen cake on a wire rack and then gently pour the glaze over the cake. Attach the cookies to the side in alternate colours.
Now you need to start assembling the buche. First line the tin with parchment. Then pipe a quarter of the mousse into the tin. Place in the freezer for 10 minutes. Place the frozen crème brûlée layer on top of the mousse.
Pipe the second quarter of the mousse on top and around the crème brûlée insert. Freeze for 10 minutes.
Then place the coconut crisp layer and pipe the next quarter of the mousse on top. Freeze for 10 minutes. Place the mango jelly layer on top and the last of the mousse.
Close off with the trimmed dacquoise layer. Freeze for three hours or overnight.
When the buche is frozen, glaze as above. Decorate with the gingerbread houses. It is easiest to slice this when the buche is semi frozen.