The Buche de Noel from Relais Bernard Loiseau.

The holiday season is upon us and with it comes twinkling lights, Christmas decor, and hours-long feasts. This year is different, of course, with limited gatherings and festivities — which makes it that much more important to dial up the cheer. We have just the ticket. Here are some tempting recipes from top-notch kitchens in France. In this time of pandemic, when we’re at home, cooking more than ever, we all need a little something sweet.

Bûche de Noel from Le Relais Bernard Loiseau in Burgundy

The bûche de Noel, or yule log, is the classic French Christmas dessert. (Just check out what the famous pastry chefs in Paris are turning out this year!) This version was created by chef Aymeric Pinard, the pâtissier from La Côte d’Or, the 2-Michelin star restaurant in Burgundy. The chef’s version is a “Bûche roulée.” Le Relais Bernard Loiseau, a member of Relais & Châteaux, is one of our favourite hideaways in Burgundy, with a focus on wellness and gastronomy in the tradition of the legendary late chef, Bernard Loiseau.

For the cake :

  • 5 egg whites
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 5 egg yolks
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¾ cup flour
  •  A pinch of salt
  • A pinch of baking powder
  • 1.7oz oil
  • ¼ cup milk

In one bowl, whisk the egg whites with the sugar to make a meringue. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks and the sugar into a mousse, then add the flour, the salt and the baking powder. Mix the two bowls together, then add the milk and the oil. Spread the mixture out onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and cook for 8 minutes at 350°F When cooked, put a kitchen towel over it to keep it humid.

For the interior cream :

  •  2 cups of cream
  • 2 cups of milk
  • 1 cup of egg yolks
  • 3.5 oz of sugar
  • 17.6 oz of dark chocolate (66 to 70%)

Make a crème anglaise :

Heat up the cream and the milk in a saucepan. In a bowl, mix the egg yolks with the sugar. When the milk and cream are hot, pour them over the egg-sugar mix in the bowl. Return the mixture to the saucepan and heat it on low for 5 minutes: when the mixture has thickened, remove from the stove and pour it over the chopped chocolate. Mix it together in a blender, and let it rest in the fridge overnight.

Finish your Bûche de Noël :

Lay the cake down on plastic wrap. Spread the cream over the cake evenly. With the plastic wrap, roll up the cake to create your Bûche de Noël. You can then decorate your log with your own inspiration, like dusting powdered sugar like snow.

Puff Pastry Brioche from Four Seasons Hotel George V, Paris. Photo courtesy of Four Seasons Hotel.

Puff Pastry Brioche from Four Seasons George V in Paris

The Four Seasons George V needs no introduction. This Parisian palace hotel situated on avenue George V checks all the boxes when it comes to a luxury hotel stay: a dreamy spa designed by Pierre-Yves Rochon, exquisite guest rooms, and an array of Michelin-starred eateries including Christian Le Squer’s destination restaurant Le Cinq. This brioche recipe is by pastry chef Michael Bartocetti.

  • 10 g baker’s yeast
  • 130 g whole milk
  • 6 g fine sea salt
  • 370 g T45 flour
  • 30 g organic brown sugar
  • 10 g muscovado sugar (or unrefined cane sugar)
  • 70 g eggs
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 30 g unsalted butter
  • 200 g butter

Mix half the milk with the yeast. Pour the other half of the milk into a bowl, and add the brown sugar, vanilla and muscovado sugar. Mix well until the sugar grains have dissolved.

Pour the milk-yeast and the milk-sugar mixtures into a large container. Add the flour, salt, eggs and 30 g of unsalted butter. Knead for 15 minutes until the dough is smooth and no longer sticks to your fingers. Leave to rest for 1 hour at room temperature. Knead again for one minute then leave the dough to rest for two hours in the fridge.

Take the dough out of the fridge. Roll it out on a plate into a rectangle measuring 25×10 cm. On another plate, spread the cold butter (200 g) into a 12×10 cm rectangle. Place the butter on half of the dough (the butter should not be in the centre of the rectangle but on one end) then fold the other half of the dough over the butter. Roll out the dough again into a rectangle then fold each side to form a square. Repeat twice, leaving the dough to rest for 30 minutes in the fridge at the end of each stage.

Roll out the dough to 1 cm thickness, then cut 1.5 cm-wide strips. Arrange the strips of dough in a buttered pan to make a cross pattern, making sure the strips are not too close. Leave to rest for 1 hour and 30 minutes, then bake for at least 35 minutes at 160 C.

Remove from the mould and season with fleur de sel.

Tarte Tatin. Photo courtesy of Loire Valley Tourism

Tarte Tatin from the Loire Valley, France

Who doesn’t love a tarte Tatin? This “upside-down” apple tart is a classic in France’s dessert repertoire. Did you know that it originally comes from the Loire Valley? According to legend, the tarte Tatin was actually created by accident: At the end of the 19th century, the two Tatin sisters, owners of the popular Hotel-Restaurant Tatin at Lamotte-Beuvron in Sologne, overcooked the apples for an apple tart and then tried to fix their mistake by placing the pastry on top and turning it upside down. The hotel guests loved it … and the rest is history.

The original Tarte Tatin Recipe:

INGREDIENTS
  • 7 apples (for a 10 inch pan)
For the pastry:
  • 1 ½ cups plain sieved flour
  • 1 tsp. Salt
  • 10 tbsp soft butter
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup sugar
For the caramel:
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp water

INSTRUCTIONS
Remove butter from the fridge and bring to room temperature. In a mixing bowl, add the flour, then the butter and blend the ingredients until you get a sandy texture. Add the sugar, the egg and the salt.

Knead and fold the dough, then shape it into a flat brick, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for two hours or more. Remove and let sit approx. 10 minutes.

Peel and core the apples then cut them into quarters. In a hot ungreased frying pan or an ovenproof deep cake dish, add a little water to the caramel sugar, then the butter and stir until melted.Arrange your apple quarters in a circle, vertically so they cover the entire pan. Place frying pan back on low heat and cook the apples for 20 to 25 minutes.

Roll out your pastry to about 1/4 of an inch and cut it into a circle slightly larger than the pan. Place it over the pan and tuck in the edges. Bake in oven at 160ºC – 425ºF for 30 minutes (or until pastry is crisp and crusty). Once cooked, place a board or a plate on top of your pan, and using both hands, flip over so the tart is upside down. Remember to always serve warm, with a dollop of vanilla ice cream if you wish.

Want to be inspired by more French foodie experiences and enjoy classic French food, wine and recipes? Head to our sister website, Taste of France, here.

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