Bouche de Noel
My daughter is doing a school project on Christmas in France and wants to bring in a bouche de noel for her 6th grade class. I thought it might be a fun mother-daughter project but now I'm afraid I've bitten off more than I can chew. I havne't done much with meringue and am worried about making all those little mushrooms. I may be able to buy some of them from a local French bakery. Does anyone out there have a recipe for an easy bouche de noel? It doesn't have to be gourmet since they are only 6th graders but I do want to make the cake, frosting and filling from scratch. How about the mushrooms? Should I tackle them myself or just try to buy them? Merci.
I made a Buche de Noel last Xmas and I didn't know meringue mushrooms were a requirement! They weren't part of my recipe. I made a chocolate sponge cake with a chestnut icing that had really lovely and subtle flavor (IMHO!)...it was Nick Malgieri's recipe.
If you're set on the mushrooms, another alternative to meringue would be using marzipan like the Germans. You can lightly dust them with cocoa powder to give them a realistic finish.
One word of advice on baking the sponge cake, because the cake is sooooo thin it is incredibly easy to overbake. I would take it out of the oven a couple of minutes before your recipe recommends. If you do overbake it (as I managed to do), never fear, and don't panic...with enough icing you can cover up all your mistakes. The icing should be rich, and will rehydrate the cake a bit. The main problem is cracking when you roll it. If the sponge cake is on the dry side, try rolling the cake in a damp tea towel, wrap the roll tightly in wax paper and wait before continuing to ice it.
And don't be afraid of meringue, with a good mixer it's actually super super easy and almost fool proof. Just keep your oven nice and low and make sure you dry them out. You can make the mushroom cap and stems separately, and stick them together with some melted chocolate.
I second pretty much everything ballulah says; the hardest part will probably be the cake itself. Use cake flour and superfine sugar for the cake to help with the texture. Resist the temptation to over research many genoise recipes and combine techniques; there are many ways to skin a cat but you probably have to follow one method from start to finish if you don't want a mess.
As mentioned, marzipan is a good meringue alternative if you want to cut down on prep time since it won't be baked. You can buy it in tubes, and it's as easy to form as play doh.
I've made one a number of times from JC's recipe in the Way to Cook - it's not *that* hard, but laborious - her recipe has very good instructions. You can make some of the components ahead of time - syrup, ganache, filling, mushrooms - then make the cake and assemble. The mushrooms aren't hard to make as long as you have the piping tubes etc. - and they are v. cute. I serve mine on an oval silver platter - I sieve on cocoa around the cake for dirt, and do the same with icing sugar at the last minute, on the cake as well, for snow. I also dip rosemary sprigs and cranberries in sugar syrup, and then granulated sugar - they take on a lovely rimey look - and arrange them around the perimeter of the platter.