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13 Desserts, A French Christmas Tradition

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13 Desserts, A French Christmas Tradition

Now here's a French festive treat that sounds perfect for those with a sweet tooth, 13 desserts or "Les 13 desserts" as it's know in France is a culinary Christmas tradition. 

Known for their love of food, apparently they live to eat whilst we eat to live, the French quite naturally take Christmas as an opportunity to focus on food, something we're all guilty of at this time of year! The traditional Christmas meal in France is called ‘Le gros souper’ (The big supper) and ends with a ritual number of 13 desserts representing Jesus Christ and the 12 apostles. The exact items of these 13 desserts vary from village to village, sometimes even from family to family – only the rules are the same: The 13 desserts must be served at the same time, every guest needs to eat at least a bit of everything and the desserts remain on the table for three days, until the 27th December. Whilst the 13 different sweet treats are on the table, the tradition forbids seating 13 people at the dining table. ‘Les 13 desserts de Noel’ or the 13 Christmas Desserts is mostly known in Provence and generally includes dried fruit & nuts, fresh fruit and sweets.

Bon appetite!

Want to bring one of these delicious traditional desserts to your Christmas table...here's a recipe for La Buche de Noel (that's a Christmas Log in English!)

choc-log

Ingredients:
Sponge cake:
4 eggs (room temperature)
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup cake flour

Chocolate buttercream:
7 egg whites
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups plus 3 tablespoons butter, softened

Preparation:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter a 10-inch by 15-inch baking pan with a 1-inch lip (jelly-roll pan) and line it with parchment paper. Butter the parchment or spray it with cooking spray. Set the pan aside.

Beat the eggs for 5 minutes, until they turn thick and foamy. Add the sugar, vanilla extract, and salt to the eggs and continue beating for 2 minutes. Fold the flour, a few tablespoons at a time, into the whipped egg mixture. Once the flour is incorporated into the batter, stop mixing. Do not overmix or the cake will bake up into a tough texture.

Gently spread the batter into the prepared pan. There will be peaks of batter; gently smooth over them, but do not press the batter down. Bake the cake for 10 minutes, until the cake is just set. Invert the baked cake onto a clean, dry kitchen towel and peel off the parchment paper. Wait 3 minutes and then gently roll the cake, still in the towel, starting at the 10-inch end. Allow it to cool completely.

To make the chocolate buttercream:
In a clean, completely dry bowl beat the egg whites on high until soft peaks form. Set them aside for a moment.

In a small saucepan, bring the sugar and 2/3 cup water to a boil. Allow it boil until it has reduced into a slightly thickened syrup. Begin beating the egg whites on high speed again, and pour the hot sugar syrup into the eggs in a slow, steady stream. Pour the melted chocolate, espresso powder, and vanilla extract into the egg whites and continue beating them until the meringue has cooled completely, about 5 minutes.

Add the softened butter to the meringue, 2 tablespoons at a time, while beating on high speed, until all of the butter is incorporated into the frosting. If the buttercream becomes runny at any time in this process, refrigerate the meringue until it has chilled through and continue the process of beating the butter into the meringue.

To assemble the chocolate yule log:
Unroll the cake and set aside the towel. Evenly spread 2 cups (or desired amount) of the chocolate buttercream on the inside of the cake and following its natural curve, gently form it into a cake roll. Cut off the ends of the cake roll on the diagonal and reattach them in the center of the cake with a bit of buttercream to fashion a “branch” coming off the main Yule log.

Spread the exterior of the buche de noel with enough chocolate buttercream to cover it and gently pull a butter knife or small, offset spatula through the frosting to give the appearance of rough tree bark. Add a Pere Noel figure and meringue mushrooms to complete the festive look. Chill the cake before serving it, and refrigerate any leftovers.

This chocolate yule log recipe makes 14 servings

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