Since playing a log gatherer in Madame Seillan’s Christmas production of La Bûche de Noël at school, I have been fascinated by the delicious bûche ritual, which has evolved and been taken up as an idea by astute and talented pâtissiers throughout France.
The custom goes that on Christmas Eve, a chunky log of freshly cut wood, the yule log, is brought to the fireside, with appropriate ceremony – the master of the house places it on the hearth, sprinkling the trunk with oil, salt and mulled wine. In some families, the daughters of the house, of which I was one in the play, light the log with splinters kept from the previous year. According to Madame, the cinders of the log protect la maison from malevolent powers. Choices as to the variety of wood, the way to light it and the length of time it takes to burn vary from region to region around The Hexagon. Here are six of the best edible logs for Noël 2015.
1) Hermès & Lenôtre Lenôtre’s head pastry chef Guy Krenzer, in collaboration with Hermès’ Petit H creative director Pascale Mussard, has created a bûche (€130, edition of 100, second picture) resembling a designer treasure trove, which struts edible artisan attitude. The base is chocolate/yuzu ganache layered millefeuille, then there’s a layer of Valencia almond meringue, topped with a chocolate version of Hermès’ signature stirrup. A side of spicy citrus compôte is laced with honey from Lenôtre’s beehives.
Available to order December 12-24. 10 Rue Saint Antoine, Paris 75004 (+338-1165 6656; www.lenotre.com).
2) Le Fouquet’s Barrière, Champs-Elysées For Gaëtan Fiard, winner of the World Championships for Arts Sucrés 2014 and head pastry chef at Fouquet’s Barrière’s Michelin-starred Le Diane, life is a carousel. His magic, gluten-free roundabout (€95, edition of 100, first picture), with edible prancing reindeer, includes rich coconut mousse cut with lime, almond sponge cake with raspberry jam, and white-chocolate garnish.
Available to order until December 21. Avenue George V et Champs-Elysées, Paris 75008 (+331-4069 6060; www.lucienbarriere.com).
3) Pierre Hermé“My bûches are awaited by foodistas in the same way fashionistas anticipate the haute-couture collections,” says the Picasso of pastry. “I have orders from one year to the next for the signature Fetish Ispahan, Infiniment Vanille and Infiniment Madagascar [from €48]. This year I am very proud of my new Bûche Plaisir Intense [€80, third picture] made with Peruvian chocolate harvested in small quantities in the Morropón province by the Asprobo agricultural community.”
Available until December 31. 72 Rue de Bonaparte, Paris 75006 (+331-4512 2402; www.pierreherme.com).
4) Christophe Michalak at Plaza AthénéeFrench chefs refer to their ovens as “pianos”. Michalak, known as the rock ’n’ roll pastry chef, presents his bûche (€125, edition of 50, sixth picture) as a replica of the piano in his Plaza Athénée kitchen. Crunchy hazelnut chocolate, a layer of soft sponge, mandarin-orange marmalade and light milk-chocolate mousse with a suggestion of Earl Grey tea “will hit the right notes on Christmas day”, he says.
Available until December 25. Plaza Athenée, 25 Avenue Montaigne, Paris 75008 (+331-5367 6665; www.dorchestercollection.com), or email CoordinateurRestauration.HPA@dorchestercollection.com.
5) Camille Goutal & AngelinaSweet memories of sipping Angelina Café’s signature hot chocolate after school, and the notes of Annick Goutal’s signature fragrance Eau d’Hadrien, influence this bûche (€70, edition of 100, fourth picture). White and dark chocolate, lemon, lime, yuzu and basil combine with Madagascar vanilla mousse and a touch of gold-leaf-covered orange blossom. The result is a feather-light taste sensation. “It was fascinating to work with Angelina pastry chef Christophe Appert, a real challenge that I think is a great success and my mother would definitely approve,” says Camille Goutal.
Available until January 3. 226 Rue de Rivoli, Paris 75001 (+331-4260 8200; www.angelina-paris.fr).
6) Hugues Pouget for Hugo & VictorLa Bûche Marion (€59 for five to six people, €69 for eight people, fifth picture) is influenced by Catherine Deneuve’s character in François Truffaut’s award-winning 1980 film Le Dernier Métro, for which most of the filming took place in an abandoned chocolate factory on Rue du Landy, Clichy. “Ms Deneuve is a regular customer at Hugo & Victor in our Boulevard Raspail boutique and was delighted to take part in this delicious adventure,” reveals Monsieur Pouget.
Available now. 40 Boulevard Raspail, Paris 75007 (+331-4439 9773; www.hugovictor.com).