Ispahan Yule Log: Bûche Ispahan
Christmas is in three days, this Friday. I suspect you know that already, but I’d like to state the obvious, in case you didn’t notice today’s date or forgot in the frenzy of the season. It’s easy to lose focus when we have so much craziness around.
I hope I’m sounding excited because I really am. I made a jaw-dropping, eye-catching, sense-rejuvenating Yule log adapted from a recipe by the one and only, best of the best Pierre Hermé. I was introduced to Pierre Hermé by my sister in law, Lamia, three years ago. She owns a cookbook of his that she treasures like her dessert bible. I love Lamia—she’s so sweet. I must say I envy her a little for her agility and ability in the kitchen. She makes you so jealous and resentful by always making perfectly perfect desserts. But then she feeds them to you, and you love her all over again. Ah, those tartes aux amandes and fondants au chocolat of hers…Mon Dieu, mon Dieu!
When I looked at Hermé’s bûches de Noël, he had recipes of every kind. I’m used to the chocolate and vanilla bûches available at every pâtisserie during this season in Morocco. My mother never made one. We either bought it or received it as a present. Moroccans—for the most part—don’t celebrate Christmas, but decorate stores and restaurants for the season. People exchange Christmas-looking cards (with evergreens, ornaments, candles…) that say “Bonnes Fêtes” or “Bonne Année” instead of Merry Christmas. Some people even go out to dinner or a party on Christmas Eve, but it’s a mindless celebration—just another occasion to have fun.
Amid Hermé’s panoply of mouth-watering bûche recipes, I liked the rose, raspberry and lychee one. I couldn’t find fresh or canned lychees anywhere near where I live, so I substituted canned Bartlett pears, which worked beautifully. I thought the fruity pink filling and topping would brighten up my table in the middle of the winter and taste delightfully light after a meal. It reminds me of the gâteau roulé au citron I ate and loved as child, which is just as playful. You’ll be surprised by the lightness of the génoise and raspberry ricotta which I liked much better than the original buttercream in the recipe.
P.S. The pictures really don’t do justice to how wonderful this Yule log tastes (I will redo them as soon as I can.)
Bûche de Noël with Raspberries, Rose and Pears
6 to 8 servings
For the génoise (cake)
2/3 cup sugar
4 eggs, yolks and whites separated
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
For the filling
8 ounces part skim milk ricotta
5 ounces fresh raspberries, plus more for garnish
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon rose water
1 (15-ounce) can Bartlett pears in light syrup (or lychees, preferably)
For the syrup
Syrup from the can of pears
1 teaspoon rose water
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a 8×10 pan with parchment paper.
Beat the sugar with the egg yolks in a medium mixing bowl until frothy. Gently whisk in the flour. Beat the egg whites to soft peaks and fold them into the egg yolk, sugar and flour mixture. Transfer to the prepared pan and bake for 10 to 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, place the ricotta, raspberries, sugar, and rose water in the bowl of a food processor and reduce to a purée. Set aside.
When the cake is cooked, unmold it onto a damp towel, remove the parchment paper and roll the cake immediately with the towel. Let it cool that way, about 20 minutes. Place the pears on a cutting board and dice them. Pour the syrup into a small saucepan, add the rose water and heat it over low heat for about 5 minutes. Unroll the cake and remove the towel. Brush the cake lightly with the syrup, spread half of the raspberry ricotta inside the cake and top with diced pears. Gently roll the cake, cover it with raspberry ricotta and cut off the ends. Garnish with raspberries and refrigerate for an hour before serving.