Bûche de Noël: add a soupçon of France to Christmas in NYC
It’s Christmas time in New York City. ‘Tis the season for ice skating in Bryant Park, tree-gazing at Rockefeller Center and, increasingly, choosing from a mouth-watering selection of the traditional French holiday cake, bûche de noël.
Master French bakers throughout the Big Apple are drawing from decades of experience as apprentices in their home provinces to create both authentic and dazzlingly-modern iterations of the edible yule log. Based on a 19th century recipe of Génoise sponge cake rolled with flavored mousse and topped with rich butter cream or glazed chocolate, these festive sweets are helping New Yorkers ring in the holiday cheer à la française.
From the Upper East Side, to the financial district and Brooklyn, here is a mini guide to some of the best bûche in NYC.
François Payard Patisserie: Upper East Side, Manhattan
Chef Payard – a 3rd generation pastry chef from Nice, France – has been making bûche de noël for 18 years. His signature creation, the Louvre Log, is layered in chocolate and hazelnut mousse, topped with a dark chocolate glaze and, like its namesake, is an architectural standout with its delectable wafer and macaroon infrastructure.
The man behind the masterpiece introduces new flavor combinations every holiday season that are inspired by changing trends and a rich culinary imagination, but he also includes some classics. The Chocolate Hazelnut log is on Chef Paryard’s menu every Christmas while his 2012 newcomers are the Chestnut Cassis log, the Vanilla and Berry log and the Chocolate and Salted Caramel log. Each is available for pre-order only for 4, 6, 8 or 10 people, starting at $26.
Ceci-Cela: Nolita, Manhattan
Laurent Dupal, master pastry chef behind Ceci-Cela, may make the best croissant in New York City, but his bûches de noël are also a favorite go-to for francophiles in NYC.
This year, Chef Dupal – who began apprenticing as a pastry chef at age 14 in Nancy, France – is whipping up several bûche flavors at Ceci-Cela’s charming Nolita storefront. He makes traditional Génoise sponge cake with chocolate, vanilla, Grand Marnier and raspberry fillings. Butter cream icing, mushroom-shaped meringue, golden saws and holiday characters top off the enticing logs in individual, 6” and 8” portions ($6, $30, $40). A fourth option, the Vendome ($55), is available only in 8” and is a chocolate- and raspberry-mousse flavored showstopper.
Financier: Financial District, Manhattan
Financier, named for the almond-flavored French treat – and fittingly located in Manhattan’s financial district – is where executive pastry chef Eric Bedoucha creates his revered bûche de noël. As an apprentice in Paris in the 1970s, Bedoucha learned traditional Christmas log techniques that guide his work today. “You don’t change what’s good,” he said.
Chocolate, vanilla and Grand Marnier bûche are available in both 8.5” and 12.5” ($30, $44.25). And this year, Bedoucha adds one “modern yule log” to the menu for those in search of a flourless cake: the Nuit de Noël is polished in a dark chocolate glaze and filled with white and dark chocolate mousses.
Beny’s Delice: Clinton Hill, Brooklyn
Beny’s Delice is the newest member of this Bûche producing bunch. While owner David Benizeri, a native of Nice, France, imparts Moroccan twists to the cafés extensive savory dishes, the sweets are pure French. Beny’s cakes also reflect a more health-conscious sensibility (no butter cream included). This year, Benizeri’s second in business, the pear chocolate log is his favorite. Triple chocolate and chestnut-hazelnut-caramel Bûche round off the menu, and each is available in individual, medium and large sizes ($5, $35 and $45).
Time to dig in… which Big Apple bûche de noël sounds most tantalizing to you?References:
The Best Croissant in New York : Carey Jones, Serious Eats, 21/10/10
Beny’s Delice, a sweet and savory bakery, open in Clinton Hill : Jenny Miller, Grub Street, 14/7/10
The Food Timeline : Buche de Noel Image credits:
1. Image courtesy of Beny’s Delice
2. By Felipe Coronado, courtesy of François Payard Patisserie
3. Image courtesy of Ceci-Cela