Bûche de Noël ~ Christmas Yule Log

This is a classic French dessert that is served at Christmas time. Bûche de Noël translates as the “Christmas Log” and is meant to look like the piece of wood you are about to toss into the fireplace. It is a rather odd tradition and yet I find myself making one every year. It always reminds me of the TV station that plays Christmas music and shows nothing but a burning log in a fireplace. I thought those were just memories of my long ago childhood, but I was amazed to see that the burning log still finds its place on YouTube even today.

Despite my unglamorous association there is something quite elegant and beautiful about the Bûche de Noël. According to Larousse Gastronomique the yule log cake tradition started in the 1870s when Parisian pastry chefs decided to replace the less elaborate brioche style fruit loaf with this more festive confection. Although I am quite partial to the Panettone style breads, I can see why pastry chefs created something a little more fussy to work on, that is just how we are!

I created the yule log pictured here for the holiday issue of Better Homes and Gardens. You can find the recipe here and you’ll find a video of me creating one in my instagram video. It is the very first video in my highlights, so you’ll need to scroll all the way to the end. You may find some other videos to watch along the way.

More Bûche de Noël recipes…

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Pomegranate Swirl New York Cheesecake

Pomegranate Swirl New York Cheesecake | ZoeBakes photos by Zoë François

The first cheesecake I recall eating was from Juniors in Brooklyn. I’d go there with my grandparents and my aunts, Sylvia and Rose, when I was little. There was always a ton of food and loud conversation, but the only thing I remember clearly is the cheesecake. It was tall and smothered in impossibly red strawberries. The last time I ate cheesecake at Juniors was the day I bought my wedding dress at Kleinfeld’s Bridal shop, when it was still in Brooklyn and long before there was a reality TV show about it. All the women in my family piled into the fitting room and the very bossy attendant said, “I have the dress for you!” and left. She came back with a dress, I put it on and everyone started to cry. I did try on a few more, since we’d intended to make a whole day of it, but she nailed it on the first try. We left that fitting room and went to Juniors for lunch. The cheesecake was not as great as I had remembered from when I was a kid, but it was exactly what the day called for, tradition.

Pomegranate Swirl New York Cheesecake | ZoeBakes photos by Zoë François

This Pomegranate Swirl New York Cheesecake started with a base I found in Bake from Scratch Magazine. The texture is luxurious and smooth, but not as dense and custardy as some of my other go to cheesecake recipes. I love all kinds of cheesecakes and this may be my new favorite NY style. Dare I say, better than Juniors. I added a swirl of pomegranate to the cake, because it has a tartness that pairs so well with the rich creaminess of a cheesecake.  I had been seduced by a case of the ruby colored fruit at Costco, so I needed a way to use them up.  I reduced the juice of fresh pomegranates, which was DELICIOUS, but a true pain in the ass. You can watch me juice the pomegranates and create the swirls in the cheesecake in my instagram video. The flavor is incredible, but you can certainly do this with store bought pomegranate juice or any other tart fruit juice as well (Sour Cherry, Passion fruit, Raspberry, Cranberry). The base is a simple graham cracker, because it is my favorite and I far prefer it to Juniors sponge cake crust. (more…)

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Jelly Doughnuts (Sufganiyot)

Amber Wilson's Blackberry Jelly Doughnuts recipe | photo by Zoë François

This is a post I did earlier, but made them again this week for Hannukah, so it seemed like a good time to move them to the top of the blog again. For an even faster and easier recipe you can look to my new book Holiday and Celebration Bread in Five Minutes a Day, where we have an entire chapter on doughnuts and fried treats. Happy Holidays!

Amber Wilson’s new cookbook is a delight. It is one of the most strikingly beautiful books I’ve seen recently. The photography and recipes are romantic, sultry, so Southern and yet, they are entirely approachable. When I first flipped through the pages, I wanted to make everything, but these jelly doughnuts grabbed me most. I adore a great doughnut and she delivers. Her dough is scented with lemon zest, then filled with blackberry preserves, but there are a number of other homemade fillings to choose from. You really need to pick up this book.

You can watch me make Amber’s jelly doughnuts on my instagram page (check the highlights) and she’s generously allowed me to share the recipe with you here.  (more…)

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Christmas Croquembouche

Christmas Croquembouche | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

A croquembouche (kroke-em-boosh) is a tower of profiteroles (cream puffs) stuck together with a thin layer of crisp caramel, which gives the dessert its name, “crocque em bouche” or “crunches in the mouth.” This dramatic pile of puffs is typically served at weddings, but I’ve taken liberties and find it a worthy dessert for any big occasion. A Christmas Croquembouche seems like the perfect way to celebrate this holiday season. The puffs are made of choux paste and are filled with mango pastry cream, which isn’t a flavor you might think of for a Christmas dessert, but it is such a wonderful contrast to the sweet of the caramel. When you break into the cream puffs you’ll find the rich, creamy golden filling.  Just to jazz it up and to continue the holiday theme I added snowflake sugar cookies that I made with an olive oil sugar cookie recipe from my friend Sarah Kieffer’s book, The Vanilla Bean Baking Book, which is one of my favorite cookbooks. Then I spun some sugar into fine threads and wrapped it around the tower of puffs in a garland.

You can watch me make this Christmas Croquembouche in my Instagram video. (more…)

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ZoeBakes Cakes in Better Homes & Gardens

ZoeBakes Cakes for Better Homes & Gardens | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

This past summer I created cake recipes for the Holiday issue of Better Homes & Gardens. Once I baked, tested and ate dozens of cakes, I went to Iowa, home of the magazine, and created the final cakes for the issue. It was about 99°F and the midwest sun was beaming straight down on us, but we were in the Christmas spirit or at least creating the illusion of the holidays with cake. I had such a blast baking in the Better Homes test kitchens, working with the photographers, writers, food stylists, art directors and everyone else at Meredith publishing who make these magazines come to life. It was pure JOY to create these cakes and I hope you enjoy making them as much as I did.

ZoeBakes Cakes for Better Homes & Gardens | ZoeBakes

Below you can see the cakes I sent them when I was developing the recipes and then the final images we created together for the magazine. You’ll also find all the recipes. Visit my instagram account to see some behind the scenes photos and videos of our photo shoot this summer. What a blast!  (more…)

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Holiday and Celebration Bread in Five Minutes a Day

Our new Holiday and Celebration Bread in Five Minutes a Day book is out, just in time for the holidays! Today you’ll be carving turkey and the Christmas music will start (who am I kidding, it started weeks ago). Holiday and Celebration Bread in Five Minutes a Day is the book I have been waiting to create since the day Jeff and I started our adventure in Five Minute Bread, over a decade ago. This book is full of all the sweet and pretty breads a pastry chef gets jazzed about. There are breads from all over the world, for just about every occasion. From Tahini Swirled Challah, to Christmas breads from all over Europe (and beyond), pitas for Ramadan and other celebrations, even monkey bread for after school, of course, there are several sticky buns and cinnamon rolls, plus this beautiful Holiday Star Bread Recipe. We even have a simple technique for making croissants, which our readers have been asking for since the very first book in 2007. We nailed it and it’s in this new book!

Washington Post Best Cookbooks of 2018

Holiday and Celebration Bread in Five Minutes a Day made the list and they said it was because they saw all the beautiful Star breads being baked and posted on Instagram. So, I have YOU to thank for this amazing honor! Really, what a thrill!

Holiday and Celebration Bread in Five Minutes a Day | Breadin5

Scroll down to see more of what is in the book, including pictures of me looking pretty excited about the whole thing. It’s never too early to get started on your holiday shopping, so feel free to order a copy of Holiday Bread for yourself and all those loved ones on your holiday list! 😉 We can’t wait for you to bake from Holiday and Celebration Bread in Five Minutes a Day. Happy Thanksgiving! (more…)

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