[A Christmas-like house, a bit like if Pierre Hermé was Santa Claus – Plaisirs Sucrés Christmas log]

That time of the year – yes, the one that brings peace and happiness has come around again. And while Christmas and all its festiveness is already behind us, I can’t help but share with you the lovely bûche de Noël my sister and I made for our Christmas Eve dinner and – it goes without saying – the story behind it.

Isn’t this season supposed to be about love and joyfulness? Well, come to my house and you’re likely to find us fighting. No love. No joyfulness.
Please, do not worry; we’re only discussing which flavour the bûche should be.
However, this year was a totally different matter. No screams were to be heard. No tears to be seen. When I suggested a Plaisirs Sucrés bûche – Pierre Hermé’s signature flavour – everyone seemed to agree and instantly felt relieved to avoid the usually exhausting brawl. A real Christmas-like house.

My sister even helped me out with the dinner. We spent the two days before Christmas cooking, but every second was worth it.
I was so proud of Aïda as she made the fresh yeast blinis all by herself; and she showed a great interest in the bûche making process. She even asked me if she could have her own column in foodbeam. You bet I said yes.

Bûche de Noël Plaisirs Sucrés
Adapted from Pierre Hermé’s PH10 and Thuriès Magazine (Nov. 07)

It’s no secret that Pierre Hermé’s Plaisirs Sucrés is one of my favourite things on Earth. And I feel like everyone would like it, even those who don’t like milk chocolate.
As a milk chocolate supporter, I am more than pleased to have finally found a dessert that truly gives milk chocolate the credit it deserves.

I’m not going to lie to you, this bûche is quite time-consuming to make, but if you’re act methodically your bûche will be ready to be eaten on time.

You should start on the day before you plan to serve it by:
1. the milk chocolate ganache
2. the milk chocolate chantilly
3. the dacquoise aux noisettes
4. the praline feuilleté
5. the fines feuilles de chocolat au lait
6. the joconde
Basically, the entire bûche is made on that day. It is then frozen overnight, at which point it’s ready to be glazed with the miroir chocolat.

Don’t forget to transfer the glazed bûche from the freezer to the fridge two hours before serving.

Note: I mention a 25cm-bûche mould. Please don’t be put off by this if you happen not to own one. I don’t. And if you knew what my so-called bûche mould actually is, you’re likely to burst in laugh.
I asked my dad to cut in half a 10cm-wide plastic pipe – yes, the grey ones, used in the building industry. I encased that half-pipe into one of my 25cm-long loaf pan, covered it with thin cardboard (so that my bûche would be more than 5cm in height) and lined everything with both clingfilm and rhodoïd.
See, my bûche might not look perfect, but well, it went through many things. And I’m sure that everyone can make a great-looking log – even without the appropriate mould!

Bûche Plaisirs Sucrés

serves 6

For the milk chocolate ganache
115g double cream
125g milk chocolate

Bring the cream to the boil and pour over the milk chocolate. Mix until smooth. Place into an airtight container with some clingfilm on the surface to prevent the formation of a skin. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours.

For the milk chocolate chantilly
300g double cream
210g milk chocolate

Bring the cream to the boil and pour over the milk chocolate , mix until smooth and place into an airtight container with some clingfilm on the surface to prevent the formation of a skin. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours. Whip until it forms firm peaks.

For the dacquoise aux noisettes
135g hazelnut powder
150g icing sugar
150g egg whites
50g caster sugar
125g hazelnuts, roasted and crushed

Preheat the oven to 170°C and line a large baking sheet.
Sieve the hazelnut powder and icing sugar. Whip the egg whites with the caster sugar until stiff. Fold into the nutty mixture.
Spread on the lined baking sheet and sprinkle with roasted and crushed hazelnuts.
Bake at 170°C for 25 minutes. Unmould and allow to cool on a wire rack until completely cold.

For the praliné feuilleté
200g Nutella or gianduja
50g milk chocolate, melted
80g feuilletine (substitute with crèpes gavottes or rice crispies)
15g butter, melted

In a bowl mix the Nutella, melted milk chocolate, feuilettine and melted butter.
Spread the praline feuilleté over the dacquoise. Then freeze.

For the fines feuilles de chocolat au lait
160g milk chocolate
Temper the milk chocolate and thinly spread onto a rhodoïd (or baking paper). As soon as it starts to set, draw 6x24cm rectangles. Cover with another rhodoïd sheet and keep in the fridge.
Spread the half of the chocolate ganache onto one chocolate sheet, then top with the other chocolate sheet, spread with the remaining ganache and top with the last chocolate sheet. Freeze.

For the joconde
55g almond powder
45g icing sugar
5g inverted sugar
75g eggs
10g butter, melted
50g egg whites, at room temperature
10g caster sugar
15g flour

Preheat the oven to 230°C and line a baking sheet with a silicon mat.
Place the almond powder, icing sugar, inverted sugar and half the eggs into a large bowl, and whip for 5 minutes. Fold in the remaining eggs and continue whipping for 15 minutes. Mix in the melted butter.
In another bowl, whip the egg whites until they form soft peaks, add the sugar and whip again until firm. Fold into the first mixture.
Lightly mix in the flour and spread the joconde batter onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 7 minutes and invert onto baking paper.

Le montage
Line a 25cm-long bûche mould with rhodoïd.
Cut the joconde into an appropriately sized rectangle and arrange inside the mould (just like you would do with baking paper). Pipe one third of the chocolate chantilly. Arrange a 5x25cm rectangle of dacquoise+praliné on top of the chantilly and cover with some more chantilly. Place the fine chocolate sheets+ganache on top of the chantilly and cover with the remaining chantilly.
Close the bûche with a 9x25cm rectangle of dacquoise+praline and freeze overnight. On the next day, unmould the bûche and place on a wire rack.

For the miroir chocolat
75g water
150g caster sugar
150g glucose syrup
100g sweet condensed milk
70g masse gelatine (soak 10g gelatine leaves into cold water then weight the soaked gelatine leaves and make up to 70g with the soaking water)
150g milk chocolate

Put the water, sugar and glucose syrup into a pan and bring to the boil. When the syrup reaches 103°C, turn off the heat and mix in the condensed milk and masse gelatine. Pour over the milk chocolate and mix with a rubber spatula until smooth.
Coat the bûche with this miroir glaze three times (if the miroir becomes too sticky, reheat in the microwave for 30 seconds). Freeze for 10 minutes, then trim the ends with a hot and sharp knife, and place back in the freezer.
Transfer to the fridge two hours before serving.