Buche de Noel: A holiday treat ... days in the making

Patisserie Lenox pastry chef works overtime to meet holiday demand


GREAT BARRINGTON — Pastry Chef Jean Yves says he hates Christmas — making 10,000 holiday logs will do that to a man.

Yves is the lauded chef and founder of Patisserie Lenox — a bakery with four locations and a buzzworthy Buche de Noel. Bursting with holiday cheer, each confection log features a winter wonderland complete with meringue mushrooms, ganache bark and sugar-made holly. Patisserie Lenox makes 300 to 500 Buche de Noel per year.

Yves, 65, says years of working in a bakery making the ornate chocolate desserts, also known as Yule Logs, has soured him a bit on the holiday, but the care he puts into the traditional French roll-cakes betrays that bah-humbug attitude. Yves lights up as he creates a delicate forest scene atop the swirling layers of genoise cake, ganache and chocolate cream.

"The sprinkles are the best part of the Christmas log, it makes it Christmas," Yves says, raining red and green jimmies onto the rich, chocolate log. "Then we have Santa Claus, a snowman, reindeer — obviously, you have to have it.

"What I liked the most when I was a kid in the '60s is what we used to cut the wood," he says, holding up a golden, toy saw. He and his siblings would fight over the axe.

On a recent weekday, Yves made one of his first Buche de Noel of the season. The treat, which comes in several flavors — including hazelnut and raspberry — will be for sale at all four of Yves bakeries — Lenox, Great Barrington, Northampton and Hudson, N.Y. Pre-ordering is the best way to secure the decadent dessert, Yves said. The Buche de Noel cost about $80 each.

At Patisserie Lenox, Buche de Noel baking begins with a few days of making meringue cookies that will be turned into mushrooms sprouting from the log — a 70-quart container filled with the light, egg-white biscuits in the kitchen attested to work that's already begun.

Then, the cake: Genoise is a fluffy, sponge cake lifted up by whipping a whole lot of air into the batter before baking. Yves makes a chocolate genoise for this Buche de Noel. The key to making sure the cake will roll — and not crumble in a baker's hands — is moisture, he says. Yves slathers the cake with chocolate whipped cream before rolling the cake with ease.

On top of that is more cream and then a glistening coating of ganache. Yves runs his fingers along the side of the pastry. "It's not supposed to be perfect," he says. "It's a log."

He pipes green grass and white cream clouds that hold onto the meringue mushrooms onto the dessert. Dark chocolate shavings are pressed into the cake sides and bunches of fondant holy add extra edible flair.

Next come the toys: plastic Christmas trees, deer, cutting tools, Santa and snowmen galore — enough to melt even the Grinch-iest of hearts.

Patisserie de Lenox is now taking Buche de Noel orders. The three- to four-day marathon of coordinated baking it will take to make the cakes will happen closer to the holiday.

"You sleep for three hours, then you come back," Yves says of the Buch de Noel baking cycle. "It's crazy. You have to have a real love of baking and knowledge."

Kristin Palpini can be reached at kpalpini@berkshireeagle.com, @kristinpalpini, 413-629-4621.


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