logs, twigs, whatever ::::
In high school French class, we once had an assignment to make a French dessert. Since this assignment coincided with the holidays, I commenced on the task of making an authentic Bûche de Noël (Yule Log cake). Although I did not adorn it with the popular meringue mushrooms, I filled it with a chocolate whipped cream, frosted it with rich chocolate buttercream, carefully using fork tines to create the ‘bark” of the log. It was a masterpiece. I lifted the pan from the counter to move it to a secure place overnight, before skipping off to French class in the morning to proudly display my creation.
I promptly dropped the entire cake onto the floor.
Whether it was my greasy hands, a slippery baking sheet, or a toe-scuff over the kitchen rug, it didn’t matter. I was suddenly sent into crisis mode. Ahhhh! It’s ruined! All that work! All I could do was cry.
My always ingenious mother estimated the damages. She picked up the cake, wiped off some furry bits, and we refrosted much of it. The buttercream disguised the large crack down the middle well. I repositioned the log and retextured its bark. My mother saved the day. I cheated cake death. It lived another day. And my French class Oooohed and Ahhhhed, and Ooo-la-lahed.
I cheat again here today. I didn’t throw these cookies all over the floor, dust them off, and serve them to friends. No, the cookies are the cheat. Baby bûche de noël cookies are a simple spin on the time-consuming bûche de noël cake. Not that the cake isn’t worth it — obviously, my mother made sure of that, dumped on the floor or not. But with all of the other Christmas cookies you need to make, why not take a tasty shortcut. These baby bûche de noël cookies are quick and cute enough that even Santa may stop a few more minutes at your home to devour a couple more than he had planned (chocolate-chip cookies are soooooo last Christmas, people). These are also a fun project for kids. It’s egg-free dough so no worries about a scrupulous handwashing after making the rolling the dough. The cookies (twigs, rather) can take all (de)formations, as can the textured craggy frosting.
I actually made these last month, craving chocolate something fierce, getting nothing else accomplished until I did. I couldn’t control myself. I had to devour something chocolate, baked, and Christmasy, and this was it. These have a very bittersweet chocolate bite to them. To bring out that flavor, I suggest sprinkling, just barely, a tad of salt on each cookie. It it unexpected and seems a little strange, but definitely enhances the flavor.
And remember: if you do drop these on the floor, no one may be none the wiser. *wink*
- THE COOKIES: 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ¾ cup all-purpose flour
- ⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- THE FROSTING: 2 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 1 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
- ½ teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1½ teaspoons heavy cream
- ½ ounce unsweetened chocolate, melted (bittersweet works here too)
- MAKE THE COOKIES In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer at medium speed, beat the butter with the granulated sugar, brown sugar, salt and vanilla until smooth. Add the flour and cocoa and beat at low speed just until incorporated (it looks really dry -- don't worry!), then beat in the cream until smooth. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and roll it into two 16- inch-long ropes. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate until firm, about 20 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper (I used my silicon mat). Cut the cookie dough into 2-inch logs and arrange them on the baking sheet. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until the tops crack lightly and the cookies are firm to the touch. Transfer the baking sheet to a rack and let the cookies cool completely.
- MEANWHILE, MAKE THE FROSTING In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer at medium speed, beat the softened cream cheese with the confectioners' sugar, cocoa and heavy cream until smooth. Beat in the melted chocolate.
- Spread the frosting on each of the cookies in lengthwise strips to resemble the bark of a tree (I used an offset spatula to spread). Return the cookies to the baking sheet and let stand at room temperature until the frosting firms up, about 2 hours. Sprinkle with confectioners' sugar, if desired.