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Faubourg's leading pastry expert gives us insider insight into preparing and presenting Yuletide logs as well as great gift ideas and family traditions family.
Head pastry chef Ricardo Rosas is always trying to change it up. Each year at Faubourg Paris, he adds a unique twist of flavours to the traditional Yule log (Buches de Noels) recipe. For as long as he can remember, they’ve been making Buches de Noels at Faubourg, and every year he chooses a different theme: “This year, my theme was chocolate, because I know chocolate appeals to almost everybody,” laughs the celebrated chef. For Rosas, though, it’s not just about the taste of these holiday treats—looks matter, too. “I’m always wanting to impress from an aesthetic standpoint. It’s about a balance with the taste.” As we get ready for our own holiday entertaining, we chatted with Rosas about his tips for celebrating both style and substance.WL: What are your tips for presenting the “Buches de Noels”?Using similar colours and ingredients to create a theme that goes along with the pastries being served is obviously a really good thing. If you’re going to have a lemon tart using lemon flour, you know daffodils, or lemons, or berries for something that would be pretty. Or using cinnamon sticks and nutmeg for spice items, stuff like that. Anything that pairs with the flavour profile of the desert is good to do. I was also thinking about choosing a wine, a specialty desert wine, any kind of special beverage to go alongside it. Sometimes in the wintertime we like specialty teas, things that have a little bit of liqueur in them. It’s nice to be able to pair a beverage with that final sweet offering that somebody has at the end of their meal. The Buches de Noels are a showpiece and that’s how I try to present them as well. It’s something that is more than just your standard cake—there’s a certain elegance that I try to achieve with it. If you surround the plate with any of these items that I’ve mentioned, it kind of gives people an idea to what might be inside the cake, because they’re only looking at the outside. If it has passion fruit, or tealeaves, vanilla bean pods, this will give people an idea of what to expect when they bite into it.WL: What are your suggestions for those bakers at home who want to attempt a Yule log?Well the traditional Yule log is by definition the simplest one. The rolled Yule log dates back over a hundred years from France, and that’s your basic sponge cake, usually with a coffee butter cream. Then it’s rolled, and then you put chocolate frosting or chocolate ganache on top, and you score it to make it look like tree bark. That is essentially the easiest one to make as a home baker. You can make the other cakes as well, but they require a special mould—you can find them online—and you can find an array of all different kinds. They’re usually quite inexpensive as well. If you look up Buches de Noels plastic moulds, they get shipped to your door, and if you want to be the adventurous type you can do that as well.WL: What sort of pastries did you make with your family growing up?My mom side is German, so I grew up being in the kitchen with my mom and my grandma with very traditional German offerings. We would make Stollen, which is a very traditional German fruitcake. It’s a yeasted fruit bead, not quite as dense as the American style fruit bread, and it has marzipan in the middle as well. We also made Lebkuchen, which are German gingerbread-style cookies. It was mostly cookies, all different kinds of traditional German spices like nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon and star anise. When I was young, we didn’t do a lot of cakes. It wasn’t until I became a pastry chef until I started familiarizing myself more with cakes.WL: Is there a specific recipe you remember from your grandmother?The one I remember the most is something called vanillekipferl. Theat literally translates to “crescent moon cookies”, and that recipe is from my grandmother which my mom used, and which I actually used last year for sale for our customers. They take a lot of love and time, but the recipe itself is actually quite simple. It just takes a lot of time to do the rolling and the shaping because it’s a very delicate shortbread cookie. Probably my favourite earliest memory would be that vanilla crescent shortbread cookie.WL: What makes a good food gift?I think personally the best are macarons. They are classic, they’re colourful, they come in a lot of different flavours. For Christmas time as well during December, we have a candy cane macaron. It has a light minted ganache in the centre and crushed candy canes on the shell, so it’s super festive, and I think it’s a really nice treat to give people. I think any small baked treat really works. Individual pastries are good as well. I think ultimately the best thing to do is to know who you’re providing the gift for. If it’s someone you know really well, and know their specific likes, you can get a gift based on that—if you know they love chocolate, well then get them chocolate macarons or something that’s based in chocolate. But if it’s a general party, or you don’t know the person that well, I’d say getting them a box of assorted macarons, or some of our packaged cookie items that we have as well would probably fit the bill.Interested in Ricardo’s holiday-inspired cookies? Head pastry chef Ricardo Rosas has been kind enough to share with us his recipe for checkerboard cookies, which are available at Faubourg in both Chocolate Mint and Raspberry Lemon. Perfect for adding to the stockings or leaving out for Santa Claus. Get the recipe here.