A Virtual Holiday Cookie Tour With a French and American Twist

During the holiday season, we like to open our homes to our friends and to visit them too. So I’m glad to say yes to Jennifer’s perfect holiday invitation.

Here is my participation to the Virtual Cookie Tour. With a French twist.

 

In my Middle Grade novel Sylvie gets into an argument with Scott on Christmas Eve.

“Snow feels like tears falling from the sky, yet when I see Madame Duval arranging fancy bûches de Noël in the bakery window, an urge makes me enter the store.”

For French people no other cake symbolizes Christmas more than a bûche de Noël.

Twelve-year-old Scott misses his mom a lot. And it is worse on Christmas Day.

“On Christmas Day, Dad made a big deal of adding chestnuts around the turkey like the French do, and he even bought the special cake shaped like a Yule log. It’s called a bûche de Noël and it’s decorated with miniature plastic pine trees or pine branches, mushrooms made of meringue, and other winter stuff.”

Scott never realized, though, that his French-born mother had adopted the American way after years spent in the US.

“Back home, we had ham and Mom baked cookies that we ate with different kinds of pudding. So much better than this French menu.”

 

Most expats and immigrants, I’m sure, feel homesick at the time of their first holiday season. Mine was also bittersweet. Alone with my husband and baby, I was excited to discover the United States but missed our French traditions. The favorite American food for Christmas was different and there was no bûche de Noël.

Year after year, thanks to my kids, I’ve made mine the American ways to celebrate the season. With my kids I assembled gingerbread houses, baked cookies shaped into Christmas trees, stars and bells, and bought green and red sprinkles as if I had always been an American.

Yet I always missed my bûche de Noël.

In Massachusetts, I made friends with a phenomenal Belgian cook and baker. She gave me her personal bûche de Noël recipe. But I didn’t have her skills, so mine looked a little crushed and messy. Everyone said it was lovely, but I knew better.

In a fortunate turn of events many French bakeries started to open everywhere in the States. So for the last fifteen years my bûche de Noël has been store-bought. I figured that it was still kind of homemade. Just made somewhere else by someone else.

But this year, due to my daughter’s request for a wholesome Christmas, I will give it another try and bake my own bûche de Noël.

I’ll use an American recipe, because my small French kitchen scale is broken and also because this recipe sounds much easier than the French ones I checked. So it will be my bûche de Noël with an American twist.

 

If you want to know about the origins of the bûche de Noël:

Starting in the 13th century, most people living in the countries that currently form Western Europe used to set a big log in their fireplaces on Christmas Eve. On Christmas Day they poured oil, salt, and warm wine on the log and prayed to keep their home safe from lighting and evil forces. In the Canadian province of Quebec and in France this tradition lasted until mid 19th century. Then it faded due to the arrival of iron stoves. A much smaller log, sometimes decorated with candles and greenery, replaced the big log and was used as a table centerpiece. Soon after, bakers created a cake, also shaped like a log and decorated with non-edible small seasonal symbols. Nowadays, most French bûches de Noël are decorated with similar symbols, often very elaborate and almost always edible.

 

Now I invite Mona from California and Kimberly from Italy to take us on this virtual holiday cookie tour. With their own twist.

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Chocolate cake and chocolate whipped cream all rolled into one, oh my! I’ve always admired the artistry of this dessert but it looked so complicated I’ve never tried. I must find a french bakery somewhere in my county.

  2. Absolutely delicious looking dessert with a story behind it, I love this Evelyne 🙂

  3. My daughter in law still make pizzelle at Chrismas. But Garry and I don’t eat much in the way of sweets any more. I used to make cookies, but we don’t eat them … except maybe ginger snaps. Maybe I’ll make some ginger snaps this year. That’s a good idea. You have inspired me 🙂

  4. Evelyne you have educated me again. I had never heard of the bûche de Noël. It is a beautiful tradition. (Now i’m craving sweets to go with my morning coffee! 😈 )
    I know you have been in the US for a long time, but i will say it anyway — France’s loss is our gain. I’m glad you have made this country your home. Hugs hugs. 🙂

  5. I love that you took the time to explain the history. Traditions are usually grounded in something larger than we realize and so many of those things have been lost. I also like that you weave these personal memories into your books. I guess what I like is that you share them with us. Good luck on the baking. There’s nothing wrong with buying from a bakery, but homemade always benefits from the love that is baked in.

    • Thanks for the good luck wishes for the baking part, Dan. I need that. I agree with you on the importance of traditions. I was lucky to grow up in Normandy where so many older people had stories to share. I just listened and loved that. See you on your blog.

  6. Oooh, excited to try this recipe! I love the bûche de Noël, and baked it long ago for a French celebration back in high school. With all the time that’s passed since then, it’s time to try again. Love the history of the dessert, too. Merci! To the kitchen…

    • This recipe doesn’t seem to intimidating, so this is great. Thank you for stopping by, Kimberly, and giving us a taste of your own holiday baking traditions on your blog. See you.

  7. Yummy and insightful post, Evelynne. Makes me want to head to my kitchen and bake some of our traditional holiday favorites- Lemon Bars and Sugar Dreams. Happy Holidays to you and your family.

  8. We love to celebrate a many holidays as possible so will add this one to our holiday fun. I will definitely serve Buche de Noel made in a bakery!

    • You can easily get them nowadays in the States. In the early ’90s it was a challenge. But this year, I will give it another try. The recipe I found seems doable for someone like me! Thank you, Claire, for your visit. Enjoy your holiday baking too.

  9. Thank you, Evelyne! I didn’t even know about these before, and I liked reading about their history.

  10. Behind the Story says:

    The buche de Noel looks delicious, and I really enjoyed reading the story behind it. When my children were small, they loved to bake Christmas cookies. This year I’ll be at my oldest daughter’s house, and she has plans for us to bake cookies. She’s also planning to make chocolates.

  11. Mmmm…yummy 🙂 I’ve heard of this dessert but didn’t know the history so thank you for sharing it Evelyne. It’s so interesting how even down to what we bake for Christmas is rooted in our backgrounds. I was determined to make Christmas pudding and cake (very English) when living in California but wondered why since the kids didn’t like them! Still don’t! Today I still bake American cookies, but I don’t decorate them as when the kids were small, just a few sprinkles. I’ll be signing off after today but wanted to stop by to wish you and your family a very Happy Christmas and New Year…and happy baking! See you in 2015 🙂

  12. On my way to check your treats!

Trackbacks

  1. […] Holingue, invited me to share my traditional Christmas dessert recipes. She’s written about Buche de Noel, a gorgeous French chocolate yule cake with chocolate whipped topping on her blog. Think of this as […]

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