Sunday, December 2, 2012

Santa Claus is Coming to Town

I have just returned to my home in France and notice that many of you are decorating your trees and buying gifts. I would like to show you a few of the things that I really love.  

For those of you who love all things French, as I do, I thought I would describe a typical French Christmas dinner also.  I will be celebrating with friends here and though I don't know exactly what will be served, it will be something very French and very delicious.

A lovely way to decorate your tree is with what I think are the most beautiful Christmas Ornaments from Patience Brewer available at Neiman Marcus. com
I adore this gorgeous Father Christmas.  

If you want to add a little French touch to your tree, I think you will like this one.  The photo is the front and back of the Eiffel Tower ornament.  This iconic tower is recognized by all.

Every French family has a different and unique way of celebrating Christmas but it is always celebrated on Christmas Eve, December 24.  It is a very special time when friends and family come together.

It always starts with champagne and some small bites, called amuse-bouche, and continues with a fabulous dinner.  What I love is the way the Christmas gifts are opened.  After dinner each person opens all their gifts, one at a time, and the rest of the party looks on and oohs and aahs.  This takes awhile but no one minds even if Christmas Eve turns into the early morning of Christmas Day.

If you would like to prepare a French Christmas Dinner, it usually is similar to the menu that follows.

After the champagne, we are called to the table which is beautifully set with the very best linen, silver, crystal and dishes that the family has.  A simple centerpiece is typically placed on the table, sometimes just a small tree with small ornaments. 

The first course is usually raw oysters or Foie Gras  The Foie Gras is served either as a paté or warm with a bit of fig jam or warm figs. There is a different wine served with each course and frequently a Vouvray or Monbazillac is served with the foie gras. These wines are on the sweet side.

The main course is roasted meat, fowl or in some cases chevreuil  (deer) which has been caught and butchered by the farmer next door.

There are always several vegetables and roasted potatoes done in goose fat.

After this the cheese course is served with a small green salad.  Several different cheeses are put out so there is something for everyone. A typical cheese tray might include goat cheese, brebis and echourgnac which is made at the Abbeye de Echourgnac by the nuns in the Dordogne, close to where I live.

A bûche de Noël is the traditional dessert, a buttercream cake in the shape of a log.


Buche de Noel  (recipe and photo from



 2 cups heavy cream
 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


 6 egg yolks
 1/2 cup white sugar
 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
 1/8 teaspoon salt
 6 egg whites
 1/4 cup white sugar
 confectioners' sugar for dusting


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Line a 10x15 inch jellyroll pan with parchment paper. 

In a large bowl, whip cream, 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, 1/2 cup cocoa, and 1 teaspoon vanilla until thick and stiff. Refrigerate. This is the filling for the cake.

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat egg yolks with 1/2 cup sugar until thick and pale. Blend in 1/3 cup cocoa, 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla, and salt. In large glass bowl, using clean beaters, whip egg whites to soft peaks. Gradually add 1/4 cup sugar, and beat until whites form stiff peaks. Immediately fold the yolk mixture into the whites. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan.
Bake for 12 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the cake springs back when lightly touched. Dust a clean dishtowel with confectioners' sugar. Run a knife around the edge of the pan, and turn the warm cake out onto the towel. Remove and discard parchment paper. Starting at the short edge of the cake, roll the cake up with the towel. Cool for 30 minutes.
Unroll the cake, and spread the filling to within 1 inch of the edge. Roll the cake up with the filling inside. Place seam side down onto a serving plate, frost and refrigerate until serving. Dust with confectioners' sugar before serving.

I make the little mushrooms out of meringue and bake until they are slightly brown.

If this seems like too much work, try one of the recipes from the fabulous Roux brothers cook book. You might find something easier.

The Roux Brothers Pastry book

To serve any of your gorgeous cakes or pastries, you can't get better than this.

And just for you, get yourself something wonderful for all your hard work.

Wishing you a Joyeux Noel and a very happy time with your family.

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