A Gourmet Holiday Tradition

buche 2Nearly 30 of France’s top pastry chefs and 26 Bûches de Noël make for one indulgent afternoon well spent. As an insatiable gourmande, I jump at the chance to meet and speak with pastry chefs so you can imagine my excitement when the country’s top talents are together in one room.

My blogging pal Carol Gillott kindly invited me along to one such opportunity a couple of weeks ago at the Relais Desserts 2014 Prix d’Excellence, held at the luxuriant Peninsula Paris Hotel, which awards the industry’s best pastry chef, best rising-star pastry chef, best pastry book and best pastry blog. And preceding this prestigious ceremony was a presentation of the Relais Desserts members’ Bûche de Noël creations for the forthcoming holiday season, each more aesthetic than the next.

buche 1Among my favorites was the polar bear (below) from Frédéric Cassel, Relais Desserts president and award-winning pâtissier with namesake boutiques in Fontainebleau, Tokyo, Kyoto, Berlin and Casablanca. Unlike the other yule logs presented, Cassel’s was an ice cream cake, composed of a hazelnut crumble, soft caramel and two ice creams: vanilla caramelized pecan and salted butter caramel. A rich-sounding capstone to what is likely to be an already heavy Christmas feast, to be sure, but I was pleasantly surprised by its lightness upon first bite – refreshing with dialed back sweetness. When asked about the form – which he called ‘Ourson de Noël’, Cassel smiled widely and replied “it’s for all kids, big and small. How can you not feel happy when you see it?”.

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