How can a dessert like the yule log, or bûche de Noël, potentially stop you from putting on weight these holidays? Well, we have two words for you: French Paradox. This was a term made popular in the 80s. We’ll show you how the concept, coupled with the popular French dessert, can work in your favour next time you climb on the scales. So grab those dessert spoons and get ready to dig. You needn’t skip dessert these holidays!
Before we consider the log dessert and all its sweet variations, let’s look at what the French Paradox is exactly. In short, it has to do with statistical data tied to coronary heart disease. It is typically linked to diets high in saturated fats. In the late 80s and early 90s, researchers began to notice something. Despite having diets relatively high in good things like wine, cheese, and cakes, the French people exhibited a lower incidence of coronary heart disease. The cultural impact saw the diet and health field shift to a “more French” approach to food. While it’s viewed as a type of Mediterranean diet with more fresh produce, dessert lovers rejoiced to learn French favourites like mille-feuille, crème brûlée, and tarte tatin were still on the after-dinner menu!
But it’s the holidays, so what about French desserts specifically designed for this time of year? We shall look no further than the yule log. Not exclusive to France itself, we see this Christmas cake on bakery shelves in the UK, Belgium, Spain, and Switzerland. They’re also common in countries like Vietnam, Lebanon, and Syria, all of which are home to former French colonies. We can find yule logs here in Canada thanks to the Quebec province, where it’s known as bûche de Noël. But what about the history of the log?
In times past, we have seen the Christmas log referred to as the yule clog or Christmas block. This was a particular log selected to burn on a hearth. It had origins linked to Germanic or Scandinavian paganism before Christianity was embraced. A common feature among winter holiday traditions, the light was said to illuminate the house, magically turning night into day. Pagan roots further tie the burning of the Christmas block to bonfire rituals. These rituals are designed to mark the coming of the next year. For a more French angle, it’s said that peasants would deliver logs, or bûche de Noël, to their lords during the winter. Later French traditions would see little presents hidden under the log, and even blessing the log. This could be done with a branch from a fruit-tree, with wine, before lighting it on fire.
With fireplaces proving less common in homes these days, it’s understandable to see people replace these customs by simply eating something made in the shape of a log! We certainly approve of this and are happy to promote this dessert trend already popular in Quebec. The dessert is made by icing and rolling genoise cake, a shallow sponge cake, before icing it one final time. Of course, the addition of chocolate helps it to look more log-like. So do the scratchings made by fork tines/prongs and the powdered sugar dusting, which is supposed to resemble snow.
While more conservative and traditional appearing yule logs are common at this time of year, many people opt for more stylized versions with artistic decorations. It’s also not uncommon to find bûche de Noël with pine cones, mushrooms, and leaves made from meringue and marzipan. Being big chocolate fans, we love it when thin shards of chocolate are layered on top to imitate bark! Fresh berries are also a tasteful decoration for the Christmas logs… Why not explore fresh bûche de Noël options in bakeries near you, and potentially help you manage your weight these holidays?