My Homemade Yule Log Is a Metaphor for Life

Auriane Alix
The recipe appears through repeated trial and error.
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Image par Jill Wellington de Pixabay

The “bûche de Noël”, as we call it in France, is a log-shaped cake eaten on Christmas Eve. Most often it’s a rolled or iced cake. But there is also an elaborate, pâtissière version of it which I personally find much more interesting. This is the challenge I gave myself: this year, the log will be homemade.

I had never baked complex cakes before. Between the crispy base, the sponge cake, the mousse, the insert, and the icing, it’s quite a job. Especially since I had decided that I wouldn’t follow a ready-made recipe: I would pick out individual recipes here and there, such as a praline mousse or a clementine insert, and choose the combination that suited me. Just like I do in my life.

Actually, it ended up looking like foie gras

Right from the beginning, I had a very clear idea of what I wanted. I wanted it to sum up some specific emotions, tastes, textures. I don’t know where it comes from. It’s just what I had in mind all along. As Albert Camus said:

“A man’s work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened.”

I want a very crispy chocolate base, to give texture. On top, a ganache, probably pistachio. All around, a thin dark chocolate icing, which will become crunchy as it freezes. And in the middle, bam! an insert of hyper acid blackcurrant to awaken the taste buds.

Actually, this is the second version. The first one was very different: last week, I experimented with a fine hazelnut streusel base, a hazelnut sponge cake, a praline mousse, and a clementine insert.

When I feverishly unmolded it, my first thought was: it looks like foie gras. I felt something was wrong. And indeed: it was disappointing. The base wasn’t thick enough. The sponge cake was good but flat. Same with the mousse. And despite the 8 clementines whose juice splashed in my eye 4 times during the preparation, the insert had absolutely no taste.

The appropriate term is… bland. It was far from what I wanted. But it was a good first try. At this point, I had already tried 4 possibilities. I had gotten them out of my head and made them take shape before sitting down and tasting them. The whole process gave me a much better idea of what I wanted and didn’t want.

So here’s my plan:

I will try as many combinations as it takes to serve as perfect a cake as possible on the Christmas table.

For my next attempt, I’ll keep the crispy base idea but expand it further. I feel it’s an idea that could work and provide a solid foundation for the rest. The mousse doesn’t work, it’s too… soft. My life needs more grip. I’ll add a little more family time to it because previous tests have shown that it brings me joy. And sport, a lot of sport, especially surfing, as this connection with the sea works.

I’m curious to taste what it’s going to be like. It probably won’t be exactly what I want either. But I get closer to what I feel is my truth deep down inside.

Do you ever feel empty?

Do you sometimes feel that something is not quite right, without really being able to put your finger on the problem? You have everything to be happy but something doesn’t feel right.

What do you do when this happens?

The truth is that most people don’t do anything. They put their heads down, lock themselves in their work or some other general anesthetic, and wait for it to pass.

I’ve learned to recognize when something needs to be changed. My inner fire gets smaller and smaller until I find myself empty. That’s when I have to stop and think. I focus entirely on what brings me positive and what brings me negative. Then I make assumptions and try things. It’s like playing with words to find the right sentence. I guess that’s also how you find a good recipe.

Try things. Then sit down and taste. Ask your inner self what it thinks. Then build on what works better and what doesn’t, and try other things until you find the right ones. That’s what I keep doing, both for my cake and in my life. You can only really build yourself through experimentation. Some elements have worked in my recipe. Others didn’t. Others needed improvement. Without tasting, it is impossible to know.

Life is the same. Habits, rhythm, lifestyle, work, projects… You can’t know without trying. So experiment. Try anything that pops into your head. I use 1-month experiments for this. Pick something, and implement it in your daily life for 1 month, then see what happens. So far I’ve tried several: writing every day (it worked, I’m still here a year later and my life has been transformed), doing sports every day (ditto), living according to my own will without any rules (thrown away after three days), not drinking alcohol (I now only drink on special occasions), and so on and so forth.

Play with the ingredients of your life

Try. Play. Be bold. Until you find the balance.

My yule log as much as my life is a work in progress. I salute every step of it. The result will be a subtle blend of each of them. Don’t be afraid to question everything. It’s too easy to slip into the mold and convince yourself that if this is how others do it, then this must be the right way to live. It isn’t. It’s up to you to find your way. And you can only do that by constantly trying new things and questioning yourself.

Experiment. Try. Fail. Stay with the parts that work, and discard the rest. Just like a writer editing their work: anything that doesn’t feel right is deleted. That’s how you make room for what matters. The rest is just a distraction to reaching your point of balance.

Final thoughts

Do not stay on the chocolate cake. It’s a safe bet, but it’s like a shapeless t-shirt: it fits everyone, but it doesn’t make anyone look good. There are so many other things to try. Tailor-made things.

If I hadn’t tried, I would have stayed at the same point. If I don’t experiment with my dessert, I’ll serve a mediocre one on Christmas Eve to my family. Whereas while trying everything I want to try and having fun in the process, I am constantly perfecting my life to the point where I feel aligned.

Mister Everybody’s Christmas cake doesn’t taste as good as the one you create for yourself. Bon appétit.

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