A very sweet assignment
The Societe des Bains de Mer in Monte-Carlo had an early start for the holiday season by organizing the Christmas Yule Log Competition among the pastry chefs from their different restaurants in the Principality, this Thursday, August 31, 2017 at the Salon Bellevue of the Café de Paris.
I had the privilege to be invited to be part of the jury joining SBM staff members and a couple of selected journalists, a very sweet assignment as you can imagine. Our task was to taste eight different Yule Logs under the Casino Games theme, so the tempting creations were decorated with cards, roulette, hearts, piques, dices, and all the games paraphernalia.
We were given tasting sheets to be completed for each one of the Yule Logs, evaluating from 1 to 10 the esthetics, aroma, balance of flavors and textures, presentation and technical conditions. We had the chance to meet all the talented chefs involved in the contest who did a fantastic job with each of their delicious creations (see photo insert below), but it was not revealed who has done what. After calculating the results the winner would be announced Friday, September 1, and the selected Yule Log will be served in all the SBM restaurants in the Principality during the coming Holiday season. The final winner had not yet been unveiled when this article was published, but at least I am allowed to reveal my favorite Yule Log entitled Jackpot, with a very creative presentation and a mélange of chocolate, passion fruit and coconut praline that made my mouth water with pleasure, it was really delicious!
A little bit of Yule Log history
Christmas is certainly tied to food traditions, and the Yule Log is one of its symbols, an elaborate creation consisted of a rolled, filled sponge cake, frosted with chocolate buttercream. that looks like a tree bark. Its history goes back to even before the medieval era when Celtic Brits and Gaelic Europeans gathered to welcome the winter solstice end of December. Yule is the name of the old Winter Solstice festivals in Scandinavia and other parts of northern Europe, like Germany.
They would organize feasts to celebrate the end of the winter and the days becoming longer, burning logs decorated with holly and pinecones, smearing them with wine and salt. The log would be lit from the remains of the previous year’s log that had been carefully stored away and slowly fed into the fire through the Twelve Days of Christmas. The log’s ashes were considered to have medicinal value and guard against bad spirits. The Yule log tradition continued with Christianity but the fires got smaller and perfect for baking cakes. Sponge cakes, which usually is the base of the log, is one of the oldest cakes still made today and dating back to the 1600, with the first recipe appearing in 1615 in the book “The English Housewife” by Gervaise Markham. But it was bakers in Paris who made the cake popular in the 19th century.
“Holiday and Holy Day, Christmas is more than a yule log, holly or tree. It is more than natural good cheer and the giving of gifts. Christmas is even more than the feast of the home and of children, the feast of love and friendship. It is more than all of these together. Christmas is Christ, the Christ of justice and charity, of freedom and peace.” Francis Spellman