By Sébastien Gaudard, Parisian pastry chef (1st and 9th)
For the pears poached with vanilla
3 red Williams pears (half reserved for decor)
Juice of 1 lemon
125g caster sugar
1 Tahitian vanilla bean
The day before, peel the pears and drizzle them with some of the lemon juice.
Bring the water and sugar to a boil in a saucepan. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise in half and scrape out and reserve the seeds. Add the empty vanilla pod and the scraped seeds to the saucepan and bring the contents to a boil.
Dunk the pears in the boiling syrup, reduce the heat and simmer for five minutes. The pears are done when they offer only slight resistance when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife.
Remove from the heat, transfer the pears and their syrup to a container, and let cool to room temperature.
For the almond génoise
125g plain flour
40g unsalted butter
125g caster sugar
50g almond flour
Preheat the oven to 220°C. Sift the plain flour. Melt the butter. Break the eggs into a stainless steel bowl, then add the sugar. Prepare a bain-marie, place the bowl over it, and whisk vigorously until the egg-sugar mixture reaches a temperature between 60°C and 65°C.
Remove from the bain-marie and beat the mixture until it has cooled completely. Stir two tablespoons of this mixture into the butter.
Fold the plain and almond flours into the remaining egg foam, then carefully fold in the butter mixture using a wooden spoon. Spread the génoise out using a stainless steel spatula onto a sheet of parchment paper measuring 25cm by 40cm. Slide the paper into the oven and bake for 10 to 12 minutes.
For the chestnut cream filling
500g chestnut paste
230g crème de marrons (chestnut cream)
200g unsalted butter, softened
Stir together the chestnut paste and crème de marrons. Add the butter and whisk until the mixture is lightened and pale in colour. Set aside 300g in the refrigerator for the decor.
1 marron glacé (candied chestnut)
Drain the pears, reserving the syrup. Cut the pears into 1cm cubes (you should have about 300g).
Using a pastry brush, lightly soak the génoise cake with the pear syrup. Spread the chestnut cream filling over the génoise, then distribute the diced pear pieces over the top.
Roll up the cake; it should be about 25 cm in length. Refrigerate it for two hours.
Ice the cake with the reserved chestnut cream and use the back of a spoon or a spatula to make markings in the icing to simulate the bark of a tree.
Halve the remaining pears and cut them into wedges. Sprinkle with lemon juice. Place the pear wedges on top of the yule log, next to the candied chestnut.
Tips from Sébastien Gaudard
“To enhance the aromatic notes of this dessert, add a little pear eau de vie to the syrup before using it to soak the génoise.”