About three and a half years ago I went to the Fat Duck for lunch. It was a lunch that cost £150 before I’d even had a drink or paid a service charge. I did get 10 courses with a couple of extra bits added on for that money, so it works out at £15 per course. One of those courses was called The “BFG” or Black Forest Gateau and it is one of the most incredible desserts I have ever had the pleasure to digest.
Back in the real world where no sane person would pay £15 for a slice of cake I found it difficult to justify £12.99 for one of Heston’s Black Forest Buches, even though it feeds 10 people. It is comparatively speaking a bargain, coming in at under £1.30 a portion. But I knew deep down in my soul that it couldn’t compare to the magic I ate in Bray. So for many months I walked past it in the freezer section refusing to buy it, and then one fateful day it had a reduced sticker on it, it was begging to be bought for just £4.99. I caved in.
I wondered what the difference between a Black Forest Gateau and a Black Forest Buche was. I spent at least seven minutes searching the internet to find out, and nothing. I got nowhere. I did find this out though “From Old High German buohha, from Proto-Germanic *bōkijǭ. Akin to Dutch beuk, English beech Swedish bok, from Proto-Indo-European *bʰeh₂ǵos. Further Indo-European cognates include Latin fāgus, Greek φηγός (phēgos, “oak”), Russian бук (buk) and Lithuanian bukas. More at Buch.”.
I think that means I was about to eat Black Forest Beech, which doesn’t appear to be an improvement on gateau, but until you’ve tried these things you never know.
The buche is bought as a frozen product and needs to be defrosted for two hours before eating. I slipped it out of the box and it was a thing of beauty, perfectly formed with a strip of red streaked chocolate on top. It was chic and understated – the perfect dessert to grace any middle class dinner table in the land.
For a defrost and serve pudding the instructions were quite detailed. This is what you’re supposed to do “Use a sharp knife dipped into hot water, ensuring all excess water is removed before use. We recommend cutting the first 2 slices before fully defrosted to reveal the seven layers, whilst leaving the remaining buche uncut to take to the table for presentation. Once defrosted, serve by removing the chocolate decoration to cut into remaining slices. Snap and share the edible decoration.” that is pretty prescriptive I think, but then when you’ve paid £13 for pudding you probably don’t want to screw it up. Having only paid £4.99 I hacked into my mine and got stuck in.
My hacking and lack of a hot knife meant I didn’t get the full effect of the “seven spectacular layers” as I smeared chocolate mousse over them, but it still looked pretty good. When I got further down the buche my cutting technique improved so this photo gives a better idea.
It was really good. It put to shame those over sweet treacly Sarah Lee Black Forest Gateaus I remember from family functions as a child. This was an altogether more sophisticated affair. There was a sharpness from the boozy cherries, crispy crunchy texture from the feuilletine, a white chocolate mousse, a chocolate and cherry mousse and at the bottom a chocolate sponge. It was incredibly rich and densely flavoured. However the most prominent texture and flavour was chocolate mousse which was occasionally punctuated with a bite of cherry and some resistance from the sponge.
I really enjoyed it, and whilst for most people, one slice would be plenty, I couldn’t resist going in for a second. It didn’t get close to the Fat Duck version, but I reckon you’d be hard pushed to find a better Black Forest themed desert in a supermarket freezer cabinet. £12.99 is steep, but if you find it with a reduced sticker on I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Heston from Waitrose – Black Forest Buche £12.99 for 570g (or in my case £4.99)