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Traditional French Christmas food and a very modern bûche de Noël

We look at why France is ‘top’ at festive fayre and the mandatory chocolate log gets a star chef makeover

Beerawecka from Alsace is a bit like British Christmas pudding; Paris pâtissier, Quentin Lechat, has reimagined the yule log Pic: bonchan / Geraldine Martens

It could be argued that Christmas and New Year, more than any other time of the year, is when the French truly show every other 'wannabe' foodie nation up when it comes to preparing and serving a meal worthy of the party season. 

Not for them some lumpy gravy drizzled over dry turkey breast with a few choux de Bruxelles on the side, like some kind of punishment plan for naughty children. 

Au contraire, all across the Hexagon during the last couple of weeks of December, most shoppers get their fine dining ingredients on order: maybe a dozen oysters, the best foie gras they can find and afford, Champagne aplenty, a rich array of goodies for a groaning cheese board and, of course, a dessert (or 13 if you live in Provence) to round things off in sweet style.

Read more: French sparkling wines to rival Champagne on price and taste

In Britain many plump for stodgy Christmas pudding for 'afters'; in France, they have the mythical bûche de Noël, the yule log that arrives à table to much swooning, such is its attractiveness. 

Even the most basic of chocolate logs with its snowy, icing sugar dusting, is appealing, and yet modern French bûche making is constantly evolving – to cater the finest of fines bouches.

Read more: RECIPES: three classic French dishes get an exotic twist

The images above are not of some kind of brutalist architectural model, but this year's bûche from chef Quentin Lechat, the starry pâtissier at the cake shop at the glitzy hotel, Le Royal Monceau – Raffles Paris. 

Five elegantly poised bars of goodness, including tonka, tarte Tatin, chocolate and cranberry ensure richness and delicacy in perfect tandem.

But wait! If you dare not embrace such pricey fanciness (€110 to serve eight), just go to Alsace, where they enjoy a festive pud quite like the British model: Beerawecka is the local speciality featuring dried and candied fruits, plus spices in a bread dough.

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