Sunday, December 28, 2008

December Daring Bakers: French Yule Log

If you're reading this now, it means Blogger didn't screw me over and my post has appeared on time while I make my way back from Hawaii. If you're nice and not naughty, I will share some pictures of my beautiful vacation with you soon. I should really have a better title for this post like "How Chocolate Kicked My Ass" or something clever like that. As I do at the beginning of every every month, I headed over to the Daring Bakers forum to see what this month's challenge would be. At first I was confused. I know for a fact that last December the Daring Bakers made a yule log, but then I kept reading. This was wasn't a nice rolled cake, this was a scary French thing with dozens (ok, six) layers and lots and lots and LOTS of eggs and cream. Of course I work with eggs and cream, but this dessert involved many things I have never made before.

This month's challenge is brought to us by the adventurous Hilda from Saffron and Blueberry and Marion from Il en Faut Peu Pour Etre Heureux. They chose a French Yule Log by Flore from Florilege Gourmand.

Fear paralyzed me when I saw that the recipe was 18 pages long (which I later came to realize as mostly full of filler). As I said before, it called for things I had never made like creme brulee, ganache, praline, and dacquoise. I was so scared that I seriously contemplated opting out of this one, but my competitive side got the best of me. Hello! This is a challenge, of course I had to take it on. After reading through the recipe several times, I figured out the flavors I wanted to incorporate into my log. I am a sucker for cinnamon so I decided to go with the mostly dark chocolate flavors with a cinnamon milk ganache insert and a cinnamon creme brulee. Since the daquoise was almond in flavor, I decided to use almond in my praline (hence the almond brittle which I turned into the paste for that layer)

One of the things I love about being a Daring Baker is that there are so many people to help you and guide you through the process. One of the bakers gave a timeline of what order to prepare the various components of the log so that is how I was able to organize myself. Another big thing (one of the most exciting things to happen all year) is that I was finally able to get the STAND MIXER I have been coveting for months. When I first started cooking, I was very scornful of the stand mixer. I figured that people baked and cooked for years without it, so why would it not be possible for me to do the same. That was until a week ago, when I got mine. I spent a lot of time in the kitchen making the various components of this dessert, but my life was made infinitely better by the use of my spanking new stand mixer (which was worth the trip to the ghetto Target). The other thing that helped was a kitchen scale which was another recent purchase. So much of this recipe was in ounces and grams and instead of trying to do conversions, I just figured it out on this handy kitchen tool. This was a pretty exhausting process and even though I wanted to take pictures of each step, I just didn't have the time since I was trying to bang this out before I left on my trip.

The first part I made was the praline paste for the Praline Crisp insert. I also decided to go ahead and make the gavottes (lace crepes) versus using Rice Krispies. The only snag is that I didn't have enough of the gavottes once I had finished that part, so I made up the difference using Special K. Even though my praline layer was very crumbly, it was one of my favorite parts of the recipe. I am glad, that I had a lot of it leftover because it made quite an addictive snack.

The next day, I tackled the bulk of the log. First up was the creme brulee insert. As I mentioned, I wanted cinnamon flavors in my log so I made a cinnamon creme brulee. It was a simple recipe, but the cooking temperature and time was not only a problem for me, but for most of the Daring Bakers. I ended up cooking it at (approximately) 210 for the first hour and then at 275 for another 30 or so minutes until it set.

While the creme brulee was baking, I attacked the dark chocolate mousse. The only other mousse I have made was an incredibly simple recipe. This chocolate mousse recipe was waaaay more involved. I had to make a pate a bomb (what?) and whip cream, and soften gelatin, and do all sorts of unmentionable things. I messed up a couple of times in the mousse recipe. Instead of bringing the cream to a boil in my double boiler, I added the cream and chocolate at the same time. I ended up needing way more cream than the 2 tablespoons called for to make it a smooth mixture. Also, I used powdered gelatin. In the recipe it says to "follow the instructions on the box" for powdered gelatin. I can prove to you, my box didn't come with instructions. When I mixed the gelatin with the chocolate, I had a really unappetizing mix with a whole bunch of liquid on the top, which I skimmed a lot of off before I folded in the whipped cream. After a while, I thought I was going to have to restart the whole thing, but magically it came together. It was delicious too. In retrospect, I wish I had added a little bit of cinnamon flavor to the mousse, but again it was delicious the way it was.

Next up, daquoise. Da-WHO?? This little almond cake was one of the easiest parts of the recipe and also one of the tastiest. I just did the straightforward almond daquoise recipe and could not have been happier. I was so glad to have some of the cake left over to munch on while I waited for the partially assembled log to freeze and make the ganache.

So second to last, I made the cinnamon milk ganache. This was actually not as difficult as I thought it would be. It called for making a caramel out of sugar, adding cream to the caramel and then adding that mixture to some chocolate and then some butter. One bit of advice, do not (not even for a second) walk away from the sugar while it is caramelizing. One bathroom break and you could have an almost burned caramel...not that I would know from experience.

Once I had these layers complete, the actual log assembly was pretty straightforward. Mousse, creme brulee, mousse, praline, mousse. Freeze for a couple of hours...make ganache, top with dacquoise and freeze overnight. Next day, make the icing and re-freeze the log. My log was very uneven so I "decorated" it with leftover praline. I think it's quite ugly, but the taste of this was amazing. Tony came over and we enjoyed the log together. It is verrrry rich. We could only eat a little bit at a time, but it was fantastic.

The recipes below are the components I used. Check out the Daring Bakers blogroll to see the other combinations people came up with.

Daquoise Biscuit (Almond Cake)

Equipment: 2 mixing bowls, hand or stand mixer with whisk attachment, spatula, baking pan such as a 10”x15” jelly-roll pan, parchment paper

Note: You can use the Dacquoise for the bottom of your Yule Log only, or as bottom and top layers, or if using a Yule log mold (half-pipe) to line your entire mold with the biscuit. Take care to spread the Dacquoise accordingly. Try to bake the Dacquoise the same day you assemble the log to keep it as moist as possible.

2.8 oz (3/4cup + 1Tbsp / 80g) almond meal
1.75 oz (1/2 cup / 50g) confectioner’s sugar
2Tbsp (15g) all-purpose flour
3.5oz (100g / ~100ml) about 3 medium egg whites
1.75 oz (4 Tbsp / 50g) granulated sugar

Finely mix the almond meal and the confectioner's sugar. (If you have a mixer, you can use it by pulsing the ingredients together for no longer than 30 seconds).

1. Finely mix the almond meal and the confectioner's sugar. (If you have a mixer, you can use it by pulsing the ingredients together for no longer than 30 seconds).
2. Sift the flour into the mix.
3. Beat the eggs whites, gradually adding the granulated sugar until stiff.
4. Pour the almond meal mixture into the egg whites and blend delicately with a spatula.
5. Grease a piece of parchment paper and line your baking pan with it.
6. Spread the batter on a piece of parchment paper to an area slightly larger than your desired shape (circle, long strip etc...) and to a height of 1/3 inches (8mm).
7. Bake at 350°F (180°C) for approximately 15 minutes (depends on your oven), until golden.
8. Let cool and cut to the desired shape.

Dark Chocolate Mousse

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Equipment: stand or hand mixer with whisk attachment, thermometer, double boiler or equivalent, spatula

Note: You will see that a Pate a Bombe is mentioned in this recipe. A Pate a Bombe is a term used for egg yolks beaten with a sugar syrup, then aerated. It is the base used for many mousse and buttercream recipes. It makes mousses and buttercreams more stable, particularly if they are to be frozen, so that they do not melt as quickly or collapse under the weight of heavier items such as the crème brulee insert.

2.5 sheets gelatin or 5g / 1 + 1/4 tsp powdered gelatin
1.5 oz (3 Tbsp / 40g) granulated sugar
1 1/2tsp (10g) glucose or thick corn syrup
0.5 oz (15g) water
50g egg yolks (about 3 medium)
6.2 oz (175g) dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1.5 cups (350g) heavy cream (35% fat content)

1. Soften the gelatin in cold water. (If using powdered gelatin, follow the directions on the package.)
2. Make a Pate a Bombe: Beat the egg yolks until very light in color (approximately 5 minutes until almost white).
2a. Cook the sugar, glucose syrup and water on medium heat for approximately 3 minutes (if you have a candy thermometer, the mixture should reach 244°F (118°C). If you do not have a candy thermometer, test the sugar temperature by dipping the tip of a knife into the syrup then into a bowl of ice water, if it forms a soft ball in the water then you have reached the correct temperature.
2b. Add the sugar syrup to the beaten yolks carefully by pouring it into the mixture in a thin stream while continuing to beat the yolks. You can do this by hand but it’s easier to do this with an electric mixer.
2c. Continue beating until cool (approximately 5 minutes). The batter should become thick and foamy.
3. In a double boiler or equivalent, heat 2 tablespoons (30g) of cream to boiling. Add the chopped chocolate and stir until melted and smooth.
4. Whip the remainder of the cream until stiff.
5. Pour the melted chocolate over the softened gelatin, mixing well. Let the gelatin and chocolate cool slightly and then stir in 1/2 cup (100g) of WHIPPED cream to temper. Add the Pate a Bombe.
6. Add in the rest of the whipped cream (220g) mixing gently with a spatula.

Cinnamon-Milk Ganache Insert

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Equipment: pan, whisk. If you have plunging mixer (a vertical hand mixer used to make soups and other liquids), it comes in handy.

Note: Because the ganache hardens as it cools, you should make it right before you intend to use it to facilitate piping it onto the log during assembly. Please be careful when caramelizing the sugar and then adding the cream. It may splatter and boil.

1.75 oz (4 Tbsp / 50g) granulated sugar
4.5oz (2/3 cup – 1 Tbsp / 135g) heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2.7 oz (75g) milk chocolate, finely chopped
3.2 oz (90g) dark chocolate, finely chopped
3Tbsp + 1/2tsp (45g) unsalted butter softened

1. Make a caramel: Using the dry method, melt the sugar by spreading it in an even layer in a small saucepan with high sides. Heat over medium-high heat, watching it carefully as the sugar begins to melt. Never stir the mixture. As the sugar starts to melt, swirl the pan occasionally to allow the sugar to melt evenly. Cook to dark amber color (for most of you that means darker than last month’s challenge).
2. Heat the cream with the cinnamon (use the quantity of cinnamon you want to infuse the cream, a pinch is the smallest amount suggested) until boiling. Pour cream into the caramel and stir thoroughly. Be very careful as it may splatter and boil.
3. Pour the hot caramel-milk mixture over the milk and dark chocolate. Wait 30 seconds and stir until smooth.
4. Add the softened butter and whip hard and fast. The chocolate should be smooth and shiny.

Praline Feuillete (Crisp) Insert

Preparation time: 10 minutes (+ optional 15 minutes if you make lace crepes)

Equipment: Small saucepan, baking sheet (if you make lace crepes).
Double boiler (or one small saucepan in another), wax paper, rolling pin (or I use an empty bottle of olive oil).

Note: Feuillete means layered (as in with leaves) so a Praline Feuillete is a Praline version of a delicate crisp. There are non-praline variations below. The crunch in this crisp comes from an ingredient which is called gavottes in French. Gavottes are lace-thin crepes. To our knowledge they are not available outside of France, so you have the option of making your own using the recipe below or you can simply substitute rice krispies or corn flakes or Special K for them. Special note: If you use one of the substitutes for the gavottes, you should halve the quantity stated, as in use 1oz of any of these cereals instead of 2.1oz.

If you want to make your own praline, please refer back to the Daring Baker Challenge Recipe from July 2008.

To make 2.1oz / 60g of gavottes (lace crepes - recipe by Ferich Mounia):
1/3 cup (80ml) whole milk
2/3 Tbsp (8g) unsalted butter
1/3 cup – 2tsp (35g) all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp / 0.5 oz (15g) beaten egg
1 tsp (3.5g) granulated sugar
1/2 tsp vegetable oil

1. Heat the milk and butter together until butter is completely melted. Remove from the heat.
2. Sift flour into milk-butter mixture while beating, add egg and granulated sugar. Make sure there are no lumps.
3. Grease a baking sheet and spread batter thinly over it.
4. Bake at 430°F (220°C) for a few minutes until the crepe is golden and crispy. Let cool.

Ingredients for the Praline Feuillete:
3.5 oz (100g) milk chocolate
1 2/3 Tbsp (25g) butter
2 Tbsp (1 oz / 30g) praline
2.1oz (60g) lace crepes(gavottes) or rice krispies or corn flakes or Special K

1. Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler.
2. Add the praline and the coarsely crushed lace crepes. Mix quickly to thoroughly coat with the chocolate.
3. Spread between two sheets of wax paper to a size slightly larger than your desired shape. Refrigerate until hard.

Cinnamon Creme Brulee Insert

Preparation time: 15 minutes + 1 hour infusing + 1 hour (+) baking

Equipment: Small saucepan, mixing bowl, baking mold, wax paper

Note: The vanilla crème brulée can be flavored differently by simply replacing the vanilla with something else e.g. cardamom, lavender, etc...

1/2 cup (115g) heavy cream (35% fat content)
1/2 cup (115g) whole milk
4 medium-sized (72g) egg yolks
0.75 oz (2 Tbsp / 25g) granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean

1. Heat the milk, cream, and scraped vanilla bean to just boiling. Remove from the stove and let the vanilla infuse for about 1 hour.
2. Whisk together the sugar and egg yolks (but do not beat until white).
3. Pour the vanilla-infused milk over the sugar/yolk mixture. Mix well.
4. Wipe with a very wet cloth and then cover your baking mold (whatever shape is going to fit on the inside of your Yule log/cake) with parchment paper. Pour the cream into the mold and bake at 210°F (100°C) for about 1 hour or until firm on the edges and slightly wobbly in the center.
5. Put in the freezer for at least 1 hour to firm up and facilitate the final assembly

Dark Chocolate Icing

Preparation time: 25 minutes (10mn if you don’t count softening the gelatin)

Equipment: Small bowl, small saucepan

Note: Because the icing gelifies quickly, you should make it at the last minute.
For other gelatin equivalencies or gelatin to agar-agar equivalencies, look at the notes for the mousse component.

4g / 1/2 Tbsp powdered gelatin or 2 sheets gelatin
1/4 cup (60g) heavy cream (35 % fat content)
2.1 oz (5 Tbsp / 60g) granulated sugar
1/4 cup (50g) water
1/3 cup (30g) unsweetened cocoa powder

1. Soften the gelatin in cold water for 15 minutes.
2. Boil the rest of the ingredients and cook an additional 3 minutes after boiling.
3. Add gelatin to the chocolate mixture. Mix well.
4. Let cool while checking the texture regularly. As soon as the mixture is smooth and coats a spoon well (it is starting to gelify), use immediately.

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Jo said...

Great job on your french yule log and have a happy new year.

vanillasugarblog said...

esi that is so labor intensive, no wonder you're in Hawaii! LOL
I don't know if I would have the patience for that in my small 10-foot kitchen

Anonymous said...

Mele Kalikimaka! Congrats on not only challenging yourself, but also for completing it! I don't have that much patience. I like simple. I was screaming while making my Peppermint Devil's Food Cake. Ugh...when things don't go my way. Anyway, Happy Holidays! Can't wait to see pics from your Hawaiian vacation.

Hilda said...

Well it worked! I'm so glad you got through all of it and learned lots of things in the process. Your log looks great. Hope you're having a good time in Hawaii. Have a Happy New Year!

Reeni said...

18 pages!! I would of been frightened, too!! It turned out wonderful, Esi, all your hard work really shows. I hope you enjoyed your holiday. I look forward to hearing about it.

Unknown said...

wowsa!! quite the undertaking :)

Mrs Ergül said...

No worries there! Blogger did not screw anything up! great job!

Aparna Balasubramanian said...

One wouldn't know about those glitches looking at your log. Looks great.

Havev a great holiday and best Wishes for the festive season a Happy New Year.

raquel said...

fantastic! well done and the log looks delicious!!!

Unknown said...

Looks great!!! Good job on the log. Your layers are beautiful.

Renee said...

Your log looks fantastic!

silverrock said...

Very cute looking yule-log... this looks like it was no challenge at all for you! Congrats on a lovely chocolatey cake!

Diana said...

Oh my gosh. I will never complain about making my mom's chocolate covered cookie bars again! That thing is an absolute beast!!! But looks delicious! :) Bravo, you! I think you definitely earned the "Daring Baker" title this month!

Olga said...

We should be all so proud of ourselves!!!!

Hope you had a marvelous time in Hawaii.

Amy said...

I am very jealous of your stand mixer, not to mention your time in Hawaii! The brulee looks divine, such a great job.


Ally said...

Your log looks great, beautiful job!

Anonymous said...

Excellent looking Yule Log. I am impressed that you completed the challenge when you hadn't made most of the layers previously. I am more jealous of your trip to Hawaii, though!

Great job.

Maggie said...

Tasty looking log! The cinnamon/chocolate/almond combination sounsd wonderful. I was reluctant to get a stand mixer at first but now it's my most often used kitchen equipment (other than knives and cutting boards).

test it comm said...

Your yule log looks really good.

breadchick said...

wonderful combination of flavors on your log!

alana said...

Great Post! And very similar to my terrifying yet thrillingly daring experience of the log. Yours looks fabulous!

CECIL said...

Awesome! At least the top of your log seems to be pretty smooth. Mine is bumpy ride :D But the taste was quite divine. Hope your holiday was good!! I am sorry I haven't been around much, been away for 3 weeks. Happy New Year!