I spent the first two weeks of December baking a different cookie every single day, so I'll admit that I was not eager to jump into this month's Daring Bakers challenge. In fact, I was pretty much in denial up until about a week before the actual posting date, when I finally decided to check in and see what was in store for us.
If you're a Daring Baker, you can imagine the sinking feeling that set in. If you're not, let's put it this way: the instructions for this month's challenge printed out into an 18-page document. That's right, pages.
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 have chosen a French Yule Log by Flore from Florilege Gourmand.A French Yule Log, of the entremet variety, which is to say not the genoise and buttercream version, but the frozen mousse sort. This Yule log had 6 components, all of which were necessary to complete in order to receive credit for completing the challenge. Each of the 6 came with a few variations in the directions, so that provided for a nice bit of latitude in mixing and matching flavor combinations. The 6 components, and my flavor choices, are as follows:
- Dacquoise ~ Almond, 2 layers
- Mousse filling ~ Chocolate chantilly cream
- Ganache layer ~ White chocolate
- Feuillete layer ~ White chocolate with toasted coconut and crushed cornflakes
- Creme brulee insert ~ Vanilla bean
- Icing ~ Semisweet chocolate
I did attempt a pate a bombe for the mousse layer, but it was a complete fail. I know what went wrong: my candy thermometer was registering low, and by the time I pulled my sugar syrup off the heat and checked it the water way, it had reached hard-crack stage. When I poured it into the beaten egg yolks, it wove itself into an incredibly beautiful, utterly useless web of spun sugar around the balloon whisk attachment of my stand mixer. If I had been less frustrated, I would have taken a lovely picture to share here. Instead, I chucked it into the sink and decided to go with chantilly cream instead.
My chantilly cream held up beautifully, supporting all the layers. The only drawback I experienced was that it melted a little more quickly that mousse would have ~ which necessitated a quicker icing job.
Speaking of icing, the gelatin was a fantastic addition. The icing adhered perfectly and didn't run or drip at all. I spackled it right on with an offset spatula.
To garnish my log, I just crumbled up a big of the extra feuillete and sprinkled it over the top. It adds a nice bit of texture and sweetness to contrast with the smooth, bittersweet icing.
So, here's my Yule log, a festive slice of culinary blood, sweat, and tears. In the process of making this one dessert, I dirtied almost every single pan and bowl in my kitchen. Would I make it again? Probably. Possibly. I'd love to try this with raspberry mousse. But I'm not sure that's inducement enough. Depends on how long it takes me to clean the kitchen ~ a task yet to be accomplished tonight.
But I'm really glad that I went ahead and participated in this challenge. There were quite a few new techniques here for me, specifically working with gelatin in icing, making a dacquoise, and forming the layers of the log.
French Yule Log ~ The Recipes
Element #1 ~ Dacquoise Biscuit (Almond Cake)
Preparation time: 10 mn + 15 mn for baking
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. [I made my dacquoise 3 days in advance and covered it with a layer of plastic wrap and then a layer of foil. It seems to get more pliable and moist as time went on. I would definitely suggest making in advance.]
- 2.8 oz (3/4cup + 1Tbsp / 80g) almond meal [I ground my own]
- 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).
- Sift the flour into the mix.
- Beat the eggs whites, gradually adding the granulated sugar until stiff.
- Pour the almond meal mixture into the egg whites and blend delicately with a spatula.
- Grease a piece of parchment paper and line your baking pan with it.
- 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).
- Bake at 350°F (180°C) for approximately 15 minutes (depends on your oven), until golden.
- Let cool and cut to the desired shape.
Element #2 ~ Mousse or Chantilly Filling
Dark Chocolate Whipped Cream (Chantilly)
(Can be made the day before and kept in the fridge overnight)
- 2/3 cup (160g) heavy cream 35% fat
- 7.8 oz (220g) milk chocolate
- 2 1/3 tsp (15g) glucose or thick corn syrup
- 1 1/3 cup (320g) heavy cream 35% fat
1. Chop the chocolate coarsely.
2. Heat the 160g of cream to boiling and pour over the chocolate and glucose syrup.
3. Wait 30 seconds then stir the mix until smooth. Add the remaining cream.
4. Refrigerate to cool, then whip up.
Element #3 ~ Ganache Insert
White Chocolate Ganache Insert
- 1.75 oz (4 Tbsp / 50g) granulated sugar
- 5 oz (135g) white chocolate, finely chopped
- 4.5 oz (2/3 cup – 1 Tbsp / 135g) heavy cream (35% fat content)
- 3 tablespoons butter, softened
1. Make a caramel: Using the dry method, melt the sugar by spreading it in an even layer in a small sauce pan 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. While the sugar is melting, heat the cream 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 white chocolate. Wait 30 seconds and stir until smooth.
4. Add the softened butter and whip hard and fast (if you have a plunging mixer use it). The chocolate should be smooth and shiny.
Element #4 ~ Feuillete (Crisp) Insert
Coconut Crisp Insert
- 3.5 oz (100g) white chocolate
- 1 oz (1/3 cup/25g) shredded coconut
- 1 2/3 Tbsp (25g) unsalted butter
- 2.1 oz (60g) lace crepes or rice krispies or corn flakes or Special K [I would use 30 g next time]
1. Spread the coconut on a baking tray and bake for 5-10 minutes at 375°F (190°C) to toast (a different temperature might work better for you with your own oven).
2. Melt the white chocolate and butter in a double boiler. Stir until smooth and add the toasted coconut.
3. Add the coarsely crushed lace crepes. Mix quickly to thoroughly coat with the chocolate. Spread between two sheets of wax paper to a size slightly larger than your desired shape. Refrigerate until hard.
Element #5 ~ Crème Brulée Insert
Vanilla Crème Brulée
- 1/2 cup (115g) heavy cream (35% fat content)
- ½ cup (115g) whole milk
- 4 medium-sized (72g) egg yolks
- 0.75 oz (2 Tbsp / 25g) granulated sugar
- 1 vanilla bean* (I used ground vanilla ~ see below)
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. (*I replaced the vanilla bean with 1 teaspoon of Totonac pure Mexican Ground Vanilla from Arizona Vanilla. As you can see from the photo, it gives great "speckle" and the flavor is really good. The vanilla flavor emerged pure and fragrant through both the baking and freezing stages of preparation. Cheaper than whole vanilla beans, the ground vanilla product is a great substitute for vanilla extract in applications where the extract would evaporate, and also where the aesthetic function of the vanilla flecks is desired.)
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.
Element #6 ~ Semisweet Chocolate Icing
Semisweet Chocolate Icing
- Soften the gelatin in cold water for 15 minutes.
- Coarsely chop the chocolate and butter together.
- Bring the cream and glucose syrup to a boil.
- Add the gelatin.
- Pour the mixture over the chocolate and butter. Whisk until smooth.
- 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.
How to Assemble Your French Yule Log
Depending on whether your mold is going to hold the assembly upside down until you unmold it or right side up, this order will be different. THIS IS FOR UNMOLDING FROM UPSIDE DOWN TO RIGHT SIDE UP.You will want to tap your mold gently on the countertop after each time you pipe mousse in to get rid of any air bubbles.
1) Line your mold or pan, whatever its shape, with rhodoid (clear hard plastic, I usually use transparencies cut to the desired shape, it’s easier to find than cellulose acetate which is what rhodoid translates to in English) OR plastic film. Rhodoid will give you a smoother shape but you may have a hard time using it depending on the kind of mold you’re using.
You have two choices for Step 2, you can either have Dacquoise on the top and bottom of your log as in version A or you can have Dacquoise simply on the bottom of your log as in version B:
2A) Cut the Dacquoise into a shape fitting your mold and set it in there. If you are using an actual Yule mold which is in the shape of a half-pipe, you want the Dacquoise to cover the entire half-pipe portion of the mold.
3A) Pipe one third of the Mousse component on the Dacquoise.
4A) Take the Creme Brulee Insert out of the freezer at the last minute and set on top of the mousse. Press down gently to slightly ensconce it in the mousse.
5A) Pipe second third of the Mousse component around and on top of the Creme Brulee Insert.
6A) Cut the Praline/Crisp Insert to a size slightly smaller than your mold so that it can be surrounded by mousse. Lay it on top of the mousse you just piped into the mold.
7A) Pipe the last third of the Mousse component on top of the Praline Insert.
8A) Freeze for a few hours to set. Take out of the freezer.
9A) Pipe the Ganache Insert onto the frozen mousse leaving a slight eidge so that ganache doesn’t seep out when you set the Dacquoise on top.
10A) Close with the last strip of Dacquoise. Freeze until the next day.
THE NEXT DAY...
Unmold the cake/log/whatever and set on a wire rack over a shallow pan.
Cover the cake with the icing.
Let set. Return to the freezer.
You may decorate your cake however you wish. The decorations can be set in the icing after it sets but before you return the cake to the freezer or you may attach them on top using extra ganache or leftover mousse, etc....
Transfer to the refrigerator no longer than ½ hour before serving as it may start to melt quickly depending on the elements you chose.
*Props go to John, my sister Ande's friend, for giving me the beautiful poinsettia plate for Christmas. (Open-stock dishes, the way to a food blogger's heart!)