“Terror” is probably too strong a word to describe what I felt the first time I read through December’s Daring Bakers challenge. Considering that the recipe was 18 pages long when I first opened it, though, it wouldn’t be all that much of an exaggeration.
A closer examination of the recipe revealed that a good bit of those 18 pages were different options French Yule Log that we’d be making. Even after editing the document down to just the options I wanted to use, it was a pretty overwhelming recipe.
The French Yule Log has six separate layers, and I chose to make them over the course of a week because I didn’t have a full day to dedicate to the project. After eating it, I think it would’ve worked better if I’d just taken the time to do it all over two days, at most. It was delicious and ridiculously rich, but I haven’t decided yet if I’ll ever try it again.
The following recipe is basically for the construction of the yule log. As I read it over for this post, I realized that I didn’t do it exactly as I was supposed. All that stuff about piping and freezing and piping something else and freezing and then freezing it overnight? Not so much. Which may explain why some layers — such as the creme brulee, which I made days in advance — were frozen solid while others were simply a bit chilly.
FRENCH YULE LOG
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.
Cream brulee insert
Dark chocolate mousse
Dark chocolate ganache
Dark chocolate icing
Line your mold or pan clear hard plastic (the original recipe suggested transparencies or plastic wrap, but I was using a silicon pan and didn’t line it at all). Cut the dacquoise into a shape fitting your mold and set it in there.
Pipe a third of the mousse on the dacquoise and set the creme brulee insert on top of the mousse. Press down gently to slightly ensconce it in the mousse.
Pipe another third of the Mousse component around and on top of the creme brulee insert.
Cut the praline feuillete 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.
Pipe the last third of the mousse component on top of the praline insert.
Freeze for a few hours to set. Take out of the freezer and pipe the ganache onto the frozen mousse, leaving a slight edge so the ganache doesn’t seep out when you set the dacquoise on top.
Close with the last strip of dacquoise and 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.
On serving day, transfer to the refrigerator no longer than half an hour before serving as your yule log may start to melt quickly.
Now I’m going to break this down into the individual components, which means this post is about to get really, really lengthy.
The first component I made was the Vanilla Creme Brulee Insert. My first attempt was a big ol’ fail, because the baking mold I used was so wide that the brulee was about a quarter inch thick. It looked like scrambled eggs. Sweet, delicious scrambled eggs. The second attempt worked beautifully, though, once I found a smaller dish to let it set up in.
Vanilla Creme Brulee Insert
1/2 cup heavy cream (35% fat content)
½ cup whole milk
4 medium-sized egg yolks
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean
Heat the milk, cream, and scraped vanilla bean to just boiling. Remove from the stove and let the vanilla infuse for about 1 hour.
Whisk together the sugar and egg yolks (but do not beat until white).
Pour the vanilla-infused milk over the sugar/yolk mixture. Mix well.
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 for about 1 hour or until firm on the edges and slightly wobbly in the center.
Let cool and put in the freezer for at least 1 hour to firm up and facilitate the final assembly.
Next I made the Praline Feuillete, which called for praline paste. This is apparently something you can make by smashing hazelnuts into a paste, but I decided to use Nutella instead. The result was like a very thin Nestle Crunch bar, and it was just this side of magical.
Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler. Add the Nutella and the coarsely crushed corn flakes. 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.
The Dark Chocolate Mousse gave me some trouble. As we’ll discuss again later, I’m not so skilled with the gelatin. My mousse ended up with odd little gelatin lumps. But it still tasted OK.
Dark Chocolate Mousse
2+1/4 tsp powdered gelatin
3 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp thick corn syrup
0.5 oz water
3 medium egg yolks
6.2 oz dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1.5 cups heavy cream (35% fat content)
Soften the gelatin in cold water. (If using powdered gelatin, follow the directions on the package.)
Make a Pate a Bombe:
Beat the egg yolks until very light in colour (approximately 5 minutes until almost white). Cook the sugar, corn syrup and water on medium heat for approximately 3 minutes (if you have a candy thermometer, the mixture should reach 244°F. 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. Continue beating until cool (approximately 5 minutes). The batter should become thick and foamy.
In a double boiler, heat 2 tablespoons of cream to boiling. Add the chopped chocolate and stir until melted and smooth.
Pour the melted chocolate over the softened gelatin, mixing well. Let the gelatin and chocolate cool slightly and then stir in ½ cup of cream to temper. Add the Pate a Bombe. Whip the cream, and gently mix it in with a spatula.
I’ve made ganache before, but I hadn’t used any sort of caramelization in the process. This was smooth, rich and wonderful.
Dark Chocolate Ganache
4 Tbsp granulated sugar
2/3 cup – 1 Tbsp heavy cream
5 oz dark chocolate, finely chopped
3Tbsp + 1/2tsp unsalted butter softened
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.
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.
Pour the hot caramel-milk mixture over the dark chocolate. Wait 30 seconds and stir until smooth.
Add the softened butter and whip hard and fast (if you have a plunging mixer use it). The chocolate should be smooth and shiny.
The Dacquoise Biscuit was sort of a thin, almond-flavored cake. It was really tasty, and I’m trying to think of something else I could do with it. I couldn’t find almond meal, so I just tossed some slivered almonds into the Magic Bullet and made it myself.
3/4cup + 1Tbsp almond meal
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
2Tbsp all-purpose flour
3 medium egg whites
4 Tbsp 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 for approximately 15 minutes, until golden. Let cool and cut to the desired shape.
Finally, there’s the Dark Chocolate Icing. I waited for what I thought was a crazy long time for it to “gellify,” and it never did. So I just poured it over the assembled log. It proceeded to pool around the log on the platter. I set the whole thing aside until serving time. When I discovered that the pools had set into shiny and beautiful icing. Oh well.
Dark Chocolate Icing
½ Tbsp powdered gelatin
¼ cup heavy cream (35 % fat content)
5 Tbsp granulated sugar
¼ cup water
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
Soften the gelatin in cold water for 15 minutes. Boil the rest of the ingredients and cook an additional 3 minutes after boiling. Add to the chocolate mixture. Mix well.
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.
Again, this was a work-intensive project. The end result was tasty, and other Daring Bakers have proven that it can be an impressive-looking dessert, too. I might try it again next year. If I’ve recovered from the icing trauma by then.