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. Taking on an 18-page recipe like this (just before Christmas) is what puts the “daring” in the moniker “The Daring Bakers.” And it is exactly the reason why I joined the DBs, as I doubt I would have tackled this if left to my own devices. I will have more photos up tomorrow, but for now, I present you with my lumpy log, resting in the freezer:
Please note: You WILL dirty a lot of pots and pans. You WILL need copious amounts of gelatin, cream, egg yolks, more cream, various kinds of chocolate . . . and did I mention cream? Do NOT attempt to make this dessert in one day. Do NOT attempt to make it if the kiddies are under foot. Most of all, READ, RE-READ, and then RE-RE-READ the recipe.
All that being said, is it tasty? Oh, Lordie, . . . YES. Despite the work, I would make this again. I am not usually a spoon licker, but I licked everything when I made this – spoons, bowls, beaters, you name it. I think I ingested several thousand calories worth of cream and chocolate just from licking cooking utensils. Luckily, I logged in 45 minutes on the elliptical machine, which should at least maintain the weight status quo.
This type of French Yule Log is not the jelly-roll style of log that we think of in this country (made with genoise and buttercream), and that the Daring Bakers made last year. It is a frozen dessert made up of 6 components, all of which we were required to make. My flavorings were: Almond Dacquoise Biscuit, White Chocolate Mousse, Dark Chocolate-Caramel Ganache Insert, Nocciolata Praline (Crisp) Insert, Vanilla Creme Brulee Insert, and Dark Chocolate Icing. I thought that some of the instructions were a bit confusing, but the wonderful Tartelette provided helpful commentary. In fact, before you even attempt the dessert, I suggest you check out a lot of blogs for excellent tips and insight into the problems that many of the Daring Bakers confronted. Some suggestions: Apple Pie, Patis & Pate, Tartelette, Judy’s Gross Eats (listen to her problem with the 5-qt. KitchenAid bowl-I had the same issues), Baking Obsession, and Canelle et Vanille, just to name a few. If you want to see how 2,000 + other DBs did, check out the blogroll.
The creme brulee:
I was swamped this month, so I had little time or energy for creativity. I stuck to the basic flavor parameters, and made a vanilla creme brulee (which never even got close to solidifying after two hours in the oven, but I froze it anyway). And I even used a water bath! All that aside, I think that I should write an ode to the vanilla bean one day. It does amazing things to dairy products, I must say.
The dastardly mousse, which required the preparation of the accursed pate a bombe:
For the dastardly mousse, I used El Rey white chocolate disks, and cursed the size of my 5-qt. KitchenAid bowl. The beater couldn’t reach the ingredients in the bottom, so I was forced into a series of culinary gymnastics to get things to work, NOT a good idea when you are working with hot liquid sugar. I created a mess of spun sugar, said “eff it,” and carefully scooped out the pate a bombe so I wouldn’t pick up all the solidified sugar. “Pate a Bombe” describes egg yolks beaten with a hot sugar syrup which has been heated to the soft ball stage. The mixture is the base for many mousse and buttercream recipes because it makes them 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. Personally, I think all of that is a bunch of baloney, and that a pate a bombe is part of a nefarious plot to drive Daring Bakers round the bend.
In the end it all worked out. Of course, I licked the bowl, the piping tip, the beaters, etc. . . .
I’m not sure what happened here, but I ended up with an enormous amount of rice krispies, scantily clad in a whisper of chocolate. So naked were they, I think they were embarrassed. So, this whole “roll out the crisp between two sheets of wax paper” never happened. There was nothing rollable. My advice: cut the amount of cereal that the recipe calls for in half.
I think things worked out here, too, because a lot of other Daring Bakers said that the crisp layer was too hard to cut through. I sprinkled my bronzed rice crispies on top of the mousse layer, and found that it was easy to cut later on. I have a LOT of chocolate rice crispies left, and will have to find a way to feed them to Master Chow. Chocolate rice krispie treats, anyone?
The Caramel-Chocolate Ganache:
I used my favorite baking chocolate for this, Valrhona 71%, which I get at Trader Joe’s. I love that stuff. To my utter shock, my caramel turned the perfect shade of amber on my first try. When I added the boiling cream to the caramel, however, a chunk of it refused to melt into the cream, so I did what any sensible baker would do – I fished it out with a spoon (people, hot caramel is dangerous stuff so don’t take any chances), let it cool, and ate it. Mmm, there is nothing like homemade caramel. And lest you think I was slacking, I licked all the bowls and spatulas and beaters used to produce this confectionary marvel.
The Almond Dacquoise and an Amaretto Simple Syrup:
Nothing too difficult here, although I had never before made a dacquoise that had as much sugar added to the egg whites. I ended up with almost a marshmallow-like egg white mixture, which I incorporated into the almond flour/confectioner’s sugar concoction, and then baked it.
I did add a little something when I was putting the dessert together: I made an amaretto simple syrup and brushed both sides of the dacquoise with it. Recipe: Mix 1/4 cup sugar with 1/4 cup water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil until sugar dissolves. Shut flame off and add 2 Tbsp. of amaretto liqueur to the mixture. Let cool, and brush on both sides of the cake layer. You will have some extra left over, which you can use in your coffee or hot toddy. Come to think of it, you may need a bit of caffeine and/or alcohol to get through this challenge.
The directions for the dark chocolate icing were very confusing, but I managed to muddle my way through. I followed Tartellete’s advice and made a double batch of the stuff because she said it would make it easier to coat the log. Boy, was she right. My cocoa clumped, even though I sifted it, and I had to strain the whole thing through a fine mesh sieve. Then I didn’t let it cool enough, even though the icing coated the back of a spoon, and it started to melt my log. And, and, and . . . . I think you get the picture.
This whole darn presentation thing is why I will not be a professional pastry chef. Decorating is NOT my strong suit, and if anyone can tell me how to get the icing to encase the entire log, I’m all ears. My log is naked and icing-less all around its bottom edge. By the way, as the icing cools, it develops the texture of chocolate pudding. Really, really good chocolate pudding. I know because I ate a lot of it, and I have a stomach ache. Sigh. Back to the gym.