Saturday, December 22, 2007

A Tree Falls in the Forest


The Daring Bakers are making some noise with this month's challenge. Keeping the holiday season in mind, the founders of the Daring Bakers, Ivonne and Lisa, chose a holiday inspired recipe. The yule log (which is also known as Bûche de Noël) is a genoise filled with buttercream and rolled up to form a log shaped cake. Then it's frosted and decorated to look like a log. It's a strange concept to have food that mimics a fallen tree trunk and mushrooms, but I guess it's no stranger than making houses out of gingerbread cookies. I didn’t think I would have the time to do this month's challenge and I was totally saddened by the thought of missing a challenge for the first time since I joined back in February (when we were just 10 bakers!). But even though I've had a super busy month, I luckily found the time to make the yule log.

I felt totally comfortable making the genoise so I had no problems with the cake part of the recipe. After letting the baked genoise cool, I trimmed the edges and then rolled it unfilled on a sheet of parchment that was dusted with powdered sugar. This sort of "pre-rolling" makes rolling the filled sponge a bit easier.

I was a bit nervous about making the buttercream since the chatter among the Daring Bakers was that this buttercream had a tendency to curdle if not handled properly. There are different types of buttercream. The basic American-style buttercream is just softened butter beaten with powdered (icing) sugar. Italian buttercream is made by pouring hot sugar syrup into whipped egg whites. Then softened butter is added slowly and whipped until it's light and fluffy. Swiss buttercream is made by warming the egg whites and sugar over a water bath (bain marie) and then whipped until it's cool. Then softened butter is added slowly and whipped until it's light and fluffy. This buttercream was Swiss.

My buttercream started out silky and gorgeous albeit a bit runny so I was hopeful that I had made it correctly. All hope was dashed as soon as I added the espresso mixture to the cream. The buttercream broke and never quite returned to its silky state. I know that my meringue was cool enough before adding the butter but I think my butter may have been too soft. I didn’t want to waste all that butter and start over again so I threw in some powdered sugar to help bind the broken buttercream. That seemed to work but the extra sugar made the buttercream a bit too sweet. In hindsight, I should've added some cream cheese instead of the powdered sugar to salvage my buttercream.

To decorate our yule logs, Lisa and Ivonne gave us the option of making mushrooms out of meringue or marzipan. I chose meringue. I was doubtful that my meringue would even resemble real mushrooms but I was pleasantly surprised at how realistic they turned out. And the meringue mushrooms were so easy to make too. I ended up with a lot of extra mushrooms but they stayed nice and crisp for a few days so I had some sweet nibbles whenever the mood struck.

My overall experience with this recipe was mixed, but I probably won't make it again. It's not the recipe, it's me. Even though my yule log wasn't very pretty, I think my yule log was more about the way it looked than the way it tasted. Many of my tasters agreed with that sentiment. I'm sure the other 400 or so Daring Bakers might disagree with me, so go read what they have to say about their yule logs. Best wishes for a very happy holiday season and I'll see you in 2008!


Yule Log (Bûche de Noël)

Plain Genoise:

3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
pinch of salt
3/4cup of sugar
1/2cup cake flour - spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off
1/4 cup cornstarch

One 10 x 15 inch jelly-roll pan that has been buttered and lined with parchment paper and then buttered again

1.Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F.

2.Half-fill a medium saucepan with water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat so the water is simmering.

3.Whisk the eggs, egg yolks, salt and sugar together in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer. Place over the pan of simmering water and whisk gently until the mixture is just lukewarm, about 100 degrees if you have a thermometer (or test with your finger - it should be warm to the touch).

4.Attach the bowl to the mixer and, with the whisk attachment, whip on medium-high speed until the egg mixture is cooled (touch the outside of the bowl to tell) and tripled in volume. The egg foam will be thick and will form a slowly dissolving ribbon falling back onto the bowl of whipped eggs when the whisk is lifted.

5.While the eggs are whipping, stir together the flour and cornstarch.

6.Sift one-third of the flour mixture over the beaten eggs. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the flour mixture, making sure to scrape all the way to the bottom of the bowl on every pass through the batter to prevent the flour mixture from accumulating there and making lumps. Repeat with another third of the flour mixture and finally with the remainder.

7.Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.

8.Bake the genoise for about 10 to 12 minutes. Make sure the cake doesn’t overbake and become too dry or it will not roll properly.

9.While the cake is baking, begin making the buttercream.

10.Once the cake is done (a tester will come out clean and if you press the cake lightly it will spring back), remove it from the oven and let it cool on a rack.

Coffee Buttercream:

4 large egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
24 tablespoons (3 sticks or 1-1/2 cups) unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
2 tablespoons rum or brandy

1.Whisk the egg whites and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Set the bowl over simmering water and whisk gently until the sugar is dissolved and the egg whites are hot.

2.Attach the bowl to the mixer and whip with the whisk on medium speed until cooled. Switch to the paddle and beat in the softened butter and continue beating until the buttercream is smooth. Dissolve the instant coffee in the liquor and beat into the buttercream.

Filling and frosting the log:

1.Run a sharp knife around the edges of the genoise to loosen it from the pan.

2.Turn the genoise layer over (unmolding it from the sheet pan onto a flat surface) and peel away the paper.

3.Carefully invert your genoise onto a fresh piece of parchment paper.

4.Spread with half the coffee buttercream (or whatever filling you’re using).

5.Use the parchment paper to help you roll the cake into a tight cylinder.

6.Transfer back to the baking sheet and refrigerate for several hours.

7.Unwrap the cake. Trim the ends on the diagonal, starting the cuts about 2 inches away from each end.

8.Position the larger cut piece on each log about 2/3 across the top.

9.Cover the log with the reserved buttercream, making sure to curve around the protruding stump.

10.Streak the buttercream with a fork or decorating comb to resemble bark.

11.Transfer the log to a platter and decorate with your mushrooms and whatever other decorations you’ve chosen.


Meringue Mushrooms:

3 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup (3-1/2 ounces/105 g.) granulated sugar
1/3 cup (1-1/3 ounces/40 g.) icing sugar
Unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting

1.Preheat the oven to 225 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. Have ready a pastry bag fitted with a small (no. 6) plain tip. In a bowl, using a mixer on medium-low speed, beat together the egg whites and cream of tartar until very foamy. Slowly add the granulated sugar while beating. Increase the speed to high and beat until soft peaks form when the beaters are lifted. Continue until the whites hold stiff, shiny peaks. Sift the icing sugar over the whites and, using a rubber spatula, fold in until well blended.

2.Scoop the mixture into the bag. On one baking sheet, pipe 48 stems, each ½ inch (12 mm.) wide at the base and tapering off to a point at the top, ¾ inch (2 cm.) tall, and spaced about ½ inch (12 mm.) apart. On the other sheet, pipe 48 mounds for the tops, each about 1-1/4 inches (3 cm.) wide and ¾ inch (2 cm.) high, also spaced ½ inch (12 mm.) apart. With a damp fingertip, gently smooth any pointy tips. Dust with cocoa. Reserve the remaining meringue.

3.Bake until dry and firm enough to lift off the paper, 50-55 minutes. Set the pans on the counter and turn the mounds flat side up. With the tip of a knife, carefully make a small hole in the flat side of each mound. Pipe small dabs of the remaining meringue into the holes and insert the stems tip first. Return to the oven until completely dry, about 15 minutes longer. Let cool completely on the sheets.

4.Garnish your Yule Log with the mushrooms.



Peabody said...

Yes, I too commented on how strange it is to eat a cake covered in fungus that looks like a fallen log.
A lovely job.

eatme_delicious said...

I love how you positioned the mushrooms. Very cute.

ostwestwind said...

Your log looks great!

Happy Holidays

Ilva said...

Yes! That was the curdling moment, the adding of the espresso liquid! And no, my butter was definitely not too soft! So let's the blame the espresso!It looks lovely Mary!

Princess of the kitchen said...

Looks wonderful Mary! I too was stunned at how realistic the mushrooms looked once assembled and they were so easy to do. I think i will make them again.

Dharm said...

Nicely done Mary! I too thought that the buttercream was way too sweet and also, for me, the cake looks much better than it tasted. Nonetheless, a fun challenge and I wish my mushrooms had stayed crisp like yours did! Great Job as always!! Have a great Xmas!

michelle said...

I lived in fear of curdled buttercream for weeks before making it! :)

Lis said...

Aww Mary, I think it turned out beautifully! And your mushrooms look spectacular.. I had a problem with my mushrooms.. I couldn't stop eating them before I could assemble them. :P

Ya done good.. like always. :D


glamah16 said...

This cake is so much more about appearances. Personally it was probally to sweet for some. But I guess it depends on your variations. I liked this project because there were so many challenges inside one. Happy Holidays.

kitten said...

Great job. I love your "pre-rolling" method... I will keep that in mind for future projects. My butter cream separated also, but I used the 911 method (after it has cooled) of taking 25% of the buttercream and melting it, then mixing it back in with the rest and it whipped together perfectly!

Karen Downing said...

Looks great! Love your idea to pre-roll the cake.

Anonymous said...

Looks wonderful!


MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Wow, I do love your mushrooms Mary!
I just figure it's the fantasy of childhood to eat a log!
I kept thinking my buttercream was going to crack but I just kept the mixer going and told it there was not going to be a second chance.

Chris said...

looks wonderful. I, too, love the 'srooms!

VeggieGirl said...

Mary, no need to be nervous about the outcome of this Yule Log - it looks so exquisite!! Haha, this is perhaps the only time eating funghi on a cake would NOT be too strange :0)

Anonymous said...

I had the same problem with when adding the espresso to the buttercream. Oh well, what a fun cake to make. I love you cute little mushrooms! Happy Holidays!

Meeta said...

Oh look at all that fungi on your log. Weird tradition but a perfect challenge Mary. Well done!

Cookie baker Lynn said...

Great job on your cake! It looks wonderful. I'm with you on the taste. It's not something I'd wake up in the middle of the night craving.

Claire said...

I'm with you on having a cake made to look like a fungus-y tree. Although, my friends' favorite part was the mushrooms! Nice job.

breadchick said...

Great job on the challenge this month. Makes me wish I had been able to complete the challenge. Great tip too on how to roll the log.

Mary, it has been an absolute pleasure and joy to bake with you this year as one of my Daring Baker sisters. I am looking forward to baking with you again next year. Joy Noel!!

deb said...

i think yours turned out great!

Kim Stone said...

Very pretty log! I'd eat it in a minute.g

Quellia said...

Oh no, I'm with you. It was more a look than a taste thing. Glad to see I was not alone on this one.
Your mushrooms look great, btw!

marias23 said...

Mary, I love your technique of pre-rolling the genoise. Wonderful job, as usual :) Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Suzanne from Gather at the Table said...

Lovely mushrooms!

Tartelette said...

Love the look if it Mary! I makes me hungry for buttercream again!
Happy Holidays to you and your family!

Lemonpi said...

I agree about the strangeness of making a log shaped cake for Christmas, but I'm sure we've seen stranger things fashioned into cakes ! :)

Hilda said...

I can't tell that your buttercream didn't end up perfect, looks wonderful to me. Happy Holidays!

Anonymous said...

Your log looks great, Mary. We have to agree with you on the taste. Just kinda..blah. Merry Christmas to you and yours :)

Merav said...

Beautiful log!! Love the assembly too :-)

Judy @ No Fear Entertaining said...

What a great Yule Log!

Baking Soda said...

I mixed the liquid with melted chocolate ánd the butter before I added it to the whipped egg whites (and crossed all extremities while doing so) and that worked.
Great job Mary, love the 'shrooms

Brilynn said...

Happy holidays Mary! Well done on another challenge!

Cheryl said...

Great job and great save with the buttercream.

Elle said...

Mary, Glad you decided to meet the challenge again. Your mushrooms are darling and the photo of the genoise rolled with the parchment is awesome. Buttercream alsways seems tricky to me.
Happy Christmas and New Years! See 'ya in 2008!

Elisabeth said...

The story of your buttercream sounds almost exactly like mine. I also wondered if I added too soft of butter. My buttercream was very runny but letting it set overnight totally changed it.

Your log looks good.

creampuff said...

I love how organic your mushrooms look ... like they're actually growing out of the log! It's beautiful, Mary. Happy Holidays!

Beth G. said...

YUM!! You did an awesome job, it looks fantastic :)

Lunch Buckets said...

Nice looking log, I agree, the mushrooms are great.

StickyGooeyCreamyChewy said...

Mary- It looks great! Your tip about pre-rolling the genoise was very helpful. Thanks.

Have a wonderful Holiday!

Veron said...

That is gorgeous Mary! I'm posting mine tomorrow. I had quite the adventure with the buttercream too.

Mandy said...

Wonderful log! Your mushrooms look so real~

Cynthia said...

Happy Holidays to you and the family!

Anonymous said...

You log looks fantastic! Loved how your genoise rolled up so easily =)
Merry christmas!

Dolores said...

Gorgeous! Thanks for the tip on pre-rolling the genoise... I will use that the next time I try something of this nature. I also appreciate your tips for fixing a broken buttercream.

Merry Christmas to you and yours, and best wishes for a happy healthy new year!

maybahay said...

lovely yule log. will keep in mind your tip to roll the sponge in parchment dusted with sugar for next time. thanks.

Fruit tart said...

Your log looks great and I love the mushrooms. They were my favorite part!

Julius said...

I love your bûche de Noël. :)

Happy Holidays!

Julius from Occasional Baker

Marie said...

Great looking log Mary! I, too, almost freaked when I added the rum coffee mixture to my buttercream. It curdled and I thought I am never ever going to be able to rescue this, but I beat it like mad and all of a sudden it came back together! Whew!!! My absolute favourite challenge thus far and I am loving your mushrooms!

Mochene said...

I made buttercream in class one day (years ago) and learned a lesson that hasn't failed me yet. Patience. My buttercream was beautiful until it too turned into a wet curdled mess. My chef suggested I put it in the cooler for a while, then mix it on low speed with the paddle. I was doubtful, but minutes later (maybe 15) I had the silkiest buttercream in the class. You can always fix it by chilling it some, if it is too loose from over warm butter, or the meringue melting the butter, or, if it is too cold, then lightly run a torch around the sides of the metal bowl until it comes together.

Great log of course. Wish I'd stopped by your house for the holidays!

Madeleine said...

Great Job!!!

Your cake look so spongy!!!

Gretchen Noelle said...

Mary, very nice log. I agree that the presentation is much more impressive than the actual taste. Hope you had a wonderful Christmas!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

A great looking log! Very well done!



Half Baked said...

Your log looks great! well done!

Deborah said...

I think yours turned out lovely. I hope you had a great Christmas!

Jen Yu said...

Mary, your genoise is perfection. I love it. Your yule log is awesome too! Great job :) and Happy New Year!

jen at use real butter

Cakespy said...

Nice 'shrooms! Looks lovely.

wmpe said...

I agree it was about how the log looked. I will not use the swiss buttercream for this application again. Your photos look good as do the mushrooms. Wendy

The Baker & The Curry Maker said...

Pre-rolling huh!? Wish I'd known that! Your Yule looks great. Happy New Year.

Angela said...

Gorgeous Yule Log, Mary!

Happy New Year!

alice said...

That is interesting about the pre-rolling. Thanks for the tip!

Amy said...

Pre rolling is a good tip. :) Your buttercream still looks great and the mushrooms are so cute. Well done!

Amy said...

P.S. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and Happy New Year!

Mandy said...

When I googled "broken buttercream" I found this post and I'm so glad I did! I added cream cheese to my broken buttercream that I was making for a birthday cake and it was saved! Thank you thank you, I'll never forget that little piece of knowledge.

And I know this post was written awhile ago, but it is a beautiful cake!

Thanks again!