...by any other name would taste as sweet.
I hope everyone had a nice holiday. My husband and I have been "celebrating" non-stop since the week before Christmas. From the holiday potluck at the office to the annual winter solstice dinner ("tong yuan") at my parents' house and now the Christmas parties, I feel like I've been eating non-stop. And we still have 2 more holiday events to attend before New Year's Eve. I decided that the Christmas Eve soiree at my brother's house would be the perfect place to serve the French yule log that I would make for this month's Daring Bakers' challenge.
The hosts for the December 2008 challenge are Hilda of Saffron & Blueberryand Marion of Il en faut peu pour etre heureux and they chose the most amazing recipe for us to try. It's a French yule log. Well, it's actually an entremets which, according to Hilda and Marion, can be loosely translated as cream dessert. This French yule log is very different from the genoise roll filled with buttercream that we did for last December's DB challenge, but no less decadent. I used 19 ounces (540 g) of chocolate, 4 ounces (113 g) of butter, 7 eggs, and 27 fluid ounces (785 ml) of heavy cream (35% fat content) to make my dessert for the challenge.
We were required to include six components in our dessert - dacquoise biscuit, mousse, crème brulee, praline crisp, ganache and icing. Marion and Hilda let us choose any flavors we wanted for the components and also allowed us to assemble it in any fashion as long as all six components were present in the completed dessert. The recipe document was quite intimidating at first glance but each of the six parts included flavor variations which made the document seem much longer and more complicated than it actually was.
I wanted to a do a half-pipe. So my dear husband bought a short length of 4-inch diameter PVC plumbing pipe from the hardware store and cut it in half lengthwise to make a half-pipe mold. I cut some cardboard semi-circles to make "ends" for the mold. I didn’t have rhodoid or sheets of acetate, so I cut a sheet protector (from the office supply store) to line the mold. I held it all together with tape. It's not pretty but it does the job.
The dacquoise biscuit
I chose to make an almond dacquoise. I wasn't sure if it was supposed to be crisp like a meringue or if it was supposed to be soft like a sponge cake or genoise. Mine was soft which made it easy to line my mold. I had no problems with the recipe. I baked mine in a 10x15x0.75-inch pan and it was done in the time the recipe said it would be done. I had enough dacquoise to line the top and bottom of my half-pipe mold and some leftover too.
Dacquoise on the top and bottom of the pre-iced log.
I made a chocolate mousse with 56% Valrhona chocolate. The technique of making a pate a bombe was a new one for me. Pate a bombe is cooked sugar syrup beaten into egg yolks and it can be used to make mousses more stable. Even though the sugar syrup was heated to 244F (118C) before it's added to the egg yolks, I was still a bit worried about using raw egg yolks in my mousse. So I deviated slightly from the recipe given to us. I beat my egg yolks until they were slightly lightened in color and beat in the hot sugar syrup. I then continued to beat the mixture over a low flame for 3-4 minutes to keep the mixture warm. Then I removed it from the heat and beat the mixture with my Kitchen Aid stand mixer until it was thick and cool. My only issue with the pate a bombe was that my KA whisk attachment could barely reach the yolk-sugar mixture at the bottom of the bowl even though I have the small (5 quart) model. So I got a good work out and beat it by hand until it had increased in volume enough for the KA whisk to reach adequately. The chocolate mousse was silky and delicious.
The crème brulee
The only problem with the vanilla crème brulee recipe that I heard from the other Daring Bakers was the very low baking temperature. I've made many crème brulees and I've never baked any at a temperature as low as 210F (100C). So I cheated and baked mine at 300F for 35 minutes. I used a water bath (bain marie) to protect the custard from over baking and it came out perfectly. I baked mine in a lined 9x5-inch loaf pan and it ended up about 2 cm thick. Some other Daring Bakers mentioned that they found the frozen creme brulee to be rather icy, but luckily mine was extremely smooth and creamy.
I couldn't fit everything into my half-pipe mold so I made a small "log" in a 3x5-inch loaf pan with the extras. This small one doesn't have a second layer of dacquoise on top; there's only the base layer.
The praline crisp
I was not able to find gavottes, a French lace crepe wafer cookie, to make the praline feuillete and I was too tired to make the gavottes, so I used crushed Rice Krispies cereal. I also didn’t want to go through the trouble of making my own praline since I only needed 2 tablespoons. I had some candied pecans so I just blitzed some in the mini food processor and used that instead. I used a 70% Valrhona chocolate. I loved the praline crisp and I will definitely make it again.
The recipe was very straightforward and easy. I don't know the reasoning behind using caramel. I guess it's supposed to add some depth of flavor to the dark chocolate ganache. I had some ganache leftover so I made chocolate truffles with the leftovers. I even rolled some of the truffles in powdered sugar and made a snowman.
I was a bit worried about making the icing after reading some comments on the DB forum. Some other DBs were having problems with the icing not setting up properly or having an icing that was like a rubber skin. Instead of using the dark chocolate icing recipe which uses cocoa powder, I used the variation provided for the milk chocolate icing. But in place of the milk chocolate, I used a combination of 56% and 85% Valrhona chocolate. My icing set up properly and tasted delicious. The only problem I had was trying to smooth the icing over the log after having poured it over the log. This left unattractive streaks in the finish. I should have just poured the icing and not touched it.
Decorated with chocolate leaves made by brushing melted chocolate on clean lemon leaves.
Everyone at the party just loved the dessert. Some people thought that I bought the yule log and they were quite impressed that I had made it myself. My favorite part was the frozen crème brulee and the praline crisp. I had no trouble cutting through the log since I took it out of the freezer and put it in the refrigerator 2 hours before serving.
I couldn’t get a good clear photo of the inside of the half-pipe log during the party. But here's a so-so shot while we were serving it at the party.
I was hesitant when I first learned what we were doing for this month's challenge. The recipe looked a bit overwhelming and time consuming. Turns out it wasn't hard at all and I absolutely loved every minute I worked on the dessert. This is exactly what I wanted to get from joining the Daring Bakers. I learned a new technique (pate a bombe), I got to practice caramel making (I love using the dry sugar method now), and the praline crisp was just genius. I can use all the individual components in a multitude of recipes in the future. This month's challenge showed me the endless possibilities of entremets. A huge merci to Marion and Hilda and be sure to check out our blogroll.
The recipe is quite long. If you would like to see the recipe I used to make my log, please go to my Google document or visit Marion or Hilda's blog for the recipe with all the variations.
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.
The source of the December 2008 challenge recipe is Florilège Gourmand.
The author who wrote the original recipe which served as inspiration for the challenge recipe is Flore of Florilège Gourmand.
The hosts for the December 2008 challenge are Hilda of Saffron & Blueberryand Marion of Il en faut peu pour etre heureux.