This gives layer cake a whole new dimension. We've had a couple of those within the Daring Bakers' challenges this year, but none quite like this one. This was an exquisite example of taking a few of the most delectable desserts, loved by many, and putting it together, layer upon layer all in one dessert. Trust the French to pull off something like this so elegantly!
This delightful dessert was selected by the adventurous Hilda from Saffron and Blueberry and Marion from Il en Faut Peu Pour Etre Heureux for the December Daring Bakers' Challenge - a French Yule Log by Flore from Florilege Gourmand.
It was exactly a year ago when Hilda and I got together via Google chat to make buttercream and genoise for our Yule Log - Bûche de Noël, which was our Daring Bakers challenge last year. So, the fact that my sweetest Hilda was one of the hostesses this year and she was challenging us to make a French Yule Log made me smile.
In France one can buy two kinds of Yule logs, either the Genoise and Buttercream type that the Daring Bakers made last December, or what is more commonly purchased, a frozen Yule Log very reminiscent of an ice cream cake. However it is often not made of ice cream but rather a frozen mousse of some sort. In French this is called an entremets, which is sometimes loosely translated in English as simply a cream dessert. This also means that this recipe is not holiday-specific, it is also just a scrumptious dessert recipe.
I, however did make this as our Christmas dinner dessert. We spent Christmas with Tom's family and with the 8 of us there was enough dessert for 2 meals.
The French Yule log had 6 components and we had to make all 6. However, Hilda and Marion gave us enough leeway by offering several different flavor varieties for each component. The components of the French Yule log were:
- Dacquoise Biscuit
- Ganache Insert
- Praline (Crisp) Insert
- Creme Brulee Insert
Even though Hilda had posted a warning about the length of the recipe, I still freaked at the 18 pages Word document! But then realized she was right. Once I had chosen my flavors and the elements the recipe reduced drastically. I read the entire document several times and finally decided to go with a chocolate-coconut Yule log.
Another thing that seemed very important to me was to make sure to organize myself perfectly. I wanted to make this French Yule log in one day and had taken the day off from work. I shopped the day before and then sat down to work out the order in which I would tackle each element of the French Yule log. Once I had all that sorted, I went to bed feeling more relaxed.
I started early the following day and read through the instructions again. Then began with setting out all the ingredients for the first Yule log element. I counted off each element of the log, one by one, as I completed them. I got excited as I found I was breezing through them without any major problems. Finally, albeit for the icing, I was done! The icing on the cake and decorations was completed the next day.
The order I tackled each component seemed to have been the trick:
- Praline (Crisp) Insert
- Creme Brûlée Insert
- Dacquoise Biscuit
- Ganache Insert
This order worked really well, I had enough time for each component and could go on to the next when one was either infusing, cooling, freezing or hardening. I always made sure to weigh and set out my mis-en-place for each component so that I would not get into a stress while preparing it.
I cannot believe this is the last challenge for 2008! It all zoomed past so fast. I missed out on just one challenge this year, my first challenge in the 1 1/2 years of being a Daring Baker. I do look forward to 2009 and all the sweet and savory challenges it will bring.
- Monthly Mingle theme this month World of Spice Cookies
- Deadline January 5
- Bake delicious cookies sweet or savory highlighted by a spice
- One lucky winner will win the cookbook a Field Guide to Cookies
- Come on over and join us. Details here.
The recipe below is for the chocolate coconut version of the French Yule log I made. You may view the entire French Yule Log recipe separately with all the offered varieties as provided by Hilda and Marion.
Recipe Chocolate & Coconut French Yule Log
Printable version of recipe here.
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.
2.8 oz (3/4cup + 1Tbsp / 80g) almond meal
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 caster 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.
For the Coconut Dacquoise
Substitute ¼ cup of almond meal and add 2/3 cup shredded coconut in Step #1 of the Almond Dacquoise.
Element #2 Dark Chocolate Mousse
Preparation time: 20mn
Equipment: stand or hand mixer with whisk attachment, thermometer, double boiler or equivalent, spatula
Note: You will see that a Pate a Bombe is mentioned in this recipe. A Pate a Bombe is a term used for egg yolks beaten with a sugar syrup, then aerated. It is the base used for many mousse and buttercream recipes. It makes mousses and buttercreams 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 such as the crème brûlée insert.
In the Vanilla Mousse variation, pastry cream is made to the same effect.
In the Mango Mousse variation, Italian meringue is made to the same effect. Italian meringue is a simple syrup added to egg whites as they are beaten until stiff. It has the same consistency as Swiss meringue (thick and glossy) which we have used before in challenge recipes as a base for buttercream.
The Whipped Cream option contains no gelatin, so beware of how fast it may melt.
Gelatin is the gelifying agent in all of the following recipes, but if you would like to use agar-agar, here are the equivalencies:
- 8g powdered gelatin = 1 (0.25 oz) envelope powdered gelatin = 1 Tbsp powdered gelatin = 1 Tbsp Agar-Agar.
- 1 Tbsp. of agar-agar flakes is equal to 1 tsp. of agar-agar powder.
2.5 sheets gelatin or 5g / 1+1/4 tsp powdered gelatin
1.5 oz (3 Tbsp / 40g) granulated sugar
1 ½ tsp (10g) glucose or thick corn syrup
0.5 oz (15g) water
50g egg yolks (about 3 medium)
6.2 oz (175g) dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1.5 cups (350g) 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 color (approximately 5 minutes until almost white).
2a. Cook the sugar, glucose syrup and water on medium heat for approximately 3 minutes (if you have a candy thermometer, the mixture should reach 244°F (118°C). If you do not have a candy thermometer, test the sugar temperature by dipping the tip of a knife into the syrup then into a bowl of ice water, if it forms a soft ball in the water then you have reached the correct temperature.
2b. 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.
2c. Continue beating until cool (approximately 5 minutes). The batter should become thick and foamy.
- In a double boiler (or one small saucepan in a larger one), heat 2 tablespoons (30g) of cream to boiling. Add the chopped chocolate and stir until melted and smooth.
Whip the rest of the cream until stiff.
Pour the melted chocolate over the softened gelatin, mixing well. Let the gelatin and chocolate cool slightly and then stir in ½ cup (100g) of whipped cream to temper. Add the Pate a Bombe.
Add in the rest of the WHIPPED cream (220g) mixing gently with a spatula.
Element #3 Dark Chocolate Ganache Insert
Preparation time: 10mn
Equipment: pan, whisk.
If you have plunging mixer (a vertical hand mixer used to make soups and other liquids), it comes in handy.
Note: Because the ganache hardens as it cools, you should make it right before you intend to use it to facilitate piping it onto the log during assembly. Please be careful when caramelizing the sugar and then adding the cream. It may splatter and boil.
1.75 oz (4 Tbsp / 50g) granulated sugar
4.5oz (2/3 cup – 1 Tbsp/ 135g) heavy cream (35% fat content)
5 oz (135g) dark chocolate, finely chopped
3Tbsp + 1/2tsp (45g) 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 (for most of you that means darker than last month’s challenge).
- 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.
Element #4 Praline Feuillete (Crisp) Insert
Preparation time: 10 mn (+ optional 15mn if you make lace crepes)
Equipment: Small saucepan, baking sheet (if you make lace crepes).
Double boiler (or one small saucepan in another), wax paper, rolling pin (or use an empty bottle of olive oil).
Note: Feuillete means layered (as in with leaves) so a Praline Feuillete is a Praline version of a delicate crisp. There are non-praline variations below. The crunch in this crisp comes from an ingredient which is called gavottes in French. Gavottes are lace-thin crepes. Presumably they are not available outside of France, so you have the option of making your own using the recipe below or you can simply substitute rice krispies or corn flakes or Special K for them.
I used plain wafer rolls or cigarettes russes often used to decorate ice-creams.
Gavottes (lace crepes - recipe by Ferich Mounia):
Makes 2.1oz / 60g
1/3 cup (80ml) whole milk
2/3 Tbsp (8g) unsalted butter
1/3 cup – 2tsp (35g) all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp / 0.5 oz (15g) beaten egg
1 tsp (3.5g) granulated sugar
½ tsp vegetable oil
- Heat the milk and butter together until butter is completely melted. Remove from the heat.
- Sift flour into milk-butter mixture while beating, add egg and granulated sugar. Make sure there are no lumps.
- Grease a baking sheet and spread batter thinly over it.
- Bake at 430°F (220°C) for a few minutes until the crepe is golden and crispy. Let cool.
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) Wafer rolls or cigarettes russes cookies, placed in a Ziploc bag and then coarsely crushed using a rolling pin.
- 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).
- Melt the white chocolate and butter in a double boiler. Stir until smooth and add the toasted coconut.
- 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 Vanilla Crème Brûlée Insert
Preparation time: 15mn + 1h infusing + 1h baking
Equipment: Small saucepan, mixing bowl, baking mold, wax paper
Note: The vanilla crème brûlée can be flavored differently by simply replacing the vanilla with something else e.g. cardamom, lavender, etc...
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
- 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 (100°C) 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.
Note: You can bake the crème brûlée without a water bath since it is going to go inside the log (the aesthetics of it won't matter as much since it will be covered with other things). However, a water bath is recommended for the following reasons:
- you will get a much nicer mouth feel when it is done
- you will be able to control its baking point and desired consistency much better
- it bakes for such a long time that I fear it will get overdone without a water bath
Since it is baked in a pan and it is sometimes difficult to find another large pan to set it in for a water bath, even a small amount of water in your water bath will help the heat be distributed evenly in the baking process. Even as little as 1 inch will help.
I used a loaf pan and placed it in an ovenproof dish filling the dish with water just below halfway up the loaf pan.
Element #6 Dark Chocolate Icing
Preparation time: 25 minutes (10mn if you don’t count softening the gelatin)
Equipment: Small bowl, small saucepan
Note: Because the icing gelifies quickly, you should make it at the last minute.
For other gelatin equivalencies or gelatin to agar-agar equivalencies, look at the notes for the mousse component.
4g / ½ Tbsp powdered gelatin or 2 sheets gelatin
¼ cup (60g) heavy cream (35 % fat content)
2.1 oz (5 Tbsp / 60g) granulated sugar
¼ cup (50g) water
1/3 cup (30g) 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.
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.
You have two choices for Step 2, you can either have Dacquoise on the top and bottom of your log as in version A you can have Dacquoise simply on the bottom of your log as in version B.
I prepared the French Yule Log using version A, the instructions to which you will find below. For the instructions and recipe in its entire form you can view the document here.
- 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.
- 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.
- Pipe one third of the Mousse component on the Dacquoise.
- 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.
- Pipe second third of the Mousse component around and on top of the Creme Brulee Insert.
- 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.
- 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.
- Pipe the Ganache Insert onto the frozen mousse leaving a slight edge so that ganache doesn’t seep out when you set the Dacquoise on top.
- Close with the last strip of Dacquoise.
- Freeze until the next day.
The order of the French Yule Log will be as follows:
- Creme Brulee Insert
- Praline/Crisp Insert
- Ganache Insert
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..
I used chocolate shards, grated coconut and left over praline feuillete, which I crushed coarsely.
Transfer to the refrigerator no longer than ½ hour before serving. The mousse is quite robust and will hold up quite well.
This was my kind of dessert and my kind of challenge. I love mousse au chocolat and I adore crème brûlée. Adding this to a delicate layer of cake and crunchy praline is truly incredible. It certainly did get the well deserved AHA! effect when I presented this after our meal. Only Soeren knew what we were having for dessert as I managed to keep it a secret from Tom and the rest of the family. After a long guessing game I unveiled the French Yule log. It is a filling dessert so thinner pieces are advisable after a big meal. Anything else and it is an an ordeal to finish the portion off no matter how much one loves mousse and crème brûlée. I cut relatively thin slices and was relived to see everyone enjoy this in heavenly silence.
Being partly frozen it had something of a frozen parfait. I let it sit in the fridge to defrost for a little over 45 minutes and the consistency was just right. The mousse was chilled, yet still creamy and the crème brûlée was a delight. This was like eating a frozen crème brûlée ice-cream!
Would I make this again?
Yes! The fact that similar desserts can be enjoyed anytime of the year I am very much looking forward to spring and summer to create fruity versions of this Bûche. I am thinking of raspberries, blueberries, apricots and mangoes! The possibilities are ample. I can hardly wait to finish writing up this post to go and check out what my Daring Bakers buddies have been up to!
What did I learn from this challenge?
Organization is the name of the game! If you have a plan and can organize yourself, the making of is rather simple. The instructions on the recipe were very clear and there was nothing that left me in confusion. For those who want to re-create this recipe of the French Yule log, my word of advise is to read through the recipe well, plan out the order of the elements you want to tackle, organize yourself prior to each element by preparing the mis-en-place prior to making the Bûche and finally take it step by step - or rather element by element.
I thank dearest Hilda and Marion for making this one of the most exquisite challenges this year. What a way to end the year. Special thanks to Hilda for motivating me through this - Love you babes! I really advice you to take a few hours off and see what all my fellow Daring Bakers have conjured up - you won't regret it. That's exactly what I am off to do right now.
The Daring Bakers Challenges 2008 - A Recap
January 2008: Lemon Meringue Pie
February 2008: French Baguette
March 2008: The Perfect Party Cake
April 2008: Cheesecake Pops
May 2008: Opera Cake
June 2008: Danish Braid - Chocolate & Raspberries
July 2008: Sat out!
August 2008: Chocolate Éclairs - Hostess
September 2008: Lavash Crackers & Ajvar
October 2008: A Medley of Pizza
November 2008: Caramel Cake with Caramel Butter Frosting
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