Recipe: yule log
Does it suddenly feel like you’re walking through the enchanted forest with all of the yule logs popping up on food blogs? Enchanted, indeed. It’s the Daring Bakers challenge for December! This month our most beloved founders: Lisa of La Mia Cucina and Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice are hosting the challenge and they picked this traditional pastry.
we knead to bake – oh yes! we most certainly do…
I had never made a yule log (aka bûche de noël) before, but I was familiar with all of the components. The three major parts were: meringue mushrooms, buttercream frosting, and the genoise. I began with the mushrooms.
beat the egg whites to stiff peaks
piping tops and stems
Aside from the final assembly, this was by far my favorite part of the challenge. I made my mushrooms small because I am small-food obsessed, remember? Because I love to hike and backpack, I have spent many hundreds of miles walking gorgeous woodlands admiring the different plant life that adorns trees – both fallen and living. I made the required mushrooms, and then I made some shelf mushrooms, and then I cut some little fungi (tree ears) from orange and yellow fruit roll ups while Jeremy ate all of the scraps. The meringues required much longer baking time than the suggested 50-55 minutes. I baked mine for an hour and 45 minutes.
a little daub of wet meringue at the base of each top
assembled shrooms ready for a little more baking
The assemblage of the mushrooms was terrific. I used the tip of my digital candy thermometer to poke a small hole in the base of each mushroom top, piped a bit of wet meringue for glue and attached a stem to each one. Every single mushroom was just too flipping cute.
Next up was the buttercream. I have a good standard Swiss meringue buttercream recipe that I use extensively. This one was pretty similar, except it called for a lot more butter. Based on my experience, I thought the resulting amount of buttercream would be cutting it close. I am risk-averse, so I decided to increase the recipe by 50%. I heated the egg whites and sugar to 140F and then whipped them for a loooong time (20 minutes or more) before it cooled down enough to accept softened butter without melting it.
gorgeous swiss meringue
I didn’t think the coffee buttercream in the recipe would be very dark, so I made half of the batch coffee and the other half chocolate. Unfortunately… I increased everything by 50% except for the butter. I think I’m so used to my standard recipe that the original amount of butter (3 sticks) sounded right for my increased 6 egg whites when I should have used 4.5 sticks.
chopped semi-sweet chocolate
folding the melted chocolate into the buttercream frosting
The genoise recipe looked suspect to me. I’ve made a lot of genoise recipes and this one had far more egg yolk content than I was used to. It whipped up in volume just fine.
the batter should hold a ribbon for 8 seconds
spread onto a prepped half sheet
After folding in the flour and cornstarch, I poured the batter into a jelly roll pan. As it baked, it seemed to do just fine. When I pulled it out of the oven, I noticed that the crumb structure was too egg-ish. Perhaps it is my elevation, but instead of a moist and airy crumb, I had larger air pockets and a stiffer structure to the cake. *unhappy*
spreading coffee buttercream
rolled like a ho-ho
I barely had enough coffee buttercream to cover the entire cake with a thin layer. It rolled up without too many problems, although the cake was more brittle than other genoises that I’ve handled. Once rolled, I wrapped it in wax paper and chucked it into the refrigerator to chill for an hour. I lopped off one end that looked a little ragged and then cut both ends on the diagonal. The chocolate buttercream was definitely darker and better looking for the log’s exterior.
happy cluster of mushrooms
I dusted with cocoa powder for that dirt effect. Then I dusted with powdered sugar for that snow effect. I cut up green fruit roll ups to mimic pine needles.
where fungi love to grow
my absolute favorites: shelf mushrooms
Overall, this cake was too sweet for my liking. I thought it was heavy on the buttercream frosting and that the texture of the genoise was horrid. That could have been my altitude, but I’m suspicious of a spongecake that is so heavy on the egg yolks. The mushrooms were fan-freaking-tabulous and our friends sat around popping one mushroom after another into their mouths. If I were to make this again, I’d use whipped cream for filling with a softer and lighter (less egg yolk) cake base. I’d keep the meringue mushrooms and would have to think hard about replacing the exterior frosting with a whipped cream base (I do think the buttercream looks better for the outside). A good and fun challenge and a springboard for new variations. Thanks so much, Lis and Ivonne!! Be sure to check out ALL of the other Daring Bakers yule logs. Happy holidays to all.
ye olde yule log
from Perfect Cakes by Nick Malgieri and The Williams-Sonoma Collection: Dessert
Serves 12. Cake should be stored in a cool, dry place. Leftovers should be refrigerated.
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
pinch of salt
3/4 cup of sugar
1/2 cup cake flour – spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off (also known as cake & pastry flour)
1/4 cup cornstarch
one 10×15-inch jelly-roll pan that has been buttered and lined with parchment paper and then buttered again
Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400°F. Half-fill a medium saucepan with water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat so the water is simmering. 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°F if you have a thermometer (or test with your finger – it should be warm to the touch). 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. While the eggs are whipping, stir together the flour and cornstarch. 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. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. 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. While the cake is baking, begin making the buttercream. 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.
4 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
24 tbsps (3 sticks or 1-1/2 cups) unsalted butter, softened
2 tbsps instant espresso powder
2 tbsps rum or brandy
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. 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: Run a sharp knife around the edges of the genoise to loosen it from the pan. Turn the genoise layer over (unmolding it from the sheet pan onto a flat surface) and peel away the paper. Carefully invert your genoise onto a fresh piece of parchment paper. Spread with half the coffee buttercream (or whatever filling you’re using). Use the parchment paper to help you roll the cake into a tight cylinder. Transfer back to the baking sheet and refrigerate for several hours. Unwrap the cake. Trim the ends on the diagonal, starting the cuts about 2 inches away from each end. Position the larger cut piece on each log about 2/3 across the top. Cover the log with the reserved buttercream, making sure to curve around the protruding stump. Streak the buttercream with a fork or decorating comb to resemble bark. Transfer the log to a platter and decorate with your mushrooms and whatever other decorations you’ve chosen.
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup (3-1/2 oz./105 g) granulated sugar
1/3 cup (1-1/3 oz./40 g) icing sugar
unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting
Preheat the oven to 225°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. Scoop the mixture into the bag. On one baking sheet, pipe 48 stems, each 1/2 inch (12 mm.) wide at the base and tapering off to a point at the top, 3/4 inch (2 cm.) tall, and spaced about 1/2 inch (12 mm.) apart. On the other sheet, pipe 48 mounds for the tops, each about 1-1/4 inches (3 cm.) wide and 3/4 inch (2 cm.) high, also spaced 1/2 inch (12 mm.) apart. With a damp fingertip, gently smooth any pointy tips. Dust with cocoa. Reserve the remaining meringue. 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. Garnish your Yule Log with the mushrooms.
8 oz. almond paste
2 cups icing sugar
3 to 5 tbsps light corn syrup
To make the marzipan combine the almond paste and 1 cup of the icing sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat with the paddle attachment on low speed until sugar is almost absorbed. Add the remaining 1 cup of sugar and mix until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Add half the corn syrup, then continue mixing until a bit of the marzipan holds together when squeezed, adding additional corn syrup a little at a time, as necessary: the marzipan in the bowl will still appear crumbly. Transfer the marzipan to a work surface and knead until smooth. Roll one-third of the marzipan into a 6 inches long cylinder and cut into 1-inch lengths. Roll half the lengths into balls. Press the remaining cylindrical lengths (stems) into the balls (caps) to make mushrooms. Smudge with cocoa powder.