Recipe: french yule log
It’s that time again… time for another Daring Bakers Challenge! 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.
daring bakers: we knead to bake!
I very much have a love-hate relationship with the Daring Bakers these days. I love learning new techniques and skills that I would otherwise never think to try on my own and there are some really fantastic bakers in the community who inspire me to keep coming back each month for more punishment. I’m almost always glad to have completed a challenge no matter how many disastrous steps along the way, I just don’t know how long I will continue to keep it up.
At first blush, I rolled my eyes when I read that our challenge was a yule log. We did that last December. However, after reading up on the difference between this month’s French yule log and its jellyroll cousin, I was game. It’s a more complex assembly and required some fast thinking when various components didn’t work out. I felt the instructions were overly simplified in many places and just plain vague in others. In the end, it came together nicely, but I won’t lie to you and say I didn’t do a fair bit of cussing along the way.
There were six components to the yule log which I made over the course of three days in this order:
day 1: the praline feuillete, the crème brûlée
day 2: the dacquoise, the ganache, the mousse
day 3: the glaze
First I made the feuillete, which involved praline and gavottes (lace crepes) – neither of which I had or planned to make. Sorry kids, I am not made of spare time and three days for a cake in the middle of ski season can really put a girl in a foul mood. I used sweetened hazelnut butter for the praline paste and rice crispies for the gavottes. I didn’t crush the rice crispies, which I guess I was supposed to (it said to crush the gavottes, but I had no idea what those looked like so I figured they were giant sheets in need of crushing), but that didn’t matter so much. What mattered more was that the layer was a little thickish and in the future I’ll make it thinner so that I can cut through it more easily when slicing the cake.
imposter feuillete made with rice crispies
cooling in a ziploc
So the first part went over well enough. While the feuillete cooled, I made the crème brûlée. I’ve made crème brûlée more times than I can count on my fingers and toes. The tricky part was that this one had to be unmolded and inserted into the yule. The recipe suggested wetting the pan and placing parchment on it before pouring the custard in for baking. Within two seconds, the parchment began floating about in the custard, so I removed it and figured I would have to jimmy some sort of solution to get the custard out in one piece.
Instead of setting after an hour, I had to up the temperature to 300°F at 1 hour and let the crème brûlée bake another hour before it looked somewhat set. I wasn’t worried about burning it since it was in a water bath. Even with the extra hour, it was still a little runny. I refrigerated it for several hours and used a very thin metal spatula to loosen the crème brûlée. I then flipped it out onto plastic wrap and watched it ooze in several places. I threw more plastic wrap on top and set it on my toaster oven pan (shallow, but small enough to keep it from spreading to micron thickness) and chucked the whole mess in the freezer.
adding the hot cream
letting the crème brûlée cool
The next day, I made the dacquoise, which came together quickly and easily. I spread the mixture out onto the baking sheet a little thinner than I should have. Next time I’ll pile it a little higher since I think it lends very nicely to the overall dessert. This was my favorite part of the yule (to make and nibble on).
blending almond meal and confectioners sugar
folding the almond meal into the egg whites
Because the recipe instructions warned that the ganache insert hardened quickly, it was recommended that I make the mousse first, so I did. The mousse involved whipping egg yolks and then pouring in a hot sugar syrup (soft ball stage) while whipping the egg yolks. Unfortunately, the instructions said nothing about how fast the yolks should be whipping when pouring the sugar in – that and I suspect the volume of the eggs was just ridiculously small for my 5-quart Kitchenaid mixer because my balloon whisk barely reached the yolks to whip them. So what I got was a mixing bowl coated on the sides with hardened sugar, but almost none in the egg yolks. Goddamnit.
that pissed me off royally
Instead of trying again, I said to hell with THAT mousse recipe and I consulted my own pastry course’s chocolate mousse recipe, opting to make that one instead. It also involves pouring a hot sugar syrup into the whipped eggs, but here I found helpful instructions on beating the eggs on medium while pouring the sugar in the middle of the bowl and not on the sides. That might have been good to know in the other recipe.
trying again with a trusted mousse recipe
folding chocolate and whipped cream
By now, I was in no mood to make a caramel-based chocolate ganache insert. I mixed a 2:1 ratio of chopped dark chocolate to hot cream and let it spread out on parchment to cool flat because I knew that *this* would work. Then I began to cut the three inserts into a size just smaller than the dimensions of my half-pipe mold (which I got for 15% off since the lid was dented, but as I told Helen, who cares if the lid is dented?). The dacquoise was cut to exact size since it was the base.
had to cut the crème brûlée while frozen
slicing the dacquoise
The assembly went quickly because the crème brûlée was melting. I didn’t have any acetate (oh boy, I would *love* to get my hands on acetate) to line my mold, but I did save and wash some smooth and slippery sheets that are layered between the prosciutto I buy! I taped three together and they fit the half-pipe perfectly. I piped the mousse into the bottom to fill the rounded part of the half-pipe. The crème brûlée insert went in first and I pressed it down to embed it in the mousse. I added enough mousse to cover that layer and pressed the feuillete in next. Repeat with more mousse and the ganache insert. I forgot that the dacquoise goes on after the ganache and managed to squeeze a thin layer of mousse in between the two. Oh well – the dessert didn’t suffer from it. Because I had made a lot of mousse from using my other recipe, I also made two small hemisphere yules as well.
piping the mousse into the mold
the crème brûlée insert
piping more mousse over the feuillete
topping the whole thing off with the dacquoise
After day #2, I wasn’t sure I wanted to deal with day #3… but there was only a little bit left to do. I generally have very little time to peruse the Daring Bakers’ forum where DBers can discuss all sorts of issues. I felt that it would be worth my time to read up on the final glaze to avert any pending disasters, and I’m glad I did. I decided to double the amount of glaze and followed suggestions to let the glaze cool as much as possible while still being pourable to minimize melting the mousse. I was also careful to work quickly as the glaze would set very quickly on the frozen ensemble. Unmolding the yule log was about the easiest part of the whole thing.
peeling off the liner
Glazing went better than expected, but was not without its problems. I noticed that the cocoa powder clumped a bit while I mixed the glaze, so I passed the whole lot through a fine mesh sieve to avoid a diseased appearance on the yule log. The glaze did melt pockets of the mousse in small areas and it also glopped up at the base instead of leaving a clean side. After the first pass of glaze, I immediately put the yule log(s) in the freezer to set up. I scooped the excess glaze caught in the baking sheet below the cooling rack and used it with the remaining glaze for a second coat and a little touch up here and there. Into the freezer for a second time. I added final decorations and froze the log before serving. It begins to lose its structural competency within a few minutes out of the freezer, so slice with a sharp knife immediately out of the freezer and enjoy this amazingly delicious and deceptively light and decadent dessert.
baby dome version
the final french yule log
A huge thanks to our beloved founders: Lis of La Mia Cucina and Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice, as well as our hostesses for this month’s challenge. Be sure to peruse all of the other Daring Baker challenges, there are many delightful variations.
French Yule Log
by Flore of Florilège Gourmand
element #1: dacquoise biscuit (almond cake)
preparation time: 10 min + 15 min 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. (3/4 cup + 1 tbsp/80g) almond meal
1.75 oz. (1/2 cup/50g) confectioner’s sugar
2 tbsps (15g) all-purpose flour
3.5 oz. (100g/100ml) about 3 medium egg whites
1.75 oz. (4 tbsp/50g) granulated sugar
Finely mix the almond meal and the confectioner’s 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.
element #2 dark chocolate mousse
preparation time: 15 min
Note: I used a different mousse recipe that doesn’t call for gelatin.
10.5 oz. bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 large eggs, room temperature
5 large egg yolks, room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
3 tbsps water
2 cups heavy cream
Melt the chocolate in a microwave at half power for 30 seconds at a time, stirry after every 30 second interval until just melted. Pour the chocolate in a bowl large enough to hold all ingredients and set aside until cooled to room temperature. Place eggs and yolks in a mixer with balloon whisk and whip for 1 minute. Put the sugar and water in a small saucepan and stir to moisten the sugar. Bring to a boil until temperature reaches 244°F (227°F for 8500 ft. elevation). Remove from heat. Start beating the eggs again on medium speed and slowly and steadily pour the sugar syrup, pouring down the center, not on the side of the bowl or on the whisk attachment. When all of the syrup is added, increase speed to high and beat until eggs pale, triple in volume, and cool to room temperature. In a large bowl, whip the heavy cream to medium peaks. Fold a quarter oft he cream into the cooled chocolate. Fold in remaining cream, followed by egg mixture. Try not to deflate the batter too much.
element #3 dark chocolate ganache
preparation time: 10min
Note: I used my own ganache recipe for this
6 oz. dark chocolate, chopped
3 oz. heavy cream
Place chocolate in a bowl. Heat the cream in a saucepan until just boiling. Remove from heat and pour over dark chocolate and let sit for a minute. Stir until smooth and silky. Pour onto parchment and let cool or set in a refrigerator.
element #4 praline feuillete
preparation time: 10 min
3.5 oz. (100g) milk chocolate
1 2/3 tbsps (25g) butter
2 tbsps (1 oz./30g) praline (I used hazelnut butter with 1 tsp sugar added)
1 oz. rice krispies or corn flakes or Special K
Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler. Add the praline and 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
preparation time: 15min + 1h infusing + 1h baking
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)
1/2 cup (115g) whole milk
4 medium (72g) egg yolks
0.75 oz. (2 tbsps/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. [Jen's note: this doesn't work.] Pour the cream into the mold and bake at 300°F for about 1-1.5 hours in a water bath 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.
element #6 dark chocolate icing
preparation time: 25 min (10 min if you don’t count softening the gelatin)
Note: Because the icing gels quickly, you should make it at the last minute.
Jen’s Note: I made twice as much as the amount listed below.
4g or 1/2 tbsp powdered gelatin or 2 sheets gelatin
1/4 cup (60g) heavy cream (35% fat content)
2.1 oz. (5 tbsps/60g) granulated sugar
1/4 cup (50g) water
1/3 cup (30g) unsweetened cocoa powder
Soften the gelatin in cold water (about 1/4 cup of water for 1 tbsp of powdered gelatin) for 15 minutes. Boil the rest of the ingredients and cook an additional 3 minutes after boiling. Add gelatin to the chocolate mixture. Mix well. Pour through a fine sieve. Let cool while checking the texture regularly. As soon as the mixture is smooth and coats a spoon well (it is starting to gel), use immediately.
Note: 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.
Line your mold or pan 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. Pipe one third of the mousse component into the mold. Take the crème brûlée 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 crème brûlée. Cut the feuillete 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 feuillete. Freeze for a few hours to set. Take out of the freezer. Pipe the ganache onto the frozen mousse leaving a slight edge so that ganache doesn’t seep out when you set the dacquoise on top. [Note: Here is where Jen added a layer of mousse by accident, but it was fine.] Close with the dacquoise. Freeze until 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. Decorate. Transfer to the refrigerator no longer than 1/2 hour before serving as it may start to melt quickly.