This will be my last Daring Bakers entry until May, so I'm glad it was an exciting one! 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 best thing about this challenge is that it offered six different elements, each of which could be flavored however we liked. The base recipe was mostly chocolate, but I wasn't in a very chocolaty mood, so I decided to go with a vanilla, almond, orange and white chocolate yule log. The layers you can see above are an almond-orange dacquoise cookie topping a frozen vanilla mousse surrounding a layer of creme brulee and a layer of crunchy orange and praline white chocolate, then, at the bottom, white chocolate ganache and another almond-orange cookie. The whole thing is coated in a white chocolate icing.
The layers are made one at a time, and then gently nestled into a bed of mousse. The only changes I made to the recipe were to add a little orange zest and juice to the praline crisp, ganache, and cookie layers. In retrospect, I should have added some to the vanilla mousse as well.
Once again, you can see that my icing skills are subpar, but man, this thing tastes great. It's a perfect make-ahead holiday dessert, and really visually impressive (even moreso if you can make an even layer of icing!). All the layers interact together well in taste and texture, but my favorite is the praline crisp layer. Praline paste, white chocolate, crispy French cookies and orange makes for a crunchy, nutty, and satisfying mouthful. The only drawback to this project is that I didn't dare drive it across New England to family celebrations, so we're left to try to consume a giant loaf of incredibly rich frozen confection on our own! Maybe I'll go get another slice out of the freezer right now...
Element #1 Dacquoise Biscuit (Almond Cake)
- 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
- Zest of half an orange
1. 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).
2. Sift the flour into the mix, and gently toss in the orange zest.
3. Beat the eggs whites, gradually adding the granulated sugar until stiff.
4. Pour the almond meal mixture into the egg whites and blend delicately with a spatula.
5. Grease a piece of parchment paper and line your baking pan with it.
6. 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).
7. Bake at 350°F (180°C) for approximately 15 minutes (depends on your oven), until golden.
8. Let cool and cut to the desired shape.
Element #2 Vanilla Mousse
- 2/3 cup (160g) heavy cream (35% fat content)
- 2/3 cup (160g) whole milk
- 1 vanilla bean
- 4 medium-sized egg yolks
- 3 oz (6 Tbsp / 80g) granulated sugar
- 3 Tbsp (25g) cornstarch, sifted
- 4g / 2 tsp powdered gelatin or 2 sheets gelatin
- 1 cup (240g) whipping cream (35% fat content)
1. Pour the milk and 2/3 cup cream into a saucepan. Split the vanilla bean in half, scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean halves into milk and put the vanilla bean in as well.
2. Heat to boiling, then turn the heat off, cover and let infuse for at least 30 minutes. Then remove the vanilla bean.
3. Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until white, thick and fluffy.
4. Add the cornstarch, beating carefully to ensure that there are no lumps. While whisking vigorously, pour some of the milk into the yolk mixture to temper it.
5. Put infused milk back on the stove on medium heat. Pour yolk mixture back into the milk while whisking vigorously. Keep whisking vigorously until mixture thickens considerably.
6. As soon as the mixture starts to boil, leave on for only 2 more minutes. (The recipe says you should remove the vanilla bean at this time but in the interest of no one getting burned, that can be done after you take the pastry cream off the stove.)
7. Once removed from the heat, cover the pastry cream by putting plastic film directly on the surface of the cream (this prevents it from forming a thick and unappetizing skin as it cools). Let cool at room temperature.
8. Soften the gelatin in cold water and melt in a small saucepan with 1 tsp of water OR melt in the microwave for 1 second (do not boil). Whisking vigorously, pour the cooled pastry cream over it.
9. Whip the 1 cup whipping cream until stiff and add gradually to the pastry cream (DO NOT WHISK). Blend delicately with a spatula (DO NOT WHISK).
Element #3 White Chocolate Ganache Insert
- 1.75 oz (4 Tbsp / 50g) granulated sugar
- 5 oz (135g) white chocolate, finely chopped
- 4.5 oz (2/3 cup - 1 Tbsp / 135g) heavy cream (35% fat content)
- Juice of half an orange
1. Make a caramel: Using the dry method, melt the sugar by spreading it in an even layer in a small sauce pan 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).
2. 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.
3. Pour the hot caramel-milk mixture over the milk chocolate. Wait 30 seconds and stir, gradually adding the orange juice, until smooth.
Element #4 Praline Feuillete (Crisp) Insert
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
1. Heat the milk and butter together until butter is completely melted. Remove from the heat.
2. Sift flour into milk-butter mixture while beating, add egg and granulated sugar. Make sure there are no lumps.
3. Grease a baking sheet and spread batter thinly over it.
4. Bake at 430°F (220°C) for a few minutes until the crepe is golden and crispy. Let cool.
- 3.5 oz (100g) white chocolate
- 1 2/3 Tbsp (25g) butter
- 2 Tbsp (1 oz / 30g) praline
- 2.1oz (60g) lace crepes(gavottes)
- 2 Tbsp orange zest
1. Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler.
2. Add the praline, zest and the coarsely crushed lace crepes. Mix quickly to thoroughly coat with the chocolate.
3. Spread between two sheets of wax paper to a size slightly larger than your desired shape. Refrigerate until hard.
Element #5 Vanilla Crème Brulée Insert
- 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
1. Heat the milk, cream, and scraped vanilla bean to just boiling. Remove from the stove and let the vanilla infuse for about 1 hour.
2. Whisk together the sugar and egg yolks (but do not beat until white).
3. Pour the vanilla-infused milk over the sugar/yolk mixture. Mix well.
4. 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 then place the mold into a larger baking dish and add about an inch of water. Bake in the water bath at 210°F (100°C) for about 1 hour or until firm on the edges and slightly wobbly in the center. [I found this to be nowhere near long enough, and ended up turning up the temperature.]
5. Let cool and put in the freezer for at least 1 hour to firm up and facilitate the final assembly.
Element #6 White Chocolate Icing
- 1.5 gelatin sheets or 3g / 1/2Tbsp powdered gelatin
- 3.5 oz (100g) white chocolate
- 2 Tbsp (30g) unsalted butter
- 1/3 cup (90 g) whole milk
- 1 2/3 Tbsp (30g) glucose or thick corn syrup
1. Soften the gelatin in cold water for 15 minutes.
2. Coarsely chop the chocolate and butter together.
3. Bring the milk and glucose syrup to a boil.
4. Add the gelatin.
5. Pour the mixture over the chocolate and butter. Whisk until smooth.
6. 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.
Assemble the Yule Log
1) 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.
2) 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.
3) Pipe one third of the Mousse component on the Dacquoise. 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.
4) 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.
5) Pipe second third of the Mousse component around and on top of the Creme Brulee Insert.
6) 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.
7) Pipe the last third of the Mousse component on top of the Praline Insert.
8) Freeze for a few hours to set. Take out of the freezer.
9) Pipe the Ganache Insert onto the frozen mousse leaving a slight eidge so that ganache doesn't seep out when you set the Dacquoise on top.
10) Close with the last strip of Dacquoise.
Freeze until the next day.
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 and decorate as desired. Return to the freezer, transferring to the refrigerator no longer than ½ hour before serving.