Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Daring Bakers: French Yule Log

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.

Holy cow, what a challenge this yule log was! It had so many different elements, many of which I had never tackled before, that had to come together to form this beautiful dessert.

Besides being challenged by the recipe, I was also facing the issue of time. This month, we were allowed to post on any one of three days (thanks Lis and Ivonne!!) and even still, I'm getting my post in just under the wire.

Of course there was Christmas to deal with this month that took up a whole lot of my time, but there was another obstacle - an ice storm that left us without power for six ... count them SIX ... days. I had already begun my holiday baking by the time the storm hit and without power, I wound up having to throw away the entire contents of my refrigerator and freezer.

Seven garbage bags of food in the dumpster. What a crying shame! (Lovely image to share when you're expecting a beautiful dessert, no?)

I know, I know ... I was not alone in this storm and many others had it far worse than I did. I should thank my lucky stars that there was no damage to my house or car and that the power was finally restored in time to restart my holiday baking and get my gifts completed (again, in the nick of time - 4 a.m. on December 25!).

When I finally had the time to begin the challenge, I was daunted by the 18-page recipe. But I forged on and went shopping for the ingredients for the log. Two ingredients specified by the recipe were not available in my area but with recipes for each, I proceeded in making the missing ingredients.

This was my first mistake.

Missing ingredient #1: Praline paste
No problem, I thought. It's basically just a brittle that gets spun in the food processor until it becomes a paste.

Except it never became a paste.

I spun that crap around and around for what seemed like 45 minutes (with little breaks here and there for my poor old food processor) and it never changed beyond finely ground nut powder.

With advice from Linda, I added a few drops of vegetable oil. Then a few more. Then a few more. What the frick?! I must have added half a cup of oil before I got a paste. Finally - paste.

A lot of paste. What the heck do I do with all this extra paste?

If only I had seen earlier that Nutella is an acceptable replacement. I had a brand new jar sitting in my pantry the whole fricking time.

Missing ingredient #2: Gavottes or lace crepes
For this ingredient, the recipe specified that Corn Flakes, Rice Krispies or Special K could be substituted. But stubbon me said, "nah, I'll just make the gavottes with the recipe included in the challenge."

Um, yeah. So the lace crepe wound up thick and pliable instead of thin and crisp. In the trash it went and out came the Rice Krispies and Corn Flakes. Lucky I had them on hand (I usually don't).

So steps one and two were done - kind of - and I proceeded with the rest of the recipe.

Next up, step 3: Make the vanilla creme brulee insert.
Mixing this one up was no problem but when it came to pouring it in my mold, it seeped behind the parchment so when I unmolded it later, I lost a chunk to the mold.

My second issue with the brulee was in the cooking. Either the temperature was too low or the time was too short. Either way, I checked it after 1 hour - still liquid. I checked after another 30 minutes - still liquid. What the hell?

I looked to Alton Brown for answers and decided to crank up the heat for 30 minutes or so. Finally the stupid thing set ... um ... maybe too much. The very top of the brulee was overcooked but underneath was perfect. Screw it ... in the freezer it went!

Step 4: Dark Chocolate Mousse
My chocolate seized. Damn. I added more cream which smoothed it out some but not completely. Luckily, Julie had experienced the same thing and advised that I continue on. The chocolate smoothed out in the following steps and came out fine. Though my arm nearly fell off from all that pate a bombe nonsense.

Step 5: Praline Feuillete Insert
Frick, the chocolate seized again! What is it with me and chocolate? I thought we were friends. I continued on and wound up with a crumbly mess. I shaped it and froze it anyway. When it came time to cut it to size, it fell apart. I got one large piece in the mold and then poured the rest in.

Step 6 (isn't this thing done yet?!): Dacquoise
My supermarket doesn't carry almond meal so I made some in my coffee grinder - which worked perfectly. This step was not so bad except that I made my dacquoise too tall and then cut it too small. Gah.

Step 7: Dark Chocolate Ganache
I burned my caramel again - I'll get it right someday - but I had much better luck in adding the liquid to the hot caramel than I did last time. This time, I poured s-l-o-w-l-y and had no issue.

Step 8: Begin assembly (finally!)
The instructions said to line the mold with rhodoid - which is basically a plastic transparancy (remember those?) - or plastic wrap. Well I was fresh out of tranparencies (no, not really) and used the plastic wrap.

If you are brave enough to make this, go to the office supply store and buy some transparencies. If you don't and you just use plastic wrap, you'll have a lumpy bumpy log like I do.

The log was assembled and frozen until the next day when it was to be iced.

Step 9:Dark Chocolate Icing
The hardest part about this - well one of the hardest parts - was knowing when the icing was cool enough to use and not yet too cold to use. It had to be just the right temperature to pour and not clump up or run right off. The first go around, mine was too warm and just ran right off the log and pooled in the parchment below.

No biggie, I thought. I picked up the parchment, poured the excess back into my saucepan and let it cool a bit longer. Then I poured again, this time covering the top nicely but leaving mostly naked sides. So I poured the excess back into my saucepan and poured it over the sides. By this time, the icing had cooled off considerably and left me with an odd edge between the top and the sides. I considered leaving it until I noticed the partially naked side.

So, I made another batch of icing and did the whole thing over again. I finally got a decent coating on all sides and I popped that bad larry in the freezer to set up.

So how to decorate, I wondered. I considered doing chocolate ruffles but was so ready to be done that I gave up on the idea. I decided instead to just pipe a border along the bottom edge. I wanted a frosting that was dark and shiny like the icing and thought a whipped ganache would do the trick. Well, in the end, whipping the ganache lightened it up to about the same color as a chocolate buttercream ... but I didn't care. On went my border and I wound up with so much extra frosting that I did a top border too.

Finally, this sucker is done! It definitely tastes good - not too sweet - and I adore the flavor of the dacquoise.

Am I glad I stuck with it and completed the challenge? Absolutely. Did I wish I had pastry-queen Tartelette on speed dial? Oh yes. Will I make this again? Hells no.

If you'd like the recipe, visit Hilda's blog. And be sure to check out the blogroll to see the Yule Log trials and tribulations of the other Daring Bakers!


  1. Oh dear lord! Where did you get this talent? It wasn't from me (your mother) or even your grandmother (who burned everything when I was growing up and called it well done.) I'm so proud of you, honey. What an inspiration! i might even try to bake one of these days.

    Love you,


  2. What an adventure! Your piping is fantastic! I thought it was cocoa or coffee beans. Wonderful

  3. This made me laugh out loud a couple of times - and I feel exactly the same way about this challenge.

    Your cake is lovely!

  4. Your log looks beautiful! I love how you decorated it. Sorry to hear about the storm, and all that stuff you had to throw out! :(

  5. Look how beautiful your yule log is! Very nicely done!

  6. Such a beautiful log! I love the decorations! Great job!



  7. I was wondering if you would ever be interested in becoming a featured publisher with Foodbuzz.com? If so please conctact me at lizstambaugh@yahoo.com

  8. I think that you are a legend! Even Reading that recipe I needed a sit down in a darkened room!
    It looked beautiful in the end though! Very impressed x

  9. Amazing desert. absolutly love it ..just a little cream and a slice wow...cheers for sharing

  10. Wow, that's quite a story! I live near Boston and know more than a few people who had problems with that storm, but none of them made anything so nice afterwards. Great job, it looks fantastic. :)

  11. That looks fantastic! You'd never know the drama that had ensued previously (and hence thereafter everyone will request it again as they don't know what was involved). We both had a lot of the same problems with the elements :)

  12. Considering all you had to go to that is real Daring Baker spirit to have even gotten the challenge done! Well done on your log.

  13. OMG I think I could have written your post! I had the same problems with the gavoettes and the chocolate seizing and the mousse. It looks great though!

  14. Wow, your decorations are fantastic!!! You really should make it again one day!! Well done.. it's beautiful!

  15. The log looks beautiful, Holly!

  16. you can always substitute gavottes with pailleté feuilletine. I know Callebaut sells them ready-made. =)