Tuesday, December 30, 2008

December 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. Thank you all for the challenge - it was definitely the most daunting to think about all month long, so far, which is the point, now, isn't it? :)

My Yule Log is currently in the freezer setting up for its final journey to a New Year's Eve party tonight! I am hoping beyond all hope that it is delicious because it was time- and freezer-consuming :)

I'll go through the Log, component by component, and will have to come back tomorrow to post on overall flavor because we won't be cutting into it until tonight. I made my Log in a traditional bread loaf pan, lined with the poor choice of Press 'n Seal plastic wrap - it made my outside layer very wrinkly and was a b**** to get out of the frozen pan to ice.

Dacquoise: This was easier than I had anticipated. For some reason I kept imagining this being crunchy after baking, but alas, it is cake...why I thought this, I have no idea. I'm embarrassed to say that I actually went to school for baking & pastry arts and have MADE dacquoise before, so I don't know what was wrong with me in that thinking. I actually started certain components on Monday - this was reserved for Tuesday and I set aside a lot more time than I actually needed, which was nice, because it was started at almost 11 PM. The only thing I couldn't find was the almond meal, so I made my own, skins on.

Mousse: I actually went with the milk chocolate chantilly cream. I am a lover of dark chocolate, but I know quite a few unfortunate people who prefer the milk version, so I tried to mix and match so it wouldn't be too rich for them (trust me...everyone at this party tonight WILL try this thing!). It came out wonderfully and is delicious. I made this on Monday, refrigerated over night and whipped it up Tuesday night just before filling the mold.

Creme Brulee: I made the traditional vanilla creme brulee, however I have been having a hard time getting vanilla beans lately, so I went with straight pure vanilla extract - I do love vanilla bean specks, though, so it's not as pretty as it could be, but I used a pretty high quality extract, so hopefully the flavor is respectable. This was prepared and baked Monday and frozen overnight. It took almost 2 hours to bake, with a water bath. I'm a little afraid that I may have actually over-baked it, but the problem I was having was the center seemed set early on, but my edges were actually a little watery - meanwhile, the recipe said to bake until the edges are firm and the center is wobbly...hmmmm...

Praline Insert: Unable to find praline paste and failing to print out ingredients for the July praline recipe before shopping, I used Rice Krispies, milk chocolate and Nutella. I sampled some scrap pieces and it was okay...I am usually a big fan of Nutella, but the flavor wasn't really what I was hoping for. My hopes have now turned to assuming the praline layer will taste divine when it is cuddled up against all the other layers :) This was easy enough - I made it on Monday and kept it in the fridge overnight. Because I rolled it out long enough, I was able to cut two layers and just stacked them right on top of each other to make one thick layer.

Ganache: Okay, so if you look at photos of my Log, you will notice it is sadly missing a layer - there is no ganache. I am just embarrassed to admit that I did not have time. The only way I could see myself getting this layer completed and inside the Log would have been to set my alarm for like 2 AM this morning to get up and make it then, so it would have enough time in the freezer before icing. I won't go into my list of excuses - I wanted to bring this thing to NYE, so I have only that to fall back on.

Icing: I made the original dark chocolate icing, which I just finished about an hour ago. I actually had to make this twice - the first time, I used the 1/4 cup of water to soften the gelatin (powdered), not realizing that was in addition. By the time the chocolate mixture had cooked the additional 3 minutes, it was dry and burnt. So, round 2 - everything was fine, however, I felt it got a bit lumpy from the gelatin, so I wound up straining it and losing quite a bit of it in that process. This lead to a more "side-drip" look, rather than the desired full-coverage. If my outer mousse layer had been smoother I would have been fine with the drips, but it looks like a bit of a hot mess, as though it may have started celebrating NYE early, if you know what I mean. :) I'm heading to the party around 8 (it's about 3:00 now), so I'm trying to think of a fabulously creative way to decorate it and then I'll have pics ready to post.

- Laura, Lucky Cupcake

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