Tuesday, December 30, 2008

One Heck of a Yule Log (My First Daring Baker 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

Wow! What an intimidating recipe – I kept staring at the binder-clipped packet that was to be my first Daring Baker challenge and wondering if I really wanted to try this. The truth is that I’m somewhat of an amateur baker and many of the items that made up the yule log were things I had never made before. Not wanting to be timid or take the easy way out, I made my grocery list and was on my way.

As Christmas edged closer (D-day for the yule log as a smashing dessert at my family’s get-together), I repeatedly checked the Daring Baker forums and was so thankful to be learning from other people as they worked their way through the different elements. From others and from my own experience with this, here’s what I learned, element by element (I should say that I stuck pretty much to the standard recipe except for using the milk chocolate ganache – since it was my first challenge, I didn’t want to get too risky):

1. I made my own praline for the crisp and then used Special K Protein Plus (because who doesn’t want a little healthiness mixed in with their sinfulness?). This was my husband’s favorite part. I thought this was a very easy element to make.
2. The crème brulee – ah, a lesson in trusting my own judgment. Just like others found in the forums, my brulee was nowhere near done at the given temp. So I bumped it up and kept it in longer…longer than my gut said it should be. Sure enough, it was slightly overdone. I waited until it was frozen and I was ready to embed it in the log before slicing off the top ¼ inch, which was very chewy and yellow (yuck!)
3. The dacquoise was easy to make but I didn’t really like the taste of it by itself. Fortunately, mixed with all the chocolate in the log, you can’t really taste it. It was super sticky, however; I may not have let it bake long enough.
4. The mousse was also easy to make – easier than I expected. It turned out absolutely delicious and was truly my favorite part of the whole dessert.
5. The ganache – also very yummy. I decided to go with the milk chocolate simply because I had the two different chocolates available to me and wanted to somewhat temper the overwhelming dark chocolate taste of the other elements.
6. The icing was probably the most difficult part, simply because I’ve never made this type of icing before, and I thought icing a frozen log was pretty challenging. My icing kept gelling up very quickly once touching the log, so smoothing the tops and sides was somewhat futile. My final product turned out a little lumpy and bumpy, but fortunately family doesn’t judge too harshly! I’m not really the best decorator so I used a few almonds I had set aside for a simple decoration and decided to be done with it.

Holy crow, the dishes – I swear I dirtied every dish in my entire house, and it took 3 runs of the dishwasher to clean them all! However, the family loved it, commenting on how rich and delicious it was. And I have certainly been enjoying the leftovers, pulling out the log whenever I feel a post-Christmas chocolate craving hit. When my hubby asked if I thought it was worth the work, I didn’t really know how to answer. I asked him if he thought it was worth all the dishes, to which he promptly responded, “No!”

Although I’ll probably not include this as an annual dessert for the holidays, I did enjoy making it as I learned SO much! Thanks Hilda and Marion for an excellent challenge!


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