Monday, December 29, 2008
Many thanks to Hilda of Saffron & Blueberry (http://saffronandblueberry.blogspot.com/) and Marion of Il en faut peu pour etre heureux (http://ilenfautpeupour.canalblog.com/) for this month’s daring baker challenge: A French Yule Log! The original recipe for the log is attributed to Flore and can be found here http://plaisirgourmand.perso.cegetel.net/index.html.
This challenge seemed quite daunting, requiring completion of 6 separate elements that are ultimately layered to form a scrumptious semi-frozen treat. I spent days “studying” the recipes, planning my grocery list (which included top-quality vanilla beans and chocolate bars), and determining the best order in which to execute the components. With so many elements, I chose to follow the recipe to the letter, not deviating with alternative flavorings. My goal was to prepare everything from scratch—even the gavottes (a product sold only in France) and the praline. But I was on a tight schedule with time being short for other holiday obligations (and plenty of snow shoveling). I did not have room for mistakes. BIG MISTAKE using that philosophy. This challenge certainly knocked my ego, hard.
This is where it began. The first recipe I chose to tackle was the Praline Feuillete. This is where things started to go wrong. I made the hazelnut praline without a hitch and then turned my attention to the gavottes. I guess I didn’t spread the batter thin enough because it never got to the crispy stage upon baking and stayed in a more pancake like form. Fortunately, I had purchased a box of crisped rice cereal as a back-up. I reached for it immediately while gobbling the still warm “gavotte”. YUM!
Next came the crème brulee insert. I thought for sure this would be no problem. I’ve made this treat more than a handful of times. Unfortunately, mine didn’t really set after baking for an hour. I thought for sure it would upon cooling, but it did not. Feeling harried I stuck it in the freezer, surely it would harden now! Most unfortunately I don’t think I gave it enough time to freeze. When it came time to assemble this layer it was still a sad, goopy mess.
Onto the mousse. My pate a bombe was just that—a total bomb! The egg yolks never became frothy and the sugar syrup turned to spun sugar and hardened against the sides of the mixing bowl upon contact. Why did this happen?! I can make Italian buttercream like a professional! Determined, I proceeded forth with the result, setting my mixer to whip the cream and furiously chopping chocolate for the next recipe. By the time I got back to the mixer my cream was on its way to becoming fresh butter. OOPS! This did not stop me from assembling the mousse with the components as they stood—no time to redouble now is what I was thinking. In the end, the mousse was actually not half bad—tasty and much more dense than one should expect. Though, this proved to be an added challenge when it came to assembly.
Next, I made the dacquoise biscuit and then the ganache. Both seemed to go off without a hitch. (Finally!) Then, I proceeded to assemble the log. The biscuit was plentiful, so I added it to both the top and bottom layers. Same for the praline, but these I stacked on top one another. Spreading the mousse was not a moment of which I’m proud. With its stiff consistency it seemed best to grab handfuls and pack into shape where necessary (picture mud pie assembly to understand technique). When it came time to pull the crème brulee from the freezer, I was deflated to see that it still was goop. Wanting to push forward (TICK-TOCK), I eased the goop as best I could into its requisite position and covered quickly with more mousse. It’s bound to freeze eventually, right? (This is why the crème brulee portion appears absent from the log. The layer was so thin, it melded almost inconspicuously with the surrounding mousse.)
While unmolding and icing my log I thought the shape was more reminiscent of a brick and hence named it so. Not having an occasion to serve it (Thank God, it’s appearance is a little embarrassing), I didn’t add any festive trifles on top. I imagined sprigs of holly or gumdrop snowmen and Santas would be really cute. A wintery scene definitely would offset its otherwise questionable appearance. Instead, I sliced the brick into servings and wrapped each individually to store in the freezer. No worries, my sweet tooth will not let these linger for too long. Perhaps I’ll even share with a non-judgmental friend or two. This dessert is so very tasty, despite my shortcomings in its execution.