Another month is almost over and another Daring Bakers challenge has been made and eaten a thousand times all over the world! 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. This log is a little different to the Yule Log we made last christmas though as it is a frozen dessert rather than a sponge cake base. In this yule log we had to include 6 different layers: creme brulee, mousse, praline crisp, dacquoise biscuit, ganache & icing. Our wonderful host gave us plenty of different flavour variations for each of the inserts, so our first challenge was to decide on the flavourings we wanted to use.
I decided to go with a bit of an Australian theme with mine and flavour it like a Cherry Ripe. For those of you who don’t know what a Cherry Ripe is, it is a chocolate bar consisting of a cherry and coconut centre covered in dark chocolate. According to Wikipedia it is Australia’s oldest chocolate bar brand. I didn’t realise this back when I made the Cherry Ripe Slice a while ago! So my version of the log had a coconut flavoured dacquoise and praline crisp and a cherry flavoured brulee and ganache, with dark chocolate for the rest of the flavours. It worked out pretty well, but the creme brulee didn’t really take on the cherry flavour as much as I would have liked. I was hoping it would turn out red and give the log a bit of festive colour. I don’t think I would strain the cherries out of it and next time I would probably use cherry syrup from canned cherries or something similar to make it turn red and flavour it more. The overall flavour was wonderful though, the Cherry Ripe was definitely a hit.
The lack of cherry flavouring in the brulee was not the only problem I came across when making this dessert though. I don’t think the cooking fairies were on my side that day! First of all I tried to make my own gavottes for the crisp layer, but managed to put too much flour into the first batch (missed the fact that it was 1/3C minus 2tsp!), then I burnt the second batch onto my baking sheet so well that I couldn’t get it off! It wasn’t browning like it should have been and by the time the edges were browned the underside was well and truly glued on… so I used cereal instead as this was a suggested alternative – but the only cereal we had was a mixed cereal, so I had to sit there picking out all the suitable flakes and discarding the dried fruit and oats and bran…
Half an hour later and feeling like I should be in bed, I moved onto the dark chocolate mousse… first my egg yolks wouldn’t beat until frothy (could have something to do with the fact that everyone else was in bed and I didn’t want to crank my Kitchen Aid up too high and wake everyone up), then I cooked the caramel a bit too long and it solidified as I was adding it into the egg yolks, encasing itself all over my whisk attachment… and somehow while trying to pick the sugar strands off the whisk (I know I could have just put it in hot water to melt it off, but eating it is so much tastier! plus I wasn’t thinking so clearly at that time of the morning!) I managed to get a shard of sugar stuck in my thumb like a wood splinter… the more I tried to pull it out, the further it went in… I tried to suck it out to no avail… in the end I had to put my finger in hot water until it melted, until this challenge I didn’t even know this was possible… a sugar splinter? seriously!
Picking up a tea towel to dry my hands on I managed to send my candy thermometer flying across the room to land on the tile floor in a spectacular crash with the thin glass flying everywhere… I was wearing no shoes… no socks either! As a diabetic I should know better, but no, there I was standing in the middle of a room full of shiny, pointy broken glass that seemed to be looking at my lovely slow healing feet and smiling with glee at the damage it could do… or maybe it was just lying broken on the ground and I was hallucinating… who knows! I did some crazy kung fu style jump to get over all the glass and to the safety of some shoes and cleaned it all up… then had to remake the caramel for my mousse without a thermometer and guestimate when it was ready…
The rest of the recipe went off without too many dramas… although my creme brulee insert decided to break into 3 pieces when it was about a millimetre away from its resting place! At about 2 in the morning, with my first 3 layers completed I decided to call it a night… being the thoughtful person that I am (OK, so normally I would have just left the mess for someone else to deal with in the morning…) I filled the sink and left all the dishes to soak until the morning… including an enamel bowl that mum and Geoff got in Vietnam and ate breakfast out of every morning while they were there… apparently enamel doesn’t like to soak because the beautiful green bowl is now frosty and white except for a little patch that was sticking out of the water.. oops! Anyone know how to fix it??
Besides all these dramas this is actually one of the simpler Daring Bakers recipes we have had in a while… all of the issues I had were simply because I was having a bad day… my one caution to anyone who wants to make this is that it is not really a good night time baking activity… I do not suggest starting this at 9pm the night before you want to serve it (like I did)… especially not on boxing day when you are exhausted from the christmas festivities and all cooked out from baking christmas goodies and gifts… and for gods sake, if you burn your gavottes, please, please take that as a sign you need to go to bed and get some rest… otherwise you may end up with a smashed candy thermometer!!
Cherry Ripe French Yule Log Serves 10-12
I strongly suggest making the parts in this order to allow for setting times.
Cherry Creme Brulee
Heat 1/2C whole milk, 1/2C heavy cream, 1 scraped vanilla bean & 100g chopped cherries (next time I would try adding some cherry syrup for flavour and colour) to just boiling. Remove from the stove and let the vanilla infuse for about 1 hour.
Meanwhile, whisk together 25g sugar & 4 medium (72g) egg yolks (but do not beat until white). Pour the vanilla-infused milk over the sugar/yolk mixture. Mix well. Wipe your baking mold (whatever shape is going to fit on the inside of your Yule log/cake) with a very wet cloth and then cover with parchment paper. Pour the cream into the mold and bake in a water bath at 100C for about 1 hour or until firm on the edges and slightly wobbly in the center. (mine took a little longer than an hour) Let cool and put in the freezer for at least 1 hour to firm up and facilitate the final assembly.
Spread 25g shredded coconut on a baking tray and bake for 5-10 minutes at 190C to toast. Melt 100g white chocolate & 25g unsalted butter in microwave and stir until smooth. Add the toasted coconut and mix well. Add 60g coarsely crushed gavottes (lace crepes) OR 30g crushed flake cereal. Mix quickly to thoroughly coat with the chocolate. Spread between two sheets of wax paper to a size slightly larger than your desired shape. Refrigerate until hard.
Dark Chocolate Mousse
Soften 2.5 sheets gelatin OR 5g powdered gelatin in cold water. (If using powdered gelatin, follow the directions on the package.) Beat 3 medium (53g) egg yolks until very light in colour (approximately 5 minutes until almost white). Cook 40g sugar, 10g glucose syrup & 15g water on medium heat for approximately 3 minutes (if you have a candy thermometer, the mixture should reach 118°C). If you do not have a candy thermometer (or if you happen to smash yours all over the floor), test the sugar temperature by dipping the tip of a knife into the syrup then into a bowl of ice water, if it forms a soft ball in the water then you have reached the correct temperature. Add the sugar syrup to the beaten yolks carefully by pouring it into the mixture in a thin stream while continuing to beat the yolks. Continue beating until cool (approximately 5 minutes). The batter should become thick and foamy. Heat 30g heavy cream to boiling. Add 175g chopped dark chocolate and stir until melted and smooth.
Whip another 320g heavy cream until stiff in a clean mixing bowl. Pour the melted chocolate over the softened gelatin, mixing well. Let the gelatin and chocolate cool slightly and then stir in 1/2C of whipped cream to temper. Add the egg yolk mixture and then the rest of the whipped cream, mix gently with a spatula. Refrigerate until needed.
Gently mix together 1/2C almond meal, 2/3C dessicated coconut & 50g icing sugar. Sift in 15g plain flour. Beat 3 medium (100g) egg whites, gradually adding 50g sugar until stiff. Pour the almond meal mixture into the egg whites and blend delicately with a spatula. Grease a piece of baking paper and line your baking pan with it. 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). Bake at 180C for approximately 15 minutes or until golden. Let cool and cut to the desired shape. (This is best made the same day as assembly)
Dark Chocolate & Cherry Ganache
Using the dry method, melt 50g sugar by spreading it in an even layer in a small saucepan 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.
While the sugar is melting, heat 2/3C – 1Tbsp heavy cream until boiling. Pour cream into the caramel and stir thoroughly. Be very careful as it may splatter and boil. Pour the hot caramel-milk mixture over 135g finely chopped dark chocolate. Wait 30 seconds and stir until smooth. Add 45g softened unsalted butter and whip hard and fast (I used my stick blender for this). The chocolate should be smooth and shiny. Stir through 100-150g chopped fresh cherries. (This is best made right before you need to assemble the log)
Dark Chocolate Icing
Soften 2 sheets/4g gelatin in cold water for 15 minutes according to packet directions. Boil 60g heavy cream, 60g sugar, 1/4C water & 1/3C unsweetened cocoa powder and cook an additional 3 minutes after boiling. Add gelatin to the chocolate mixture and mix well. 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.
Line your mold or pan, whatever its shape, with clear hard plastic such as transparencies OR plastic film. I lined mine first with cling wrap and then with plastic pockets (of the office variety) cut to fit the sides and base of the pan.
Pipe one third of the Mousse component into the mold. 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. Pipe second third of the Mousse component around and on top of the Creme Brulee Insert. 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. Pipe the last third of the Mousse component on top of the Praline Insert. Freeze for a few hours to set.
Take log out of the freezer. Pipe the Ganache Insert onto the frozen mousse leaving a slight edge so that ganache doesn’t seep out when you set the Dacquoise on top. Close with the Dacquoise and freeze until the next day.
Unmold the log and set on a wire rack over a shallow pan. Cover the cake with the icing, making sure to cover any holes. Smooth it a little as you go and allow to set. Return to the freezer until needed. Transfer to the refrigerator no longer than ½ hour before serving as it may start to melt quickly depending on the elements you chose. I decorated my log with Cherry ‘berries’ and spearmint leaves cut with a little holly leaf cutter to make the ‘leaves’.