Sunday, December 28, 2008

Daring Baker's December Challenge: French Yule Log (in 6 Part Harmony)

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.

6 elements, 8 layers, 19 pages of instructions, 2 caramel burns, 3 days, 2 helpers, 1 exhausted Daring Baker. This one was a doozy! I merely read the instructions started hyperventilating. My palms got sweaty and I got all confused and in a complete tither. Of course, since everything else in December gets me confused and in a complete tither, I did the whole ostrich deal and waited until Thursday to start on this creation. Some people were doing an actual “log-ish” type thing. I pounced on two teeny weenie little words literally on the very last page of the 19 pages of directions. At the very bottom of the very last page I saw: “springform pan”. Can you say life preserver?

The whole log concept and inverted vs. right side up assembly vs. upside down assembly vs. dacquoise on the top or bottom or both, version A or version B, etc., was making my brain vibrate and eyes cross. (breathe, breathe, breathe). X'ing out all the variations I wasn't using with a big fat sharpie helped me get my brain wrapped around this. I took the straightforward approach and did mine in a 9” springform pan, right side up with one layer of the dacquoise biscuit on the bottom. I chose hazelnut as the overall theme for the cake (sorry I refuse to say that we worked like fools for 3 days on a LOG) and Hazelnut is the flavor du jour. My mom and sister were here and they helped with the execution. More on that later.

The 6 prescribed elements are:
1. Dacquoise biscuit
2. Dark chocolate mousse
3. Dark Chocolate Ganache Insert
4. Praline Feuillete (Crisp) Insert
5. Vanilla Crème Brulèe Insert
6. And finally, Dark Chocolate Icing

The order in which I made these components did not follow the order above.

I did mine as follows:
1. Vanilla Crème Brulèe Insert
2. Dacquoise biscuit
3. Praline Feuillete (Crisp) Insert
4. Dark Chocolate Ganache Insert
5. Dark chocolate mousse
6. And finally, Dark Chocolate Icing

1. Vanilla Crème Brulèe Insert
My sister and her husband went on a recent cruise to French Polynesia including Tahiti and Bora Bora (yeah, it does sound like a Bugs Bunny cartoon, but they did go and had a grand time, I might add) and brought back with them (among many other wonderful things) a kilo of vanilla beans. Yes, you read that right – one kilo of Tahitian vanilla beans. Guess what I got for Christmas? :D I got a nice bottle full of beans and some homemade vanilla extract. Yum yum. I scraped down one of those precious lovely little beans and parked it in the cream to infuse a while. While that was soaking I started on the...

2. Dacquoise biscuit
DH went to Whole Foods during lunch one day and faithfully picked me up some whole hazelnuts (filberts to some) and had the spice/nut guy grind up a container into hazelnut meal for my recipe. This was fairly straightforward. There was no piping into pretty little spirals like some of the directive pictures suggested – I smushed it down on the silpat and into the oven it went. Pulled it out to cool and cut to size. Easy peasy, unlike the.....

3. Praline Feuillete (Crisp) Insert
Can you say caramel? Again? Incredibly inconceivable as this might sound I could not find store-bought praline anywhere down here. And this is the South, mind you! Land of Nathalie Dupree and Paula Deen! I think it’s a conspiracy. I smashed up some of the whole hazelnuts with a rolling pin, and I had some caramel sauce left over from November’s caramel cake and used that. Twice. The first batch scorched while I was reheating it. Being the frugal girl I am, I asked my DS and DM to rinse all the sugar out and salvage the nuts for round 2. Round 2 was better and I pulled it off in the blonde stage and before it became an amber brunette. I used les Krispies des Rice in lieu of la gavottes/lace crepes for the “crisp” part of the program. I sprayed 2 plastic spoons with Pam spray and tossed the rice krispies with the hazelnuts and sugar mixture. I then plopped it on some waxed paper, put another layer on top and flattened it out to make my circle. Into the fridge and later cut it to size. Then we jumped...

4. Back on the Crème Brulee wagon.
I thought I’d be clever and use the springform pan to cook the brulee, but that quickly changed when it sprang a leak and started flooding out of the bottom. Quickly flipping through my brain for ideas – EUREKA! The silpat circular baking pan I have – the kitchen gods were smiling on me (at that point) as the diameter was the same as the springform pan. Yay! DS helped me pour it all in and we popped in the oven without a hitch. I froze it after it cooked and it popped out of the silpat like a frisbee and nestled down so neatly into the springform pan. Little did I know that the kitchen gods are fickle and can turn on you (and your mother) in an instant. This was made abundantly clear in the next step, the...

5. Dark Chocolate Ganache Insert.
“Step 1: Make a caramel”. Ok, we made another caramel, we burned another caramel and we burned our fingers on the molten lava sugar. (Gee, I wonder if it tastes as burnt as it smells? Let's have a sample...doh!) Blisters for both me and my mom – that crap is HOT. Just as bad as hot glue (insert Voice of Experience here). It hits your finger, burns the heck out of it then instantly cools ever so slightly, so that it turns from liquid to solid and it’s stuck on your damn finger, continuing to broil the flesh underneath it and you can’t get it off. More of my good friend Silvadene cream, followed by a miracle product my DS brought me – Melagel, made from teatree/melaleuca plant. Amazing. No scars, not blisters and not sensitive to heat or touch the next day. A must for every kitchen and home. But I digress. Screw the “make a caramel” part. Kraft made the caramel, we stirred the chocolate into it. I smeared it onto the dacquoise layer with a spatula. Little did we know that the next step held yet more challenges like the...

6. Dark chocolate mousse.
This includes a Pate a Bombe which is a term used for “egg yolks beaten with a SUGAR SYRUP, then aerated.” Helloooooo! CARAMEL IS A SUGAR SYRUP! and this has the word BOMB in the title! I’ll spare you the details, but this layer turned out slightly chunky, as the SUGAR SYRUP BOMB turned into chunks of hardened caramel/sugar and no amount of whipping, beating, magic bulletting or smashing would break them up. So, slightly chunky it is. I refrigerated the mousse per somewhere I read, but wound up having to microwave it to make it workable again. No piping here but more smearing with a spatula and fingers.

At this point, all the layers are cut and assembled in the following order:
Dacquoise
Ganache insert
mousse
praline/crisp insert
mousse
creme brulee insert
mousse

and the whole shebang went into the deep freeze for the night. Today I unmolded the cake and it was this nice, sturdy wheel thingy. Very nice. Then I started on the last (TYG!) step, the...

7. Dark Chocolate Icing.
I mixed the gelatin with water and let it rest for 15 minutes. I came back and pouf! She is gone. “Ah, honey, where’s the little bowl that had goopy stuff in it that was on the counter? In the dishwasher – it was empty wasn’t it?” I hope to heaven that it dissolves completely in there. Made it again and babysat this time. This was easy peasy as well, but it took a long time to cool. I finally got impatient and dumped it on the cake. I had to pick it up and roll the sides around in the pan to coat them. Thank goodness it was frozen solid.

Back into the chiller for about a half hour and then into the fridge. The 1/2 hour maximum defrost is a huge underestimation. It was in there for the entire run time of the movie Wall-E (98 minutes, FYI) and it still was frozen solid. I carved it up regardless to take my photos and tried a bite. Frozen = eh, it’s just ok. I've left the slice out on the counter during the time I'm typing this (also about 97 minutes and counting) and ran in there just now to re-try it = mmmmmm much better and the threatened apocalyptic catastrophe of melty, runny stuff is nowhere to be seen. Nothing has pooled or gotten all gloppy– it’s room temperature, tasty and all the layers are still intact. (Note: still in one piece after 3 hours and tastes even better.)
NOW I can taste the hazelnuts and the chocolate. Veni, vidi, vici, venti.
(I came, I saw, I conquered, I got the t-shirt and a latte.)

Thanks to Hilda and Marion for selecting this month’s Daring Bakers Challenge. You can find the complete recipe (all 19 pages :D) on their sites.

To see what all the other DBer’s did, you can find the blogroll here and if you’d like to join the monthly party, info about that can be found on that page as well.

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32 comments:

  1. It looks beautiful and delicious, you did a wonderful job. I was tempted to freak out too. I'm still recovering from the non-stop bake-athon leading up to Christmas Day!

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  2. I need a nap after reading about what is involved with making this cake. Next time I think about joining the Daring Bakers, I'm going to come back and read this post. It looks amazingly delicious, though!! I hope that you all had a Merry Christmas!

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  3. Looks great! You'd never know that it was so hard when you cut it. You know...I didn't even think about the ganache really being a caramel until now, though I did think it was strange to make a chocolate component like we made the caramels last challenge! Hmm! Glad you had such good success.

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  4. I loved this recap! Totally cracked me up. Sorry to hear about the Caramel Wars, seems like you won in the end so it's all good. :) I like the way it looks as a cake--very impressive and distinguished.

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  5. Your cake looks very nice. I made a round one too. I can see you had a lot of fun with this challenge.:)

    It took me close to a week to work up my courage to go look at the challenge a second time.:D

    Best Wishes for the festive season a Happy New Year._

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  6. I always love reading your posts - so entertaining! Your log/cake is beautiful!

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  7. a kilo of vanilla beans??? wow! your cake looks delicious!!! well done!

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  8. Oh, my, you are BRAVE, Lisa! As well as Daring. Just the thought of all that hot sugar gives me the willies. (A bowl of ice water right next to the stove was my savior the last time I got a caramel-making burn). Your finished product is absolutely stunning, and I'm sure you will savor every mouthful. Good job by you and your sister and mother!
    Nancy

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  9. This looks delicious! It's really pretty as a round cake. :)

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  10. Beautiful job - and I also like your round shape. Looks like you nailed this one!

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  11. The springform was my lifesaver too - I don't need *another* pan! And I think this DB thing is going to kill the caramel-phobic out there, so kudos on pushing through all that too. Beautiful job.

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  12. Your log looks wonderful. It is beautiful!

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  13. Lovely looking yule-log/cake. The layers look perfect! Congrats on this month's DB challenge... keep up the great bakes!

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  14. Yay, I'm glad I'm not the only one who hyperventilated :)
    I think your final product turned out just lovely!

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  15. I love your cake. It looks perfectly gorgeous and delicious.

    I, too, just got back from French Polynesia. I did not, however, buy a kilo of vanilla beans. I bought some and it truly is very good vanilla.

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  16. Totaly wonderful, Lisa!
    I love how you got it to turn out with such a perfect, yet free-form look!
    I wish I had thought about that shape... I wouldn't do the same thing, in a million years! No sir! LOL
    BRAVO to your great success!

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  17. Such a beautiful cake! Great job on this challenge - here's to the new year,

    Amy

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  18. I couldn't have done it. Seriously. It's gorgeous.

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  19. I bow at your Daring Baker feet. Congratulations! It looks worth the time, money and pain.

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  20. This was one challenge that truly deserved the 'Daring' Bakers name! Sorry you had so much drama but it makes for great reading :-) Looks delish too!

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  21. Wow. After reading what other DB'ers went through to make this month's challenge, I'm kind of glad I didn't have time. This sounded crazy - especially during the holidays.

    Good job on getting it done - your log, er, cake, looks fantastic.

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  22. That looks gorgeous and delicious!

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  23. Your yule log is beautiful!!!!! It looks so yummy!

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  24. I am sure Daring Bakers is not for me after seeing this gorgeous cake. And I do mean gorgeous! Wow. You should be so proud of it. I want to taste it.. . . send a slice over won't you? Happy New Year.

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  25. Very cool looking cake! I dig it round.

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  26. Love your write up! Hazelnut sounds delicious. Glad everything came together in the end. I thought about doing a circle and I really like how yours turned out. I may have to try again!

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  27. That was one heck of a recipe to undertake, especially in December! Congrats to you for completing it.

    It came out fantastic.

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  28. Those layers are perfect, well done!!

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  29. Your layers look great!

    I'm sorry to hear that you guys got burned. That is the worst!

    I think you're right about letting the cake defrost more. Mine was stuck in the car for 2 hours and it was fine when we ate it.

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  30. You did a great job! Congrats.

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