It's the season for little things. Little things hidden in the branches, to remind you what it felt like to be a child at this time of year. Little things in boxes with bows to remind you that it's not so bad to grow up. And this year, little things hidden away in layers of dark chocolate mousse to make you wish you had been born in France.
Another month has come to a close and that means it's Daring Bakers time.
This month's challenge is brought to us by the adventurous Hilda from Saffron & Blueberry and Marion from Il en Faut Peu Pour Etre Heureux. They have chosen a French Yule Log by Flore from Florilege Gourmand. Not just any Yule Log, an entremets, a creamy frozen yule log filled with layers of various textures and flavors.
While all working from the same basic recipes, we were given flavoring options. After whittling down the recipe to the exact layers I would make, I was able to get the recipe down to 6 pages. Honestly it sounds so much more complicated than it actually is. I have reorganized my recipe to follow the order in which I made the elements, rather than the order it was place in the mold. I made most of the elements the day before assembly. The finished dessert looks like a great feat of engineering with the layers suspended in frozen chocolate mousse. In reality, the key was organization.
entremets- French Yule Log
Here is the order of elements for the frozen yule log, followed by the recipes and assembly instructions.
praline paste (this isn't an element, but an ingredient for the praline feuillete)
Praline Feuillete (Crisp) Insert
Creme Brulee Insert
Hazelnut Dacquoise Biscuit
Dark Chocolate Mousse
Dark Chocolate Ganache Insert
Dark Chocolate Icing
I used a 9 1/4" x 5 1/4" x 2 3/4" loaf pan as my mold for assembling the log.
1 cup hazelnuts toasted and skinless
2/3 cup sugar
line a jellyroll with lightly buttered parchment
Put sugar in 10" skillet. Heat on low 10-12 minutes until it melts around the edges. Do NOT stir, only swirl if necessary to prevent from burning. Brush sides with water to also prevent from burning.
For me, this took about 20 minutes. I had to do it twice. I found it worked a million times better if I heated it on a small burner. My large burner would burn the edges, without melting the center.
When melted and caramel in color, remove from heat and stir in nuts with wooden spoon. Return to low heat and stir to coat nuts. Cook until mixture starts to bubble. It is very hot. Carefully pour onto the parchment lined sheet and spread as evenly as possible. As it cools, it will harden to brittle.
Break into pieces and place in food processor.
Pulse to powder then process to a paste (several minutes). It will be similar in texture to almond paste. Store in a cool dry place. Do NOT refrigerate.
praline feuillete (crisp) insert
3.5 oz. milk chocolate
1 2/3 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons praline paste
30 grams rice krispie cereal (you could also use a homemade lace crepe [gavottes], but I opted out this time)
Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler. Add praline and cereal. Mix quickly to thoroughly coat with chocolate. Spread (with rolling pin) between two sheets of wax paper to a size slightly larger than your desired shape. Refrigerate until hard. This can be made ahead a couple of days and wrapped in plastic wrap.
vanilla creme brulee insert
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup whole milk
4 egg yolks
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 vanilla bean
Heat the milk, cream, and scraped vanilla bean to just boiling. Remove from heat and let steep for 1 hour. In separate bowl, whisk together the sugar and egg yolks. Pour the cream mixture into the yolk mixture and mix well. Pour into mold and bake for 1 hour or until firm on the edges and slightly wobbly in the center. I tried this with a water bath and it took over two hours. I would vote no water bath for this. I would also skip the parchment lining next time. It wouldn't stick to the foil so some of the cream ran underneath it. I used aluminum foil to make a mold slightly smaller than the loaf pan I would be using for the log. You could also make it any size and cut to fit the mold when assembling.
Let cool and put in freezer for at least 1 hour to firm up and facilitate the final assembly. If well wrapped, it can keep in the freezer for a day or two.
hazelnut dacquoise biscuit
I used this for the bottom layer only, but you can use this to line the top of the mold as well.
3/4 cup + 1 Tablespoon hazelnut meal
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
2 Tablespoons flour
3 medium egg whites (3.5 oz.)
4 Tablespoons granular sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix the hazelnut meal and confectioner's sugar together. Sift in flour. In separate bowl, beat egg whites, gradually adding granular sugar until stiff. Pour hazelnut meal mixture into the egg whites and blend delicately with a spatula. Line a jellyroll pan with a piece of buttered parchment. Spread batter onto paper to an area slightly larger than your desired shape and to a height of 1/3 inches.
Bake for approximately 15 minutes until golden. Let cool and cut to desired shape.
It's best to make the dacquoise the same day you will be assembling the log.
dark chocolate mousse
You will see that a Pate a Bombe is mentioned in this recipe. A Pate a Bombe is a term used for egg yolks beaten with a sugar syrup, then aerated. It is the base used for many mousse and buttercream recipes. It makes mousses and buttercreams more stable, particularly if they are to be frozen, so that they do not melt as quickly or collapse under the weight of heavier items such as the creme brulee insert.
1 + 1/4 teaspoons powdered gelatin
3 Tablespoons granular sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons light corn syrup
1/2 oz. water
3 medium egg yolks (50g)
6.2 oz. coarsely chopped dark chocolate
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
Soften the gelatin in water.
So hidden away in this recipe, I'm going to let you in on a little secret. I didn't know what "soften the gelatin" meant for powdered gelatin. Once, years ago, I special ordered sheet gelatin that I used for a mirror gilding project, but other than that, I have NO gelatin experience. Our recipe said "If using powdered gelatin, follow the directions on the package". My box had no directions for softening. I turned to Ask. com. The first site I looked said there was no reason to explain softening/blooming gelatin to the American housewife because they all make so much jell-o. Oops, guess I'm a bad housewife. I finally found out that all you are doing is sprinkling the powder over water. I also found out this works best in a shallow dish that allows for more surface area for the gelatin to work with.
Make a Pate a Bombe
Beat egg yolks until very light in color (about 5 min.) In a small saucepan, cook the sugar, corn syrup, and water on medium hear for about 3 minutes (to 244 degrees). 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. This is best done with an electric mixer. Continue beating until cool (about 5 min.). the batter should become thick and foamy.
In a double boiler, heat 2 Tablespoons of the heavy cream to boiling. Add the chopped chocolate and stir until melted and smooth.
Whip the remaining cream until stiff.
Pour the melted chocolate over the softened gelatin, mixing well. Let the gelatin and chocolate cool slightly and then stir in 1/2 cup of cream to temper. Add the Pate a Bombe.
Add in the rest of the cream, mixing gently with a spatula.
Best made the day of assembly.
dark chocolate ganache
Because the ganache hardens as it cools, you should make it right before you intend to use it to facilitate assembly. Please be careful when caramelizing the sugar and then adding the cream. It WILL splatter and bubble.
4 Tablespoons granular sugar
2/3 cup - 1 Tablespoon heavy cream (4.5 oz)
5 oz. dark chocolate chopped
3 Tablespoons + 1/2 teaspoon softened butter
Make a caramel: Using the dry method, melt the 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, you can swirl the pan occasionally to allow the sugar to melt evenly. I had better luck if I didn't stir it. Cook to dark amber color. While the sugar is melting, heat the cream until boiling. Pour cream into the caramel and stir thoroughly careful. Pour the hot caramel-milk mixture over the dark chocolate. wait 30 seconds and stir until smooth. Add the softened butter and whip hard and fast (or use an immersion blender). The chocolate should be smooth and shiny.
dark chocolate icing
Because the icing gels quickly, you should make it at the last minute.
1 Tablespoon powdered gelatin (the original recipe said 1/2, but this would not gel for me)
1/4 cup heavy cream
5 Tablespoons granular sugar
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
Soften the gelatin in cold water for 15 minutes. Boil heavy cream, granular sugar, water, and cocoa together and cook an additional 3 minutes after reaching the boiling point. Add gelatin 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 gel), use immediately.
assembling the yule log
Line your mold with parchment. I cut mine into a cross shape so the corner wouldn't be bunched up (because there's nothing worse than a bunched up corner on your entremets, right??) You could pipe the mousse, but I simply scooped 1/3 of the mousse into the bottom of the pan and and evened it out with an offset spatula. 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. Scoop another 1/3 of the mousse around and on top of the creme brulee insert. Cut the praline crisp insert to a size slightly smaller than the mold so it can be surrounded by mousse. Lay it on top of the mousse. Put the last third of the mousse on top of the praline. Freeze for a few hours to set. Remove from freezer. Spread the ganache insert onto the frozen mousse leaving a slight edges so that the ganache doesn't seep out when you set the dacquoise on top. Close with the dacquoise.
the next day
Unmold the dessert and set it on a wire rack over a shallow pan.
As you can see, I should have squished my dacquoise a bit more to get the ganache all the way to the edges.
Cover cake with icing. I didn't have a lot of extra icing, so I set up a system with two different racks and cookie sheets. Alternating one for the log to rest on and using to other to pour the runoff icing on the edge of the cake.
The icing gels quickly when it hits the cold mousse. Once the icing is set, return the cake to the freezer. This is best eaten the day it is assembled. Transfer to the refrigerator 1/2 hour before serving. I warmed my knife under hot running water and then wiped it dry before cutting.