Saturday, January 3, 2009

Not your traditional French Mother's Yule Log!

It goes without saying that the ultimate Christmas cake is the Buche de Noel, or French Yule Log. Traditionally it is a chocolate rolled cake (jellyroll style), filled with a rich buttercream and decorated with rich chocolate icing. This icing is ridged to resemble the bark of a tree. Leaves, berries and mushrooms (made of meringue) decorate the log. All in all, it is a beautiful and delicious presentation for the end of a holiday meal.
This month's Daring Baker's Challenge is a modern take on the Yule Log. It is a layered construction consisting of six (6) different 'elements'. They are, from top to bottom: Icing, Creme Brulee layer, Mousse, Praline Feuillete (Crisp), Ganache layer and Dacquiose. Our challenge was to include all six elements and have fun,fun,fun with the flavorings, shape and decoration.
Yes, it was fun because I enjoy a challenge every now and again, but this challenge called for major organization. When I first printed all 15 pages or so, I was overwhelmed. Of course, it being the holiday season added to my apprehension. I triple punched the sheets and awarded them their own three-ring binder. I put them away for 3 weeks, with only a casual glance now and then. When I was finally able to sit down and make some decisions about flavors, I felt like a college student studying for finals! Fortunately, a container of crystallized ginger, gingersnaps and a bag of almonds jumped out at me from the pantry and the decision was made: Ginger, Chocolate and Almond Yule Log. Having eliminated many of the flavor options included in the recipe, I felt my task would be a lot simpler to execute!
I baked over a four day span. On the first day I made the Almond Dacquoise and the Ginger Creme Brulee layer. On day two I made the Praline for the Feuillete, the actual Praline Feuillete Crisp, and the Dark Chocolate Ganache. On the third day, I made the Dark Chocolate Mousse and assembled the log with little trouble and froze it. On New Year's Eve, I poured the Dark Chocolate Icing on the log and decorated it with fresh cranberries and holly leaves.
The dessert was very well received by my wine group buddies. The ginger flavoring took front seat and blended very well with the dark chocolate. The texture was smooth and creamy, with a surprise crunch from the Feuillete Crisp. The host couple called on New Year's Day, asking where I had stashed the leftovers! Well, there were none, since it generously served 13 people.

This month's challenge is hosted by Hilda of Saffron & Blueberry ( and Marion of (Il en faut peu pour etre heureux ( Thanks ladies for organizing this major challenge!

The author of the recipe is Flore of Florilège Gourmand . The recipe can be found on her website: Bakers: check out her website! It is amazing and full of photographs, technique tips and recipes! It is one of my 'favorites' and will be a valuable source for me.
About the recipe:
The recipe (I should say recipes), as printed, is not for the faint at heart. Bless the French, but they don't write recipes the way we do here in the States. Ingredients are not listed in order of use and some important steps in the method are completely left out. For those of us who have experience baking, it was merely an inconvenience. I have corrected these problems below, so the steps should be a lot easier for anyone to follow.
First, I dug deep into the netherlands of my kitchen cabinets to find my Rehrucken Mold. Yes, it's Rehrucken, with an umlaut over the 'u'. I even had to 'Google it' to find its name! From whence it came to my kitchen I have no recollection, but I've had it for many years and have never used it. It is an Austrian creation typically used to bake a 'Saddle of Venison' Cake' (strange, but true). The mold is also called a Moravian Loaf Pan or simply a Ribbed Cake Pan. I thought it would be perfect to shape this confection. Of course, you can use any large loaf or 9 - 10 inch cake pan. This is what the Rehrucken pan looks like:

Ginger, Chocolate and Almond Yule Log
The recipes below include my comments and changes made to the original recipes.

Almond Dacquoise (Almond Cake)
Equipment: 2 mixing bowls, hand or stand mixer with whisk attachment, spatula, baking pan such as a 10”x15” jelly-roll pan, parchment paper. This can be baked two days ahead and wrapped tightly in plastic wrap to keep fresh.

1 cup almond meal (2.8 oz, 80g) I first toasted about 1/2 cup of raw almonds, then ground them and measured 1 cup of almond meal.
1/2 cup (50g, 1.75oz) caster (extra fine granulated) sugar
2Tbsp (15g) all-purpose flour
3 large egg whites
4 Tbsp (50g, 1.75oz) granulated sugar

1. Finely mix the almond meal and the caster sugar. (If you have a mixer, you can use it by pulsing the ingredients together for no longer than 30 seconds). Sift the flour into the mix.

2. Beat the eggs whites, gradually adding the granulated sugar until stiff.

3. Pour the almond meal mixture into the egg whites and blend delicately with a spatula.

4. Grease a piece of parchment paper and line your baking pan with it.

5. 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 350°F (180°C) for approximately 15 minutes (depends on your oven), until golden. Let cool and cut to the desired shape.

Ginger Crème Brulée Insert
Equipment: Small saucepan, mixing bowl, baking mold, wax paper
Note: The ginger crème brulée can be flavored differently by simply replacing the ginger with vanilla, cardamom, lavender, etc.
1/2-cup (115g) heavy cream (35% fat content)
½ cup (115g) whole milk
2 teaspoons ginger juice
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
4 medium-sized (72g) egg yolks
0.75 oz (2 Tbsp / 25g) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
1. Heat the milk, cream, and gingers to just boiling. Remove from the stove and let the gingers infuse for about 1 hour.
2. Whisk together the sugar and egg yolks (but do not beat until white).
3. Pour the ginger-infused milk over the sugar/yolk mixture. Mix well. Add vanilla essence.
4. Line your mold with aluminum foil, using a piece that is large enough to cover all sides without any edges at the bottom of the mold. Pour the cream into the mold and bake with a water bath at 210°F (100°C) for about 35 minutes to 1 hour or until firm on the edges and slightly wobbly in the center.
The most respected Tartelette ( says: You can bake it without a water bath since it is going to go inside the log (the aesthetics of it won't matter as much since it will be covered with other things).... BUT I would recommend a water bath for the following reasons:- you will get a much nicer mouth feel when it is done- you will be able to control its baking point and desired consistency much better- it bakes for such a long time that I fear it will get overdone without a water bath. Now...since it is baked in a pan and it is sometimes difficult to find another large pan to set it in for a water bath, even a small amount of water in your water bath will help the heat be distributed evenly in the baking process. Even as little as 1 inch will help.
5. Let cool and put in the freezer for at least 1 hour to firm up and facilitate the final assembly.
Praline Feuillete (Crisp) Insert
Feuillete means layered (as in with leaves) so a Praline Feuillete is a Praline version of a delicate crisp.
The original recipe for the Praline Crisp lists Gavottes. Gavottes are crisp lace-thin crepes. They are not available in the US. I chose not to make them, and substituted ground gingersnaps, in keeping with my flavor.
I also made my own Almond Praline, based on the recipe in the July 2008 challenge. Here it is:
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup raw almonds, lightly toasted
1. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Butter parchment.
2. Put the sugar in a small, heavy pan. Heat on low flame for about 10 minutes until the sugar starts to melt around the edges. Do not stir. Swirl the pan if necessary to melt the sugar. Stir quickly if the sugar in the middle doesn't melt. Remove from heat when caramel in color and sugar is melted.
3. Quickly add the almonds and stir to coat. Pour onto parchment and spread into a single layer of almonds. Cool completely.
4. When praline is cold, break it up and place it in a processor. Process until it's a fine powder.
Ingredients for the Praline Feuillete:
3.5 oz (100g) semi-sweet chocolate
1 2/3 Tbsp (25g) butter
2 Tbsp (1 oz / 30g) praline powder
2.1oz (60g) gingersnaps, ground in processor
1. Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler.
2. Add the praline and the ground gingersnaps. Mix quickly to thoroughly coat with the chocolate.
3. Spread between two sheets of wax paper to a size slightly larger than your desired shape. Refrigerate until hard.
Dark Chocolate Ganache Insert
Equipment: pan, whisk. Note: Because the ganache hardens as it cools, you should make it right before you intend to use it to facilitate piping it onto the log during assembly. You can also cover the hardened Creme Brulee Insert with plastic wrap and pour the ganache over it. Re-freeze. You will get the correct shape for the ganache.
1.75 oz (4 Tbsp / 50g) granulated sugar
4.5oz (2/3 cup – 1 Tbsp/ 135g) heavy cream (35% fat content)
5 oz (135g) dark chocolate, finely chopped
3Tbsp + 1/2tsp (45g) unsalted butter softened
3/4 ounces crystallized ginger, finely chopped
1. 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, swirl the pan occasionally to allow the sugar to melt evenly. Cook to dark amber color.
2. While the sugar is melting, heat the cream until boiling. Pour cream into the caramel and stir thoroughly. Be very careful as it may splatter and boil.
3. Pour the hot caramel-milk mixture over the dark chocolate. Wait 30 seconds and stir until smooth.
4. Add the softened butter and whip hard and fast. The chocolate should be smooth and shiny.
5. Add ginger and stir.

Foreground: Creme Brulee Insert, Middleground: Feuillette Crisp, Background: Ganache Insert

Dark Chocolate Mousse
Here I encountered a problem with the sugar syrup (see picture below). I also whipped the remaining cream at the end before I added it to the chocolate mixture to create a mousse consistency.
Equipment: stand or hand mixer with whisk attachment, thermometer, double boiler or equivalent, spatula Note: 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 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 crème brulee insert.
.5 sheets gelatin or 5g / 2+1/4 tsp powdered gelatin
1.5 oz (3 Tbsp / 40g) granulated sugar
1 ½ tsp (10g) glucose or thick corn syrup
0.5 oz (15g) water
50g egg yolks (about 3 medium)
6.2 oz (175g) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1.5 cups (350g) heavy cream (35% fat content)
1. Soften the gelatin in cold water. (If using powdered gelatin, follow the directions on the package.)
2. Make a Pate a Bombe: Beat the egg yolks until very light in colour (approximately 5 minutes until almost white).
3. Cook the sugar, glucose syrup and water on medium heat for approximately 3 minutes (if you have a candy thermometer, the mixture should reach 244°F (118°C). If you do not have a candy thermometer, 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.

The temperature of the sugar syrup rose very quickly after 243F. In fact, it jumped to 268F but I decided to use it regardless. This is what I got: lovely icicles on my whisk and the sides of the bowl. Pretty, but not what the doctor ordered!

4. 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.

5. In a double boiler or equivalent, heat 2 tablespoons (30g) of cream to boiling. Add the chopped chocolate and stir until melted and smooth.

6. Pour the melted chocolate over the softened gelatin, mixing well. Let the gelatin and chocolate cool slightly and then stir in ½ cup (100g) of cream to temper. Add the Pate a Bombe.

7. Whip the rest of the cream and fold gently with a spatula into chocolate mixture.

Dark Chocolate Icing
I doubled the following recipe for the log. This is an amazing icing for cakes because it pours beautifully and freezes well. It also remains shiny and is easy to cut. I'll definately use it for bombes and other frozen cakes.
Equipment: Small bowl, small saucepan. Note: Because the icing jellifies quickly, you should make it at the last minute.
4g / ½ Tbsp powdered gelatin or 2 sheets gelatin
¼ cup (60g) heavy cream (35 % fat content)
2.1 oz (5 Tbsp / 60g) granulated sugar
¼ cup (50g) water
1/3 cup (30g) unsweetened cocoa powder
1. Soften the gelatin in cold water for 15 minutes.
2. Boil the rest of the ingredients and cook an additional 3 minutes after boiling, stirring constantly.
3. Add to the chocolate mixture. Mix well.
4. Let cool while checking the texture regularly. As soon as the mixture is smooth and coats a spoon well (it is starting to jell), use immediately.
How To Assemble your French Yule Log:
THIS IS FOR UNMOLDING FROM UPSIDE DOWN TO RIGHT SIDE UP, AS I DID. You will want to tap your mold gently on the countertop after each time you pipe mousse in to get rid of any air bubbles.
Line your mold or pan, whatever its shape, with rhodoid (clear hard plastic, I usually use transparencies cut to the desired shape, it’s easier to find than cellulose acetate which is what rhodoid translates to in English) OR plastic film. Rhodoid will give you a smoother shape but you may have a hard time using it depending on the kind of mold you’re using. I lined my Rehrucken pan with plastic wrap.
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 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. Freeze until the next day.
So the order is (from first down in the mold):
1) Dark Chocolate Mousse
2) Crème Brulee Insert
3) Mousse again
4) Praline/Crisp Insert
5) Mousse
6) Ganache Insert
7) Dacquoise
THE NEXT DAY...Unmold the log and set on a wire rack over a shallow pan.
Cover the cake with the icing. Let set. Return to the freezer.
You may decorate your cake however you wish. The decorations can be set in the icing after it sets but before you return the cake to the freezer or you may attach them on top using extra ganache or leftover mousse, etc... I decorated my log with fresh cranberries and holly leaves.
Transfer to the refrigerator two to three hours before serving, so the frozen parts have a change to soften a little. Slice log into 1/2 inch thick pieces. Serves about 14.



  1. Dragana svaka cast! Ja sam pravila takodje, ali mi je creme brulee ostao gnjecav i ispao na pod kad sam pokusala da ga ubacim :) Na kraju ga nisam ni objavila.

  2. Marija,
    Bas mi je zao, zato znam da ste se trudili. Jer ste mogli druga dela da sluzite?

  3. breathtaking as usual. i am happy to bake a good cookie and you kick baking into a whole other world. lovely work!


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