Sunday, December 28, 2008

Bûche de Noël

You'll have to excuse my reticence, I've been quite the busy bird lately. There's nothing like cross country travel to distract you from regular blogging, eh? Let's just say that there's been high levels of stress, anxiety and a great deal of money put out by the airline that was supposed to fly us to our intended destination. I'll be sure to fill you in on all the gory details at a later date...

But for now it's Daring Baker time!

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

I remember checking to see what the challenge was in the beginning of the month and my tummy doing a little flip-flop in response. I'm always up for a challenge in the kitch, but when my month of December was dominated by a week of brutal final exams and two weeks spent on the opposite coast for the holidays - I wasn't hugely excited to spend my one free week attempting to conquer the Herculean feat that is the French Yule Log. But, I am a baker from time to time - and I'm most definitely Daring (some would just say kind of slow...) so I pulled myself up by my very whiny bootstraps and asked my MiL if I could make it in her kitchen while we were there. She, being the general bad ass that she is, agreed, and so my journey of general frustration, utter annoyance, and bubbling internal cursing was begun.

See, I kind of have this little problem of not being too fond of the sweeter side of the kitchen. I'm not a huge fan of cookies, cakes, candies, pastries, you name it. So it doesn't really make a whole lot of sense that I'm a Daring Baker, because every month it's something sweet (thank gawd for the two savory challenges) I immediately start wondering who I can pawn all this sugary goodness off on. Usually it's the men and women that work alongside Mr. TA. This challenge I was all set to foist the 20 million calorie behemoth off on my in-laws. Always a good plan, eh? But the point of my redundant rambling is that I don't get a huge amount of joy out of making something I'm not really going to eat, but it's surely expanding my repertoire of baked goods. And I guess that's a good thing. It's just an interesting balance of learning new things in the kitchen and not really giving a damn about what I'm making. But the challenge is fun, so onward I whine.

If I could sum up my feelings about this challenge in one photo, it would be this:

I don't think there's really any other way to feel about a concoction that requires 4 layers of gelatinous mousse, a wedge of crème brûlée, a sliver of crisp, a smattering of ganache and a base of dacquoise - all topped off with a coating of gelatinous icing. Especially when you're making all of this in someone else's kitchen. Thankfully the MiL has a very, very nice kitchen with all of the lovely accoutrement needed to accomplish such a grandiose feat. She even recently bought Trogdor Jr. So, it really wasn't all that bad, just a little discombobulating.

The challenge was that we had to incorporate all six elements of a traditional French Yule Log, and assemble them in a fashion resembling a log.

1) Dacquoise Biscuit
2) Mousse
3) Ganache Insert
4) Praline (Crisp) Insert
5) Creme Brulee Insert
6) Icing

The flavor combination was left to our discretion.

I decided on a vanilla/white chocolate flavor combo for this challenge. The only way I like large amounts of chocolate is if they're infused with large amounts of mint, and we had members of the family who don't like mint chocolate. Enter the supposed-to-be-all-white vanilla French Yule Log. I'll explain the resultant appearance later.

I started off by making the dacquoise. Dacquoise is a French biscuit made of crushed nuts, sugar, flour, and egg whites. It's incredibly delicious and will assuredly be making another appearance in my kitchen. I chose hazelnut instead of the original almond flavor, because we all prefer hazelnuts. This was my favorite part of the recipe. Or, to be exact, the only part of the recipe I actually liked. Make this. Your mouth will thank you. Your hips...maybe not so much.

The next step was to make the Praline Crisp Insert. I wanted my log to be all white, and the recipe didn't allow for that, so I made a really thin rice crispy treat. Because I'm ghetto like that. I will have you know that it was pretty effin' delicious.

After that I made the crème brûlée, something I've made many times before but with different recipes. For some reason this recipe took forever and a day to set up, much longer than the stated hour in a 210 F oven. Closer to 2 hours.

After the crème brûlée I made the ganache and started on the vanilla mouse. The mousse was a pretty painless process that turned out nicely. I'm not a big fan of adding the gelatin to it though, it gave a funky texture and left little lumps because it wouldn't dissolve all the way. I realize it's required for structural integrity, but were I ever to take enough drugs to consider making this again I would omit the gelatin.

Assembly was pretty straight forward, line a loaf pan with plastic wrap and parchment paper, layer of mousse, crème brûlée, layer of mousse, crisp insert, layer of mousse, white chocolate ganache, tiny layer of mousse, dacquoise biscuit.


Then cover with the icing.

Sounds pretty painless, eh?

Not so much.

As soon as that icing hit the frozen mousse it turned into a rubberized nightmare, reminiscent of Gak. The annoying part was that I didn't notice until after I'd already started trying to embellish the top with some melted dark chocolate.

Freakin' outstanding.

So, instead I just covered it in some nice dark chocolate the MiL had around the house. No longer all nice and pretty and white all over, but at least there isn't any dilapidated, lame-ass looking, wannabe snowflakes on top.

Except I didn't think about the fact that the chocolate I melted was real nice and hot, and the log was still real nice and frozen. So it split all down the sides and you could see through it.


So I covered it in crushed walnuts.

And restrained myself from dumping the whole damn thing in the trash.

The recipe recommended leaving the yule log in the refrigerator for about an hour to thaw, but after being in the fridge for an hour and then transported in a car for about 45 minutes, it was still very cold and the crème brûlée was frozen solid. Not exactly the greatest textures in the world if you're not a fan of frozen desserts.

Final thoughts?

Mousse - meh.

Crème brûlée - meh.

Rice Crispy Treat - yum.

Ganache - meh.

Icing - GTFO

Hazelnut Dacquoise - Oh. My. Gawd. Get in my mouth.
(Mr. TA again; remember, that's "dah-koo-see".)

Everything as a whole - Not my cup of tea, but I am very glad I did it. If only so I can say that I have.

I'd like to thank Hilda of Saffron & Blueberry and Marion of Il en Faut Peu Pour Etre Heureux for giving all us Daring Bakers such a Daring Challenge this month. Even though I didn't like it, it was still a wonderful experience to be had. Please be sure to check out all the other lovely Daring Bakers this month, there are some beautiful French Yule Logs to be devoured with the eyes.

Happy Holidays!


Chris said...

looks delicious!

Jude said...

My favorite part was the crispy insert, but I didn't make the dacquoise (have no idea how to pronounce this).... I guess I'll try it out :)

Gretchen Noelle said...

Looks great. Too bad most of the layers were just meh for you. And all in someone elses kitchen? That is a challenge all in itself!!

SB's MiL said...

I know it was a pain, but it was yummier than you gave it credit. And it added much to the holiday fare.

sallykd said...

Well it might not have come out exactly as planned but it still looked good and I am still laughing at your post! Hysterical!

Debyi said...

My favorite parts were also the crips & the dacquoise. My least fav was the creme brulee layer, but then again, I am a sweet fan, so I loved the whole thing! I'm sorry you didn't like the end result. I agree aobut the gelatin in the mousse, I didn't use it in mine. Nice MiL for letting you use her kitchen!