A Cool Yule (Log) for the Daring Bakers

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

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Have you ever decided to tackle a complicated and time-consuming project and announced it to family and friends, only to be met with stares of wide-eyed horror and echoed strains of “Are you crazy or something!”? Well, that’s pretty much what happened when I shared my plans to make this month’s Daring Baker Challenge, a Yule Log, or Buche de Noel. After seeing that 18 page treatise, er, I mean recipe, Mr. SGCC rolled his eyes back into his head and pronounced, “No freakin’ way!”. Mini SGCC just got one of those smug, know-it-all, teenaged looks on her face and said “Yeah…..right!”.

Hmmph!

I don’t know about you, but when someone tries to tell me that I can’t do something, it only makes me want to prove them wrong. So, while I secretly harbored much of the same doubts and fears about attempting this project, I was determined to at least give it my best shot! I did, and let me tell you, people. It almost killed me. 

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. Different from the more common Genoise and Buttercream type of Yule Log you are probably familiar with, this frozen version is reminiscent of an ice cream cake, except that it is made with a frozen mousse of some sort, layered around various layers of different fillings. In France, this type of confection is called an entremets, which is loosely translated in English as a “cream dessert”.

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Perfectionist OCD individuals like me should probably resist the urge to dive into projects like this. With six separate components to prepare and somehow manage to assemble into a single, seamless and attractive unit, I literally worked myself into a panicked frenzy requiring medication and quite possibly, intensive therapy! Reading and re-reading the recipe, my brain was swimming in dread, trying to take it all in. I was convinced that I needed a degree in structural engineering to master this thing.

Where do I begin?

My first dilemma was what kind of vessel to use as my mold. I had a couple of nice loaf pans, but they were rectangular and I wanted my buche to be round. I ordered a fancy (read expensive) Buche de Noel pan from Sur la Table and thought I was set. But, when the pan arrived, it was MUCH smaller than I had expected – barely two inches deep! I didn’t see any possible way to get all of the required layers packed into that tiny package. CRAP!

buche mold

Several of my DB colleagues reported that they had made their own molds using various combinations of PVC pipes, paper towel rolls, foil pans and assorted other things. I decided to go the disposable foil pan route, because I happened to have a few left over from Christmas. I found the biggest wine bottle that I had and molded the foil around it. Then, I trimmed it to fit inside one of my loaf pans. (Using a wine bottle worked out perfectly for me, because by the time I got to this point in the recipe, I already needed a few drinks!) By the way, if you try this yourself, BE CAREFUL! Those %$&*@# cut edges are SHARP!

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The first element I prepared was the creme brulee. I decided to keep it simple here and made the vanilla version as written in the recipe. I lined another loaf pan with foil and baked the brulee in that so it would be the proper size and shape to fit into my buche. There was some controversy on the DB boards regarding the correct oven temperature for this. I decided to up the temperature to 260 degrees F. and after one hour, my creme brulee looked set. As directed, I then set it in the freezer until I needed it. I also made a small second brulee to test. After being frozen overnight, it unmolded without incident and tasted really good. (I also plopped a chunk into my morning coffee and ooh la la! It was delicious!)

Next, I made the Praline Feuillete……twice. The praline paste was easy to put together and it came off without a hitch, but the rest? Well, let’s just say something got lost in la traduction. It was lumpy, clumpy and Would. Not. Hold. Together. I think I used too many Rice Krispies. The recipe said 2.1 ounces, but that translated into about 4 cups of cereal. The second time, I used half as much and it turned out fine. The finished feuillete reminded me of a Nestle’s Crunch Bar. I wonder if I could have saved myself the aggravation and just used a few of those? (I mean, who would know?)

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After that, I made the mousse, using milk chocolate instead of dark. My family likes milk chocolate better and so do I. I also felt that the lighter color of the milk chocolate would make a prettier contrast with the other elements in the buche.

This particular mousse requires the making of something called a Pate a Bombe. 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 them 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. Making a Pate a Bombe requires boiling sugar syrup to the soft ball stage, which in turn requires lots of Valium for me, for in spite of my dozens of attempts over the years to boil a sugar syrup to the desired “ball stage”, I have never successfully done it. Not even once. Not even using a candy thermometer.

Without going into the gory details, suffice it to say that I made that @%$*& Pate a Bombe three times before it didn’t bomb – and not before I burned the fingerprints off of my index finger. GRRRR!

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Then, I had the bright idea of melting the chocolate for the mousse in my little Wilton chocolate melter. I love that thing! I use it all the time and it does a great job – except this time, my chocolate seized and became all grainy and gloppy. A half-pound of Guittard milk chocolate down the drain – literally! SHIT!

The next half-pound went into the double boiler and after forever and a day, it was suitably melted, smooth and glossy.

Thankfully, there were no issues with the preparation of the Dacquoise. I used hazelnuts instead of almonds and was very pleased with the way it turned out.

The ganache recipe used in the buche was quite different from any I’ve made before. This one had a caramel base. (Uh oh! Where’s that burn ointment!) I must finally be getting the knack of caramelizing sugar, because I only had to make this one twice before being rewarded with a lovely, thick and glossy ganache.

Assembling the Buche de Noel was actually not as daunting as I expected it to be. Once all of the different elements were completed, trimmed and ready to go, putting it all together was kind of easy. When I unmolded my buche, I noticed that there were some holes where the mousse didn’t fill in. I did tap down the mold several times while piping it in, but the mousse was pretty thick. I was afraid to tap too much because my loaf pan was made of glass. I could just see myself shattering the pan after all that work! I figured that real logs have plenty of bumps and nicks and that mine would just look more “realistic”.

After reading about how many of the other DBers ran short on the chocolate finishing glaze, I doubled the recipe. It was a good call, because I needed it. I could have even used more. Of course, since I already had some gaps in my buche, a totally smooth and shiny finish was too much to hope for. Again, I opted for “realism” and drizzled some chocolate “grooves” over the top of the log. It covered up quite a few blemishes, which then looked like I had put them there on purpose.

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(I know it’s just condensation, but doesn’t the one on the left look like it has snow on top?)

With the leftover bits and pieces of the different elements, I also made a little baby buche. Isn’t it cute? Technically, it isn’t a log, but more like a mini tree trunk, since it stands upright. I just layered the ingredients in a small cake ring. I like the fact that it is a single serving which would be perfect for an elegant dinner party or a buffet. Much easier to serve.

I garnished my buche with white chocolate leaves that I made using real leaves from my Meyer lemon tree. They are quite easy to make. All you do is brush tempered chocolate on the back side of the leaves and chill or freeze until firm. Then, carefully peel the real leaves away and chill or freeze again. The holly berries were made from some leftover holiday sprinkles that I had. I hand painted the leaves with some green luster dust and voila! Christmas holly! Just make sure that you use leaves that are thin and pliable. I tried this with some Kaffir lime leaves and it was a mess. The leaves were too stiff and the chocolate shattered when I tried to peel it off.

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Now, for the moment of truth. How do I feel about this challenge after spending two solid days making and re-making caramel, melting pounds of chocolate, stirring, folding, beating, baking, freezing (and cursing) the numerous elements of this Buche de Noel? Well, I guess I’m torn. Am I glad I did it? Yes…..and No. While I am very proud of myself for actually having completed the challenge, I have to say that I don’t think I would ever do it again. Don’t get me wrong – the buche was a showstopper and it tasted absolutely divine. But, all of that work and stress pretty much sapped every last drop of “Ho! Ho! Ho!” right out of me! For me, it was a monumental task in an already frenetic time. Just getting the recipe straight took HOURS! And the MESS (not to mention the injuries)!!! Not only was my entire kitchen covered in chocolate, but I was too. (Not a good look for me.) Frankly, I probably would have enjoyed the experience a lot more if it hadn’t happened smack dab in the middle of the Holiday Season. Cooking and baking are things that I do to relax, because I enjoy them. When they become another source of anxiety in my life, it defeats the purpose. I’m just sayin’.

Next time, I think I’ll just buy my Buche de Noel from Francois Payard. His are magnificent and it would probably be cheaper!

If you’d like to see some more cool Yules from this challenge, check out the Daring Bakers blogroll. You’ll find hundreds of delectable and creative Buches de Noel there.

Appréciez et Joyeux Noël!

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The following is the order in which I made the different elements of the Buche de Noel. It worked best for me because the first few elements needed much more time to prepare and set up before being ready to use. I was able to multi-task and begin making the latter elements while the former were baking, chilling, freezing, etc.

1) Creme Brulee
2) Praline Feuillete
3) Mousse
4) Dacquoise
5) Ganache
6) Icing

 

 

81 responses to A Cool Yule (Log) for the Daring Bakers

  1. On December 30, 2008 at 2:00am, veganpower said...

    Your yule is very nice, the same of picture to the forum :)

  2. On December 30, 2008 at 2:04am, Engineer Baker said...

    Wow. I think I would have given up long before finishing if I had as many roadbumps as you did! Kudos for pushing on through, because it looks absolutely beautiful. I love the one with the “snow” on top :)

  3. On December 30, 2008 at 3:10am, Esi said...

    Looking at your log, I would never have thought you ran into so many bumps. It’s gorgeous, and I really love the little Santas :) Yes, it was difficult, but probably not a make again kind of treat.

  4. On December 30, 2008 at 6:24am, Aran said...

    all this work surely paid off susan. what a beautiful log! happy new year!

  5. On December 30, 2008 at 6:43am, Jude said...

    I got that same mold from Sur La Table. It was a pain to scale down the recipe but it worked out quite nicely :)

  6. On December 30, 2008 at 6:54am, Peter M said...

    Susan, if I could award you with something I would…this is awesome and no surprise that you had some issues but also not surprised that you overcame them!

  7. On December 30, 2008 at 8:00am, Darius T. Williams said...

    LOL – you’re hilarious. See, this is why I wouldn’t dare try to do something of this caliber. But you really succeeded – it looks great!

    -Darius
    http://www.everydaycookin.com

  8. On December 30, 2008 at 8:08am, The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

    After reading so many DB posts, it sounds like this was a difficult and daunting project for many. I think it’s great that you kept on going and trying again. I’d have given up after my first failure element. You ended up with a beautiful dessert. Nice job.

  9. On December 30, 2008 at 8:26am, Gretchen Noelle said...

    Susan, I think your log turned out beautifully despite the comedy of errors. Too bad this turned out to be such a mess and misery in your kitchen. Love the tumbling santas!!

  10. On December 30, 2008 at 8:31am, Dianne said...

    Wow…It looks fabulous! Sounds like you had quite the journey to get it finished!

  11. On December 30, 2008 at 8:41am, Judy@nofearentertaining said...

    Wow Susan. It turned out absolutely awesome looking. I bowed out this month for all of the reason you resented doing it. I thought this was just “too” much on top of the holidays!!! You should be very proud of yourself for doing it!

  12. On December 30, 2008 at 8:44am, Mary said...

    Well it looks great! It was indeed a ton of work. Great job!

  13. On December 30, 2008 at 8:57am, Karen said...

    What a challenge! You took it on beautifully. There’s no way I would have stuck it out. Congratulations on a job well done – it’s gorgeous!

  14. On December 30, 2008 at 9:06am, Renee said...

    Your log looks awesome!! I loved reading your post. After making mine, I was too pooped to write about it in any creative way!

  15. On December 30, 2008 at 9:12am, Katie B. said...

    Delightful!!! You’d never know your buche was so dangerous to make – looks dreamy!!

  16. On December 30, 2008 at 9:27am, Jodie said...

    Congrats, it looks beautiful! You’re more “daring” than me; I wasn’t even going to attempt it after reading the very LONG instructions and knowing I wouldn’t have time with the holidays! I wish I could try yours!

  17. On December 30, 2008 at 9:32am, StickyGooeyCreamyChewy said...

    Thank you everyone! I'm so glad that you like my Buche de Noel. In the end, I was pretty pleased with the way it turned out, although that lumpy icing still bothers me, as does the "snow" effect from the hot photo lights. My leaves were also starting to melt from the lights. It really did look prettier in person!

    Veganpower- Merci!

    Engineer Baker- Thank you! I thought the "snow" looked pretty cool in the photos.

    Esi & Aran- Thank you both very much!

    Jude- Good for you! I couldn't imagine doing all of that tedious work in miniature. I'm too clutzy!

    Peter- This is why I love you! You are very sweet! Thank you so much!

    Darius- Thanks! I can laugh about it now, but I was NOT a happy camper a few days ago! ;)

    S(d)OC- It was certainly daunting! But, I'd invested so much in the ingredients, I had to keep going.

    Gretchen- Lol! I'm still scraping chocolate off of the walls. I love the Santas too. :)

    Dianne- Thanks! :)

    Judy- You're a wise woman! I, on the other hand, must have a screw loose! ;)

    Mary & Karen- Thanks!

    Renee- Thank you! I wrote each section as I was actually making the log. That way, it was fresh in my mind. After I finished it, I barely had the energy to take photos!

  18. On December 30, 2008 at 9:40am, Little Ol' Liz said...

    Can I just get in a big Holy Cow! for all that effort and the awesome results?!

    Thank you for tackling this project and convincing me I never need to do one myself. My family thanks you, too.

    Happy Stress and Burn-free New Years.

  19. On December 30, 2008 at 9:46am, The Food Hunter said...

    It looks awesome. I don’t think I would’ve made it. Just looking at those directions would’ve required wine and medication. :-)

  20. On December 30, 2008 at 10:53am, Hilda said...

    Well I’m sorry it was such an ordeal but I’m glad you at least liked the taste of it. It looks wonderful in spite of your trials and tribulations. Happy Holidays.

  21. On December 30, 2008 at 11:13am, Sara said...

    This is so cute! Yum. :)

  22. On December 30, 2008 at 11:27am, Maggie said...

    Wonderful post! I love the frosty photo of the mini stump.

  23. On December 30, 2008 at 1:45pm, kellypea said...

    Loved, loved, loved reading about your trials and tribulations on this challenge. Remarkable “log” inside and out. Layers so perfect. Congrats to you for your persistence. It definitely paid off.

  24. On December 30, 2008 at 1:45pm, Katrina said...

    Wow! You go, Girl! Looks awesome and festive. Really, I can’t believe how much work people went to for these, but the results sure look amazing.

    Happy New Year!

  25. On December 30, 2008 at 2:13pm, Isabelle said...

    de toute beauté :) trop cool ce père Noël, faisant la galipette !

  26. On December 30, 2008 at 2:45pm, creampuff said...

    You are a trooper!!! I love the way the log turned out. Well done … Happy New Year!

  27. On December 30, 2008 at 2:46pm, Lys said...

    Hats off to you Susan! I could not – stress NOT have the patience to do this challenge.

  28. On December 30, 2008 at 2:53pm, Karen said...

    Whoa! I need a big stiff drink just *reading* about this recipe! Kudos to you for accomplishing what sounds like a major day in the kitchen! The buche looks beautiful… the leaves are splendid and I love the little Santas upside down!

  29. On December 30, 2008 at 3:32pm, Ingrid said...

    I’m just sayin’…..your yule log turned out beautifully despite all your mishaps! Sorry that it was more stressful than fun.

    Btw, your photos are gorgeous and do it justice! I especially love the ones with “snow” on it!

    Happy 2009!
    ~ingrid

  30. On December 30, 2008 at 3:40pm, vibi said...

    Well, it’s rare I admit… but I’m speechless! There are no words to describe how beautiful and perfect this is.
    Okay, I could have fun and kid you about a vampire bloody version of the bûche de Noël… but nah! This is too much of a seriously good looking log!

  31. On December 30, 2008 at 3:57pm, Cynthia's Blog said...

    I agree with vibi. It is stunning. I was so sick of this project by the time is it was time to style it that I didn’t give a crap what it looked like. Good for you

  32. On December 30, 2008 at 4:10pm, rainbowbrown said...

    Adorable!

  33. On December 30, 2008 at 4:20pm, Y said...

    Just beautiful! I think I would have given up long ago, if I encountered as many problems as you did! Congrats on the end result. Oh, and I first thought you had sprinkled icing sugar on your log for that snowy effect, until you mentioned it was condensation.

  34. On December 30, 2008 at 5:12pm, Dana Treat said...

    I have read several accounts of Daring Bakers making this log and yours was by far the most entertaining. What a riot! I so admire your perseverance and in the end you got something beautiful and delicious. I hope your burn gets better soon!

  35. On December 30, 2008 at 5:58pm, Farmer Jen said...

    Very complicated and time consuming. Your Yule Log looks beautiful!

  36. On December 30, 2008 at 6:35pm, J.Danger said...

    I keep reading TDB posts, and yours is the best by far. One person had 18 pages worth of instructions?! I am proud of you and your work! Good job!

  37. On December 30, 2008 at 7:24pm, luv 2 cook said...

    I loved the look of yours. I was way to lazy to make it curve I just did a loaf pan size.

  38. On December 30, 2008 at 8:12pm, Ally said...

    I love your Santas! Too cute! I believe you and I ran into the same troubles in the injury dept. I too cut, and burned myself. Good for us for pressing on! Your log looks fabulous, btw.

  39. On December 30, 2008 at 8:46pm, Patsyk said...

    In spite of the crazy amount of work, your yule log turned out really beautiful! I love the shots with the condensation because they do look like a light dusting of snow on it!

  40. On December 30, 2008 at 9:07pm, Passionate About Baking said...

    What an adventure you've had Susan… what a really cool yule this is. Fantastic buche, & you've even kept the OTC folks happy! Have a great 2009, full of joy, peace & happiness!
    The pictures are gorgeous!!

  41. On December 30, 2008 at 9:38pm, TeaLady said...

    WOW!!! Yours looks fantastic. I just didn’t have it in me to try this one. Glad you did. Beautiful!

  42. On December 31, 2008 at 12:32am, Claire said...

    So pretty! Your decorations are just great. You’re right, the condensation does look like snow…and those Santas…just TOO cute!

  43. On December 31, 2008 at 3:49am, Peabody said...

    It turned out beautiful!
    Sorry about your fingers…go to pastry school, you wont have fingerprints for 10 years.

  44. On December 31, 2008 at 3:59am, Maryann said...

    Wow! That’s quite a big project, but you did great! You’re so funny too! Happy new year!

  45. On December 31, 2008 at 8:34am, CookiePie said...

    Of course your yule log is GORGEOUS, and I’m sure it tasted divine! Hope you had a wonderful Christmas, and here’s to a fabulous 2009! xo

  46. On December 31, 2008 at 10:49am, juju73 said...

    Poor thing….I hope your burns/cuts heal soon.:(

    Your yule log is beautiful…I personally love the whimsical Santa.:) What a great addition!

    Happy New Year!

  47. On December 31, 2008 at 1:17pm, Elra said...

    OMG,
    Your log is very beautiful, and yes I agree those picture of the log just came out from the freezer look like snow. Very pretty!
    Cheers,
    Elra

  48. On December 31, 2008 at 6:40pm, Jacque said...

    Mmmm, it looks fantastic! I especially like the frosty looking pics.

    Way to power through this :)

  49. On January 01, 2009 at 3:35pm, Obsessive Foodie or Food Addict....You Decide said...

    Sticky this has got to be one of the most impressively amazing phucking things you have made. Can I say Phucking??? I was going to give it up for the New Year but then decided Phuck It. This looks so fun and elegant at the same time. Can we come to your house for xmass next year??????

  50. On January 01, 2009 at 5:54pm, Namratha said...

    Wow, very pretty decorations. I’m very impressed with the leaves. Well done! :)

  51. On January 01, 2009 at 8:12pm, Madam Chow said...

    Good heavens. I, too, had quite a number of mishaps, but thanfully no injuries. Oh, unless you count the peeling skin on my fingers from all the dishes that I had to wash! Your buche looks lovely!

  52. On January 01, 2009 at 11:20pm, Tartelette said...

    Fabulous job on the challenge Susan! I also went the disposable foil pan route for one of the logs for the same reason…viva Christmas leftovers of all kind right?!!

    Wishing you the best year ever. I know it has been a tough one for you and your family and I really wish you the best.

  53. On January 03, 2009 at 12:51pm, Celeste said...

    Gorgeous job! Well done…I love the cute little Santa figurines too. :)

  54. On January 03, 2009 at 11:31pm, Sugar Chef said...

    Love your log and the documentation. You are so funny and write so well. Good job!!

  55. On January 06, 2009 at 3:38pm, Emma said...

    It turned out beautifully!

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Hello and welcome to SGCC! I’m Susan, a professional writer, food columnist, recipe developer, wife, mother, daughter and sister, who used to be a lawyer in a previous life. My love of food comes from a long line of wonderful and creative Italian home cooks who didn’t always have a lot, but knew how to make a lot out of what they had. I hope that you enjoy yourself while you’re here, and visit often! read more >>

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