Like Chocolate? Then “Yule” Love This - A French Yule Log: Daring Bakers Challenge December 2008
Christmas is over and the New Year is peeking out from around the corner. In keeping with the spirit of the season, Hilda of Saffron and Blueberry and Marion of Il en Faut Peu Pour Etre Heureux (our Daring Baker hosts this month) chose to set us the challenge of creating a French Yule Log/ Cake. The recipe was by Flore from Florilege Gourmand. The detailed and complete recipe can be found at Hilda’s blog.
This again was another of those desserts I’d never heard of! And then I saw the recipe and the first thought that came to my mind was “I can’t do something this complicated; I can’t even make sense of the recipe”!! Not a very Daring Baker like thought, I know. I gave myself about 4 or 5 days to calm down and gather my courage to read the recipe again. That’s when I realized that this log/ cake was about smaller easy to make individual elements which were then assembled into one finished fantastic looking dessert. That’s when I decided I was upto the challenge.
Before I go further, for those who are unaware of this, I just want to mention that within the Daring Baker group, there exists a smaller group called the Alternative Daring Bakers. They are “alternative” because of their dietary preferences and includes people who are vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, to mention a few. I am also part of this group, being a vegetarian, but do not face too much difficulty as a Daring Baker because we do eat eggs occasionally.
But can you imagine trying to bake without eggs, or regular flour or milk products as many of them do? Let me tell you its not very easy baking with alternatives while trying to achieve the taste and texture of foods baked according to the original recipes. Yet they do it every time with amazing results.
This month, I decided to bake as many of the elements as I could without eggs and it was also the first time I was using agar agar and fellow alternative bakers came to my rescue. A special thanks to VeganPower of VG-Zone and Shellyfish of Musings from the Fishbowl who helped me with recipes and suggestions.
We were required to make the six specified elements and we were provided with the recipes and some variations for each element. This was compulsory but we had the freedom to choose our flavours and the shape of the log/ cakes and our presentation of this dessert.
I chose to make a round cake because my 6” cake tin was the only thing I had that was suitable for this cake. For some elements, I used the given challenge recipes and for others I used recipes of my choice which I've given below.
Element 1 : Dacquoise Bicuit - I followed the given recipe, making my own almond meal, and had no problems here. Having made a similar cake for the Opera Cake in a previous challenge helped. There was enough batter to make two 8” layers. Unfortunately, while I was removing one of these from the tin, it tore so we ate this one and I used only one layer in my final cake.
Element 2 : Egg Free Vanilla Mousse - I decided to make an eggless mousse using agar agar. I used a recipe that I adapted from Tarla Dalal’s Eggless Chocolate Mousse. The mousse was lovely, though I thought it might be too soft to carry the weight of the individual elements. So I froze the mousse for a couple of hours so that it was still easy to spread yet solid enough to take the weight of the other elements.
Element 3 : Dark Chocolate Ganache Insert -I followed the given recipe but used cream with 25% fat and salted butter.
Element 4 : Coconut Crisp Insert - I made this layer using the provided recipe and Kellogs Special K for the crispiness/ crunch. While it came out alright, I found it pretty hard once it froze and difficult to cut through.
Element 5 : Egg Free Orange and Cardamom Brulée Insert - I decided to go eggless here and used a recipe provided by Shellyfish. I substituted the water with unsweetened orange juice and also added 2 tbsp of orange marmalade. I also used 1½ tsp of powdered cardamom instead of vanilla. Below is the Pastry Cream/ Custard recipe adapted from The Joy of Vegan Baking by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau.
Element 6 : Milk Chocolate Icing - I went with the given recipe using agar agar instead of gelatine.
For the Egg Free Vanilla Mousse (Element 2) :
For the Egg Free Orange & Cardamom Brulée Insert :
- To make the Egg Free Vanilla Mousse start by soaking the agar pieces/ flakes in 3/4 cup of cold water for an hour. Cook this on low heat, stirring frequently, till the agar dissolves. (If this cools, it will become a jelly).
- Set aside 1/2 cup of milk. Split the vanilla bean, scrape the inside with a knife and add to the 2 cups of milk. Add the granulated sugar to the milk, stir and bring to a boil. Also add the cocoa powder here if you are using it.
- (I added cocoa powder because I did not want a pure white colour to my mousse. The cocoa gave my mousse a slightly off white colour without the chocolate taste which I felt would work well with the other flavours in the log.)
- While the milk mixture is coming to a boil, in another pan put the custard powder/ corn starch and add the ½ cup of milk that was set aside. Mix well to dissolve and and cook over medium heat stirring constantly. The mixture will start thickening very quickly. At this point add the milk-sugar-vanilla mixture and cook for about a minute, stirring constantly.
- Now add the cooked agar mixture. If the agar has jelled, just mash it and add to the above custard and whisk. The agar will redissolve on heating. Cook, while stirring constantly, for about two minutes. Strain this mixture and allow it to cool, stirring it occasionally.
- For the Orange and Cardamom Brulée Insert, beat the cream with powdered sugar till stiff. Add the cooled and strained custard from above. Mix gently till well blended. Allow to set and then chill.
- Beat together sugar, flour, cornstarch & water on high speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Set aside.
- Bring milk to a simmer, pour about 80ml (1/3cup) of hot milk into the sugar mixture and stir to combine. Add the mixture back to the saucepan with the milk. Heat the mixture over medium-low heat while whisking constantly. It will begin to thicken immediately.
- Scrape the bottom and sides of pan as you whisk. Cook until it begins to bubble, then whisk (as vigorously as you can) for 30 seconds, and remove from heat. Stir in the extracts. This can be stored in the fridge for upto 3 days.
- Assembling the Cake: I made my cake over 3 days. The first day I made the Crème Brulée and the Coconut Crisp Insert. The next day I made the Eggless vanilla Mousse, the Dacquoise Biscuit and the Dark Chocolate Ganache. I assembled the cake the same day and then covered the cake with Milk Chocolate Icing on the third day.
- I first of all lined my 6” round cake tin (I didn’t have a spring form tin this size) with cling film. I then cut out a round, the size of the bottom of the cake tin, out of acetate sheet and placed it at the bottom. Then I cut a long strip of acetate 4” high and used it to line the side of the cake tin. This made it easy for me to unmould my cake and the acetate gave my cake a very smooth finish.
- I also made and froze my layers a little larger than 6” so I trimmed it to fit into the cake tin. I also chilled my mousse for 3 hours to make it a bit stronger for layering. And I layered my cake as follows : Mousse, Orange and Cardamom Brulée Insert, Mousse, Coconut Crisp Insert, Mousse, and Dacquoise Biscuit.
- The cake was frozen and then covered later. This cake keeps well if frozen, but then defrost it by putting it in the refrigerator overnight before serving.
I’m glad I decided to make this as it was an experience for me. I found the Crisp Insert a bit hard after freezing. Many fellow DBs had similar experiences and suggested breaking up the layer and sprinkling it on. I saw this suggestion only after I had made my cake but this would be a good idea.
My cake turned out to be about 3” tall. If I had used a slightly larger cake tin, I would have had a shorter cake, which would have looked nicer. As a dessert, it was a new experience for us. I served it at dinner with friends and we all enjoyed it thoroughly. The different flavours and textures in this cake blend really well. This is perfect for a special occasion as it is quite rich and on the heavier side, and has what my daughter calls the “Wow” factor ( because people eat this and go "Wow!").