Tuesday, December 30, 2008

French Yule Log -- Daring Bakers December 2008 Challenge

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.

If you recall, the DBers did a yule log last year but this year's yule log is very different. Hilda & Marion explain:

In France you can buy two kinds of Yule log, either the Genoise and Buttercream type that we made last December, or what is more commonly purchased which is a frozen Yule Log very reminiscent of an ice cream cake, only often it’s not made of ice cream but rather frozen mousse of some sort. In French this is called an entremets which is sometimes loosely translated in English as simply a cream dessert. This also means that this recipe is not holiday-specific, it is also just a scrumptious dessert recipe.

And, it *was* a challenge. In fact, looking at this recipe (a frozen dessert in December? with all those steps?) and at all the things I had to do this month, I thought I might skip out.

But I needed an after-Christmas project, and here it was!

We had a bit of leeway in preparing each of the SIX components (you can see the original recipe here) but I opted for:

Chocolate Icing
Milk Chocolate Chantilly
Cinnamon Vanilla Crème Brulée
Dark Chocolate Crisp
Cinammon-Chocolate Ganache Insert
Dacquoise Biscuit (Almond Cake)

The order in which the recipe is laid out below is different from the original; it reflects the order in which I made things, and includes a few changes.

I had quite a bit of difficulty with the creme brulee. The recipe advises baking the creme in a water bath for 1 hour at 210-degrees F. After baking my creme that way for an 80 minutes, it still wasn't set. I took it out of the water bath, placed it back in the oven and then, finally, it set up.

Following that, I let it cool and placed the creme, in its mould, in the freezer. The next day, I couldn't get the damn thing out -- the liquid had seeped under the parchment and formed a custard glue, bonding the creme to its mould. So, while still frozen, I divided it into three pieces and popped each section out one-by-one.

The other challenge on *this* challenge was getting an even coating of icing on the yule log. The top came out fine but the sides were patchy ... hence the cookies! What you see above are dark chocolate Piroulines and Jules Destrooper Virtuosos (chocolate covered cinnamon cookies).

And how does it taste? Mmm, delicious. I especially love the cinnamon ganache layer. The crisp layer was a bit too crisp for me; maybe next time I'd use a finely crumbled wafer cookie and spread the chocolate very thin before it sets.

Thank you to Hilda and Marion for throwing down the dessert gauntlet and really challenging us this month! Check out hundreds of other yule logs via The Daring Bakers' Blogroll.

French Yule Log

Element #1 Cinnamon Vanilla Crème Brulée Insert

Preparation time: 15mn + 1h infusing + 1h baking

Equipment: Small saucepan, mixing bowl, baking mold, wax paper

1/2 cup heavy cream (35% fat content)
½ cup whole milk
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 vanilla bean
4 medium-sized egg yolks
2 Tbsp granulated sugar

1. Heat the milk, cream, cinnamon and vanilla to just boiling. Remove from the stove and let the cinnamon and vanilla infuse for about 1 hour.
2. Whisk together the sugar and egg yolks (but do not beat until white).
3. Pour the cinnamon & vanilla-infused milk over the sugar/yolk mixture. Mix well.
4. Wipe with a very wet cloth and then cover your baking mold (whatever shape is going to fit on the inside of your Yule log/cake) with parchment paper. Pour the cream into the mold and bake at 210-degrees F for about 1 hour or until firm on the edges and slightly wobbly in the center.

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.

Element #2 Chocolate Chantilly

Preparation time: 20mn

Equipment: stand or hand mixer with whisk attachment, thermometer, double boiler or equivalent, spatula

Milk Chocolate Whipped Cream (Chantilly):
(Can be made the day before and kept in the fridge overnight)
2/3 cup heavy cream 35% fat
7.8 oz milk chocolate
2 1/3 tsp (corn syrup
1 1/3 cup heavy cream 35% fat

1. Chop the chocolate coarsely.
2. Heat the 2/3 cup of cream to boiling and pour over the chocolate and glucose syrup.
3. Wait 30 seconds then stir the mix until smooth. Add the remaining 1 1/3 cups cream.
4. Refrigerate to cool, then whip up.

Element #4 Chocolate Crisp Insert

Preparation time: 10 mn

Equipment: Small saucepan, baking sheet (if you make lace crepes).
Double boiler (or one small saucepan in another), wax paper, rolling pin (or use an empty bottle of olive oil).

3.5 oz (100g) dark chocolate
1 oz. (25g) Special K

1. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler.
2. Add the cereal. 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.

Element #5 Dacquoise Biscuit (Almond Cake)

Preparation time: 10 mn + 15 mn for baking

Equipment: 2 mixing bowls, hand or stand mixer with whisk attachment, spatula, baking pan such as a 10”x15” jelly-roll pan, parchment paper

Note: Try to bake the Dacquoise the same day you assemble the log to keep it as moist as possible.

3/4cup + 1Tbsp almond meal
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
2Tbsp all-purpose flour
3 medium egg whites
¼ cup granulated sugar

1. Finely mix the almond meal and the confectioners’ sugar. (If you have a mixer, you can use it by pulsing the ingredients together for no longer than 30 seconds).
2. Sift the flour into the mix.
3. Beat the eggs whites, gradually adding the granulated sugar until stiff.
4. Pour the almond meal mixture into the egg whites and blend delicately with a spatula.
5. Grease a piece of parchment paper and line your baking pan with it.
6. 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.
7. Bake at 350-degrees F for approximately 15 minutes (depends on your oven), until golden.
8. Let cool and cut to the desired shape.

Element #5 Cinammon-Chocolate Ganache Insert

Preparation time: 10mn

Equipment: pan, whisk, stand mixer.

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. Please be careful when caramelizing the sugar and then adding the cream. It may splatter and boil.

Cinammon-Chocolate Ganache Insert
4 Tbsp granulated sugar
2/3 cup minus 1 Tbsp heavy cream
A pinch of cinnamon (or more, to taste)
2.7 oz milk chocolate, finely chopped
3.2 oz dark chocolate, finely chopped
3Tbsp + 1/2tsp unsalted butter softened

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. Heat the cream with the cinnamon (use the quantity of cinnamon you want to infuse the cream, a pinch is the smallest amount suggested) until boiling. Pour cream into the caramel and stir thoroughly. Be very careful as it may splatter and boil. (You can help minimize splattering by creating an aluminum foil "lid" for the saucepan with the caramel. Make a small hole in the foil, top the caramel pan with it, and pour in the cream through that opening.)
3. Place milk & dark chocolate into the bowl of a stand mixer. Pour the hot caramel-milk mixture over the chocolate. Wait 30 seconds and stir by hand until smooth.
4. Add the softened butter and beat using the mixer's paddle attachment. The chocolate should be smooth and shiny.

Element #6 Milk Chocolate Icing

Preparation time: 25 minutes (10mn if you don’t count softening the gelatin)

Equipment: Small bowl, small saucepan

Note: Because the icing gels quickly, you should make it at the last minute.


Milk Chocolate Icing
1.5 gelatin sheets or 3g / 1/2Tbsp powdered gelatin
4.2 oz milk chocolate
2 Tbsp butter
¼ cup heavy cream (35 % fat content)
1 Tbsp + 2 tsp. corn syrup

1. Soften the gelatin in 2 Tbsp. cold water for 15 minutes.
2. Coarsely chop the chocolate and butter together.
3. Bring the cream and corn syrup to a boil.
4. Add the gelatin.
5. Pour the mixture over the chocolate and butter. Whisk until smooth.
6. 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 French Yule Log

Each time you pipe the chantilly, you will want to tap your mold gently on the countertop to get rid of any air bubbles.

1) Line your mold or pan with plastic film.
2) Pipe one third of the chantilly component into the mold.
3) 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.
4) Pipe second third of the Chantilly component around and on top of the Creme Brulee Insert.
5) 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 chantilly you just piped into the mold.
6) Pipe the last third of the chantilly component on top of the Praline Insert.
7) Freeze for a few hours to set. Take out of the freezer.
8) 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.
9) Close with the Dacquoise.
Freeze until the next day.

the order is:
1) Chantilly
2) Creme Brulee Insert
3) Chantilly
4) Praline/Crisp Insert
5) Chantilly -- FREEZE
6) Ganache Insert
7) Dacquoise

Unmold the cake/log/whatever 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...
Transfer to the refrigerator no longer than ½ hour before serving as it may start to melt quickly depending on the elements you chose.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to you and to all who dine at your table.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Eggnog Cookies

Over at Culinary in the Desert, Joe posted his recipe for Eggnog Spiced Spritz Cookies as part of his holiday baking spree.

"Mmmm," I thought. "Those sound like the ones my mom makes."

So I went off in search of my cookie press. And came up empty.

I can't remember the last time I used it but I'm sure it's in our house somewhere -- probably in one of those boxes that remain unpacked from our move over two years ago.

But still, the craving for buttery, noggy cookies called, so I made Joe's recipe and shaped them into rounds.

The result is a bit softer than I'm sure the spritz cookies would be, but they remain wonderful. I added a bit more rum and vanilla extracts to the glaze because I love when those flavors pop, but you should play with the flavorings as you see fit. My changes are reflected in the recipe below.

Eggnog Cookies

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. nutmeg
3/4 tsp. salt
2 sticks (16 Tbsp.) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 tsp. rum extract
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, nutmeg and salt.

In a large mixing bowl, beat together butter and sugar until smooth and creamy. Mix in egg, rum extract and vanilla until combined, scraping down the bowl as needed. Add dry ingredients and mix just until combined.

Scoop a heaping tablespoon of dough with a spoon, roll it into a ball, and flatten it to about 1/4-inch thickness before placing on the baking sheet. Cookies should be spaced about 2 inches apart.Press dough into cookie press with desired shaped-plate. Bake until the edges are golden, about 8 to 12 minutes. Remove and let cool on the baking sheets for about 1 minute before transferring them to a wire rack to glaze (recipe follows). Yields approximately 3 dozen.

1 cup confectioners' sugar
4 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 to 2 Tbsp. warm water
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. rum extract
a splash of vanilla extract
colored sugars or candies, if desired

In a small bowl, still together confectioners' sugar, melted butter and enough warm water for desired consistency. Stir in rum and vanilla extracts. Glaze by dipping the tops into the mixture or brushing it over the warm cookies. Sprinkle with sugars or candies before the glaze sets.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Orange Cardamom Cookies

Do you like my Truman Capote snowman?

Looking for a tasty alternative to sugar cookies? Give these lovely cookies a try. I love their warm orangey flavor; it's such a nice, spiced departure from the traditional cut-out cookie.

You don't have to frost them, but the citrus icing really pulls everything together.

Orange Cardamom Cookies

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons grated orange zest
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg yolk
2 tablespoons heavy cream

Garnish: citrus icing (below)

For dough:

Whisk together flour, zest, cardamom, and salt.

Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy, then beat in yolk and cream. At low speed, mix in flour mixture in 3 batches just until a dough forms. Quarter dough and form each piece into a 6-inch disk, then chill, wrapped separately in plastic wrap, until firm, 2 to 3 hours.

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Roll out 1 piece of dough between sheets of parchment paper into an 11-inch round (1/8 inch thick). Slide dough in parchment onto a tray and chill until firm, about 15 minutes.

Cut out as many cookies as possible with cookie cutter (chill dough again if necessary), reserving and chilling scraps. Transfer cookies to a parchment-lined large baking sheet, arranging them 1 inch apart.

Bake until edges are golden-brown, 9 to 12 minutes. Cool on baking sheet 5 minutes, then slide cookies, still on parchment, onto a rack to cool completely.

Make more cookies with remaining dough and scraps (reroll only once) on cooled freshly lined baking sheets. If desired, ice when cookies are completely cool.

Citrus Icing

1/2 cup fresh orange juice, strained
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, strained
1 (1-pound) box confectioners sugar
4 teaspoons powdered egg whites (not reconstituted) such as Just Whites

Beat together all ingredients in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until just combined, about 1 minute.

At high speed, continue to beat until icing is thick and holds soft peaks, about 3 minutes in a stand mixer or 10 with a handheld. If not using immediately, cover surface with a dampened paper towel, then cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap.

Cooks' note: Icing can be made 1 day ahead and chilled, its surface covered with a dampened paper towel and bowl covered tightly with plastic wrap.

If coloring icing, transfer small batches to small bowls, 1 for each color, and tint with food coloring. Spoon each color of icing into separate sealable bags, pressing out excess air, and snip an 1/8-inch opening in 1 bottom corner of each bag. Pipe icing onto a plate to test consistency. If too thick, thin a small batch with a few drops of orange juice.

Decoratively pipe icing onto cookies, then sprinkle with decorative sugar (if using) and let dry completely, about 1 hour (depending on humidity).

Monday, December 22, 2008

Honey Mound Cookies

Another recipe from blog favorite, Mark Pescatore:

This is an OLD recipe, one my family has been since before I was born, a gem from a cookbook from yesteryear. Understand that this is a cookie that tastes better a day after you make it. When you pop one in your mouth fresh out of the oven, you'll probably think it's not without its charm, but nothing particularly special. The next day you'll try one and curse yourself for not making a double batch. For best results, use an AirBake cookie sheet (it does make a difference).

Honey Mounds

1/3 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
2/3 cup honey
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 1/3 cups sifted flour
1 tsp. soda
1/2 tsp. salt
red and green colored sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line baking sheets with parchment paper. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter, sugar, egg, and honey. Add vanilla and mix. Add sifted flour, soda and salt; mix well. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill at least an hour (or the dough will be sticky and difficult to work with). Roll dough into 1-inch balls, then roll in colored sugar. Bake 10 to 12 minutes.

Yield: approx. 3 dozen

Monday, December 15, 2008

Wookie's Snickerdoodles

When I asked the kids last week what kind of cookie they'd want for Christmas if they could have only one kind, Sadie said, "Lace cookies." Kian said, "Snickerdoodles."

My goal was to find out what cookies they really, really loved, so that we could all make, and enjoy, those cookies together. Lace cookies are wonderful, but they're labor intensive (thus making the recipe less than kid-friendly) and feature chocolate (which Kian doesn't like). Fortunately, Sadie was more than happy to work on snickerdoodles -- especially after I told her that there would be lace cookies in the house for Christmas.

The snickerdoodle recipe I used came from Serious Eats, where commenter Donnie was looking to replace the recipe he'd lost. "It was special," Donnie writes, "because there is NO shortening, and not an over abundance of flour."

Commenter Wookie came to the rescue and her recipe, with a few changes, appears below. (I might add a little bit of nutmeg to the dough next time, just to play.)

It's a very nice cookie: buttery, not too sweet, with a lovely cinnamon flavor. We made them Friday night -- three dozen -- and by Sunday morning, they were all gone: the hallmark of a good cookie recipe.

I think we're going to make some more right now...

Wookie's Snickerdoodles (Source)

2 sticks of butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar, plus 3 Tbsp, separated
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
3 Tbsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375-degrees. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and eggs. Beat until well mixed.

In a large bowl, mix together dry ingredients and add to the butter and egg mixture. Mix on a low setting, just until the dough comes together.

In small bowl, stir together the cinnamon and the 3 Tablespoons of sugar.

Using a small cookie scoop, roll a tablespoon of dough into a ball, and then roll in the cinnamon sugar until fully coated. Place on an ungreased sheet pan, about an inch apart, and flatten gently with the back of a spoon. Bake for 8-10 minutes and cool on a cookie rack.

Yields approximately 3 dozen.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Chocolate Bread

Almost a year ago, I came upon this recipe for Chocolate Bread. Why did it take me so long to bake it? God only knows. But I finally did, and it was worth the wait.

While the final product is supposed to be have a "feathery yet rich texture," mine was denser, with a tighter crumb and a chewy crust. My guess is that, given the distinct chill in my house, I didn't allow enough time for the dough to rise before punching it down.

The flavor, however, is wonderful. The bread has a rich cocoa flavor accentuated by its chunks of dark chocolate. It tastes delicious alone but imagine spreading it with mascarpone cheese and topping it all off with a dollop of raspberry preserves? Mmm, divine.

Chocolate Bread

1 1/2 cups warm water, divided (or, if not using espresso powder, 1/2 cup warm water and 1 cup warm coffee)
2/3 cup plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar, divided
2 teaspoons dry yeast
4 1/2 cups bread flour
2/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2/3 cup cocoa powder, sifted
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder, optional (see above)
2 teaspoons salt
1 large egg, at room temperature
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
8 ounces good-quality dark chocolate, chopped into 1/2-inch chunks

Egg Glaze

1 large egg
1 teaspoon water

In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup of the warm water with 1 teaspoon of the sugar. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and set the mixture aside for 10 minutes, until foamy. If the mixture doesn't foam, the yeast might be inactive and you should try again with fresh yeast.

In the bowl of a heavy-duty electric mixer, place the flour, the remaining 2/3 cup of granulated sugar, the light brown sugar, the cocoa, the espresso powder (if using) and the salt. Using the paddle attachment, mix at low speed for 1 minute, until combined. If mixing by hand, use a whisk and combine thoroughly.

Add the remaining 1 cup warm water (or warm coffee, if not using the espresso powder) and the egg to the yeast mixture. Add this to the flour mixture while continuing to mix at low speed. Increase the speed to medium and continue to beat the mixture for 2 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic. At low speed, beat in the softened butter 1 tablespoon at a time, until it is incorporated into the dough. Remove the paddle attachment and replace it with the dough hook. (Alternatively, you can knead by hand. Just make sure the butter is well softened.) Knead the dough at low speed for 2 minutes. Increase the speed to medium and knead the dough for 2 minutes longer.

Add the chocolate chunks and knead just until incorporated. Transfer the dough to a buttered bowl (the dough will be quite moist). Cover the dough closely with plastic wrap or a damp tea towel and allow to rise in a warm, draft-free place for 2 hours (or until almost doubled in bulk).

After the chocolate dough has risen, punch the dough down and cover again with plastic wrap. Place the dough in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours or up to 2 days.

Butter two 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-by-2 1/2-inch loaf pans. On a lightly floured work surface, divide the chocolate dough in half. Divide each dough half into 6 equal pieces so that you have 12 equal pieces in all. With lightly floured hands, shape each piece into a smooth, round ball. Place 6 dough balls — two by two, at a diagonal (see photo above) — in each prepared pan, pressing them lightly together if necessary. Cover the pans with a tea towel and allow the dough to rise at room temperature for 1 hour.

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and water until blended. Using a pastry brush, brush the egg glaze over the tops of the loaves.

Bake the loaves for 10 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 375 degrees and bake the bread for an additional 30 minutes. Cool the bread in the pans set on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Unmold the bread and cool the loaves on the rack completely.