Saturday, 22 December 2007
Yule Log or Bûche de Noël
The Daring Bakers go all Christmasy this time around and the blogosphere will be inundated with Yule Logs! Our lovely hosts for this challenge are none other than the founders of the Daring Bakers themselves, so please, a big hand to the Fabulous Duo, Lis and Ivonne. Yaaayyy!
I've heard of a Yule Log before but have never attempted to make one. The closest I've come to a Yule Log previously is making my Chocolate Cake in the shape of a log. Not quite the same!
When I saw the recipe, I didn't worry too much. I mean the recipe looked fairly straightforward. Not simple, no, I never said that. I said straightforward. I mean the Bûche de Noël was really just made up of a few different components:
A filled and rolled Genoise (what we call a Swiss Roll over in these parts)
The problem though was that I had never successfully baked a Swiss Roll. Then I read the recipe for the Buttercream Icing and noticed that it needed Egg Whites. Huh? The buttercream I was used to was just butter and icing sugar and maybe a little water or milk. Lis and Ivonne must SURELY have made a mistake somewhere. But no, there was no mistake. Apparently this kind of Buttercream is a Swiss Buttercream. Seems like the Swiss are everywhere in this recipe - what with the Swiss Roll and now the Swiss Buttercream.
The only part I was really sure of was the Meringue Mushrooms. I've made Meringues many, many times without any problems.
So anyway, I read and re-read the recipe and tried to find time to take up the challenge. December is always a busy, busy month and the fact that this month's post was going to be a week earlier than normal (due to Christmas, of course) meant there was even less time.
Thankfully I found time on the 20th which coincided with a Public Holiday in Malaysia. Just as well too because the Lovely Wife and I would have to start on the Cookies, Chocolate Cake and all the other cakes for Christmas.
I decided to make the Meringue Mushrooms the night before (19th) and my kids were around to help me beat the egg whites. They watched in amazement as I piped out little circles and then curly stems. In my mind I wanted curvy 'L' shaped mushroom stems to resemble Wild Mushrooms rather than the straight up kind you get from cultivated mushrooms.
To clarify a point, the kids were only amazed because I had explained I was making mushrooms and the two little darling couldn't quite fathom how these round shapes and squiggles that Daddy was piping out could turn into mushrooms.
When the meringues came out of the oven and I stuck the stems into the caps, my son exclaimed. "Ohh! You mix the long bits with the circles and get mushrooms! Now I understand."
But this is where I started to lose my own understanding! Every time I have made meringues before, I take them out of the oven and let them cool a little to get perfect, crispy meringues. This time, since we had to bake them again after fastening the stems into the caps, I noticed that they softened in the oven but quickly firmed up again once cool. It was also at this point that I realised that my meringues would probably not stay crispy as it is just too blasted HUMID in this country isn't it! See, further proof that if the apple had fallen on my head instead of Newton's, I'd have just eaten it.....and then wondered two years down the line why it had fallen. Oh well. I could always bake it and dry it out again the next day. No big drama though, the mushrooms looked really good!
The next morning, I woke up early and as per Helene's (Tartellete's) advice on the DB blog, I let my butter thaw till it was really soft and 'smooshy'. The Genoise went of surprisingly quick and as per the recipe, as soon as the Genoise was in the oven, I started on the Buttercream. I had pretty much decided earlier on that I would make a Chocolate-Coffee (Mocha)Buttercream. This turned out to be a good decision because in hindsight, I don't think I heated the eggwhite long enough. I didn't have any curdling problems but the icing was just a little runny.
Nothing that some melted chocolate mixed with coffee powder couldn't solve though! After adding the chocolate, the icing was still a little runny but I used some of it to fill the cake. Then I rolled the cake and stuck it in the fridge.
I was actually amazed how well the cake turned out and how nicely it rolled up. No cracks! Hooray for me! The Lovely Wife is especially happy that I can make Swiss Rolls now as she just loves them.
The icing was still runny so I stuck the bowl in an ice bath and after more whipping, the icing started to become thick and glossy and looked almost like a chocolate mousse. It was delicious too but I felt it was a little sweet! I pulled the cake out of the fridge and slathered the buttercream all over it. I was almost tempted to take a bite out of it, the log looked so good! I drew little bark lines using a fork and I thought the log looked pretty darn real! I only wish I had filled the inside of the cake with the thick, mousse like icing rather than the thin stuff. But that's okay, it gave a contrasting effect and seemed intended rather than just happening by chance!
While I left the icing to set on the cake, I put the meringue mushrooms back into the oven again and then once they were cool, I stuck them on the cake to take all my photos.
I let my kids polish off the mushrooms as I knew they would get soft again and wouldn't last till night when we had invited some friends and family over for a Christmas dessert night.
The verdict? The log was very tasty but I thinks that overall it was a tad too sweet.
I think it would have been even sweeter if I had left out the chocolate as I used dark chocolate in my buttercream . Nonetheless, it was still a very nice cake and I especially liked how it looked! The kids loved it and they were rather tickled by how realistic the log looked!
Merry Christmas everybody!
Check out the rest of the fabulous (and ever growing!) team at the Daring Bakers Blogroll
This is the recipe as given. (The only allowed change I made was to add some Chocolate into the buttercream):
Yule Log from Perfect Cakes by Nick Malgieri and The Williams-Sonoma Collection
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
pinch of salt
¾ cup of sugar
½ cup cake flour - spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off (also known as cake & pastry flour)
¼ cup cornstarch
one 10 x 15 inch jelly-roll pan that has been buttered and lined with parchment paper and then buttered again
1.Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F.
2.Half-fill a medium saucepan with water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat so the water is simmering.
3.Whisk the eggs, egg yolks, salt and sugar together in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer. Place over the pan of simmering water and whisk gently until the mixture is just lukewarm, about 100 degrees if you have a thermometer (or test with your finger - it should be warm to the touch).
4.Attach the bowl to the mixer and, with the whisk attachment, whip on medium-high speed until the egg mixture is cooled (touch the outside of the bowl to tell) and tripled in volume. The egg foam will be thick and will form a slowly dissolving ribbon falling back onto the bowl of whipped eggs when the whisk is lifted.
5.While the eggs are whipping, stir together the flour and cornstarch.
6.Sift one-third of the flour mixture over the beaten eggs. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the flour mixture, making sure to scrape all the way to the bottom of the bowl on every pass through the batter to prevent the flour mixture from accumulating there and making lumps. Repeat with another third of the flour mixture and finally with the remainder.
7.Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
8.Bake the genoise for about 10 to 12 minutes. Make sure the cake doesn’t overbake and become too dry or it will not roll properly.
9.While the cake is baking, begin making the buttercream.
10.Once the cake is done (a tester will come out clean and if you press the cake lightly it will spring back), remove it from the oven and let it cool on a rack.
4 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
24 tablespoons (3 sticks or 1-1/2 cups) unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
2 tablespoons rum or brandy
1.Whisk the egg whites and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Set the bowl over simmering water and whisk gently until the sugar is dissolved and the egg whites are hot.
2.Attach the bowl to the mixer and whip with the whisk on medium speed until cooled. Switch to the paddle and beat in the softened butter and continue beating until the buttercream is smooth. Dissolve the instant coffee in the liquor and beat into the buttercream.
Filling and frosting the log:
1.Run a sharp knife around the edges of the genoise to loosen it from the pan.
2.Turn the genoise layer over (unmolding it from the sheet pan onto a flat surface) and peel away the paper.
3.Carefully invert your genoise onto a fresh piece of parchment paper.
4.Spread with half the coffee buttercream (or whatever filling you’re using).
5.Use the parchment paper to help you roll the cake into a tight cylinder.
6.Transfer back to the baking sheet and refrigerate for several hours.
7.Unwrap the cake. Trim the ends on the diagonal, starting the cuts about 2 inches away from each end.
8.Position the larger cut piece on each log about 2/3 across the top.
9.Cover the log with the reserved buttercream, making sure to curve around the protruding stump.
10.Streak the buttercream with a fork or decorating comb to resemble bark.
11.Transfer the log to a platter and decorate with your mushrooms and whatever other decorations you’ve chosen.
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
½ cup (3-1/2 ounces/105 g.) granulated sugar
1/3 cup (1-1/3 ounces/40 g.) icing sugar
Unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting
1.Preheat the oven to 225 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. Have ready a pastry bag fitted with a small (no. 6) plain tip. In a bowl, using a mixer on medium-low speed, beat together the egg whites and cream of tartar until very foamy. Slowly add the granulated sugar while beating. Increase the speed to high and beat until soft peaks form when the beaters are lifted. Continue until the whites hold stiff, shiny peaks. Sift the icing sugar over the whites and, using a rubber spatula, fold in until well blended.
2.Scoop the mixture into the bag. On one baking sheet, pipe 48 stems, each ½ inch (12 mm.) wide at the base and tapering off to a point at the top, ¾ inch (2 cm.) tall, and spaced about ½ inch (12 mm.) apart. On the other sheet, pipe 48 mounds for the tops, each about 1-1/4 inches (3 cm.) wide and ¾ inch (2 cm.) high, also spaced ½ inch (12 mm.) apart. With a damp fingertip, gently smooth any pointy tips. Dust with cocoa. Reserve the remaining meringue.
3.Bake until dry and firm enough to lift off the paper, 50-55 minutes. Set the pans on the counter and turn the mounds flat side up. With the tip of a knife, carefully make a small hole in the flat side of each mound. Pipe small dabs of the remaining meringue into the holes and insert the stems tip first. Return to the oven until completely dry, about 15 minutes longer. Let cool completely on the sheets.
4.Garnish your Yule Log with the mushrooms.