Sunday, December 23, 2007

Ta Dah! Daring Baker event #3 is done, a yule log ready for dinner tomorrow evening

Luke 2:1-7 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.
 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Well if I'm not late then I have successfully completed my third daring baker's event. The second one was late, but it was a total accident, so I will count it. This one was not as hard as I had thought it might be, but I was able to focus undisturbed and that counts for a lot.

I started at 2 and had the cake assembled and awaiting the mushrooms by 3:25. As I laid out the ingredients for the 'mis en place' phase, I was surprised to see that the genoise had no butter. That was a relief. The butter can be so tricky in genoise - either your cake is fabulous or it sinks in the middle. The cake came together like a dream, if you don't count the phone call the interrupted me.

As soon as it was in the oven I turned over the pages for that phase and proceeded to the next - butter cream. I think that the last time I made butter cream was thirty years ago. Boy does that make me sound old! Or maybe it was Italian icing. Well, anyway, the really big unknown was how I was going to turn the butter cream into chocolate butter cream. The recipe said to dissolve the coffee crystals in the brandy, so instead I tried that with cocoa powder. It didn't dissolve, it solidified. Well I ignored that and continued on with making butter cream. When it was at the final stage and looking lovely I tossed in a small morsel of the cocoa and brandy mix. Almost immediately it began to curdle. I very quickly turned off the mixer and pondered my problem. Something needed to be done! I surmised that the reason it curdled was the Dutch cocoa. I maybe should have used Hershey's regular American cocoa. But what was done was done. I decided to toss in about 1/3 cup icing sugar and turn back on the mixer. That worked!  The butter cream stopped curdling and went back to looking lovely. At that I decided to toss in all of the cocoa and brandy mixture. It didn't curdle, but turned into nice looking butter cream. I forgot to mention - I only made 2/3 of the butter cream. I had decided to put whipped cream in the middle of the cake.

Before the butter cream was done the cake was out of the oven. As soon as I could I lifted it from its pan and set it on the rack. I paused temporarily on the butter cream because I suspected that the cake would need to be rolled as soon as possible, so I needed to get it filled with the whipped cream. I melted 4 ounces chocolate chips with 4 teaspoons of brandy in the microwave for 45 seconds, gave it a really good stir and spread it on the cake. The cream whipped was ready to go, and realizing that the melted chocolate had already cooled  I spread on the cream and rolled up the cake, using a tea towel. It rolled up ever so nicely.   Leaving the cake in the tea towel, I finished the butter cream.

At this point I needed to find a large enough plate for one long log, as I had no intention of making one of those funny sticking out bits on my log. Logs in Oregon don't come with sticking out bits, they're just for people who can't find a plate the log will fit onto. The plate pictured here belonged to my grand-daughter's great-great-grand-mother. I only had to shave less than an inch off the cake to make it fit perfectly. Since it fit I was definitely under no obligation to make a cut in the cake.

I then finished the butter cream, applied it to the cake, and decided that it was authentic looking without the fork marks.  Now all I needed was the mushrooms. I could see that given how long it was going to take to produce those little mushrooms the cake was going to have to be in the refrigerator. I found two thin  wooden skewers, broke them in half and stuck them in the cake to lay the plastic wrap over.

The mushrooms were going to prove the more difficult part of the event. It wasn't so so difficult, but they did take practice. I had wondered why the recipe was for 48 mushrooms, but I soon figured out that it was because you needed to practice. Why were we to use such a small tip to make fat little mushrooms. I finally figured out that you hold the tip in one place and just keep squeezing on the bag and a mushroom top grows right before you very eyes. I finally got a lot of tops and stems all squeezed out, put them in the oven, and in a panic realized that I hadn't gone to the store yet for the lasagna ingredients. I turned the oven temperatures down to 200 and we headed out.

When we got back quite a bit later everything was okay, and I immediately proceeded to make mushrooms. As soon as it seemed to me I'd made enough mushrooms for one cake I put them in the oven to set up, I put the rest of the mushroom parts in a bowl for people to eat. Riley thinks it would be very funny to hand the bowl to Annie tomorrow and ask her to slice them for the salad. It could be funny, but I'm not going there. It was nice that Riley thought they looked so real.

Evaluation of the Yule Log

First I will say that it wasn't as hard to make as I thought it would be. The butterless genoise was very easy, but in the end I thought it was too dry.  I think I would soak it with a syrup if I made it again.  The butter cream was a bit trickier, but turned out just like at the best bakeries.  I would like to try other flavors, I imagine there are a lot of possibilities.   The meringues were a lot of fun, and I feel a bit guilty for not trying to make the marzipan ones.  One of my daughters gave me some marzipan in my stocking for Christmas, so I've got some material to work with.  I don't feel at all guilty about not making the stump on the log, and my family was glad I didn't.  But the final verdict on this cake is the reaction of the eaters.  I served it at our Christmas Eve dinner.  As everyone started eating it felt like a scene from All Creatures Great and Small in which Sigfried and James are out at a farm before Christmas and it's obvious that the only real reason for being there was to taste the Christmas cake.  The wife is known for her wonderful Christmas cake, but she has substituted her sister's cake, just to see what Sigfried will say.  He is very slow and careful in tasting it, and in the end tells her that though it is a very good cake, it just isn't up to her standard.  So in the end my family agreed that they prefer my usual buche de Noel.

Yule Log - Buche de Noel


3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
pinch of salt
¾ cup of sugar
2 oz cake flour
1 oz cornflour

one (1) 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 cornflour.

6.Sift one-third of the flour mixture over the beaten eggs. Use a rubber scraper to fold in the flour mixture, making sure to scoop 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.Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.

8.Bake the genoise for about 10 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, remove it from the oven and let it cool on a rack.

Chocolate Brandy Buttercream:

3 large egg whites
2/3 cup sugar
16 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons cocoa
2 tablespoons 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 by tossing in the butter one tablespoon at a time. Continue beating until the buttercream is smooth. Combine the cocoa and the brandy and add gradually into the butter cream. This is an iffy process. Check for cocoa lumps.

Meringue Mushrooms:

3 large egg whites, at room temperature
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
½ cup (3-1/2 ounces/105 g.) granulated sugar
Unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting

1.Preheat the oven to 220 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. Have ready a pastry bag fitted with a small (no. 6 or 8) 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.

2.Scoop the mixture into the bag. On one baking sheet, pipe a lot of 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 a lot of 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.

Assembling the Yule Log:

1. Lift the genoise, paper and all, out onto a rack to cool a bit.
2. Sprinkle with a light dusting of granulated sugar, the lay a tea towel over the cake.
3. Flip the cake over and carefully peel off the paper.
4. Melt
4 ounces of chocolate chips with 4 teaspoons of brandy in the microwave for 45 seconds. Stir well to blend.
5. Spread melted chocolate evenly over the cake.
6. Whip
1 cup of heavy cream with 2 tablespoons of sugar and a small splash of vanilla. Spread over the cake.
7.Using the tea towel to help, roll the cake into a tight cylinder. Trim the ends ever so slightly if you like.
8. Transfer the log to an appropriate sized plate.
9.Cover the log with the buttercream, making sure the butter cream looks like the bark on a log.
10. Decorate with the mushrooms.


Tartelette said...

Great job on your challenge! The log looks great and I hope you all get to enjoy the fruits of your labor.
Happy Holidays to you and your family!

michelle said...

Looks fabulous! Happy holidays!

zorra said...

Looks great, and I like your kitchen! Happy holiday.

Lunch Buckets said...

Great job! I like Riley's idea :)

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

I guess you are a better woman than I. I really like Riley's idea!
Your log looks lovely.

ostwestwind said...

Looks very good, happy holidays!

Claire said...

Great job! The mushrooms did look real...those were the favorite of my friend! Merry Christmas...enjoy celebrating the birth of Jesus!

Anonymous said...

I felt the same way as your family about the overall taste. Your log looks great though :)

maybahay said...

i love your introduction. great reminder of what the Season is really about.
great looking bûche de nöel!

Deborah said...

Great job on your yule log!

eatme_delicious said...

Happy to hear the buttercream turned out well for you! I agree that your log looks great without running a fork through the icing.

Dolores said...

Beautiful log Molly. I'm glad you were able to salvage your butter cream.

I hope you found joy and peace in your Christmas celebrations, and that 2008 brings you and your family health and happiness, laughter and love.

Jen Yu said...

Looks terrific and I love the dark color of the frosting! I found the mushrooms to be the most fun part of the challenge. Yours look great!

jen at use real butter

Katie said...

Your log looks great and the mushrooms are very cute.