I’m proud to present my first entry into the Daring Baker’s Challenge, December’s Yule Log. I have to say that when I sent in my request to be considered for the Daring Baker’s at the end of November I had a sneaking suspicion the challenge for December would be a Yule Log. After all, what baked bit of tastiness screams “ ‘Tis the Season “ and is a bit daring to make??? I relished the opportunity to pull out a lot of rusty skills to do this challenge.
As a few know, Eating In is based on fairly quick and easy dinners and the like for the average family wanting to bring new culinary delights to the table. So here’s the disclaimer … a Yule Log is not for the faint of heart nor is it quick and easy. I planned a whole weekend around getting the job done. Now it’s not like I slaved night and day over the stove but I did do a bit of planning.
Step 1: Make sure you’ve got everything … no sweat … lots of eggs and butter … CHECK!
Step 2: Make everything is a room temp. Buttercream does not, repeat does not, respond well to cold butter in the making faze. CHECK!
Step 3: Have a decent mise en place. All eggs separated as need be, flour out and sifted, butter unwrapped and on a movable surface. CHECK!
In the end, the genoise and buttercream were a snap to make. As I told Lis, I have my mother and grandmothers to thank for that. You see, when I was a kid we had tea. That’s not sit down with a cup of tea and slurp. It’s a full blown, cookies, tiny sandwiches, cold cut plate, little pastries kind of tea. Even during harvest … outside … in the fields … with china tea cups on the endgate of the pickup truck … You get the picture. We had jelly rolls a lot. Quick to make, pretty to look at, used up old jam, and were tasty to boot. Can’t complain about that. So the whole making a genoise, filling it, and then rolling it up wasn’t too tough. I did make my genoise a chocolate one as most of my holiday party guests love chocolate. I thought the coffee buttercream would be a nice foil for the chocolate cake.
The buttercream went together very nicely. I was a little nervous as I haven’t made buttercream in years. The hubby shouldn’t be eating it, but hey, it’s the holidays after all. My only problem was that I refrigerated it after filling the log. The next day, like the day of the holiday party, I went to finish the cake by frosting it in buttercream. Well, can you say breakage?!? Holy crap!!! After a moment of panic, I melted a bit of the buttercream in the micro, added it to the sad pile of broken buttercream and beat the hell out of it. Miraculously it came together and became a Yule Log!
The mushrooms were a delight to create. I’m usually not fond of meringue but this was superb! When I served slices to my guests after a fine feast of prime rib roast and roasted veggies I was asked, “Why are there mushrooms on my cake!” I totally took it as a compliment. After all, if my meringue mushrooms looked that real they must have been a success. And by the way the entire cake disappeared I’m sure it was.
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.