From our family to yours....
I am growing to love, love, love these Daring Baker challenges. With trepidation, I joined this daredevil group of breadmakers and cakemakers (amongst other things) in an effort to learn more about the art of baking. Boy, two challenges down and I can't count the number of 'firsts' I have had experienced in trying to meet my challenges.
The December challenge is appropriately a Yule Log or Bûche de Noel. Yes, I asked the same question. Wiki had the answer as usual and informs that a Yule Log is 'a traditional dessert served during the Christmas holidays inFrance and Quebec. As the name indicates, the cake is generally prepared, presented, and garnished so as to look like a log ready for the fire. The traditional bûche is made from a Génoise or other sponge cake, generally baked in a large, shallow jelly roll pan, frosted, rolled to form a cylinder, and frosted again on the outside.'
The recipe involves making a génoise, Swiss buttercream, marzipan -none of which I have attempted to make before.
The Christmas rush of baking , gift-buying, visiting friends, having friends over etc ., proved to be a blessing. By the time I got around to making ¨the log¨, lots of fabulous and talented Daring Bakers have already made theirs. The DB blog was inundated with tips and tricks which helped immensely. See, this is exactly what I love about the group-it's all about sharing the failures and successes with their creations and allowing everyone to learn in the process.
What with all the Christmas stress and all, I didn't think my nerves could take any more unpleasant surprises so I decided to stick to the recipe to the letter. No exotic flavour for my butter cream, no nuts thrown into the sponge batter, no fancy baubles to decorate the log with. Nevertheless, making this was a lot of fun. My sponge might have been overcooked (though I only baked it for 8mins, as opposed to 10-12mins as stated in the recipe) and the buttercream was runny and perilously split (salvaged by putting in the fridge and whisking by hand additional icing sugar)- the result was absolutely delicious. I have to say that the buttercream was the star in this recipe. I just could not get enough of the coffe and rum laden dream of an icing. This cream will be used in this household again, for sure. Hmm, I can already see it over a mocha chiffon or some dark chocolate cupcakes.
Making the marzipan was also a hoot. It was playdough for grown-up. Sadly, I've never been much good with playdough so I did not attempt to make anything fancy with the marzipan (I left that to my three-year old). I stuck with the humble mushrooms and oh, how I loved the little stumpy ones. They were so cute.
As a final touch, I just added some gum tree leaves and gum nuts for that Australian feel.
Thanks to the Dynamic Duo (and Daring bakers founders) of Ivonne (of Cream Puffs in Venice) and Lis (of La Mia Cucina) for choosing a fabulously festive challenge.
Happy Holidays Everyone!!
(from Perfect Cakes by Nick Malgieri and The Williams-Sonoma Collection: Dessert)
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 (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 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.
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.
8 ounces almond paste
2 cups icing sugar
3 to 5 tablespoons light corn syrup
1.To make the marzipan combine the almond paste and 1 cup of the icing sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat with the paddle attachment on low speed until sugar is almost absorbed.
2.Add the remaining 1 cup of sugar and mix until the mixture resembles fine crumbs.
3.Add half the corn syrup, then continue mixing until a bit of the marzipan holds together when squeezed, adding additional corn syrup a little at a time, as necessary: the marzipan in the bowl will still appear crumbly.
4.Transfer the marzipan to a work surface and knead until smooth.
5.Roll one-third of the marzipan into a 6 inches long cylinder and cut into 1-inch lengths.
6.Roll half the lengths into balls. Press the remaining cylindrical lengths (stems) into the balls (caps) to make mushrooms.
7.Smudge with cocoa powder.
Assembling the Yule 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.