Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Florilège Gourmand: French Yule Log

When I first saw this recipe, I almost choked on the food I was eating. The recipe, including variations, is somewhere around twelve pages long. It is the longest, most involved, ridiculous item I have ever made. This cake took around fifteen hours and a year off my life. It used something in the neighborhood of a carton of eggs, a carton of heavy cream, and four chocolate bars.

The cake itself has six different parts that must be separately made from scratch, layered in a pan to create an amazing showpiece that you would normally only find in the best restaurants.  The six layers of the cake are: a crème brulée insert, a praline feuillete insert, chocolate mousse, chocolate ganache, almond dacquoise biscuit, and a robe of chocolate on the outside.  I finally got to taste my creation last night, and guess what? It's so incredibly rich, it actually made me kinda sick to eat it.

French Yule Log
From Florilège Gourmand

Element #1 Dacquoise Biscuit (Almond Cake)

¾ cup almond meal
½ cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
About 3 medium egg whites
4 tablespoons granulated sugar

Finely mix the almond meal and the powdered sugar. (If you have a mixer, you can use it by pulsing the ingredients together for no longer than 30 seconds).  Sift the flour into the mix.  Beat the eggs whites, gradually adding the granulated sugar until stiff.  Pour the almond meal mixture into the egg whites and blend delicately with a spatula.  Grease a piece of parchment paper and line your baking pan with it.  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 ⅓-inch. Bake at 350°F for approximately 15 minutes, until golden. Let cool and cut to the desired shape.

Element #2 Dark Chocolate Mousse

2½ sheets gelatin or 1¼ teaspoons powdered gelatin
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1½ teaspoons thick corn syrup
½ ounce water
About 3 medium egg yolks
6 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1½ cups heavy cream

Soften the gelatin in cold water. If using powdered gelatin, follow the directions on the package.  Beat the egg yolks until very light in color (approximately 5 minutes until almost white).  Cook the sugar, corn syrup, and water on medium heat for approximately 3 minutes (if you have a candy thermometer, the mixture should reach 244°F. If you do not have a candy thermometer, test the sugar temperature by dipping the tip of a knife into the syrup then into a bowl of ice water, if it forms a soft ball in the water then you have reached the correct temperature.  Add the sugar syrup to the beaten yolks carefully by pouring it into the mixture in a thin stream while continuing to beat the yolks. You can do this by hand but it’s easier to do this with an electric mixer.  Continue beating until cool (approximately 5 minutes). The batter should become thick and foamy.

In a double boiler or equivalent, heat 2 tablespoons of the heavy cream to boiling. Add the chopped chocolate and stir until melted and smooth.  Whip the remainder of the cream until stiff.  Pour the melted chocolate over the softened gelatin, mixing well. Let the gelatin and chocolate cool slightly and then stir in ½ cup of whipped cream to temper. Add the egg yolk mixture.  Add in the rest of the whipped cream, mixing gently with a spatula.

Element #3 Dark Chocolate Ganache Insert

4 tablespoons granulated sugar
⅔ cup minus 1 tablespoon heavy cream
5 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped
3 tablespoons plus ½ teaspoon unsalted butter, softened

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.  While the sugar is melting, heat the cream until boiling. Pour cream into the caramel and stir thoroughly. Be very careful as it may splatter and boil.  Pour the hot caramel-milk mixture over the dark chocolate. Wait 30 seconds and stir until smooth.  Add the softened butter and whip hard and fast. The chocolate should be smooth and shiny.

Element #4 Praline Feuillete (Crisp) Insert

To make 2 ounces of gavottes (lace crepes):
⅓ cup whole milk
⅔ tablespoon unsalted butter
⅓ cup minus 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon beaten egg
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
½ tsp vegetable oil

Heat the milk and butter together until butter is completely melted. Remove from the heat.  Sift flour into milk-butter mixture while beating, add egg and granulated sugar. Make sure there are no lumps.  Grease a baking sheet and spread batter thinly over it. Bake at 425°F for a few minutes until the crepe is golden and crispy. Let cool.

To make the Praline Feuillete:
3.5 ounces milk chocolate
1⅔ tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons praline
2 ounces gavottes (lace crepes) or 1 ounce rice krispies/corn flakes

Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler.  Add the praline and the coarsely crushed lace crepes. Mix quickly to thoroughly coat with the chocolate.  Spread between two sheets of wax paper to a size slightly larger than your desired shape. Refrigerate until hard.

Element #5 Vanilla Crème Brulée Insert

½ cup heavy cream
½ cup whole milk
1 vanilla bean
4 medium egg yolks
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Heat the cream, milk, and scraped vanilla bean to just boiling. Remove from the stove and let the vanilla infuse for about 1 hour.  Whisk together the sugar and egg yolks (but do not beat until white).  Pour the vanilla-infused milk over the sugar/yolk mixture. Mix well.  Wipe with a very wet cloth and then cover your baking mold (to fit inside yule log) with parchment paper. Pour the cream into the mold and bake at 210°F for about 1 hour or until firm on the edges and slightly wobbly in the center.  Let cool and put in the freezer for at least 1 hour to firm up and facilitate the final assembly.

Element #6 Dark Chocolate Icing

2 sheets gelatin or ½ tablespoon powdered gelatin
¼ cup heavy cream
5 tablespoons granulated sugar
¼ cup water
⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Soften the gelatin in cold water for 15 minutes.  Boil the rest of the ingredients and cook an additional 3 minutes after boiling.  Add gelatin to the chocolate mixture. Mix well.  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.

To Assemble:
Line your mold or pan, whatever its shape, with acetate (clear hard plastic) or plastic film. Acetate will give you a smoother shape but you may have a hard time using it depending on the kind of mold you’re using.

Pipe one third of the Mousse component into the mold.  Take the Crème Brulée 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.  Pipe second third of the Mousse component around and on top of the Crème Brulée Insert.  Cut the Praline Feuillete Insert to a size slightly smaller than your mold so that it can be surrounded by mousse. Lay it on top of the mousse you just piped into the mold.  Pipe the last third of the Mousse component on top of the Praline Insert.  Freeze for a few hours to set. Take out of the freezer.  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.  Close with the Dacquoise.  Freeze until the next day.

The order is:
1) Mousse
2) Crème Brulée Insert
3) Mousse
4) Praline Feuillete Insert
5) Mousse
6) Ganache Insert
7) Dacquoise

The following day:
Unmold the log and set on a wire rack over a shallow pan.  Cover the cake with the icing.  Let set. Return to the freezer.  Transfer to the refrigerator no longer than ½ hour before serving as it may start to melt quickly.

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