I became a member of the Daring Bakers back in September, with the expectation of being truly challenged. The lavash, the pizza and the caramel cake all had challenging aspects to them; but this month's French Yule Log has to "take the cake" when it comes to challenges! When I first looked at the recipe (which went on for page after page), my knees started knocking in a combination of trepidation and anticipation. "Take a deep breath and take it one step at a time," I told myself.
I decided to break the recipe into its six parts, and do them over a three-day span. I started, one evening, with the creme brulee section. I've made creme brulee before, but the recipe we were following had us bake the creme in a 210 degree oven, supposedly for one hour. Oh, my! One hour went by and the creme brulee was still nowhere near set. In the end I gradually bumped the temperature up to 250 degrees, and ended up baking it for over two hours!
In order I continued on, over a span of three days, to make the chocolate mousse, the praline insert (feuillete), the dacquoise (an almond/meringue "cake"), ganache (a rich, creamy milk chocolate layer) and the milk chocolate icing. I read the comments of several other Daring Bakers . . . "It really isn't that hard" . . . but I must take exception! I found it quite difficult, especially finding the time to complete it, during this, the most busy time of the year. And then there were the three dozen pots, pans and bowls that were soaked and scrubbed, just to be used again, for another ingredient - oh, my aching back! And, finally, there were the struggles of getting frozen portions out of their molds. I'd have given up right there, twice, if it hadn't been for Dan's skill and patience in getting them unmolded. In fact, it was only because of Dan's encouragement that I persevered and completed the French Yule Log (known, also, as a buche de noel).
I didn't take pictures along the way. I was too busy, and my hands were too sticky to touch the camera. But below are a couple shots of the completed dessert. Had I had more time . . . and energy . . . I would have (should have) spent some time making decorations for the log. Some traditional decorations include chocolate curls, thin chocolate or cookie leaves, berries, meringue mushrooms, etc. But since I finally finished my log the night before we were leaving for my mom's house, in Carlsbad, I felt pretty satisfied just to have completed the basics. Maybe next time I'll go the final step, and add an artistic touch. BUT, what I must report is that this rich French dessert tasted better than the sum of its parts! It really was delicious! Dan went back for seconds, and our neighbors, to whom I delivered a couple slices, called us to say it was wonderful. Nothing warms a Daring Baker's heart more than such compliments.