Sunday, December 28, 2008

French Yule Log

Iced Log all shiny and glossy reflecting the blue light of my kitchen

Log waiting for final icingUn-iced log you can see the cake layer on top.
Side view of un-iced log

A French Yule Log!
This month's Daring Bakers' challenge is a French Yule Log and what a challenge! The recipe was over 18 pages long! At first sight my thought was HOLY XMAS!!!! what a long and exacting ordeal. Though on reading it a few times it was six simple recipes (taking anywhere from 10mins to 60 mins each) all combined into one Yule Log. I will be having the log on New Year's Eve I will post a photo of the cut log then. I live in Sydney Australia and we have one of the BEST fireworks displays so it should go down well on the night. The log served 26 people (it was a large BBQ party! You don't need much for a serving because of the richness of the log. The theme of the fireworks was "CREATION" the pyrotechnics (costings $6million) were so special this year. On the harbour, eight 100-foot multicoloured flame throwers danced below the bridge as images of the vast Australian landscape were projected onto the pylons.

As the last sparks from the fireworks cleared away, the Harbour of Lights parade got underway.

The parade features 55 vessels, including tall ships and ferries, displaying illuminated emblems on their masts and rigging on the theme of Creation.

The log consists of six elements

1) Dacquoise Biscuit – basically an almond cake
2) Mousse – cream and chocolate set with gelatine
3) Ganache Insert – caramel, cream and chocolate
4) Praline (Crisp) Insert – crisp crepes, milk chocolate, butter & praline
5) Creme Brulee Insert – egg yolks and eggs set as a custard
6) Icing – cocoa set with gelatine

The first five elements are arranged in a mould and then frozen and then the icing is poured over to form an absolutely smooth and shiny finish.

Not a pretty photo but it was so GOOD even I was impressed this is one to keep for that special party.
It was a lot of work (so much cream and chocolate!!!! about 3/4 litre of cream and about 450 grams of chocolate and about 100 grams of butter) BUT what a result it is the best dessert I have ever tasted. It is the combination of textures and chocolate tastes that makes this one excellent sweet - this combination is so finely tuned that the crisp layer plays off the ganche then the soft mousee and the almond cake O so delicious - a symphony of triumphs.

Notes on the six elements
1) Dacquoise Biscuit – this is a totally delicious and delectable moist almond cake it bakes to a light brown colour and is great all by itself if you spread it thickly it bakes moist and if spread thinly it is crisp. If your mould is curved do a thick layer it will be easy to bend to the correct shape. Easy peasy recipe.
2) Mousse – cream and chocolate set with gelatine – Easy to make and tastes better than the best quality ice cream; when set it is smooth and velvet-like and a light chocolate colour. Very easy recipe.
3) Ganache Insert – caramel, cream and chocolate – a caramel made by the dry method add cream and stir with a hand blender. Great chocolate taste and sets to a hard dark finish. Very easy recipe.
4) Praline (Crisp) Insert – crisp crepes, milk chocolate, butter & praline – Crepes are hard to make thin enough and then to bake them without burning involves constant watching; much easier to use Special K cereal. You combine the crepes (or cereal) with the chocolate, butter and praline (or nutella) spread on a baking tray and set in the refrigerator. You must smash the praline layer before you place into the yule log or else it will be too hard to cut through.
5) Creme Brulee Insert – egg yolks and eggs set as a custard – a lot of the Daring Bakers found that the brulee took up to 2 hours to set, this is because oven temperatures in most ovens are very inaccurate in the lowest range (so use a oven thermometer to check the true heat) and that the cream used must be over 35% if it is too low it will take a long time to set.
6) Icing – cocoa set with gelatine – so easy it isn't a recipe almost – some of the DBers found that the icing came out like a rubber sheet and literally pulled it off and enjoyed the rest of the log. This is because of the incorrect use of powdered gelatin. Place the correct amount of gelatin in a small bowl pour two tablespoons of hot water and stir to dissolve the gelatin. Place the small bowl into a larger bowl with hot water. Wait a few minutes until all of the gelatin is dissolved; the water will be a light brown or gold colour. Strain the liquid through a fine metal sieve. This icing came out so shiny and glossy I could see my face in it.

This month's challenge is brought to us by the adventurous Hilda from Saffron and Blueberry and Marion from Il en Faut Peu Pour Etre Heureux. They have chosen a French Yule Log by Flore from Florilege Gourmand

The source of the recipe is [].
December's 2008 challenge recipe author is Flore.
This month's host are Hilda of Saffron & Blueberry ( and Marion of (Il en faut peu pour etre heureux (

Element #1 Dacquoise Biscuit (Almond Cake)

Preparation time: 10 mn + 15 mn for baking

Equipment: 2 mixing bowls, hand or stand mixer with whisk attachment, spatula, baking pan such as a 10”x15” jelly-roll pan, parchment paper

Note: You can use the Dacquoise for the bottom of your Yule Log only, or as bottom and top layers, or if using a Yule log mould (half-pipe) to line your entire mould with the biscuit. Take care to spread the Dacquoise accordingly. Try to bake the Dacquoise the same day you assemble the log to keep it as moist as possible.

2.8 oz (3/4cup + 1Tbsp / 80g) almond meal
1.75 oz (1/2 cup / 50g) confectioner’s sugar
2Tbsp (15g) all-purpose flour
3.5oz (100g / ~100ml) about 3 medium egg whites
1.75 oz (4 Tbsp / 50g) granulated sugar

1.Finely mix the almond meal and the caster sugar. (If you have a mixer, you can use it by pulsing the ingredients together for no longer than 30 seconds).
2.Sift the flour into the mix.
3.Beat the eggs whites, gradually adding the granulated sugar until stiff.
4.Pour the almond meal mixture into the egg whites and blend delicately with a spatula.
5.Grease a piece of parchment paper and line your baking pan with it.
6.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 1/3 inches (8mm).
7.Bake at 350°F (180°C) for approximately 15 minutes (depends on your oven), until golden.
8.Let cool and cut to the desired shape.

Element #2 Dark Chocolate Mousse

Preparation time: 20mn

Equipment: stand or hand mixer with whisk attachment, thermometer, double boiler or equivalent, spatula

Note: You will see that a Pate a Bombe is mentioned in this recipe. A Pate a Bombe is a term used for egg yolks beaten with a sugar syrup, then aerated. It is the base used for many mousse and buttercream recipes. It makes mousses and buttercreams more stable, particularly if they are to be frozen, so that they do not melt as quickly or collapse under the weight of heavier items such as the crème brulee insert.

If you would like to use agar-agar, here are the equivalencies: 8g powdered gelatin = 1 (0.25 oz) envelope powdered gelatin = 1 Tbsp powdered gelatin = 1 Tbsp Agar-Agar.
1 Tbsp. of agar-agar flakes is equal to 1 tsp. of agar-agar powder.

2.5 sheets gelatin or 5g / 1+1/4 tsp powdered gelatin
1.5 oz (3 Tbsp / 40g) granulated sugar
1 ½ tsp (10g) glucose or thick corn syrup
0.5 oz (15g) water
50g egg yolks (about 3 medium)
6.2 oz (175g) dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1.5 cups (350g) heavy cream (35% fat content)

1.Soften the gelatin in cold water. (If using powdered gelatin, follow the directions on the package.)
2.Make a Pate a Bombe: Beat the egg yolks until very light in colour (approximately 5 minutes until almost white).
2a.Cook the sugar, glucose syrup and water on medium heat for approximately 3 minutes (if you have a candy thermometer, the mixture should reach 244°F (118°C). 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.
2b.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.
2c.Continue beating until cool (approximately 5 minutes). The batter should become thick and foamy.
3.In a double boiler (or one small saucepan in a larger one), heat 2 tablespoons (30g) of cream to boiling. Add the chopped chocolate and stir until melted and smooth.
4.Whip the rest of the cream until stiff.
5.Pour the melted chocolate over the softened gelatin, mixing well. Let the gelatin and chocolate cool slightly and then stir in ½ cup (100g) of WHIPPED cream to temper. Add the Pate a Bombe.
6.Add in the rest of the WHIPPED cream (220g) mixing gently with a spatula.

Element #3 Dark Chocolate Ganache Insert

Preparation time: 10mn

Equipment: pan, whisk.
If you have plunging mixer (a vertical hand mixer used to make soups and other liquids), it comes in handy.

Note: Because the ganache hardens as it cools, you should make it right before you intend to use it to facilitate piping it onto the log during assembly. Please be careful when caramelizing the sugar and then adding the cream. It may splatter and boil.

1.75 oz (4 Tbsp / 50g) granulated sugar
4.5oz (2/3 cup – 1 Tbsp/ 135g) heavy cream (35% fat content)
5 oz (135g) dark chocolate, finely chopped
3Tbsp + 1/2tsp (45g) unsalted butter softened

1.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 colour (for most of you that means darker than last month’s challenge).
2.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.
3.Pour the hot caramel-milk mixture over the dark chocolate. Wait 30 seconds and stir until smooth.
4.Add the softened butter and whip hard and fast (if you have a plunging mixer use it). The chocolate should be smooth and shiny.

Element #4 Praline Feuillete (Crisp) Insert

Preparation time: 10 mn (+ optional 15mn if you make lace crepes)

Equipment: Small saucepan, baking sheet (if you make lace crepes).
Double boiler (or one small saucepan in another), wax paper, rolling pin (or use an empty bottle of olive oil).

Note: Feuillete means layered (as in with leaves) so a Praline Feuillete is a Praline version of a delicate crisp. There are non-praline variations below. The crunch in this crisp comes from an ingredient which is called gavottes in French. Gavottes are lace-thin crepes. To our knowledge they are not available outside of France, so you have the option of making your own using the recipe below or you can simply substitute rice krispies or corn flakes or Special K for them.

To make 2.1oz / 60g of gavottes (lace crepes - recipe by Ferich Mounia):
1/3 cup (80ml) whole milk
2/3 Tbsp (8g) unsalted butter
1/3 cup – 2tsp (35g) all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp / 0.5 oz (15g) beaten egg
1 tsp (3.5g) granulated sugar
½ tsp vegetable oil
1.Heat the milk and butter together until butter is completely melted. Remove from the heat.
2.Sift flour into milk-butter mixture while beating, add egg and granulated sugar. Make sure there are no lumps.
3.Grease a baking sheet and spread batter thinly over it.
4.Bake at 430°F (220°C) for a few minutes until the crepe is golden and crispy. Let cool.

Ingredients for the Praline Feuillete:
3.5 oz (100g) milk chocolate
1 2/3 Tbsp (25g) butter
2 Tbsp (1 oz / 30g) praline
2.1oz (60g) lace crepes(gavottes) or rice krispies or corn flakes or Special K

1.Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler.
2.Add the praline and the coarsely crushed lace crepes. Mix quickly to thoroughly coat with the chocolate.
3.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

Preparation time: 15mn + 1h infusing + 1h baking

Equipment: Small saucepan, mixing bowl, baking mould, wax paper

Note: The vanilla crème brulée can be flavoured differently by simply replacing the vanilla with something else e.g. cardamom, lavender, etc...

1/2 cup (115g) heavy cream (35% fat content)
½ cup (115g) whole milk
4 medium-sized (72g) egg yolks
0.75 oz (2 Tbsp / 25g) granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean

1.Heat the milk, cream, and scraped vanilla bean to just boiling. Remove from the stove and let the vanilla infuse for about 1 hour.
2.Whisk together the sugar and egg yolks (but do not beat until white).
3.Pour the vanilla-infused milk over the sugar/yolk mixture. Mix well.
4.Wipe with a very wet cloth and then cover your baking mold (whatever shape is going to fit on the inside of your Yule log/cake) with parchment paper. Pour the cream into the mold and bake at 210°F (100°C) for about 1 hour or until firm on the edges and slightly wobbly in the center.
5.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

Preparation time: 25 minutes (10mn if you don’t count softening the gelatin)

Equipment: Small bowl, small saucepan

Note: Because the icing gelifies quickly, you should make it at the last minute.
For other gelatin equivalences or gelatin to agar-agar equivalences, look at the notes for the mousse component.

4g / ½ Tbsp powdered gelatin or 2 sheets gelatin
¼ cup (60g) heavy cream (35 % fat content)
2.1 oz (5 Tbsp / 60g) granulated sugar
¼ cup (50g) water
1/3 cup (30g) unsweetened cocoa powder

1.Soften the gelatin in cold water for 15 minutes.
2.Boil the rest of the ingredients and cook an additional 3 minutes after boiling.
3.Add to the chocolate mixture. Mix well.
4.Let cool while checking the texture regularly. As soon as the mixture is smooth and coats a spoon well (it is starting to gelify), use immediately.

How To Assemble your French Yule Log

Depending on whether your mold is going to hold the assembly upside down until you unmold it or right side up, this order will be different.
You will want to tap your mold gently on the countertop after each time you pipe mousse in to get rid of any air bubbles.

1)Line your mold or pan, whatever its shape, with rhodoid (clear hard plastic, I usually use transparencies cut to the desired shape, it’s easier to find than cellulose acetate which is what rhodoid translates to in English) OR plastic film. Rhodoid will give you a smoother shape but you may have a hard time using it depending on the kind of mould you’re using.
2)Cut the Dacquoise into a shape fitting your mold and set it in there. If you are using an actual Yule mould which is in the shape of a half-pipe, you want the Dacquoise to cover the entire half-pipe portion of the mould.
3)Pipe one third of the Mousse component on the Dacquoise.
4)Take the Creme Brulee 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.
5)Pipe second third of the Mousse component around and on top of the Creme Brulee Insert.
6)Cut the Praline/Crisp 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.
7)Pipe the last third of the Mousse component on top of the Praline Insert.
8)Freeze for a few hours to set. Take out of the freezer.
9)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.
10)Close with the last strip of Dacquoise. Freeze until the next day.

Unmould the cake/log/whatever and set on a wire rack over a shallow pan.
Cover the cake with the icing.
Let set. Return to the freezer.
You may decorate your cake however you wish. The decorations can be set in the icing after it sets but before you return the cake to the freezer or you may attach them on top using extra ganache or leftover mousse, etc...
Transfer to the refrigerator no longer than ½ hour before serving as it may start to melt quickly depending on the elements you chose.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Roast Chicken

Roast Chicken
Roast chicken is simple and easy. Just follow the following simple steps.

0. General guideline 25 minutes for each ½ kilogramme (per pound)
1. Let chicken get to room temperature this takes about one-two hours outside of refrigerator.
2. Preheat oven to 260C (500F).
3. Place chicken into heavy based ceramic (or metal) based pan.
4. Bake for 30 minutes.
5. Lower temperature to 180C (350F).
6. Continue baking until cooked (that is until juices from thigh run clear).
7. Baste every 30 minutes or so.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Brined Roast Chicken


I love to cook roast chicken and am always on the lookout on how to improve the process. I discovered brining (soaking in salt water) produces evenly cooked white and brown meat on any fowl. I was surprised that it is simple process - just place the bird into salted water with optional flavourings for a few hours and then dry the fowl in the refrigerator overnight and then proceed as you normally do. It couldn't be easier.

So soaking in brine really improves the taste and the moistness of all fowl (chicken, turkey, goose, duck and guinea fowl). It is simple and will ensure that your Christmas bird will be the tastiest you have ever made. All you do is to brine your fowl and then proceed as normal, you will find that the meat is juicy and the skin is crisp and a lovely colour. I stuffed the chicken with one head of garlic (chopped in half) and one onion (quartered). I chose using spices just as cumin, coriander, fennel, cinnamon,star anise and used half water and half rice wine for the brining liquid.

The results were amazing - super super moist chicken and a lovely crisp skin. The meat from different parts of the chicken were evenly cooked and the chicken didn't taste salty at all.


Brining works in accordance with two principles, called diffusion and osmosis, that like things to be kept in equilibrium. When brining a fowl, there is a greater concentration of salt and sugar outside of the fowl (in the brine) than inside the fowl (in the cells that make up its flesh). The law of diffusion states that the salt and sugar will naturally flow from the area of greater concentration (the brine) to lesser concentration (the cells). There is also a greater concentration of water, so to speak, outside of the turkey than inside. Here, too, the water will naturally flow from the area of greater concentration (the brine) to lesser concentration (the cells). When water moves in this fashion, the process is called osmosis. Once inside the cells, the salt and, to a lesser extent, the sugar cause the cell proteins to unravel, or denature. As the individual proteins unravel, they become more likely to interact with one another. This interaction results in the formation of a sticky matrix that captures and holds moisture. Once exposed to heat, the matrix gels and forms a barrier that keeps much of the water from leaking out as the meat cooks. Thus you have a chicken or turkey that is both better seasoned and much more moist than when you started.

Brining does have one negative effect on chicken and turkey: Adding moisture to the skin as well as the flesh can prevent the skin from crisping when cooked. We found that air-drying, a technique used in many Chinese recipes for roast duck, solves this problem. Letting brined chicken and turkey dry uncovered in the refrigerator allows surface moisture to evaporate, making the skin visibly more dry and taut and therefore promoting crispness when cooked. Although this step is optional, if crisp skin is a goal, it’s worth the extra time. For best results, air-dry whole brined birds overnight. Brined chicken parts can be air-dried for several hours. Transfer the brined bird to a heavy-duty cooling rack set over a rimmed baking sheet, pat the bird dry with paper towels, and refrigerate. The rack lifts the bird off the baking sheet, allowing air to circulate freely under the bird

BASIC BRINE (this is suitable for ½ kilogramme of food or 1 pound of food) max of 2 gallon

1 litre (1 quart) cold water (can use half rice wine or dry sherry and water)
½ cup sea salt (or ¼ cup of table salt)
¼ cup sugar

Optional herbs (use herbs or spices not both)
2 tablespoons cumin seeds, bruised
2 tablespoons coriander seeds, bruised
2 tablespoons fennel seeds, bruised
¼ stick of cinnamon stick, bruised
2 star anise, bruised

Optional spices
1 bunch rosemary
1 bunch thyme
1 bunch parsley
1 whole head garlic peeled
1 onion, sliced
2 lemons, halved
4 juniper berries crushed
2 bay leaves, torn into pieces

Step 1 Mix cold water, salt and sugar in brining vessel and stir to dissolve salt and sugar.
Step 2. Immerse food in brine, seal and refrigerate.

Brining Time guide lines
1 hour per ½ kg (pound), but not less than 30 minutes and no more than 8 hours

How to Roast a Fowl (Guidelines)
1. Chose a smaller sized bird because it has a better skin to meat ratio so providing a constant source of moisture during the roasting. So a 2-3lb (1-1½kg) chicken or a 12lb (6kg) turkey are the best size.
2. Use a high heat to roast the skin for the first 20 mins - also preheat the pan so that the fowl sizzles when first placed into the pan.
3. Lower the heat and continue cooking. If the bird starts to over-brown loosely cover with foil.