Saturday, December 22, 2007

Christmastime is here...

As you may have known already, I approach Christmas with mixed feelings. I despise the over-the-top commercial feel that the season now has but I love that it is the time of the year that everyone (and I mean, everyone!) tries to be kind. Growing up in Indonesia, my family never celebrated Christmas. We usually had a Christmas tree in the house though. Kinda weird, isn't it? Raised in a Muslim country, with Chinese parents and educated in a Catholic convent, it's little wonder that I'm confused! :)

It's unfortunate that I'm stuck in Chicago for the holidays, with my family so far away. I'm quite jealous of my friends who are going home to be with their families. If only my family didn't live so far away... Also, I'm going in to the lab this weekend, on Christmas Eve and day. I know, I know, pathetic, I know.

Fortunately, I have this month's Daring Bakers' challenge to console me: the Yule log or the buche de Noel. As you may know already, it is a traditional Christmas dessert in France and Quebec. According to Wikipedia, Napoleon ordered Parisians to keep their chimneys closed during winter due to the belief that exposure to cold air causes health problems. This perevented Parisians from using the fireplace and engaging in traditions involving the hearth. Supposedly, French bakers invented this sweet log-shaped dessert as a symbolic replacement around which families can gather and continue their traditions.

I have actually made a chocolate buche de Noel for a friend's Christmas gathering a few years back. It was super rich, chocolatey and decadent. Anyway, I just remember really liking it! Ivonne and Lisa are kindly hosting this month's challenge and the besides the basic genoise, dark buttercream (one strict rule is that it has to be dark!) and mushroom decorations, we're free to go crazy! Yippee!

The sources of the recipe are from Perfect Cakes by Nick Malgieri and The Williams-Sonoma Collection: Dessert.

Unlike the previous 3 DB challenges I've made, I managed to fudge this one up real bad. And I mean, pretty badly. I had to make each component of the yule log twice! Yes, the genoise, buttercream and meringues. Twice! Fortunately, they improved the second time I made them otherwise, I would've totally given up! The genoise cake recipe seems simple enough with the usual ingredients such as eggs, sugar, flour and cornstarch. The first time around, I spread the batter too thinly and baked it for too long. As you can see below, the sides were browned.

As a matter of fact, the cake nearer to the sides was baked to a crisp. I only made 2/3 of the genoise recipe and I think I might've spread it too thinly on the jelly roll pan. Big mistake! The second time around, I made followed the recipe as is and baked it for only 10 minutes. I also let the batter expand even more in volume before adding the flour mixture. Even though it looked allright, the genoise was a tad dry for my taste. I added a splash of vanilla extract into the batter, which made it very fragrant, but other than that, it's rather bland.

I decided to try out a luscious-looking raspberry jam I bought from the local grocery store as the filling. I mean, check out the label! It says "More Fruit than Regular Preserves". Now, who doesn't want that? Talk about raspberry, I miss summer already not because of the heat (oh, I hate summer heat and humodity!) but because of berries, which are my absolute favorite things in the world! So anyway, after spreading the filling oh-so carefully on the genoise, it's time to roll!

Unlike the thin, elegant yule logs I made previously and that I've seen on TV and in magazines, I decided to do something different (and a little crazy. Well, maybe a lot crazy). I though it would be interesting to make a thick log. I guess looking at my creation now, it's more like a stump than a log. Haha! To do so, I cut the genoise into 4 strips length-wise.

Rolling the genoise was a tad tricky but I manages to not ruin it, fortunately. The first strip was rolled into a tight cylinder. The next strip of cake was then just rolled around the first cylinder of genoise and so on, until all the cake is used up. Check it out!

Next, comes the buttercream. The recipe supplied was for a coffee buttercream. I personally have an aversion to coffee. I also don't like coffee flavored stuff (with the exception of coffee ice cream), so I decided to go with a chocolate buttercream. My first attempt was pure nightmare, with the buttercream curdling and looking totally gross. After realizing that the meringue has to be totally cooled and that the butter has to be at room temperature, the second try went smoothly.

I had the most fun with the meringue mushrooms and other decorations. I simply adore meringue. They're light, fluffy and never fails to please the palate. I wanted to try out something that I saw on the Food Network show, Sugar Rush. In the special holiday episode, host Warren Brown visited the DC restaurant Citronelle, and learned from chef Michel Richard who to fashion snowmen out of fluffy meringue. In addition, he stuffed the snowmen with ice cream. How decadent is that? Unfortunately, I somehow burned my meringues the first time I made them and by the time I had to make the meringues a second time around, I was quite discouraged and decided to just make simple meringue shrooms :)

Even though I didn't have the gumption to make the ice cream-filled meringue today, it's something I will definitely try out in the future. As a matter of fact, I got ahead of myself today and purchased the ice cream I was planning on stuffing the meringue with. Check it out!

Creme brulee ice cream by Ben & Jerry! I've never really been a big fan on B&J mostly because I think their toppings can get too damn chunky! So chunky that I can't fully enjoy the actual ice cream. I suppose that might be the whole point of B&J ice cream but I actually like the frozen cream part better than the toppings. I'm a purist, I know. But this creme brulee ice cream isn't as chunky as the typical B&J creation. It has a nice amount of swirls of caramelized sugar and a super rich custardy ice cream.

So, this DB challenge didn't go as well as I expected. I probably wouldn't make a buche de Noel using this recipe again. But thanks to this challenge, I've uncovered a new addiction: meringue! I loved the meringues so much that I ate about half of them! Not good, I know. I'm kind of expecting a stomachache soon, but they are sooo good!!! I suppose it's not too bad of an addiction, considering I need to lose a few pounds. After all, meringues are low in fat and high in protein! Anyway, I hope all of you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Please check out my uber talented fellow Daring Bakers' creations here!


Dharm said...

Interesting idea to make a thick log!! I'm glad it turned out well for you. I wouldn't have had the patience or the energy to make it a second time - so more power to you! Have a Blessed Christmas!

glamah16 said...

I love your upright version . That would be so cool with the ice cream . Oh well next time.Great Job. Happy Hoilday neighbor. Don't stay in those labs all day.Try to catch the Chriskindlemarket before it closes.

desie said...

this looks great!Happy Holidays.

Susan said...

Chocolate and raspberry is one of my favorite flavor combinations. I think the upright log looks great!

The Caked Crusader said...

I think your log looks great - what a cool idea to roll it the 'other way'!

Have a great Christmas

Thistlemoon said...

Wow, I love the look of your log - it is beautiful and really allows you to see the beautiful swirls of the cake! Nice job!

michelle said...


Ann said...

So innovative! A Yule Stump! Really nice job, and I bet the raspeberry was delicious with the other flavors.

Ann at Redacted Recipes

Gigi said...

Wow, great idea! I just love it.

Helene said...

Looks great Maria! I did manage a creme brulee version but that layer just had one thig in mind and it was not to get rolled with the did in the end though. I need to find that B&J flavor...sounds decadent.
Happy Holidays! I sympathize with you as I will be away from home too.

Peabody said...

Ice cream stuffed meringue...that does sound wonderful. You will have to try that...and so will I.
I like the raspberry and the more stump look you have going on.

ostwestwind said...

Great idea, the upright version.
Happy Holidays!

Ulrike from Küchenlatein

zorra said...

Wow, what a great idea! Looks awesome!

african vanielje said...

Wow, I love that you got so creative with your fillings and I love the log. Well done and I hope that CHristmas, even in the lab, is peaceful and filled with love.

Karen said...

Wow, it looks great! I can't get over how tightly rolled you got it. Amazing!

Meryl said...

I think you're the first person I've seen who made a stump. I really like it! And rasberries! Yum!

Sheltie Girl said...

You did a wonderful job on your yule log. I love your novel approach with a thick log.

Natalie @ Gluten A Go Go

Elle said...

Gorgeous slice of a log with that raspberry filling...mmmm. Hope that your holiday will be merry even so far from family. Happy New Year, too.

Julius said...

I love your standing bûche de Noël!

You're right - meringues are addictive.

Happy Holidays!

Julius from Occasional Baker

Unknown said...

Cute stump! I think I might have to try that ice cream...I've eyed it several times.

BitterSweet said...

Despite all of your difficulties, you yule log ended up looking amazing. And so many layers, too... I love it!

Thanks for leaving such a nice comment on my blog, by the way. I hope you had a happy holiday!

Fruit tart said...

I like your stump and love chocolate and raspberry! Yum!

Lis said...

I love this shape.. gorgeous, Maria!

Happy Holidays!

Deborah said...

I love your log!! And I've tried the Haagen-Dazs Creme Brulee ice cream, and I love it!!

Tara said...

Your stump is great! How clever!!

Gabi said...

I love your thick log-so creative!
Hope you get a break and some festive time for the remainder of the holidays. Wishing you a verry happy 2008!

Wendy said...

I love your stump!!! Your buttercream is thick and bark like. What a great job. Wendy

Jen Yu said...

Yay! I love the yule stump!! It's awesome and the raspberry and chocolate combo sounds delicious :) Excellent and creative way to make the cake. Great job.

jen at use real butter

Dolores said...

It's almost a month later, I know... but it's just taking me that long to get around and visit everyone's blogs. I love your yule stump. And I'm also a fan of B&J's Creme Brulee ice cream. :)

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