Daring Bakers Challenge : French Yule Log

Could this be the richest and most luxurious Daring Bakers challenge yet? If not, can we agree that it certainly comes close? It’s the kind of chocolate dessert you might find listed with cliched words like “indulgence” or “oblivion” tacked to the end of 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.

If you’re wondering, hang on, a yule log .. didn’t we make one this time last year? Well, I thought the same too, but was put right when I read the definition of a French yule log.

As it turns out, this yule log, or Buche de Noel, is somewhat akin to an ice-cream cake, or a frozen version of the typical buttercream-laden yule log we are more familiar with. Mine consists of flavours that pretty much adhere to the original recipe. The layers are almond dacquoise, dark chocolate mousse, vanilla creme brulee, hazelnut praline, dark chocolate ganache and icing. A great choice of dessert for this time of the year, I think, because of the warm weather here in Sydney.

Not that warm weather would deter me from baking. After a few forkfuls of this wonderful dessert, I think ‘Chocolate Ooh’ might even be a nice addition to that list of cliched words. Or maybe ‘Chocolate Blessing’, because I’m thankful for having managed to find a little time this month to make this challenge. I’m grateful because the alternative would mean never having had the opportunity to experience this pure Chocolate Sensation. This Chocolate Bliss. This Chocolate Epiphany of textures, from ultra smooth mousse to crunchy praline and toothsome ganache. This Chocolate Happiness.

If you have been sufficiently tempted enough to make it, you might want to search for the recipe on the hosts’ blogs (thanks, guys!), or from the blogs of other DB members.

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Silverbeet Tart with Carrot and Oat Crust

I have been threatening to make this tart by Helen for months now, ever since she first posted about it. It was the novel (to me) idea of having a healthy carrot and oat crust, that attracted me to the recipe. Also, with a filling of silverbeet (she used rainbow chard in the original), eggs and a restrained hand with the parmesan grater.. how could you go wrong with that combination?

When I finally made it for our dinner the other day, my only regret was that it had taken me so long to bake this fantastic tart. The crust despite being sufficiently healthy, was very tart-like, so you weren’t left feeling as though something had been compromised in terms of not having the usual shortcrust pastry. I believe, no buttery-tart-lover having tasted this, would have felt in the least bit duped.

The filling was bound by egg, but only just so (especially since the eggs I used were smaller), without it tasting like a frittata or a quiche, which B definitely isn’t a huge fan of. In fact, the end result was so delicious and made me feel so virtuous that I even went for seconds. (Thank you for the recipe, Helen! Next on my list is that award-winning chilli of yours 😀 )

Of course, after virtuosity, comes cake.

I have made a version of Eve’s chocolate cake many times before, but this time was sorely tested by the lack of proper equipment in my kitchen at home. Despite this, the rapid disappearance of the cake once it was assembled, is evidence enough of it’s success (or our greed).

What I love about this cake, apart from it being a completely flourless and nut-free chocolate cake, with minimal amounts of butter and added sugar, is the genius of having a cake topping made from the reserved unbaked cake mixture. That’s two-for-the-price-of-one, as far as any cake-making effort is concerned! If I hadn’t known that this cake was named after Damien Pignolet’s friend Eve Knottenbelt, I would’ve concluded that this cake was so called, because of it’s simple beauty, it’s grace and purity in flavour.

Eve’s Chocolate Cake :
(from French by Damien Pignolet)

360g bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces
50g soft unsalted butter
12 x 65g eggs, separated
30g caster sugar
20g caster sugar
a little grated bittersweet chocolate and cocoa, to decorate

Grease a 26-28cm springform cake tin and line the base and sides with baking paper. Preheat the oven to 150’C.

Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a bain-marie of hot (not boiling) water then work in the soft butter.

Beat the egg yolks with the 30g of sugar until pale. Combine them with the melted chocolate and butter.

Beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry (preferably in a copper bowl with a wire whisk), and then beat in the 20g of sugar until stiff.

Beat 1/4 of the egg-white mixture into the chocolate and then fold this gently but thoroughly back into the remaining egg-white mixture.

Transfer 1/4 of the cake mixture into a bowl and refrigerate. Pour the balance of the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 30-40 minutes. It should remain slightly moist in the centre; to test, press the centre with your finger after 30 minutes – it should hold the indentation.

Remove from the oven and turn out directly onto a serving platter. Remove the springform ring and base. Leave to cool completely. The cake will collapse to leave a crater in the centre. Fill the crater with the reserved mixture and scatter with the chocolate. Dust lightly with cocoa and serve with whipped cream.

[Note : Eve’s chocolate cake is my submission to Lorraine’s Chocolate Cake challenge. I’m afraid I don’t have a “best ever” chocolate cake recipe, as my ultimate cake varies from day to day, but this one is definitely up there. 🙂 ]

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The mousse stripped bare. Coffee, donuts & a cigar

I just realised the other day that I hadn’t eaten chocolate mousse in a long time. Certainly not chocolate mousse in the sense of eating it straight from a bowl, served with nothing more than a spoon. B hadn’t either, but only because most mousses contain cream, which he, being lactose intolerant, can’t have. When I saw Alice Medrich’s recipe for Albert’s Mousse, a chocolate mousse she devised for her brother who couldn’t eat dairy, I knew I had to make this for him.

These days, people would probably laugh and call it quaint and homely, if you served them an unadorned bowl of chocolate mousse. It needs to be tricked up, in layers, or presented with height, with frills like spun sugar, glazed nuts or gold leaf, before we would even look twice. I love the frills, but when faced with a mousse stripped bare, I’m reminded again, of just how good some basics are. Chocolate mousse that is smooth and rich, yet incredibly light and airy, with the delight of trapped bubbles bursting against the roof of your mouth with each spoonful. Things can only get more MA 15+ from then on!

Of course, if you want to complicate life, you could serve it as a chocolate cigar. Pipe the mousse into cigar shaped chocolate tuilles, and seal the ends by dipping into melted chocolate, if you wish. Place the cigars alongside a dish of “coffee and donuts”. I baked some spiced hazelnut financiers at work many weeks ago that someone said tasted like donuts. It got me thinking about a coffee and donut dessert, a la Keller. At home, I baked the financiers (stuffed in the middle with a few squares of chocolate) in a larger mould, and served them with coffee flavoured chocolate sauce, chocolate coated coffee crumble and a cinnamon foam. A coffee ice-cream, incorporated into this dessert somehow, would have been great too. But don’t forget, it all starts with that amazing chocolate mousse.

Albert’s Mousse :
(makes about 4 cups; from Bittersweet by Alice Medrich)

170g bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (50% – 62%), finely chopped
70g water, coffee, or milk, or 1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 tablespoons brandy, rum or liquor of choice
3 large eggs, at room temperature
3 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons sugar

Place the chocolate and the water (or liquid of your choice) in a medium heatproof bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water. Stir frequently until chocolate is nearly melted. Remove the bowl and stir until completely melted and smooth. Stir in the liquor, if using, and set aside.

In a medium heatproof bowl, whisk the eggs with the 3 tablespoons of water and the sugar until well blended. Set the bowl in a skillet of not-even-simmering water and, stirring constantly to prevent the eggs from scrambling, cook until they register 71’C on an instant-read thermometer. Remove the bowl and beat with an electric mixer at high speed for 3 to 4 minutes, until the eggs have a texture like softly whipped cream. Fold about one-quarter of the eggs into the chocolate. Scrape the chocolate mixture onto the remaining beaten eggs and fold just until evenly incorporated. Divide the mousse into ramekins. Chill for at least 1 hour, or until set, before serving.

Serve topped with whipped cream, if desired.

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