Thursday, December 18, 2014

Yule Log Cake (Bûche de Noël)

One of my favorite cafes makes a yule log cake each year around this time.  They look pretty traditional--at least from the ones I see on Pinterest.  But this year I saw one in their glass display case that was a little different--it had a bit of a modern take on it.  It had a beautiful sleek chocolate glaze covering it and then it was speckled with macarons.

It was interesting looking and I wanted to copy it.  So I found a swanky looking chocolate glaze recipe and I decided to give macarons one more shot because they were just going to be decorative pieces anyway so what did I really care if they turned out right or not...  And after much deliberating I decided to go with a chocolate genoise cake recipe in my Joy of Cooking cookbook.

Roll cakes can be tricky because they can crack when you roll them.  Thus far, I've only made a handful and I've never actually had that much trouble with them--but that might just be luck.  This one cracked a bit at one end but it wasn't devastatingly bad.  And that wasn't my qualm with this cake recipe.  It was the non-separation of egg whites and yolks that annoyed me.  Usually, when I've made these types of cakes, you separate the whites from the yolks and then whip the whites into a giant meringue and then fold it into the batter.

But here, you whip the whole egg into a giant frenzy--along with the rest of the wet ingredients--and then fold the dry ingredients (flour, cocoa powder) into the whipped up egg mass.  And then it takes forever to fold the dry ingredients into the puffed up egg mixture and just when you think you are done, you dive your spatula into the bowl and end up finding more and more dry ingredients that haven't been incorporated into the batter.  So you keep folding and folding and deflating and deflating--it's a pain in the ass.  I find that folding a meringue into wet batter is a much easier and less time consuming process.  Maybe this is the way it's supposed to be, maybe I was doing it all wrong to begin with but never again will keep my egg yolk and white together to make a cake like this.  Some things are better left to be separated.

Despite all of that baking drama, the cake turned out pretty good.  My macarons were just eh--they looked fine but I'm not going to go into it anymore than that.  I decided to make a butterscotch cream filling with a little bit of whiskey in it--from the recipe of another roll cake I made a while back.  It was pretty darn tasty.

The glaze was pretty swanky.  I still have a hard time glazing cakes with an even finish.  Plus it's hard to tightly roll a cake like this.  I ended up with some gaps at the ends of the roll so I couldn't get the glaze to set over them too well.  Thus, I ended up covering the holes with some decorative macarons. All in all, it was a good project.


Chocolate genoise cake from Joy of Cooking

1/2c + 1T cake flour sifted
1/2c + 1T unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3c unsalted butter at room temp.
6 large eggs at room temp.
1c granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2c of moistening syrup of your choosing--I used just a simple sugar syrup

Line a 17 1/2" x 11 1/2" jelly roll pan with parchment paper.  Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Sift together the flour and cocoa powder a few times to make sure it's very fine and set aside.  In a small saucepan, melt the butter and then remove from the heat and set aside.  Next, in a large heatproof mixing bowl add the eggs and the rest of the sugar.  Then, fill a large skillet--one that is big enough to fit your mixing bowl that is holding the eggs--with water.  Heat the water until it is barely simmering and then place the bowl with the eggs and sugar inside the skillet of water.  While whisking constantly, heat the mixture until the temperature is 110 F or just warm to the touch.  Transfer the bowl to a stand mixer and using the whisk attachment, beat the eggs until they have tripled in volume and are light in color--about 5 minutes.  Next is the hard part in my opinion...  Sift the flour/cocoa mixture over the top of the egg mixture in 3 additions and fold it into the egg mixture.  Be vigilant because you will constantly find more dry ingredients at the bottom of the bowl so dig deep but with care until everything is fully incorporated.  Now, re-heat the butter until it's hot and transfer it to a medium bowl.  Then take about 1 1/2c of the egg mixture and fold it into the butter along with the vanilla. Lastly, pour that back into the rest of the egg mixture and fold to combine.  Spread the batter into the prepared baking sheet evenly and bake for 15-20 minutes or until the cake springs back when lightly touched.  Meanwhile, using a tea towel or some sort of clean dish towel--something large enough to cover the cake--lay it flat on your work surface and sprinkle cocoa powder over it evenly.  When the cake is done, remove it from the oven and let it cool for about 10 minutes in the pan.  Then, run a knife along the edges to make sure the cake has detached from the sides of the pan and invert it onto the tea towel.  If the cake is "hot", then let it cool a bit more but you want it warm to the touch when you roll it.  So when it's warm roll it and the towel together as tightly as you can.  Place the roll on a baking sheet and let it cool completely--I let mine go overnight so I could make the glaze.

Chocolate mirror glaze courtesy of Chef Rachida

10g gelatin sheets
210g granulated sugar
110g water
65g unsweetened cocoa powder
65g heavy whipping cream
50g dark chocolate--I used semi-sweet

Using a medium bowl filled with very cold water, place the gelatin sheets in it to bloom them--making sure they are fully submerged--for about 10 minutes.  In a medium saucepan, bring the sugar, water, cocoa powder and cream to a boil stirring constantly.  Once it's boiling, stir in the chocolate until it is completely melted.  Remove the pan from the heat while you wring out the excess water from the bloomed gelatin.  Then stir in the gelatin--excluding the water--until it's dissolved into the chocolate.  Using a fine-mesh sieve set over a medium bowl, pass the chocolate through the sieve into the bowl.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Whiskey butterscotch filling

3/4c butterscotch sauce at room temp.
1 T whiskey
2c cold heavy whipping cream

Transfer the butterscotch to a small bowl and stir in the whiskey until fully incorporated.  In the bowl of a stand mixer using the whisk attachment, beat the cream until stiff peaks form.  Then, pour the whiskey butterscotch sauce into the whipped cream and stir to fully combine the two.  Cover and refrigerate until ready for use.

To assemble

First, unroll the cake carefully.  Next, brush the moistening syrup over the entire cake and let it soak in for about 10 minutes.  Then, spread the whiskey butterscotch cream over the entire surface of the cake evenly.  Now, roll the cake back up--minus the tea towel--carefully and as tight as you can get it.  Place the rolled cake on a cooling rack of some sort that is sitting on some aluminum foil or wax paper, etc...or a rimmed baking sheet.  This is because you are going to pour the glaze over it and you want all of that dripped chocolate glaze to catch on something for ease of clean-up.  Take the cold glaze and warm it up in the microwave until it reaches 105 F.  Using a fine-mesh sieve, pass the warmed glaze through the sieve over the cake and then begin using an offset spatula to guide the glaze along the surface of the cake making sure that you cover the whole cake with glaze.  The sieve will help get rid of any bubbles in the glaze but it's not a necessity.  You'll have a lot of glaze leftover but that's not a bad thing because it's really fucking good and you can use it to cover brownies or something like that.  After you've glazed the whole cake you can decorate it with macarons or anything you like (nuts, chocolate chips, something else...) or leave it as is because it looks pretty swanky on it's own.  Lastly, refrigerate the cake for a few hours so that the glaze sets and everything is kosher before you transfer it to a serving platter or wherever it's final destination may be.

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