Saturday, December 22, 2007

My, Yule Look Nice!

NOT! Ok, I know I'm no newbie to cooking, I've been doing since I was practically a fetus, but this Daring Bakers challenge (tradition holiday Yule Log) got me feeling extremely inadequate. And it all comes down to one element: buttercream. I now loathe buttercream, and rue the day I ever have to bake with it again.

The lovely hosts for this month's challenge are also the founders of the Daring Bakers ( Ivonne ( and Lis ( The day I found out about this challenge, I was a bit apprehensive, but confident nonetheless. My husband told me that his mom used to make one every year, so if I felt I needed a bit of assistance, I could call her. Which I did, and it still didn't help.

Everything started out in typical Daring Baker fashion (tons of eggs and butter) and since I had set the entire Saturday aside devoted just to my yule log, I figured I could just take my time and go with the flow. Here's the recipe, in case you would like to try your baking chops at this month's challenge:

Plain Genoise:

-3 large eggs

-3 large egg yolks

-pinch of salt

-¾ cup of sugar

-½ cup cake flour - spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off (also known as cake & pastry flour)

-¼ cup cornstarch

-one 10 x 15 inch jelly-roll pan that has been buttered and lined with parchment paper and then buttered again

Instructions: 1. Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F. 2. Half-fill a medium saucepan with water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat so the water is simmering. 3. Whisk the eggs, egg yolks, salt and sugar together in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer. Place over the pan of simmering water and whisk gently until the mixture is just lukewarm, about 100 degrees if you have a thermometer (or test with your finger - it should be warm to the touch). 4. Attach the bowl to the mixer and, with the whisk attachment, whip on medium-high speed until the egg mixture is cooled (touch the outside of the bowl to tell) and tripled in volume. The egg foam will be thick and will form a slowly dissolving ribbon falling back onto the bowl of whipped eggs when the whisk is lifted.

5. While the eggs are whipping, stir together the flour and cornstarch. 6. Sift one-third of the flour mixture over the beaten eggs. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the flour mixture, making sure to scrape all the way to the bottom of the bowl on every pass through the batter to prevent the flour mixture from accumulating there and making lumps. Repeat with another third of the flour mixture and finally with the remainder. 7. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. 8. Bake the genoise for about 10 to 12 minutes. Make sure the cake doesn’t overbake and become too dry or it will not roll properly (Note: This step made my entire house smell like a quiche. No joke, it was all eggy smelling). 9. While the cake is baking, begin making the buttercream. 10. Once the cake is done (a tester will come out clean and if you press the cake lightly it will spring back), remove it from the oven and let it cool on a rack.

(My genoise has tumors!!)

Coffee Buttercream:

-4 large egg whites

-1 cup sugar

-24 tablespoons (3 sticks or 1-1/2 cups) unsalted butter, softened

-2 tablespoons instant espresso powder

-2 tablespoons rum or brandy

Instructions: 1. Whisk the egg whites and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Set the bowl over simmering water and whisk gently until the sugar is dissolved and the egg whites are hot. 2. Attach the bowl to the mixer and whip with the whisk on medium speed until cooled. Switch to the paddle and beat in the softened butter and continue beating until the buttercream is smooth. Dissolve the instant coffee in the liquor and beat into the buttercream.
My buttercream looked narsty, after three attempts, it kept turning out like this. All separated and curdled-looking. I said screw-it, and decorated my yule log with it anyway.

Filling and frosting the log: 1. Run a sharp knife around the edges of the genoise to loosen it from the pan. 2. Turn the genoise layer over (unmolding it from the sheet pan onto a flat surface) and peel away the paper. 3. Carefully invert your genoise onto a fresh piece of parchment paper. 4. Spread with half the coffee buttercream (or whatever filling you’re using). 5. Use the parchment paper to help you roll the cake into a tight cylinder. 6. Transfer back to the baking sheet and refrigerate for several hours. 7. Unwrap the cake. Trim the ends on the diagonal, starting the cuts about 2 inches away from each end. 8. Position the larger cut piece on each log about 2/3 across the top. 9. Cover the log with the reserved buttercream, making sure to curve around the protruding stump. 10. Streak the buttercream with a fork or decorating comb to resemble bark. 11. Transfer the log to a platter and decorate with your mushrooms and whatever other decorations you’ve chosen.

Meringue Mushrooms:

-3 large egg whites, at room temperature

-¼ teaspoon cream of tartar

-½ cup (3-1/2 ounces/105 g.) granulated sugar

-1/3 cup (1-1/3 ounces/40 g.) icing sugar

-Unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting

Instructions: 1. Preheat the oven to 225 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. Have ready a pastry bag fitted with a small (no. 6) plain tip. In a bowl, using a mixer on medium-low speed, beat together the egg whites and cream of tartar until very foamy. Slowly add the granulated sugar while beating. Increase the speed to high and beat until soft peaks form when the beaters are lifted. Continue until the whites hold stiff, shiny peaks.

(My meringue peaks are so pretty!)

Sift the icing sugar over the whites and, using a rubber spatula, fold in until well blended. 2.Scoop the mixture into the bag. On one baking sheet, pipe 48 stems, each ½ inch (12 mm.) wide at the base and tapering off to a point at the top, ¾ inch (2 cm.) tall, and spaced about ½ inch (12 mm.) apart. On the other sheet, pipe 48 mounds for the tops, each about 1-1/4 inches (3 cm.) wide and ¾ inch (2 cm.) high, also spaced ½ inch (12 mm.) apart. With a damp fingertip, gently smooth any pointy tips. (This part was fun!) Dust with cocoa. Reserve the remaining meringue. 3. Bake until dry and firm enough to lift off the paper, 50-55 minutes. Set the pans on the counter and turn the mounds flat side up. With the tip of a knife, carefully make a small hole in the flat side of each mound. Pipe small dabs of the remaining meringue into the holes and insert the stems tip first. Return to the oven until completely dry, about 15 minutes longer. Let cool completely on the sheets. 4. Garnish your Yule Log with the mushrooms.

The final product:

So, I know it's not the prettiest yule log out there, but hey, at least I tried!! It's a very rich dessert, and I'm not a big fan of heavy, rich desserts, so I wasn't a big fan of my yule log. Which looked diseased or something. However, I think this may have been a combination of user error and the recipe, because I know my mother in-law's recipe is quite different. I'm just glad I did it and got it over with, instead of chickening out. I'm just looking forward to next month's challenge.
Merry Christmas, Blogosphere!


Tartelette said...

You know, you dared...and you finished...and that is a lot during this crazy season! I love the creativity of the toys around it! I hope you have a great Christmas. You did a great job given the circumstances. Be proud!

Gigi said...

Hey, what counts is that you participated and I'm sure the cake tasted great! The Mushrooms are awesome!

Anonymous said...

You've got moxie and you're definitely daring! Anyway, it tasted good, right? Happy holidays!


Kim Stone said...

Finishing the challenge is passage enough. Congrats on working your way through it! Love the little house, it's adorable.

marias23 said...

Haha! Tumors or not, as long as it tastes good, right? :) Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Claire said...

Yay! Good job. I had the same problem with my buttercream but just reheated it and it smoothed out. I think my favorite part, too, was the meringue! The funny thing is, your log just looks like you use a teeny pastry tip to ice it!

glamah16 said...

Hey you did it and have a great attitude about it. Dont hate buttercream. I bet your next time will be great.Happy Hoildays.

Hilda said...

The important thing is that you dared, you participated, and you got through it, and I'm sure it tastes great. Hopefully you had some fun with it, but you are a Daring Baker and dare you did! Happy Holidays!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

I do believe there is a tree with just this bark texture! Love your mushrooms, I had the most fun with those.
One thing I have learned from life Mehgan, never say never. What doesn't work today, may tomorrow. The bad part of that is: What worked today may chose not to work tomorrow!
You stayed open and did it and that is Daring.

BC said...

You get high marks for persistence. I didn't use liquor in the buttercream and I think that helped a lot.

Katie said...

Well done for not giving up. The recipe are was indeed daring and challanging and you conquered it. Well done and happy Christmas

Beth G. said...

I had the same drama with the buttercream! You still DID IT!! HOORAY! :O)

Meeta said...

Give yourself a break. You tried and that is what this group is all about. Merry Christmas!

Cheryl said...

Good for you to keep going. I think it is great, and I bet you it still tasted good.

Elisabeth said...

I think it looks pretty cute!

My buttercream was runny! I was worried it wouldn't set up but after refrigerating it overnight it did okay.

On to the next challenge

creampuff said...

I've had many a buttercream break up on me so don't worry about it. I think your log looks very ... unique ... and I love your mushrooms. The point is that you tried it and you did it! Happy Holidays!

Lunch Buckets said...

Yay to you for finishing it anyway! I probably would have chucked the whole thing then drank all the brandy - but there ya go.

Lynnylu said...

Congratulations on a job well done!Daring to do something we don't really care for is a big challenge and you did it.

Aamena said...

sorry about the buttercream but the tall mushrooms look cute!

Jen said...

Good for you for plowing on and doing it! It was a pretty daunting task, especially round Xmas with all the chaos, so much kudos for giving it a go. And the 'shrooms look fab. Bet it tasted good too :-)

Cherry said...

So glad you didn't give up! I found out that leaving the buttercream to warm up more then whipping it again might solve the problem. Try it next time =) Merry christmas!

Anne said...

Oh, I wonder what happened? Too bad - mine *almost* did that, but was fine after additional beating. But hey, at least you made it! And the mushrooms are beautiful! :)

Bev and Ollie "O" said...

not eerything is always as planned eh? grr
But your mushrooms are fabulous!!

Becks said...

I don't know why buttercream curdles, but my Dorie Greenspan cookbook says to just keep beating it on high and it will come back together again. That happened to me the first time I made buttercream, so I kpet beating it and it came back together! I think it might have something to do with the softness of the butter? Good job anyways!

Fruit tart said...

Good for you to stick with it to the end! That's why it's called a 'challenge' and not a 'contest', right?!

Julius said...

Good on you to persist!

Happy Holidays.

Julius from Occasional Baker

Dolores said...

I love the fact that you stuck this one out, even if the outcome wasn't what you were hoping for. I hope your holidays were happy, and that 2008 brings you nothing but the best!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Well done! We all had problems with that buttercream...



Augustina said...

Meghan, I think your yule log looks awfully cute! the mushrooms turned out great too. Nice job!

Deborah said...

hey, at least you tried and completed the challenge! Congrats on making it through it!!

Jen Yu said...

I found this to be a somewhat frustrating challenge too. What matters is that you did it and I applaud your efforts, especially since you tried the BC THREE times! I am impressed. Great job!

jen at use real butter

wmpe said...

The buttercream was different for this recipe. I used to ganache as the covering. This buttercream was greasy and messy. You made it work - good for you. Wendy

Jennyfer said...

My genoise had the funny bubbles too. Still tasted good. Good job!

Quellia said...

Ah, you and I had the same problems with the buttercream, from the looks of things. Good work for not giving up, Daring Baker!