Daring Baker Challenge: Gluten-Free Vegetarian French Yule Log Recipe with Apple Cardamom Creme Brulee Recipe

December 29th, 2008 yum Posted in Blog Event, Chocolate, Christmas, Daring Baker, Dessert, French, Vegetarian 19 Comments »

This December when I first saw the latest Daring Baker Challenge, I was a little taken aback. Our mission, if we chose to accept it, was to make an incredibly elaborate and authentic French Yule Log recipe with Six, yes SIX elements. Each element would make a lovely dessert on its own, in my opinion. But, in this recipe we made these six separate desserts and combined them into one masterpiece of a yule log. The finished product was layers and layers of sweet cream and chocolate, and included some of my favorite things including almond praline and creme brulee. It also had lots of room for creativity, especially in the mousse and brulee layers. Although I usually only have a passing flirtation with chocolate, favoring sweets with fruit or spice flavorings, thinking of some of my chocoholic friends this holiday season (especially Archana) I decided to go all out and create a true death-by-chocolate yule log with only an exception for the almond cake (like a cross between flourless almond cake and meringues) and the creme brulee. For the creme brulee I was inspired by my DH’s Norwegian heritage and my favorite recipe for a Daring Baker gluten-free Apple Danish to bake apple slices in a brown sugar-cardamom glaze and then immerse them in a rich, vanilla cardamom creme brulee base. This creme brulee ended up being one of my favorite elements of the recipe, and in the future I plan to try a lightened version in a classic individual-serving brulee with a caramelized sugar crust. I also fell in love with the classic almond praline I made for the Chocolate Praline Crisp candy layer. I wouldn’t hesitate to make it, as well as the chocolate praline crisp, as candy gifts or snack for guests. This dish took us two very stressful days to make. I must admit I recruited the DH to help with some of the more challenging elements of preparing the dish, and even with two of us, it was quite a task. There were times when I was not sure the dish would ever get done. Besides the incredible richness of the ingredients that I am not accustomed to, another problem was that several elements called for gelatin. As a vegetarian, I do not use gelatin in recipes and so I needed to use a seaweed called agar agar (aka kanten) as a substitute. I’ve never had much luck with agar agar in the past, perhaps because I tried to use it for making vegetarian marshmallows rather than a simple jello-type dish. I tried to research it online and found some rather problematic elements. Instructions varied greatly and most directions were for agar agar powder rather than flakes. I also read that agar agar had an undesirable taste, created a rubbery texture, and didn’t completely dissolve in liquid. Hmmm. I was officially scared. There wasn’t much I could do about taste besides hope that the cocoa would mask any flavor. Bryanna Clark’s informative page on agar agar suggested that adding starch to agar agar would soften the texture, so I added a little cornstarch slurry. I also ground up my flakes a bit in a food processor in the hopes that making it more like a powder would make it dissolve better. Then I set the poor DH over the stove and had him work with it until it started to gel. This basically entailed heating it over a stove for a while and then giving it a cool water bath. In the end it did make a glossy, smooth icing, but unfortunately this icing softens rapidly at room temperature. We also had trouble with the creme brulee being a little too frozen in contrast with the other ingredients.

We frosted the yule log the first time on Christmas Day and served some to our friends M and A as a Christmas dinner dessert after a brief chill in the freezer. They enjoyed it, but the soft texture of the frostring was a little bit disappointing. The next day we brought some over to some friends and after an overnight session in the freezer, the frosting was greatly improved. Thirty minutes in the refrigerator and it was perfect for serving. It was declared yummy by all parties, and the DH had a second helping, that bad boy.

This is an incredibly rich dish, so even half a slice seems like a full serving. As a result, we still have half of the yule left in our freezer. I’m looking forward to pulling it out and snacking on it, or sharing some with guests as the opportunity arises. I was happy to get the opportunity to make an authentic yule log dessert after our time in Japan. Oddly enough, yule logs are popular in Japan during Christmas time as part of their flirtation with French pastries and French pastry shops. However, I’d never had one before. From looking at other recipes, this recipe seems a little unusually ornate to me- some are simply sponge cake rolls with lovely frosting fillings, which sounds like a lot easier and more fun to make. However, they don’t call it daring bakers for nothing, and this recipe was certainly daring. It may have been a little more daring than I wanted during the busy holiday season, but I did learn quite a bit from making this recipe, and even came out of it with some lovely elements that I would love to make again. This variation is chocoholic approved, but you could also make a less chocolate intense version. For my own taste buds, if I were to try it again I might try something like an almond biscuit with vanilla-lemon mousse, white chocolate praline crunch and a cream cheese frosting, topped with fresh strawberries. Sounds good, right? I also read about some alternative daring bakers making vegan or even raw-food versions that sound absolutely lovely. I’ll try to link to some of the more unique takes on this recipe as I come across them. One of the best things about this recipe is that while it wasn’t very vegan (or vegetarian, for that matter) friendly, it was VERY easy to make gluten-free, with only two very minor changes necessary that had almost no impact on the final product. Let’s hear it for gluten-free-friendly Daring Baking Recipes!

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 challenge rules stipulated that we MUST MAKE ALL 6 of these elements for the log:
1) Dacquoise Biscuit
2) Mousse (or whipped cream filling)
3) Ganache Insert
4) Praline (Crisp) Insert
5) Creme Brulee Insert
6) Icing

Other Alternative Bakers’ Logs Close to my Heart:
Lilac Kitchen’s Gluten-Free French Yule Log
My Diverse Kitchen’s Vegetarian, Reduced Egg French Yule Cake
Pacific Outpost’s Vegan Yule Log

*if you made a vegan, vegetarian or gluten-free version WITH RECIPE POSTED please post the link in the comments and I’ll visit you and add you to my list!*

Check out my other completed Daring Baker Challenges:
GF Yule Log
GF Vegan Pizza
GF Eclairs
GF Danish
GF DF Cheesecake Pops
GF Vegan Party Cake

Intrigued? Recipes below. And keep in mind, even if you don’t want to make a whole yule log, you can make parts of it for an absolutely divine and considerably lower-stress recipe.

Shared with Gluten-free Holiday Carnival

Almost Flourless Dacquoise Biscuit Almond Cake Recipe
Element #1 Dacquoise Biscuit (Almond Cake)

2.8 oz (3/4cup + 1Tbsp / 80g) almond meal
1.75 oz (1/2 cup / 50g) confectioners sugar
2Tbsp (15g) white-type GF Flour blend like Bette Hagman’s Gourmet blend
3.5oz (100g / ~100ml) about 3 medium egg whites
1.75 oz (4 Tbsp / 50g) granulated sugar

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

Line your baking pan with a piece of parchment paper and spray with nonstick cooking spray or grease with margarine or butter.

You can start with whole blanched almonds in a food processor or spice mill and grind them. Alternatively, you can buy almond meal pre-ground. Once finely ground…

Combine the almond meal and the confectioner’s sugar in a food processor or bowl and blend. Put meal and sugar in a bowl and sift in your GF flour.

In a separate mixer or bowl, beat your eggs whites. Slowly add granulated sugar until the mixture is stiff.

Gently pour the almond meal mixture into the egg whites and fold in with a spatula.

Pour your batter onto your prepared, greased parchment paper and spread with icing knife or spatula into your desired shape. Make 1/3 inch tall and slightly wider than you actually need.

Bake at 350F (180C) for around 15 minutes or until a light golden brown.

Cool and cut as needed.

Preparation time: 10 mn + 15 mn for baking

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 mold (half-pipe) to line your entire mold 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. If that isn’t possible you can store it in the refrigerator in a gallon ziploc bag overnight.

Milk Chocolate Whipped Cream Chantilly Recipe
Milk Chocolate Whipped Cream (Chantilly):

2/3 cup (160g) heavy whipping cream
7.8 oz (220g) milk chocolate or semisweet chocolate chips
2 1/3 tsp (15g) (thick?) corn syrup
1 1/3 cup (320g) heavy whipping cream

Put chocolate chips or chopped milk chocolate in a bowl with corn syrup.
Heat cream to boiling and pour over the chocolate and corn syrup. Wait 30 seconds then stir together until smooth and chocolate melts. Add the rest of the whipping cream and combine thoroughly. Cool in refrigerate and then whip.
Supposedly can be made the day before and kept in the fridge overnight, but we found it solidified and then wouldn’t whip to be as nice and fluffy as we had hoped.
Dark Chocolate Ganache Recipe
Element #3 Dark Chocolate Ganache Insert:
1.75 oz (4 Tbsp / 50g) granulated sugar
4.5oz (2/3 cup 1 Tbsp/ 135g) heavy cream
5 oz (135g) dark chocolate, finely chopped (or use dark chocolate chips)
3Tbsp + 1/2tsp (45g) unsalted butter softened

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

Preparation time: 10 min

Make 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 color

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.

Pour the hot caramel-milk mixture over the dark chocolate. Wait 30 seconds and stir until smooth.

Add the softened butter and whip hard and fast (if you have a plunging mixer use it). The chocolate should be smooth and shiny.

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.
Praline Crisp Chocolate Crunch Insert or Candy
Dessert  Dairy  French  
Element #4 Praline Feuillete (Crisp) Insert

Ingredients for the Praline Feuillete:
3.5 oz (100g) milk chocolate
1 2/3 Tbsp (25g) butter
2 Tbsp (1 oz / 30g) almond praline (Homemade is easy and delicious)
1 (or 2 oz.) Gluten-Free corn flakes such as Envirokids frosted cornflakes

Equipment: Small saucepan, Double boiler (or one small saucepan in another), wax paper.

Preparation time: 10 mn

1. Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler.
2. Add the praline and the corn flakes. 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.
I believe I used 2 oz. cornflakes and it was delicious.

I made this homemade Praline Recipe:

To use in Yule log, it is best to break up this layer into chunks. For snacking, it is wonderful left in large sheets. My favorite part of the yule log, and one I’m most likely to make again, besides the creme brulee.

Apple Cardamom Creme Brulee Recipe
Dessert  Dairy  French  
Element #5 Vanilla Creme Brulee Insert

1/2 cup (115g) heavy cream
1/2 cup (115g) 2% milk
4 medium-sized (72g) egg yolks
0.75 oz (2 Tbsp / 25g) granulated sugar (if you store a whole vanilla bean in with your sugar, you can infuse it with vanilla, mmm)
1/2 vanilla bean
sprinkling of whole cadamom seeds (not in pod, but not ground)
2 small apples, peeled and sliced (or enough to cover bottom of creme brulee pan)
freshly ground cardamom
brown sugar, to taste

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

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

1. Heat the milk, cream, cardamom seeds, and scraped vanilla bean to just boiling. Remove from the stove and let the vanilla and cardamom infuse for about 1 hour.
1b. While milk is infusing, line a baking pan with a piece of parchment paper and bake your sliced apples, sprinkled with a mixture of cardamom and brown sugar, at 375 or so until apples are softened.
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. You will need a larger pan that your baking mold fits in to create a water bath for the brulee. Lay your baked apple slices into the mold in an even layer. Pour the cream into the mold over the apples. Place mold in larger pan and fill larger pan with at least 1 inch of water, taking care not to spill any water into the brulee. (you may wish to add water carefully into the larger pan AFTER placing it in the oven with the mold.) Bake at 300F 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.

For a traditional creme brulee presentation, simply use small creme brulee molds. Don’t forget to use a water bath! They will probably take less time, so remove from pan as soon as they have started to solidify and are just a little wobbly in the center. Cool and then sprinkle with sugar and torch to caramelize sugar for an even, crackly crust. Delish!

*I REALLY want to lighten this brulee more. This is a lighter version than the original and it was lovely, but this is just more cream than I really like. I’m certain lower fat milk could be substituted for a lighter, delightful brulee.

Vegetarian Dark Chocolate Icing with Agar Agar Recipe
Element #6 Dark Chocolate Icing

1 tsp- 1 1/2 tsp agar flakes, ground in a spice grinder or food processor
1/4 cup (60g) heavy cream
2.1 oz (5 Tbsp / 60g) granulated sugar
1/4 cup (50g) water
1/3 cup (30g) unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp cornstarch mixed with 1 1/2 tsp water to make a slurry

Preparation time: 25 minutes (10mn if you dont count softening the agar-agar)

Equipment: Small bowl, small saucepan

Soften the agar-agar in 1 tbsp. or so of cold water for 15 minutes.

Bring all of the ingredients to a boil in a pan and simmer for up to fifteen minutes.
Let cool and check the texture as it cools. As soon as the mixture is smooth and coats a spoon well (it is starting to gelify), use immediately.

Once yule log (or cake etc) is frosted, place it in the freezer and allow to harden overnight.

Note: Because the icing gelifies quickly, you should make it at the last minute.

This recipe originally had gelatin, but I substituted agar-agar. It was one of the first times I’d used agar-agar (although I did once unsuccessfully try to use it to make vegetarian marshmallows).
If you need to substitute agar-agar for gelatin in a recipe, here are the equivalences:

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.

This was a first attempt, so the recipe has some kinks to be worked out. It really does need to be frozen overnight, and even then the frosting will be soft and softens quickly.

How to Assemble a French Yule Log Recipe
Dessert  Dairy  French  
1) Dacquoise
2) Mousse
3) Creme Brulee Insert
4) Mousse
5) Praline/Crisp Insert
6) Mousse
7) Ganache Insert
8) Dacquoise
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 plastic film.

2A) Cut the Dacquoise into a shape fitting your mold and set it in there. If you are using an actual Yule mold which is in the shape of a half-pipe, you want the Dacquoise to cover the entire half-pipe portion of the mold.
3A) Pipe one third of the Mousse component on the Dacquoise.
4A) 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.
5A) Pipe second third of the Mousse component around and on top of the Creme Brulee Insert.
6A) 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.
7A) Pipe the last third of the Mousse component on top of the Praline Insert.
8A) Freeze for a few hours to set. Take out of the freezer.
9A) Pipe the Ganache Insert onto the frozen mousse leaving a slight eidge so that ganache doesnt seep out when you set the Dacquoise on top.
10A) Close with the last strip of Dacquoise.
Freeze until the next day.

If you are doing the assembly UPSIDE DOWN with TWO pieces of Dacquoise the order is:
1) Dacquoise
2) Mousse
3) Creme Brulee Insert
4) Mousse
5) Praline/Crisp Insert
6) Mousse
7) Ganache Insert
8) Dacquoise

Unmold 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 one half-hour before serving as it may start to melt quickly depending on the elements you chose.

An impressive dessert, but a little rich and time-consuming. I’ve been out-dared! Next time I would make a much simpler yule log more like a sponge roll. The individual parts of the log are nice by themselves, though, and I might make them again separately. Just not together.

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

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Fourth of July Menu: Grilled Tofu Recipe and Gluten Free Honey Raspberry Financiers Recipe

July 9th, 2008 yum Posted in Dessert, Dinner Party, Eggplant, French, Grilled, Holiday, tofu 6 Comments »

This Fourth of July we went to a local park for a picnic and fireworks with some very special friends. I love packing a picnic lunch for Independence Day, and there are some dishes that have become something of a tradition.

Our 4th of July menu was:
Grilled Sesame Tofu (recipe below)
Summer Vegetable Rolls with Peanut Sauce
Balsamic Honey Grilled Eggplant
Gluten-Free Raspberry Almond Financiers (recipe below)

If you look at my post for July 4, 2007 you’ll note that I made peanut sauce last year too, for sesame grilled vegetables. But I also made some new recipes for this year’s feast… like this delightful recipe for Balsamic Honey Grilled Eggplant.

This recipe was a real keeper, and one that I have a feeling I’ll be making a lot in the years to come. DH is skeptical of eggplant, and he seemed to enjoy it- and I couldn’t get enough of the stuff. To me it was like grilled and savory candy (but better).

I also experimented with a recipe from Martha Stewart that I’d been eying for a while. Of course, as written the recipe was full of gluten, gluten, gluten, but I thought it would probably convert reasonably well to be gluten-free. Even though we’re currently packing up our whole house for a move, I deliberately left out my mini-muffin tins just for this recipe. Oh, how I love my mini-muffin tins. Like real muffin tins, but cuter. Anyway, I was thrilled for the opportunity to use up some of the organic, local raspberries I’d been storing in the freezer, and an Indpendence Day Picnic seemed like the perfect time for financiers. Although, to be honest, I didn’t quite know what financiers were. To me they just seemed like little jam-filled-mini muffins.

Luckily, the Joy of Baking was able to enlighten me.

“Financiers are French tea cakes (pronounced fee-nahng-syehr), also known as Friands (meaning “dainty” or “tasty”). They are made from a sponge-like batter of beurre noisette (brown butter), egg whites, flour, toasted ground almonds, and powdered sugar. Financiers are similar to Madeleines in that they both use a sponge-like mixture that is baked in special molds. When baked Financiers are soft and springy with a slightly domed top and a lovely golden brown crust.” (Source: Stephanie Jaworski)

Financiers are a natural for gluten-free conversion, as a good portion of their batter is made with almond flour and eggs, two high protein ingredients that help compensate for any lack of gluten in our flours. Unfortunately commercial varieties will also contain gluten-flour, but you can make them at home with excellent results. As it happens, I converted the recipe to be dairy free, but for a more traditional recipe you could use butter instead of the DF, CF margarine and let the butter brown. This browning of the butter adds great nutty flavor. Just be careful not to burn it! I think traditionally financiers are made in special molds, like madeleines, but home cooks use mini muffin tins very successfully. I knew I was happy I bought that mini-muffin tin!

In Love with Financiers?
Try Gluten-Free Girl’s Chocolate Financier Recipe, brought to you by Smitten Kitten.
Or, an agave-nectar sweetened version of the recipe
An adorable Gluten-Free Apricot Financier Recipe
Or a gluten-free adaption of a Almond Tea Cake Financier Recipe

But food aside, the best thing about any holiday is sharing it with special friends that are your family-away-from-family. Last year we spent it with my favorite adopted “little sister”- and this year we spent it with one of our favorite couples. These are friends that have been with both of us for the long haul, and I hope will always be a part of our life. Happy Fourth of July, everyone! I hope your holiday was absolutely delicious, and that you got to spend it with your very favorite people!

Yummy Grilled Tofu
1 lb of firm tofu (Chinese Style is best for this kind of recipe)

2 tbsp GF soy sauce (preferably San-J Low Sodium Tamari)
1 1/2 tbsp maple syrup
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil (we like a Japanese brand)
2 pressed cloves of garlic

Drain water from tofu, and cut horizontally in thirds or half. Wrap in towel and leave for 30 minutes or so until water has absorbed into towel.

Mix marinade ingredients, and marinate tofu for at least 30 minutes. If possible, grill, if not, broil or pan fry.

Makes a wonderful protein addition to salads, sandwich fillings, and perfect with rich rice dishes like risotto.

I’ve been making this recipe for years and it always goes over very well at parties. Very flavorful and easy.

Can be doubled for a crowd.

You may wish to brush or spray grill with oil, as the tofu can stick.

Gluten-Free Raspberry Almond Financiers
8 tbsp. dairy free margarine like Earth Balance
1/3 cup honey (I like raw honey)
2 cups finely ground almonds (I use Trader Joe’s or you can grind your own)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup finely ground brown rice flour (like Authentic Foods’)
1/4 cup sweet (white) rice flour
1/4 cup tapioca starch
1/2 tsp salt
5 lg. egg whites (you can probably veganize this by using 3-4 Ener-g foods egg replacer eggs, soy yogurt, or flax seed eggs)
1 cup raspberries (if frozen, defrost first), pureed and strained (not strained is ok if you don’t mind seeds)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray two mini muffin tins with GF nonstick cooking spray.

Melt your margarine in a small saucepan on medium-low heat, whisking occasionally and heating for 6-7 minutes. At the end, whisk in your honey and let it combine thoroughly.

Put your ground almonds, sugars, flour, and salt in a standing mixer (or large bowl) and whisk together on low. Turn up the speed to medium-high and add your egg whites (or egg replacer eggs) one at a time, combining each one thoroughly until adding the next. Use a spatula to make sure all the ingredients on the side of the bowl integrate with the rest of the ingredients. Lower mixer speed to low and add your warm honey-margarine (whisk quickly first to make sure it hasn’t separated) in one long, continuous stream. Turn up speed to high for 45 seconds.

Fill your mini muffin tins half full. Then take a scant 1/2 tsp of your raspberry puree and pull up a little of the batter with a knife, dribbling the puree in and then settling the batter over the top to make a raspberry heart shape. Or, just make a little jam circle on the top if the heart is too much effort.

Bake for 7 minutes or so, turn your rack around and bake another 7 minutes. Cool on a wire rack and enjoy!

Another cute little mini-muffin, er, I mean financier, recipe!
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