Monday, December 24, 2012

Salted Caramel and Chocolate Yule Log

One of my favorite things to make at Christmastime is a Yule log! Normally I do a chocolate cake with peppermint ice cream filling and mint chocolate icing, HOWEVER... This year I've seen a lot of salted caramel snacks out and about, and it's inspired me to switch things up! I'm making... (drum roll please...) bourbon chocolate cake with salted caramel ice cream filling, bourbon chocolate icing and dark chocolate bark!

Step one: Ice cream!

This has to be started the day before assembly, as the ice cream custard needs to sit several hours or overnight. I got a fantastic recipe from epicurious.com and have just a few helpful hints* for along the way!

Ingredients:
1 1/4 cups sugar, divided
2 1/4 cups heavy cream, divided
1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt such as Maldon (I only went to one grocery store, so it may not be THAT difficult to find, but I couldn't find it! So I used regular sea salt instead, and increased it to 1 tsp for more oomph!  It worked fine!)*
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup whole milk
3 large eggs

How to:
  • Heat 1 cup sugar in a dry 10-inch heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring with a fork to heat sugar evenly, until it starts to melt, then stop stirring and cook, swirling skillet occasionally so sugar melts evenly, until it is dark amber. (I took this to mean the color of Shiner Bock ;))*
  • Add 1 1/4 cups cream (mixture will splatter) and cook, stirring, until all of caramel has dissolved. Transfer to a bowl and stir in sea salt and vanilla. Cool to room temperature. (Below is the color after I added the milk!)*

  • Meanwhile, bring milk, remaining cup cream, and remaining 1/4 cup sugar just to a boil in a small heavy saucepan, stirring occasionally.
  • Lightly whisk eggs in a medium bowl, then add half of hot milk mixture in a slow stream, whisking constantly. Pour back into saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until custard coats back of spoon and registers 170°F on an instant-read thermometer (do not let boil). Pour custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl, then stir in cooled caramel.  (When they say FINE mesh, they mean F-I-N-E! I used a mesh sieve and it was still lumpy, so I moved onto my very fine, very tiny handheld sieve (usually meant to strain about half a cup of liquid at a time... when you have to scoop out the leftover custardy bits so as not to have lumpy ice cream, this takes up quite a bit of time! Take my advice - buy a grown-up sized fine mesh sieve!!)*
  • Chill custard, stirring occasionally, until very cold, 3 to 6 hours. Save the ice cream maker step until the end of step 2!  Below is what the ice cream turns out looking like - much lighter than expected!!

Step 2: Cake!

You can't just use ANY cake for a yule log - you may have noticed that rolling up a typical cake will result in crumbs, cracked cake, and crying (if you're aiming for a log, of course!). Instead, you have to make a sponge cake, because they'll stay in one piece, for the most part! I found a great recipe on ehow.com, but as usual, tweaked it a little*!

Ingredients:
5 eggs, room temperature, separated
1 cup sugar, divided
1/4 cup cocoa powder (I used 1/8 cup dark chocolate cocoa and 1/8 cup unsweetened chocolate powder to keep it from being too sugary)*
1/2 cup cake flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon bourbon*(you may have noticed by now that I love to add alcohol to my snacks!)

How to:
  • Preheat an oven to 350ºF.  Prepare a baking sheet by greasing it with nonstick spray, lining it with parchment paper, and then spraying the parchment paper with nonstick spray.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whip attachment, beat the egg yolks with 1/2 cup sugar at medium speed until very pale and aerated, 4 to 5 minutes.  Transfer the yolks to a large mixing bowl and add the cocoa powder, flour, and salt to the egg yolks,  Gently fold them together to incorporate the dry ingredients and bourbon.* You'll notice that without the bourbon, the ingredients are incredibly sticky and difficult to blend! Clearly I was just adding moisture ;)  Set aside.
  • In a clean bowl on a stand mixer fitted with a clean whip attachment, whip the egg whites with the remaining 1/2 cup sugar on medium-high speed until they hold a stiff peak.
  • Add about 1/3 of the egg whites to the egg yolk mixture and whisk them together to lighten the mixture.  Add the remaining egg whites to the bowl and gently fold the mixture together to incorporate the meringue.
  • Spread the batter evenly onto the sheet pan and bake until the cake is set and dry, about 20 minutes (half that without the bourbon!).
  • Let cool somewhat - I took the cake out, laid the pan on stove, removed the entire thing (parchment + cake) and transferred to wire cooling racks.  After about 5 minutes, I sprinkled a kitchen towel with powdered sugar, spread it out on top of the cake and flipped it off of the parchment paper (don't worry if a little bit of cake comes off!). Then, I quickly rolled up the cake (I personally roll it so it's a long cake vs a short squatty cake) and put it in the fridge. This way, the cooled cake is used to being rolled up when you add the ice cream!

I left the cake in the fridge for a few hours while I ran errands, grabbed lunch, and discovered I was missing a piece of my ice cream maker attachment, said a few choice words, and luckily had a nearby Bed Bath & Beyond that was open and had them in stock! Since the ice cream takes only 20 minutes to make, and immediately comes out in Soft Serve consistency, I like to make the ice cream and assemble the log all in one go. One year I let the ice cream freeze, then had to thaw it which of course meant half liquid half lumps, then it spilled everywhere and I had peppermint ice cream frozen to the inside of my freezer - BAD IDEA. Go with this one instead!!

  • Unroll your cake, and quickly and evenly spread the ice cream over the entire thing. Leave a little bit of the outside edge undone as it smushes together and will come out the side!  That's still ok because it's all going in the freezer, but better to at least attempt to be somewhat clean! Leave the roll seam side down and place the whole thing back into the freezer to let it harden before icing.

Step 3: Icing

Since the icing is just for flavor and covering the log, not for looks, I made a smaller batch of icing than normal. And I must say, this stuff is darn tasty ;)

Ingredients:
1 stick of butter
2 (slightly less than 2 actually) cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup dark chocolate cocoa
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Dash of salt
Milk
Bourbon

How to:
  • Cream the butter, vanilla, and one tbsp milk in an electric blender.
  • Slowly add in the powdered sugar and chocolate - it will be very stiff, and from here add liquid one tablespoon at a time until it's the consistency you want, alternating bourbon and milk. I ended up adding 3 tbsp each total, but it's up to you!
Spread this over the log in thick layers and cut off the ends to make it pretty, and for some very important quality testing!!

Meanwhile, to make the bark...

Step 4: Bark

Ingredients:
Dark chocolate morsels

How to:
  • Melt over low heat on the stove until its smooth. Pour onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet and put in the fridge for 10-15 minutes. Take it out and break it up into jagged bark-like pieces. Lay them flat on the log, starting on the bottom sides and working up to the middle, from one end to the other to look like a log.
Put it back in the freezer until ready to serve! Enjoy!!!!

Note: This dessert has 0 weight watchers points because the points are on vacation for the holidays ;)

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